August 22, 2014
Jan 9, 2014
11:22 AM

First Draught: Renaissance Tribute

This week's pick is sure to warm frigid souls (Image: David Ort)

When the temperature gets down to that point where it doesn’t really matter if it’s in Fahrenheit or Celsius, some people are unwavering fans of Russian Imperial stouts. Possibly because of the warming sweetness and slightly higher alcohol content, I prefer a barley wine any day.

New Zealand is a country to watch as a future craft beer trendsetter, but more for the beers based on the somewhat unusual, new varieties of hops being developed there. The Renaissance Tribute barley wine is solidly in the English style, and therefore has very little hop character.

It pours a clear orange brown with a very small amount of head which quickly fades.

“Booze soaked raisins” was my first note on the aroma. As you dig deeper there are also woodsy notes of sweet sherry. With plenty of malt character, the flavour gives the impression that those raisins have been baked into oatmeal cookies. It’s still quite sweet — and to be honest a little sticky — but there’s dried fruit complexity that keeps it from being one-dimensional or cloying.

Typically for a beer this high in alcohol, the attribute barley wine has a dense, somewhat syrupy mouth feel and very little carbonation.

All the sweetness in this beer puts it squarely in the nightcap category. But an aged blue cheese — real Stilton or a local interpretation on the style — would make a better match for it than most sweet desserts.

At almost $10 for such a small bottle, this is the most expensive beer in the LCBO’s winter release. It is, however, a rare opportunity to taste an English style barley wine, interpreted through a Kiwi lens.

Renaissance Tribute Barley Wine, $9.95 for a 330 ml bottle, LCBO #354829

In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David Ort writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including his own site, Food With Legs. He is the author of the Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook; now in stores and available for ordering online. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter or get in touch at

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