SOB 2008 Barleywine is a Real Treat

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In Southern Oregon we are blessed with a number of really excellent local breweries.  Some are well-known outside of the area, such as Ashland's Caldera Brewing and Medford's Southern Oregon Brewery (SOB).  Others, like Walkabout Brewing in Central Point, are primarily loved by the locals.  This weblog is loth to pick any one as a favorite, but does wish from time to time to single out one of these breweries for a job well done.

The 2008 Barleywine from SOB is a beer we would particularly love to call your interest to.  This bourbon oak-aged beauty was just bottled and released this year, and a scant two dozen cases were all they produced.  Inspired by the more traditional English-style barleywines, this beer eschews the heavy-handed hops that have become characteristic of the American-style, and instead adds such treats as the oak aging and plum purée.

The flavors combine spectacularly.  On the nose, this beer promises a rich, warm draught, and it does not disappoint.  The oak blends well with the sweetness of the malt, and if the brewery hadn't admitted to the plum purée on the bottle, one would assume the hint of dark stone-fruit was just another bonus flavor.  It is rare that one comes across a beer that longs to be savored so slowly.  It begs to be enjoyed in a snifter, perhaps shared with food, or perhaps as just a dessert beer.  And though the oak may still be a wee bit overpowering, with a few more years in the bottle it should mellow out and sink pleasantly into the brew's rich, malty warmth.

Tom Hammond, president of SOB, recommends wax-dipping any bottles one plans on aging, to guard against oxygen seepage through the bottle cap.  Presently this beer is available in extremely limited quantities at the brewery and perhaps throughout the rest of the state.

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