Strong Ale is a term used to describe ales that have a high alcohol content, usually above 7% ABV with malty, sweet and (expectedly) noticable alcohol flavors. This grouping includes barleywine, old ale, and English Strong Ale.
Barleywine – Its name comes from an alcohol strength (8-12% ABV) that can reach that of wine, but of course the beer is made with grain, not grapes, hence the “barley” part of the name. The ale’s colors range from amber to reddish brown. Flavors are usually sweet or bittersweet, the American style being in more cases the latter due to its citizens rabid affection for hoppy beer. The English style normally has a more rounded balance between hops and malt. Barleywine, unlike many beers, can be cellar stored and aged for a number of years.
Old Ale – Old ale gets its name from beers that brewers (back in the day) would age allowing for the beer to continue fermenting, usually to blend with younger beers. They are often called “Winter Warmers” as an ale that is brewed in months late and into the early part of the year. From old ales, one can expect very dark amber and brown colors and fruity, malty, high alcohol flavors.
English Strong Ale – We may be slightly miscategorizing this ale, but then again, categorizing beer is certainly not an exact science. Anyway…English Strong Ale is a pale ale that has an alcohol content over 5% and ranges in color from moderately amber to a dark red amber. Malty and sweet flavors may be accompanied by varying bitterness depending on added hops.
Our pick: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale