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Grand Madame is one rooty, tooty, fruity barleywine. This 11.5 percenter was bottled in 2016 after being aged in a sherry barrel. It’s one of those big beers that would have been perfectly happy at the bottom of the magic fridge for years to come, but it was doomed to a much shorter life once it crossed my threshold.
Milwaukee Brewing Company is the brewer of this big bruiser. I won this particular bomber bottle in a raffle when the brewery did a tap takeover at my local, which is unusual in itself since I never win anything. So that makes it even better, I guess.
It pours a beautiful reddish-amber, with a sticky tawny head that hangs on the sides of the glass like a lace curtain. Yes, this Grand Madame, she is quite beautiful to look at. Very shapely in the glass.
And the taste? I’ve had beers aged in all sorts of booze and wine barrels, with varying degrees of distinctiveness imparted from that process. The taste of sherry is undeniable in this barleywine, which makes this beer taste just as seductive as she looks. I already mentioned the inherent barleywine fruitiness, but the twist here is that it finishes with a bright tangy sherry bite.
I paired this big girl with beef short ribs slow-cooked in an improvised soy-coffee sauce (as I was throwing the sauce together, I noticed a half-cup of coffee still sitting in the press from my morning coffee and added that rather than the beer and/or rice vinegar I was first considering).
The beef has fallen off the bone and while it is obviously meat, it melts in the mouth like fine chocolate. A toothless person could enjoy this meltingly tender beef.
Despite a heavy hand used with the garlic and freshly grated ginger in the beef sauce, I’m not getting either of those ingredients. Nor do I taste the coffee or soy. However, as soon as I take a sip of beer, I am suddenly fully aware of the dollop of Gochujang (Korean hot sauce) that I added to flavor the beef sauce. Interestingly, the beer seems to accentuate it, setting my tongue and lips atingle.
Ah, sweet mysteries of life!