It's always wildly anticipated, and it's been praised by most but I'm finding myself underwhelmed by St. Arnold's recent entry into Divine Reserve territory.
Divine Reserve Ten is a barleywine, and there's little I like better than a good, malty barleywine. Unfortunately I struggled to find the notes of malt in the nose of this, and the taste reminded me of a beer that was a little unsure of itself.
I drank two over the weekend, both at the traditional temperature of around 55 degrees F. The first one I drank on its own, letting it breathe after pouring for just a bit, and had a lot of difficulty identifying it as a barleywine.
To see if I was imagining things, I tried another bottle the next night alongside a Bigfoot barleywine from Sierra Nevada brewing, and a personal favorite of mine, the Sisyphus barleywine from Real Ale. (Real Ale makes my favorite ale: Devil's Backbone, St. Arnold's makes my 2nd favorite: their Texas Wheat) When first opened I thought the Bigfoot smelled like OFF insect repellent. Again, to make sure I wasn't hallucinating I checked with my wife and she noticed the same thing. I poured it into a room temperature glass and waited for two minutes, the next sniff was malty and sharp and good. The barleywine in the bottle was good as well. After this I poured and smelled the DR10, still nothing. I let it sit for a couple of minutes and thought that I got a slight whiff of malt but still nothing much. When tasting I still noticed the same confusion that I had noted the night before. Finally, I tasted the Sisyphus, it was just as I remembered and a great example of the type. The smell was right on, the head was perfect (I found the head of the DR10 to be thin, the BigFoot was right on) and the color was caramel.(as was the BigFoot, with the St. Arnold's coming in just a tad lighter, but equally rich in texture)
I'm hoping that 5 or 6 months in the bottle will help to settle this beer down a bit. That's what happened with DR9. (Which I couldn't drink immediately due to it's overwhelming bitterness but am really enjoying this fall due to it having mellowed.) If anything, DR10 reminds me of an immature barleywine that just needs some time to organize itself and find out what it needs to be. Since these are beers that are meant to be laid down I'm not that concerned. (After all, the great Bordeaux wines are borderline undrinkable in their youth) Maybe some time in a dark, cool place will do them some good.
Divine Reserve 10:
NOTE: On the St. Arnold's website it recommends laying these bottles down and letting the beer age. I'm hoping they're right.