Coniston No 9 Barley Wine was announced this week as Champion Beer of Britain 2012. It was available in limited quantities at the Great British Beer Festival and I so I got to try it, here is what I though.
Coniston is not new to the Champion Beer of Britain having won it in 1998 with their Bluebird Bitter, however No 9 has it’s first showing in the top three. Amongst the proliferation of gold beers and milds which seem to sit at the top of the competitions at the moment, a barley wine is an interesting winner, not only because it is a more unusual style but also due to it’s high abv at 8.5%.
Coniston No 9 Barley Wine was limited at the GBBF, a queue is not unusual for the champion beer of Britain but the queue this year started a whole lot sooner it was also timed to come on at a certain time each day. Furthermore the beer was only available in thirds, not a problem at 8.5%abv but it showed how limited the beer was.
The nose on this beer is much as you would expect in a quality barley wine, raisins, bananas, sweetness and an overtone of apples. The initial flavour is sweet rich fruits, raisins and plums and then a strong flavour of stewed apples, like apple crumble. There is the overtone of airy alcohols and further sweetness then an apple peel flavour and slight hoppyness to finish.
I really like Coniston No 9 Barley Wine, I do not normally like barley wines but this beer is really nice. It has the rich fruit flavours which I associate with well aged bottled beers which combine with the fresher apple flavours over the top to make a very flavoursome beer. This beer is only brewed once a year (although I would expect it will be either brewed multiple times this year or in much larger quantities) and the Coniston website says that the No 9 “has a long maturation period to give a smooth and warming character”. I am not sure how long this period is but I am guessing it is shorter than beers of similar flavour.
If you are a fan of the strong ale style or have enjoyed beers such as the Fuller’s Vintage ales then Coniston No 9 Barley Wine is a beer for you. As this beer is brewed in limited quantities and is Champion Beer of Britain 2012 I think it will be difficult to get hold of for the coming months, but you mich be lucky, check out the Coniston Brewing Company website for more details on this and their other beers.