Barley Wine beers have a amber brown colour an ABV between 8% and 12% and a very high bitterness.
Barley Wine characteristics
Barley Wine is an American reinterpretation of classic English Barley Wine. Color ranges from light amber to medium copper, and aromas are quite hoppy, with floral notes of American hops. Taste is ballance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness, but the ballance is always towards bitter, with a strong alcoholic character. It is less hoppy and sweeter than an Imperial IPA.
Altough there are ancient references to the term Barley Wine, referenced by the Greek historian Xenophon, this name seemed to be applied in order to differentiate ancient beer from wine. Modern day barley wine traces its origins to 1903, when Bass & Co first advertised a beer with the name Barley Wine. The name was used to enforce the notion that it was the first beer derived from the the wort, using the Parti-Gyle technique. This drink was marketed for British high class trying to get a market share from then prevalent Bordeaux red wine.
Barley wine was later almost forgotten in the UK, just claimed by CAMRA, but it was in the US when the style took a new life after Anchor Brewing created the first American brewed Barley wine in 1976 called Old Foghorn Barley Wine Style Ale, followed by Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine in 1983.