North Coast Brewing Company Class of ’88: Barleywine Style Ale
Brewed by: North Coast Brewing Company, Inc.
Beer Classification and Specs
- Style: Barleywine
- Variation: American Style
- Limited: Yes
- ABV: 10%
- IBU: 75
Notes: One-time series, one of three beers in “Class of ’88”.
Brewer’s Notes and Ingredients
A quarter century ago a passion for craft brewing ignited across the country. Today, the founding breweries of 1988 have united to commemorate that seminal year with a special selection of beers. Every bottle is a portal to the renaissance of craft brewing. Each steeped in heritage and expert craftsmanship.
Hops: Nugget, Millennium, Northern Brewer, Cascade, Mosaic
Malts: Pale, Carahell, Maris Otter
More Class of ’88: Barleywine Style Ale Images
Artwork: Follows the Class of ’88 series label template, using green text.
Color: Amber tone, deepened by noticeable cloudiness.
Aroma: Sweet, yet floral malt with notes of wet earth.
Arrived in: 25 oz. Bottle w/ cork muselet
Served in: Snifter
In the store I thought this was a simple three-way collaboration between North Coast Brewing, Rogue Ales, and Deschutes Brewery. I enjoy all of their beer, so grabbing for the bottle was an easy decision.
But only after getting the beer home, and researching the Class of ‘88 series did I learn the true grasp of their project. Not only was Class of ‘88 a collaboration, but almost like a competition between the breweries in a sense.
These three west coast brewhouses all founded in 1988, and I understood that part. In the same year, beer connoisseur Fred Eckhardt published “The Essentials of Beer Style”, which contained his barleywine style guidelines.
So each member of the “class”, took the same recipe outlined by Eckhardt, and put their own spin on it. Each brewery would travel to the other’s facilities to help brew all three interpretations of the barleywine.
Class of ’88 Barleywine was a limited edition commemorative ale, so no reason it shouldn’t be bottled in a special sized 25 oz bottle, complete with wood cork and muselet.
When poured, the barleywine made a volatile eruption into the snifter-like wine glass. One of those tiny bubbled, fluffy heads like latte foam.
Once the cap calmed down, patches of lacing oozed down the glass. It left behind a thin layer of suds that formed a concave shape up the side of the glass.
Class of ’88 Barleywine’s mild carbonation created this ale’s best quality – creamy mouthfeel. For a hefty ABV type ale, this was unbelievably smooth.
Initially its flavor was more rigid, and started with big malt to raw alcohol taste, with an almost musty metallic finish. But after letting it rest for a few minutes, the flavors began to meld together.
I let my glass sit for 5 to 10 minutes – you might want to go longer. Once it warmed up, the malt faded into a mildly hopped floral finish. Definitely more appealing…
As I mentioned before, Class of ’88 Barleywine was very smooth from its thin, yet ever-present, rich frothy head. But its consistency was not dense enough for the way I enjoy barleywines. This ale could have been a murky IPA, just as easily as it was a barleywine.
Its lack of density deprived Class of ’88 Barleywine from delivering that authentic “old style” ale feeling. I like to envision barleywines as a throwback to centuries ago, with some heaviness, and rough around the edges.
I didn’t really get that vibe from Class of ’88 Barleywine, but then again, its mouthfeel was amazing.
Final Score: 3/5
You can definitely find a better overall barleywine, but I doubt it will be as velvety as Class of ’88 Barleywine. I enjoyed the pronounced floral notes, but missed the soupy texture I find more typical to the barleywine style.