Anchor Brewing Co., Old Foghorn Barleywine vs. Small Beer


Alright, a little beer education first:

A partigyle brew is one where the first runnings from a mash (the more potentially alcoholic) and the second runnings (the more watered down) are seperated, and fermented as two different beers, instead of blending the two runnings together and fermenting as one beer, as is normal. Old Foghorn Barleywine is the result of Anchor Brewing Company's first runnings, and their Small Beer is the result of the second. Below are reviews of the two, head to head, and then blended together.

Old Foghorn Barleywine Ale
Grade: C

Orange/red hue with a slightly offwhite head that dissipates quickly. Clarity is a bit cloudy. Sweet caramel and toffee in the nose, mingled with some alcohol notes and grape aromas. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, though boardering on the lighter side. There is bread and sweet sugar in the flavor, mixed with the alcohol burn and some of that grape-like tang. The body is softened a bit by the use of their yeast, which is proprietary to Anchor and is their signature. There is a firm bittering, with enough hops in the flavor addition to perk up the tastebuds. There is a tartness to it that I can't explain, possibly some bacterial invader causing some secondary fermentation? I've had this before, and the beer in general was thinner, more watery, and that grape-like tang was more pronounced. All of these things are signs of bacterial fermentation, an undesired effect. The sample in front of me isn't quite there, but I can see how it would develop into that other beer, given time. As it is however, I can't fault it too much. It's an enjoyable barleywine, albiet not the best in the business. If there weren't those few defects, I might even order another pint.


Small Beer
Grade: B

Pours crystal clear and light bronze with a nice white head that sticks around. Aroma of grains and toast and biscut are powerful and forward. There is a slight sulphery note as well, a sign of their proprietary lager yeast being used at ale temperatures. Some slight hopping in the nose as well, but light and slightly spicy. Possible noble hops of some sort. Body is fairly light and dry, yet that yeast creates it's signature roundness to the mouthfeel that I look for in Anchor beers. The toast and grain dominate in the flavor, very cereal and breadlike. The bittering is solid here, almost too much as it seems to be more balanced towards the back end, bittering element. There is almost no sweetness to be detected at all, just very crisp, dry, grains.


33% Foghorn, 66% Small Beer
Grade: A

Has a fairly clear pour with an offwhite head that stays around for a little bit. The color is slightly tarnished copper. The aroma is crisp, with some caramel in the background, but overall it's fairly clean in the smell department. Mouthfeel is a nice medium, starting full but ending dry, with just enough lingering bitterness and sweetness left on the palate. The offending qualities from both beers are subdued here (the overwhelming grainy-ness and the tangy grape character) to the point where neither is really noticable. What remains is a pleasant balance between crisp toast flavors and some of the sweeter caramel and toffee flavors. The bitterness in the back of the palate is still there, aided by the dry finish, which is certainly the lesser of the evils of both beers. Overall this blend is very nice to drink, flavorful yet balanced, full bodied yet quaffable, challenging yet approachable. Honestly, I wish Anchor had just made this beer instead of the other two.