On Rotation’s Mexican Barleywine Is Not Just A Barleywine, It’s A Pepper Beer, Too.

Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we’ll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it’s local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!

This week, we sipped on On Rotation’s Mexican Barleywine.

Fast Facts on On Rotation Mexican Barleywine.
Style: Barleywine, with a very strong nod to Spice, Herb, or Vegetable (SHV) beer.
ABV: 11.7 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 75.
Color: Medium copper.
Availability: Limited — draft/crowler.

On Rotation is keeping up a rather intense pace of releasing new beers in 2017. As I sit here at the bar, On Rotation has eight of its house beers available. What On Rotation lacks in production capacity, it seems to make up with a varying and enjoyable lineup.

Earlier this year, On Rotation released its floral, bitter Double IPA named The Floor Is Lava. And even though I rolled in here with every intention of reviewing said Double IPA, the Mexican Barleywine beckons me instead!

Generally speaking, the barleywine style is not known for pepper-type vegetable additions. While they do exist on a wider, national scale, the pepper-fueled Barleywine is a rarity in the DFW beer scene.

Background on Barleywine.
First things first: This beer should probably be classified as a Spice, Herb, or Vegetable (SHV) beer. Its base beer is an American-style barleywine. The lines get blurred on this SHV style, and rather than me rattle off a bunch of nonsense about the hodgepodge, catchall nature of the SHV style, let’s spend a little bit of time on the American Barleywine. For a primer on the Barleywine style, check out our review of Peticolas’ The Duke or Lakewood Brewing’s Thread Spinner. The style takes its roots in England, but the American version, like most other Americanized variations on various styles, cranks a few traits up a bit. The American barleywine style ranges in IBU from 50 to 100, although this high hopping should be balanced out by a massive grain bill, plenty of residual sweetness and tons of body. Of the many beers out there, this style definitely requires a helmet, so proceed with caution when drinking the barleywine style.Appearance.
Mexican Barleywine pours a copper sort of color in to the glass. I asked the bartender to serve the beer in the standard style glass, so even though On Rotation just started serving beer out of sweet new branded glassware, I had to shy away from a full pint pour of this beer. The foam hangs around in a medium manner, and small amounts of lacing cling to the glass. On Rotation states that this beer is brewed with piloncillo, which is a rock-hard, Mexican brown sugar. The piloncillo addition likely adds a tiny bit of color on this beer.

The aroma that jumps out first on Mexican Barleywine is pepper. It’s a tug-of-war between pepper heat and that classic vegetal aroma. Behind the spice, I get a solid backbone of sweet malt. There’s also a bit of something other going on here, but it doesn’t quite land anywhere for me. On Rotation says that this beer is made with tamarind, so maybe that’s it? Behind these aromas is a definite boozy, hot sort of scent. It’s not bad, it’s just, well, there.

First and foremost, my brain still wants to place this beer in the SHV camp. It’s a barleywine. It’s a SHV beer. It’s both! The pepper dominates the flavor profile here too, and I feel like this beer is going to be a throat-burner. However, the ancho chile addition remains in check, and I get more of the spice on the palate compared to throaty heartburn. Aside from the pepper, there’s a separate amount of heat from the high level of alcohol.Mouthfeel.
Make no mistake, Mexican Barleywine is a full-bodied helmet beer. The pepper heat seems to turn down the sugar content on this beer, and I like it! Some barleywines can leave a heavy-handed sugar situation on the palate, and that is not what’s going on here. The alcohol is a bit cranked on this beer, but it’s not out of style. I get a bit of hotness from the alcohol, and it starts to numb my tongue a bit as I get about half-way through the pour.

