Barley Wine by Chateau Kamiya (Ushiku Brewery)
We are going to explore a different type of malt and hop drink today and look at a barleywine. Despite its name, barley wine is beer, utilizing malt and hops. It is a style of strong ale usually between 6-11% or 8-12% alcohol by volume.
This particular barleywine is from another Ibaraki brewery about an hour north of Tokyo. Just a short walk from Ushiku Station, Chateau Kamiya was Japan's first full-scale winery and has since expanded to also include a microbrewery and a few restaurants. While the location is known as Chateau Kamiya, the current owners are pushing for the location name to be Ushiku Chateau with Ushiku Brewery being the name of the microbrewery (but because they have Chateau Kamiya written on all of their bottles,
The Chateau Kamiya Barley Wine is unique in as being a 9% beer, it does not smell or taste heavily of alcohol. It opens up with little head and carbonation, which is perfect as that allows for minimal distractions as we taste this full-bodied ale. The first aromas to hit the nose are heavy but somehow well-balanced fragrances of bitter caramel, fruity sparkles, and whole-grain crackers. The barleywine pours a clear, rusted ruby rose and dark gold with no head or remaining lacing.
Initial tasting brings hints of cinnamon, honey, and citrus mixed in with a bitter caramel flavor. The flavors are strong but quickly die off to a mildly hoppy semisweet end. Additional drinking and pushing through the strong flavors give way to a pleasant mixture of herbal notes and sweeter malts. Drinks much like a full-bodied wine without much of a crisp, dry finish. A delicious but dangerous beer as the alcohol flavor is not pronounced and the bittersweet flavors are prominent.
Style: Barley Wine
Author’s Note: So I drank this along with a few other beers I was shooting for this site one night. The lack of heavy alcohol flavors (and my ignorance of percentages) made me a little more tipsy than I would have liked. It is honestly a delicious beer that is deceptively sweet with some bitter hints. An amazing beer to drink.
Also, it is super fun to visit the brewery up in Ushiku if not to get your hands on some brewery-fresh suds, but also to see the immense history of the chateau.