Peticolas Puts Up Its Duke.

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 Peticolas Brewing Company's The Duke.

Fast Facts on Peticolas' The Duke.
Style: Barleywine
ABV: 12 percent.
IBUs: 35 Interational Bittering Units.
Color: Golden Orange
Hops: Willamette
Malts: Mostly Two Row
Availability: Mostly brewery only

Background.
For brewer Michael Peticolas, The Duke represents a first of sorts. Since founding his brewery, there has always been one consistent theme — balanced beers that are true to style (that is to say, beers that meet a defined flavor profile). In the brewing world, there are basically two types: Those that want to make their beers as close to style as possible and those who wish to follow a more experimental path. Until The Duke, Peticolas has opted to toe the line as a style master. But inspiration bit when sampling the barley wine offerings of Wisconsin brewery New Glarus. And now we have The Duke. According to Peticolas, The Duke was brewed “for him.” So don't expect wide distribution anytime soon. Look for it at brewery tours and select events around town.

A Primer on Barley Wines.
There are two types of Barley Wines: American and English. The Duke tends to fall more in line with the American classification. Light amber to medium copper in color, an American Barlywine should have a moderately low to large white or off-white head, and may show a certain viscosity due to the high amount of alcohol. An American barley wine should have a rich malty aroma backed with some citrus or resin hop aromas and possibly hints of fruity esters and alcohol. They should have a strong malt flavor that's rounded out by moderate to high levels of hop bitterness and a thick mouthfeel. For this review, we matched up The Duke with Avery's Hog Heaven Barleywine. both represent American Barleywines, and both are also dry hopped.

Appearance.
The Duke pours a hazy golden orange with some slight chill haze, which is probably where this beer deviates the most from style. Most barley wines I've sampled pour much darker; this one is almost reminiscent of a double or triple IPA. In fact, the color reminds of Pliny the Younger, a Double IPA from Russian River Brewing Company. By comparison, the Hog Heaven pours reddish brown, which is more in line with what I'd expect from a Barleywine.

Aroma.
Sadly, at first whiff, there's not much going on in the aroma department for The Duke, which is surprising given that the beer is dry-hopped — a process that usually results in rich hop aromas. It took some warming up to bring out the hops and subtle sweet raisin from the alcohol. Hog Heaven, on the other hand, had a nice citrus hop aroma with a faint sweet and bready malt backbone.

Flavor.
Initially, I was taken aback by the heavy sweetness of this beer. On first sip, it dominates the entire flavor profile. Subsequent tastings, however, revealed a slight hop bitterness felt most on the side of the tongue, which makes the beer a more well-rounded effort. If you try hard enough, you may be able to detect the alcohol, which, for a 12 percent beer is quite an impressive feat. Hog Heaven is the polar opposite of The Duke in this regard. While The Duke is dominated by sweet malts, Hog Heaven is aggressively hopped, coming in at 104 IBUs to The Duke's 35. As a self-identified hop-head, Hog Heaven is even too hopped for me, which is saying something. Of the two, I would much rather drink The Duke.

Mouthfeel.
This is where The Duke and Hog Heaven are most similar. Both have a drinkable medium mouthfeel with good amounts of carbonation, which belies the alcohol content of both brews.

Overall Impression.
To be perfectly honest, this is the first Peticolas beer that I haven't thoroughly enjoyed. On my first taste at the brewery, I was taken aback by the beer's strong malt sweetness and that impression has stuck with me, even through repeat tastings. In my opinion, the beer could benefit from a little more hop bitterness. But, then again, my palate is one that gravitates toward the bitter end of the spectrum — and that's certainly not true for everyone. Personally, I'd like to revisit this beer when it has a little more age to it. Six months from now, The Duke will be a completely different beer; many of the stronger flavors will have mellowed. In a year, it could sing. That's the beauty of the barley wine style. These beers usually get better with age.

Score.
On a scale of 1-10, I'd give The Duke a 6.5.

What's happening in the area beer scene this week? (Powered by Dallas Brew Scene.)
• Thursday, August 1. National IPA Day. The Flying Saucer (Addison), Oak Street Draft House (Denton) and Holy Grail Pub (Plano) are among area restaurants celebrating the day with various specials.
• Friday, August 2. Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s Dallas Blonde's One-Year Anniversary Party at Katy Trail Ice House.
• Saturday, August 3. Beer School at Community Beer Company.
• Sunday, August 4. Lakewood Brewing Company's One-Year Anniversary Party at Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House.
• Sunday, August 4. Jack Mac's Swill & Grill's 13-Month Anniversary.

Preview “On Tap” Reviews:
Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
Martin House's Day Break: 8.
Lakewood's La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.

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