If the old master Rubens were to paint a beer, barleywine would be his subject. Certainly such a match would be no accident; both portray a full body, appreciate with age, and critics never regard them lightly. Indeed, the classic canvas of barleywine presents the most sophisticated of beers.
First appearing centuries ago in small house-breweries, a brewer’s motivation for producing these strong ales was probably a combination of preservation and bragging rights. They counted on these statuesque beers to increase their standing with the brewery’s patrons and were cellared over a considerable period of time.
Use of the modern name – Barleywine, can be attributed to the high alcohol, which rivals that of wine, along with the practice of maturing in wood. Fermentation produces both products, but no other connection exists.