Strictly from a naming perspective, few beer styles are as interesting as Barleywine. In some ways, the name immediately conveys everything you need to know about the style; in other ways, the name couldn’t be more inaccurate and misleading. The designation is equal parts on the nose and tongue-in-cheek, lending the style, and the beers within it, to discussion. And Barleywines – as one of the biggest and boldest styles out there – are definitely discussion worthy.
First, the inaccuracies: Barleywines are definitely not wines. Wines are fermented juice, and as anyone who has ever tried to juice barley can attest to, the grain is pretty liquid free. Barleywines are very much beers, made of sugars extracted from grains.
So why call them “wines?” Well that’s the cheeky part: The style earned its name based on these beers’ strength and complexity – two things that definitely show similarities to wine.