While there, I was able to try a handful of their brews and even ended up talking to Will Walthereson, their owner/head brewer. Will, who used to work for The Bruery in California, let me know that they had a handful of bottles of their first anniversary ales still available and, naturally, I jumped at the chance.
For their inaugural anniversary, Ad Astra released three different variations of Flight Wave, a Barleywine, each with different additives. First they have Flight Wave: Peach Brandy, then Flight Wave Bourbon Maple, and finally Flight Wave: Cuvee (a combination of the peach brandy and bourbon maple ones).
While all three were spectacular, today I present to you Flight Wave: Bourbon Maple Barrels. This English Barleywine was aged in a Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrel for ten months. But, what makes it really unique is that before holding bourbon, that same barrel housed maple syrup for two years - imparting huge maple notes onto the bourbon and now into the beer. The beer has a 14% ABV and it was on the expensive side…with a 500 mL bottle costing $30.
It’s the most expensive beer to be featured on BBG but only 100 bottles were made (I have bottle #76)...so snag it while you still can!
This Barleywine poured a rather dark amber color that turned red when the light hit it. Very little head ever built up, only a finger of tan head that quickly fizzled down to a thin ring around the edge of the glass and a single cloud floating in the middle.
The malts had full control of the scent with big sweet notes of caramel, toffee, and that typical breadiness. However, the aroma also put those barrels on display which added some whiskey spice and a touch of maple-y sweetness to it as well. It was a rather light and inviting Barleywine, one that wasn’t overly boozy or harsh but still let you know it was strong.
My first sip started with a quick alcohol burn and a flash of carbonation. However, almost instantly after that all the other flavors began to rush forth and quelled that initial spike. Subsequent sips were never as harsh and the beer quickly mellowed out, my taste buds just needed to get used to it.
The malts came out swinging with some calming biscuity qualities and a bit of that toffee flavoring. From there, the brew turned from good to great.
All of a sudden big waves of caramel and maple syrup began to flood my palate. It was sweet, it was sticky, and it was absolutely DELICIOUS. There was even a brown sugar quality to the beer that would peek out every so often.
There wasn’t a whole lot of the bourbon spice in the flavor as the aroma suggested but there was a bit of heat from the alcohol that hit the back of the throat…especially on the backend of the sip.
This variation of Flight Wave finished insanely clean as well. There was a twinge of bitterness, some toffee, and a dash of sticky caramel/maple that lingered onward but it still ended lighter and I was ready to take my next swig almost immediately.
Flight Wave was the first Barleywine I’ve ever reviewed on Belt’s Beer Garden and, honestly, it may be my favorite Barleywine ever. It was expensive but, damn, was it worth it. If you’re in Northern Arizona, get to Prescott and buy this beer while you can.
Amazing stuff! It’s the eighth beer to receive the highest score possible…