Barleywines are part of an ancient style of beer, one that's primarily denoted by a higher alcohol content than typical brews -- an alcohol level closer to that of wine.
But Bryan Selders and Sam Calagione don't care, and why should they? The two brewers built their reputations at Dogfish Head Brewing by bucking tradition.
Last year, Selders moved to Colorado to take the top brewing job at The Post, a Lafayette brewery owned by the Big Red F restaurant group, and in April, he got a visit from Calagione, his old boss, who was in town for the Craft Brewers Conference.
The two decided to brew a beer together at The Post as part of Selders's Brewing With Friends project, and after a few pints, focused on a lower-alcohol barleywine.
"We wanted to make something drinkable, with a clean finish, something that would be drinkable in larger quantities," Selders says. The beer, which is called Bulky Oxen after the pair's longtime interest in the Paul Bunyan fairytale, is 7.5 percent ABV. Most barleywines clock in at around 8 to 11 percent ABV.
They called it a "session barleywine" in deference to the current trend of making lower-alcohol versions of typically high-ABV beers and putting the word "session" in front of them; session usually refers to beers below 4 or 5 percent ABV.
That descriptor earned Selders and Calagione some blowback on Facebook and on Beer Advocate because of its inherent contradiction. But the two brewers don't really care, since as Selders points out, "It tastes really good."
Bulky Oxen went on tap Monday at The Post, the West End Tavern in Boulder and the Old Mine in Erie. There are only ten barrels, so it will likely be gone after about a month.
Brewed with marmalade (made with orange, lemon and sweet onions), the beer is meant to be paired with The Post's pork shoulder, which was braised in a roasted tomato/herb broth and finished in the wood oven and topped with onion bacon marmalade.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan