Winter gives one the urge to make high-ABV beers, if only to provide one more way to stay warm. This is the case even in Southern California—hey, we’re really feeling it when it falls below 40°F at night here.
Making a barleywine had been at the back of my mind. All of my high-ABV beers to date have used adjuncts to get there—honey, Belgian candi sugar, molasses, most recently Sauvignon Blanc concentrate. That said, there’s an integrity to an all-grain recipe. Honoring that periodic back-to-basics urge is important. But following the just-in-the-fermenter Dead Fink with another massive beer wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. And besides, I didn’t have a barleywine name in reserve.
But current events have peculiar way of eventing themselves with currency, and certain late November 2022 business news items were felt strongly at HLH World Headquarters. And with those feelings came a name—Perfidy & Odium—whose only possible referent could be the brain-peeling, belly-warming experience of a Barleywine. Such is the creative impulse. If there were a tenth Muse, her name might well be Schadenfreude.
Achieving an ABV above 10% ain’t trivial, and I would need a mash tun far larger than my converted 10-gallon Igloo cooler to accomodate an all-grain Barleywine recipe. This wasn’t about to happen, so a little more than a third of the total fermentables here come from 6 pounds of Pale Ale extract. The grain portion of the bill provides what I flatter myself by thinking is an interesting complexity.
Barleywine thinking forks into two roads. English barleywine—the progenitor of the style—tends to be sweeter and less hoppy. American barleywine follows the characteristic American beer impulse: stronger, more bitter, often dryhopped with characteristic citrusy American hop varieties.
These two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I plowed straight down the middle, hopping and dry-hopping in the American style but with a mix of German and English hops to get a woody, herbal hop profile.
I love this one more and more as it ages. You definitely feel this as it’s going down, but the cloud that descends upon your brain is less like getting TKOd on the canvas than it is like sliding onto an overstuffed reading chair in a wood-paneled study to contemplate the misfortunes of those by whom you have been wronged.
The label image had to reflect the existential horror of finding oneself trapped for eternity at the Happiest Place on Earth. This suggested the style of Ed Roth’s Rat Fink, and melvinmusanta from Indonesia had the requisite graphic chops to make this happen.
I had some great times there, but I certainly wouldn’t want to go back.
In the hands of Aimee Mann, a song is a scalpel, cutting through subcutaneous layers of cliche and sentimentality, exposing and getting to work on the muscle, the tissue, the vital organs. She says what she needs to say to fix you up and gets you out of there without a lot of fuss.
This one helps brace you against all the forces in your life that would rise up just so they can drag you down. I can’t express to you the number of low points it’s gotten me through.