Jun 17, 2014

North Coast Class of ’88 Barleywine

I was just knee deep into 13 years of age in 1988 — the year that Rogue Ales, North Coast and Deschutes Brewery all started making craft beer. A great deal has changed since then, for all of us, and these three breweries decided to commemorate the occasion (the 25th anniversary) by brewing three separate interpretations of a barleywine.

Normally, a brewery would create their own celebratory beer, but I sort of like this idea of the non-collaborative collaboration. That said, I’ve only encountered North Coast’s offering in this three bottle release.

At 10% ABV and 75 IBU, this big barleywine isn’t really atypical of the style, especially those from the West Coast breweries. It’s well crafted and presents some unique characteristics. Class of ’88 Barleywine is every bit as hoppy (citrusy, biting) as you would expect, but it’s also got a wonderfully floral character that lightens the whole experience. North Coast has been wise to even out the hop presence with a rich, bready malt backbone, giving the brew a deceptive smoothness.

North Coast Class of '88 Barleywine


North Coast’s version of the beer pours sort of peachy amber in color with a small cap of tawny foam that fell to a thin film.


Citrus, grain, a soft sweetness, honey and a decent amount of earthy, floral hops fill the nose cleanly.


A solid hop character washes over the tongue with hints of grapefruit, orange and light pine. Grain, honey, toasted bread and a moderate malt sweetness arrive to balance out the medium level of hop bitterness. The brew has a smooth, even keeled body with a long lasting finish that also warms comfortably.


North Coast has an interesting take on the barleywine with Class of ’88 Barleywine. It’s got your prototypical hop presence (fruity, piney, biting) as expected from a West Coast company, but it’s also got good balance with a solid backbone of moderately sweet, bready malts. The result is a beer that isn’t just big and flavorful, but also incredibly smooth and dangerously drinkable.

Rating: 4/5

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