Glassware: Barleywines are high ABV monsters with lots of flavors and aromas packed in, unleashed fully as the beer warms to near-room temperature. Glassware that allows body heat transferred from the hands to slowly warm the beer is the best choice. A snifter glass is by far the best glass to use for this delicious barleywine, however an oversize wine glass or tulip will all suffice.
Description: Southern Tier Back Burner pours a deep copper with subtle ruby highlights and a light brown head that leaves a good lacing on the glass. The aroma has deep, rich caramel malts with hints of vanilla, molasses, raisins, and pine and earthy hops with a small whiff of maple syrup. The taste follows the nose, but is not fully unleashed until the beer warms up a little, so give this beer some time. The rich sweet caramel malts hit the palate first and are followed by brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup and a surprising hop bite that provides the perfect amount of balance. The beer is warming but the 10.5 percent ABV is not immediately present, so be careful with this one! The full body and medium carbonation give this beer a very creamy mouthfeel making for a beer that is great to enjoy after a long, hard and cold day.
Food Pairing: A big beer such as this requires close attention to pairings as the beer can and will quickly overwhelm many foods it is stacked up against. For a main course pairing, rich succulent roasted meats are best, a true delight is with roasted suckling pig. The maple syrup within the beer will add the perfect addition to the natural carmelization from the meat while the rich malts and hints of molasses provide a wonderful balance to the fatty meat. If you are looking for a pairing for appetizers, specifically cheese, Back Burner is perfect especially with stronger cheeses. Fans of stinkier cheeses will love pairing them with this beer as they will act as the perfect counterpoint to the sweet malt whether you enjoy brie, Gorgonzola, Limburger, or Camembert this is a great beer to enjoy with them all. It must be noted that Back Burner is phenomenal with desserts, the creamier and richer the better. If you are looking to highlight the roasted malts in the beer try with a slice of devil’s food cake or if you want to showcase the caramel flavors try with some Crème Caramel. If you want a dessert that cuts through the beer while enhancing the creamy body, try with vanilla bean cheesecake. It is the perfect way to end any night.
The Final Word: In the booming craft beer industry some beers disappear from shelves, not for lack of wanting from the public, but due to brewing schedules and a litany of other things. Back Burner was one of those beers that disappeared for a few years but is now back! Southern Tier last brewed this beer in 2012 and it was only available in 22 oz bottles or draft, it was also a fan favorite among those who tried it. The demand grew over the years and the brewery has re-released it, this time in 12 oz bottles, which is a great idea considering the high ABV. This is a phenomenal , easy drinking barleywine with a lot of complexity making it a perfect beer to enjoy as the months begin their slow transition from a bitter winter to a tepid spring. If you like your beers big with a lot of flavor then Back Burner is a must try. It is also a great beer to hang onto for aging to see where the flavor profile goes in a few years.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.
Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Co.
Beer: Back Burner
Style: American Barleywine
ABV: 10.5 %