Overall Impression.
If you do not like spice beers, pepper beers or barleywines, this may not be the beer for you. And while this one-sentence cautionary statement might seem like the basic bitch of overall impressions, it also kinda nails it. I have become a fan of pepper beers in the last year, so I am a fan of this beer. The beer is confusing, too, because the sweetness, caramel and richness of a barleywine is masked by ancho chile. It’s weird, but it’s good. This is not an all-nighter sort of beer, but it’s a good first beer. Plus, barleywine is a sipper style, and On Rotation seems to slow the drinking experience further with this lovely pepper addition. I can dig it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give On Rotation Mexican Barleywine a 6.25.What’s happening in the area brew scene?
• Saturday, April 8. Two-Year Anniversary Party at Bitter Sisters Brewery.
• Saturday, April 8. BBQ Pitmasters Class w/ Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ at Collective Brewing Project.
• Sunday, April 9. Girl Scout Cookie and Beer Pairing at Tupps Brewery.
• Saturday, April 15. Eastside Tour on the Dallas Brew Bus.
• Saturday, April 15. Beer + Cigar at Collective Brewing Project.
• Saturday, April 22. BBQ Pitmasters Class w/ Lockhart Smoke House at Franconia Brewing Co.
• Saturday, April 29. Hypnotic Donuts and Beer Pairing at On Rotation.
• Saturday, April 29. TAP Fest at Texas Ale Project.

