Blue Point Brewing Old Howling Bastard

Old Howling Bastard

  • Nutty; currants
  • Bitter and sweet; anise and raisin
  • Soft bitterness; sweetness lingers

A very easy barley wine. Everything’s there, but it’s not overwhelming.

Recent Octoberfest taste-test winner, Blue Point Brewing Co. puts out a barley wine around Thanksgiving called Old Howling Bastard, supposedly named after a local character by the brewery. Blue Point is not too far away from DnU HQ, and I can absolutely believe that there is someone in Patchogue, where the brewery is located, who would inspire the “Old Howling Bastard” epithet. Barley wines are often named for something loud or scary. There’s Bigfoot, Monster, Blithering Idiot, and Cereal Killer just to name a few American labels. They tend not to be for beer novices.

Old Howling Bastard label design

The label from the Old Howling Bastard barley wine. The label was created by Steve Castro of atomikart.com. The 2010 label is intense, with copper and silver inks. It's a project that any graphic designer would love!

Barley wines are strong ales with high alcohol and initial sugar content. They are not proper wines, in that they have nothing to do with grapes, of course, and this is why American barley wines are forced to label their ales “barley wine-style” or “barleywine” (one word). That’s nonsense, and we won’t bother with the “style” in this publication. But they’re known as barley wines because their alcohol content matches that of traditional grape wines.

Old Howling Bastard is typical for a barley wine in that it’s malty and bitter, but it’s a bit milder than other’s I’ve tried. The label states that it rates 60 on the IBU (international bitterness units) scale, which is higher than most beer, but doesn’t hit the crazy bitterness that I’ve experienced with some other barley wines. The magic of the barley wine isn’t the bitterness, though, which one can get from an IPA if necessary. Barley wines are rich and full of toasty, caramel malt. The mash used to ferment is so full of sugars that the yeast can’t eat it all, so there’s an underlying sweetness. Old Howling Bastard 2010 is sweet and malty and bitter, but not overly so in any category. It doesn’t suffer from the off-putting metallic flavors that some barley wines have when they’re young. Many barley wines are better aged in the bottle, but the Blue Point is very nice right from the store. Barley wines are ideally served after about a half-an-hour to an hour out of a refrigerator, that is to say 50–55°F, which let’s the sweetness bloom.

I purchased the Old Howling Bastard in a 22 oz. bottle, which is good for three or four pours in a snifter, perfect for sharing. However, I drank the whole thing in two pours into my Sam Adams beer glass because I am an old, greedy bastard. But Blue Point‘s Old Howling Bastard is a great way to enter into the mysterious and wonderful world of barley wines because it has everything that it is supposed to, but not too much of it.