You’ve heard the
expression “When pigs fly”, right? Sure, we all have at some point or
another. But how many people have actually seen a pig fly? Well I have, and
no, it wasn’t the booze talking. OK, so it was on the label for Avery Brewing’s Hog Heaven Barleywine style ale. I still saw it.
Hog Heaven is an American style barleywine. The name barleywine is of English origin, as is the style. As the alcohol content of the style approached that of wines, the similar name came to be. English barleywines accent the malt much more than most American ones, which tend to stress the hops.
Avery boasts a rather strange award for Hog Heaven: 2004 Great American Beer Festival "Silver Medal" Imperial Red Ale. I am not sure just what an Imperial Red ale is, but it seems to be the norm today to take any style, throw extra malt and hops at it and call it Imperial. Of course, Hog Heaven is supposed to be a barleywine, it’s the style the brewery uses for it, and what they’ve called it for years.
Avery Hog Heaven pours to a bright orange amber hue with a very thick, rocky head formation and a hoppy Columbus nose. A thick layer of Brussels lace is deposited on the side of the glass and follows the beer all the way down to the bottom. When you sip, you’re tongue is immediately bathed in a layer of chewy caramel malt, thought the body here is a little thinner than with many beers of the style. Generous notes of fruit are discernible, too.
The hops take off right away, at first a bit peppery, then becoming more assertive. In the finish they’re piney and resiny, and finally they linger with a very intense bitterness. You’ll also pick up some warming alcohol notes there, too, with a slight high octane burn. That shouldn’t surprise; Hog heaven weighs in at 9.2% alcohol by volume.
Hog Heaven isn’t as big as say, Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine or Rogue’s Old Crustacean, two staples of the American style. It’s not quite so complex, either. But it is a very remarkable beer in its own right, and one very much worth seeking out. In the context of the style, I think it’s a very good version, though certainly not the best. For the style, it gets four out of five stars.
Hog Heaven should age out nicely enough, I think, as the hops mellow over time and the complexity increases. I would recommend socking a few bottles away in your beer cellar. At $4.49 for a 22 ounce bottle, its price, but well worth it. A similar sized bottle of wine can cost you lots more. Beer enthusiasts get off a lot cheaper with barleywine.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.