Blue Collar Brew Review – Avery Hog Heaven Barleywine

Avery logoFriday afternoon had me once again making the trip to Cardinal out in Joliet. I had no idea what beer style I was in the mood for. I thought about trying one of the gluten-free beers or one of the session IPAs that the brewers seemed to flooding the shelves with these days. But I wanted something more than just peas and carrots. I wanted meat and potatoes.

Pacing the aisle for the third time, I finally spotted one that I thought might be right up my alley and mood. It was Avery Hog Heaven Dry-Hopped Barleywine-Style Ale. Nice. Flying pink pigs on the label.

Avery makes some good beers. I’ve had many occasions to partake of Ellie’s Brown Ale, White Rascal and my fave from them, The Reverend quadrupel. I’ve tried their Maharajah but have yet to taste the Kaiser or Czar.

Hog Heaven would be it; the price was decent as well. Saturday was set and I scored a 4-pack of Goose Island Pere Jacques for Friday night as well. Each time I try some Pere Jacques, my tastebuds are shot into nirvana. Just love the stuff.

But it’s barleywine for Saturday night. My latest recollection of the taste of the style includes an unidentifiable super-hop bitterness and hefty malt flavor to back it up. Just like Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot.

Saturday night would be my time before the big cookout tomorrow when all my kids and their babes show up for steaks and Mom’s potato salad.

I retired to the Manly Garage all by myself. The window was cracked open a bit just enough to hear the Harleys ride by. I grabbed the first bomber. Hell, I was in Hog Heaven myself.

The beer poured with a nice light brown color and brought up an inch of yellowish-beige foam. The liquid was a translucent and the carbonation was hard to see. The aroma was of a typical hoppy barley wine (what did I expect?)

The first sip was not as harsh as I anticipated and was rather tasty. That unidentifiable hop flavor was big at the back but it wasn’t harshly bitter. The malt body was great and had a tad bit of sweetness to it. My first thought was that it was on a par with SN’s Bigfoot barleywine.

They taste of a barleywine is a unique one. It’s almost like taking an old ale style beer and hopping the crap out of it. The enormous amounts of malt and tons of hops make for the traditional taste of this style of beer. I’d say that exotic hops such as Citra, Mosaic and the like would lost or wasted in a barleywine.

Hog Heaven is unique in its treatment of the balance of the beer’s taste. It seemed to concentrate equally on the malts and the hops to make the beer taste less sharp going down while still maintaining a nice hefty malt flavor with bit of sweetness thrown in.

According to Avery’s description on their site, the beer contains all Columbus hops and that brings the bitterness up to 104 IBUs. I believe that humans can only taste bitterness up to about 70 IBUs or so, so the difference between a 90 IBU beer and a 105 IBU beer would be undetectable. I still hold firm to the belief that IBUs are strictly a laboratory measurement designed as a reference for the brewer. This is from the Brewers Association Style guidelines:

In the beer world bitterness is analytically measured as “bittering units” or “international bitterness units.” The numerical value is a measure of a specific hop compound and will not consistently coincide with individual’s perception of bitterness intensity.

I’ve had only a few barleywine beers, Bigfoot, Flying Dog’s Horn Dog and now this one from Avery. There is a similarity between Hog Heaven and Bigfoot. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had Horn Dog.

While you get a better bang for the buck with Bigfoot (four 12-ounce bottles for about $10.99,) the Hog Heaven entry appeals to me as the tastier, more enjoyable beer. It seemed to have a slightly better balance. Although HH has a tad less alcohol by volume, it seemed a bit more laid back and easier on the palate.

I don’t know if there’s a particular season for barleywines, but if you’d like a different taste from an imperial stout or even a double IPA, grab a hold of a barley wine, Hog Heaven in particular. The cost won’t kill ya and your taste buds will oink smile.

Hog Heaven labelThe SixPackTech summary for Avery Hog Heaven Barleywine:



Style: American BarleywineBA Styles barleywine Taste: Everything you’d expect but laid back and pleasant.
Smoothness: Prepare for the swallow as always. This one ain’t so bad.
Drinkability: Not for a party or picnic. It’s just for you and a few friends.
Bang for the buck: On a par with other craft beers.
Amount paid: $7.99 per 22-ounce bottle.
Get it again? Why, yes. I probably shall.
ABV: 9.2%
Brewer’s website
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Cloudy. Smells bitter. It’s real citrusy but it’s dry. A little sweet, kinda like orange peel but it’s dry. (I think her taste buds are suffering from the Oort Cloud return trip.)

RateBeer rates.

Adam Avery talks about Hog Heaven [3:01] – audio goes out of sync about 1:45

Hog heaven

Hog heaven

(Note: I’ve felt something was lacking in the recent reviews since I’ve stopped referencing the BJCP Style Guidelines. Tonight, I decided to take a new approach by citing the Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines which is more on the order of where craft beer is going today. Once I figure out how to do the HTML, I’ll just incorporate it into the “Style” category via a link.)

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