To the three people on the waiting list behind me for Park Lane Whole Foods' last six-pack of Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 10 in hopes that I wouldn't show up to claim it, sorry. I hope you were able to find it elsewhere. And now I understand why the Houston brewery's limited-edition Divine Reserve releases are so eagerly awaited that drinkers are willing to line up hours ahead of time and take the day off work. My first experience with a Saint Arnold Divine Reserve has me kicking myself for not being more aggressive about seeking out earlier DR releases.
Starting with No. 1 in the series, a barleywine bottled in August 2005, Saint Arnold Divine Reserve beers are special single-batch releases brewed sporadically at an average of two a year, and so far have all been high-ABV beers, with the weakest weighing in at 8.4 percent. Prior to this year's English-style barleywine was last fall's pumpkin stout, a beer I'll admit I did little to pursue given my general disdain for beers brewed with gourds.
According to a Saint Arnold newsletter, DR 10 is based on Chris Landis' entry in Houston's Big Batch Brew Bash homebrew competition. The newsletter also advised against drinking the beer before voting, as it was released on Election Day. Good advice, given its 11-percent ABV. Indeed, it's more the kind of beer you'd want to sip while celebrating the wisdom of Dallas voters for bringing us this much closer to fitting into the post-Prohibition 20th century. Or, as Saint Arnold actually recommends cellaring it to let the hops and alcohol mellow, you could wait until an election that gets us fully wet -- with liquor stores in formerly dry areas, even, and allowing not just restaurants but bars to sell alcohol without memberships. Hell, strong as it is, you could probably age it until Texas eyes the 21st century and votes on its own version of California's Prop 19.
Of course, I couldn't resist trying one of them right away. After the jump, it gets run through the Hophead Beer Ranking Scheme.
Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 10 (English-style barleywine)
Appearance: Amber-ruby, slightly hazy with an off-white head that doesn't last too long. 9/10
Nose: Whew! A lot of alcohol, but with some sweet dark-fruit notes and earthy, hoppy notes. Altogether, it smells great even with the alcohol. Maybe even somewhat because of the alcohol -- that is one odor that has never bothered me. 10/10
Taste: Excellent. Very sweet and malty as appropriate for the style, but much hoppier than expected for an "English-style" barleywine. Still, it's not bitter as with some American barleywines, giving overall a very balanced, complex impression. The alcohol taste is quite pronounced. I can definitely see how this one could improve with a year or two smoothing it out. But even fresh, it's a great sipping barleywine. 38/40
Body: Appropriately medium-to-full-bodied, a bit sticky and with mild carbonation. 9/10
Finish: Slightly numbing alcohol presence and some tangy, spicy hops. 9/10
Style/Originality: An outstanding barleywine now, and it'll almost certainly improve if it doesn't get too syrupy-sweet as it ages. I like the slight kick of the hops, which are definitely softer and less acidic than those of American-style barleywines. 10/10
Party Factor: If you can find it, this 11 percent ABV brew retails for $15 to $17 a six-pack. Mine was $15.99, giving it a factor of 4.13, rounding to 4.
According to commenters in Hanna's item about DR10 Tuesday, it could still be found at some retailers, and McKinney's Square Burger and Plano's Holy Grail Pub will be tapping kegs on Friday. And according to the Saint Arnold newsletter, not all stores would have received shipments on the same day. If you like barleywines, it's definitely worth making a few calls to various stores and seeing if you can find it.
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