Phantom Canyon Brewery released their barrel-aged barleywine called Winston Smith’s yesterday. I was there, I drank a few glasses and walked out with my maximum allottment of four bottles. I noticed quite a few people do the same thing over the two hours I sat at the bar. This marks the third annual release of this beer. The first two years were aged in Stranahan’s whiskey barrels and this year’s batch saw Templeton Rye whiskey barrels.
Phantom has it on tap so you can sample it, allowing you to save your bottles for another time. Perhaps even cellar one or two. This beer has proven it does well over time pushing the barrel flavors forward and melding the beer with them.
This barleywine is a deep brown blending towards a deep ruby on the edges when held to the light. There is a wonderful aroma blending spiciness, vanilla, light toffee, and gentle oak. The first sip pushes the whiskey forward but not in a hot/boozy way, more like a spicy warmth possibly from the rye barrel contribution. Gentle flavors come through that you would expect, like vanilla and caramel sweetness, but the best part of the drink to me was the aftertaste. It left a sweet coffee/toffee flavor which let you enjoy your last sip for a while after.
I was able to drink a couple of 2011’s batch and a 2012 at Trinity a couple days before, at a special tapping they had. Sitting down with Isaac and tasting these two batches side by side sparked a conversation/debate about the best beer in Colorado Springs. Here’s my opinion (This is Scott, I was told to make sure you know this is my opinion):
“Phantom Canyon’s Winston Smith’s barrel-aged barleywine has been proven by scientists to be the greatest beer in or in the vicinity of the City of Colorado Springs, CO.”
I really enjoyed this year’s version and I like the changing of the barrels. I will say that I liked the Stranahan barrel-aged version slightly better, but only slightly. We talked to the brewer and he mentioned the choice for next year’s barrel is still undecided. Phantom had 190 or so bottles for sale, plus a few kegs to keep it on tap hopefully for a little while. If there are any left, it would be a good idea to try to get down there and snag yourself a bottle or four.
- - -
Stay up to date with Focus on the Beer. You can receive email updates and join us on our Facebook page.