Previous On Tap Reviews:
Revolver’s Sangre y Miel: 10.
Peticolas’ Royal Scandal: 10.
Community’s Mosaic IPA: 10.
Peticolas’ Velvet Hammer: 10.
Collective Brewing Project’s Boysenbarrel: 10.
Community’s Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
Community’s Legion: 10.
BrainDead’s Fill in the Blancs: 9.5.
Oak Highlands’ Freaky Deaky: 9.5.
Deep Ellum’s Barrel Aged Four Swords: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
Peticolas’ Lost Epic: 9.5.
Community’s Ascension Porter: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Temptress: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Goatman: 9.5.
Community’s Public Ale: 9.5.
Peticolas’ Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Collective Brewing Project’s SMaSHY: 9.2
• On Rotation’s Lingonberry Sahti: 9.25.
On Rotation’s Jalapeno Saison: 9.
Woodcreek’s Bourbon Barrel Bock: 9.
Lakewood’s Wild Manimal: 9.
Revolver’s Blood & Honey: 9.
Martin House’s Imperial Texan: 9.
Community’s Trinity Tripel: 9.
Peticolas’ Irish Goodbye: 9.
Four Corners’ Block Party Porter: 9.
Cedar Creek’s Belgian Dubbel: 9.
Small Brewpub’s Black Pepper Pils: 8.5.
Peticolas’ Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
Deep Ellum’s Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
Deep Ellum’s Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
Lakewood’s Rock Ryder: 8.5.
Rahr’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
Lakewood’s Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Peticolas’ Prime Minister: 8.25.
Community’s Texas Helles: 8.
On Rotation’s Moar Blackberry: 8.
Lakewood’s Thread Spinner: 8.
Texas Ale Project 50 Ft. Jackrabbit: 8.
Texas Ale Project’s Payne Pils: 8.
Noble Rey’s Bridesmaid’s Tears: 8.
Collective Brewing’s Urban Funk House: 8.
Lakewood’s On Call: 8.
Oak Highlands’ Golden Mustache: 8.
903 Brewers’ Crackin’ Up: 8.
Deep Ellum’s Play Date: 8.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s 11th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout: 8.
Bitter Sisters’ Belgian Tripel: 8.
Noble Rey’s SteamPunk: 8.
903 Brewers’ Citra On Top: 8.
Bitter Sisters’ Hissy Fit: 8.
BrainDead’s Gritz: 8.
Community’s Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
Cedar Creek’s Fisticuffs: 8.
Lakewood’s Punkel: 8.
Four Corners’ El Chingon IPA: 8.
Martin House’s Day Break: 8.
Deep Ellum’s GOURDzilla: 8.
Peticolas’ The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
Deep Ellum’s Pale Ale: 8.
Revolver’s Bock: 8.
903 Brewers’ Sasquatch: 8.
Peticolas’ Wintervention: 8.
Armadillo Ale Works’ Brunch Money: 8.
Martin House’s Salsa Verde: 8.
Cedar Creek’s Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
Lakewood’s Holiday Bonus: 8.
Lakewood’s Hop Trapp: 8.
TUPPS Full Grown Man: 7.75.
3 Nations American Wit: 7.75.
Armadillo Ale Works’ Dapper Apple: 7.75.
Chimera Dirty Dog: 7.5.
Legal Draft’s Accused Amber Lager: 7.5.
Grapevine’s Reserve Tart Cherry Berliner Weisse: 7.5.
Martin House’s Stars Above: 7.5.
Grapevine’s Prickly Pear Wheat Ale: 7.5.
Bitter Sisters’ Knock Out: 7.5.
Four Corners’ Notorious O.A.T.: 7.5.
Noble Rey Golden Rey With Raspberries and Ginger: 7.5.
On Rotation Saved By The Belma: 7.5.
True Vine’s Unicorn’s Revenge: 7.5.
Deep Ellum’s Hop Seeker: 7.5.
Four Corners’ El Super Bee: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Hopochondria: 7.5.
Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
Martin House’s Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Antigoon’s Revenge: 7.5.
Community’s Texas Pils: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Zomer Pils: 7.5.
Cedar Creek’s Dankosaurus: 7.5.
Cedar Creek Brewery Clover Kicker: 7.25.
Noble Rey Sex In A Canoe: 7.25.
Oak Highlands Brewery’s Oktoberfest.: 7.25.
3 Nations Mango SMASH IPA: 7.
Legal Draft Chief Justice Stout: 7.
Manhattan Project’s Plutonium-239: 7.
Backcountry’s Texas IPA: 7.
Backcountry’s Double IPA: 7.
Rahr’s Visionary: 7.
Shannon Brewing’s Irish Cream Ale: 7.
Oak Highlands’ Guava Good: 7.
TUPPS Brewery’ Northbound 75: 7.
Rahr & Sons’ Iron Joe: 7.
BrainDead’s I Like Harvey IPA: 7.
Martin House’s Turtle Power: 7.
Collective’s Petite Golden Sour: 7.
Shannon’s Chocolate Stout: 7.
BrainDead’s Red Ale: 7.
Community’s Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
Martin House’s Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
Bearded Eel’s Purple Unicorn: 7.
Noble Rey’s Off The Leash: 7.
Shannon Brewing Company’s Irish Red: 7.
Texas Ale Project’s Somethin’ Shady: 7.
Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
Cedar Creek’s The Lawn Ranger: 7.
Martin House Brewing Company’s Cellarman’s Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
Lakewood’s Till & Toil: 7.
903 Brewers’ The Chosen One: 7.
903 Brewers’ Sugar On Top: 7.
Martin House’s Gateway XPA: 7.
Armadillo Ale Work’s Quakertown Stout: 7.
Revolver’s High Brass: 7.
Community’s Pale Ale: 7.
Oak Highlands’ Chump Change: 7.
Martin House’s River House: 7.
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Sir William’s Brown Ale: 7.
Community’s Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
Audacity’s Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
Martin House’s Queen of the Mist (Prickly Pear): 6.75.
Three Nations Texas Xmas Hazelnut Ale: 6.5.
Martin House’s The Juice: 6.5.
Collective Brewing Project’s Mom Azacca: 6.5.
Four Corners’ La Lechuza: 6.5.
Revolver’s Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
903 Brewers’ Trot Line: 6.5.
Four Corners’ Celebración: 6.5.
Peticolas’ Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Nightwatch: 6.5.
Peticolas’ The Duke: 6.5.
Deep Ellum’s Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
Wild Acre’s Tarantula Hawk: 6.
Martin House’s Kafkaesque: 6.
TUPPS’ Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
Rabbit Hole’s Tweedleyum: 6.
Rabbit Hole’s Off With Your Red: 6.
Cedar Creek’s Elliott’s Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Lakefire: 6
Armadillo Ale Works’ WunderMelon: 6
Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
Lakewood’s Troll Toll: 5.5.
Martin House’s Hell Below: 5.5.
Lakewood’s La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
Woodcreek’s Lakeside Cerveza: 5.
Martin House Cuvee Pumpkin Latte: 5.
Intrinsic’s Crunktoberfest: 5.
Martin House’s Mind On My Money: 5.
903 Brewers’ The Land Of Milk And Honey: 5.
Deep Ellum’s Numb Comfort: 5.
TUPPS’ Day Off: 4.75.
Four Bullets’ Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
Audacity’s Checkered Past: 4.
Four Corners Heart O’ Texas: 4.
Audacity’s Sunset Boulevard: 4.
Shannon Brewing Company’s IPA: 4.
Grapevine’s Monarch: 4.
Good Neighbor Brews Slim Sweetness: 3.
Twin Peaks’ Dirty Blonde: 3.
Franconia Wheat: 3.
Miller Lite: 1.

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