Need some extra warmth to see you through this last dose of winter? Alltech is bringing out its latest seasonal beer: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine.
If that sounds like something Bilbo Baggins would serve in the Shire, you might be right.
"It's an old style. The first recorded version was Bass No. 1 in 1870," said Hal Gervis, global operations manager for Lexington brewing and distilling.
During the Napoleonic wars, English brewers wanted something to satisfy the demand for forbidden French claret. So they brewed barley and invented a big-bodied beer, and they called it wine.
In 1975, Anchor introduced Old Foghorn, and the American barley wine, with its strong hop flavor, was born.
Like all barley wines, Alltech's version, a ruby red malty, almost chewy, ale is strong. Alcohol by volume is 10 percent, making it a hefty 20 proof. Suggested price will be about $15 for four bottles.
This is Alltech's second seasonal offering, following on its popular pumpkin ale, introduced last fall.
Like that one and Alltech's flagship beer, the barley wine is aged in freshly dumped bourbon barrels to pick up the caramel and vanilla notes of the bourbon.
Seasonal releases are popular with craft-beer drinkers who like to have something new to try, said Ken Lee, Alltech master brewer.
Alltech plans to bring out another seasonal — a fruity wheat beer — in the spring, Gervis said.
The pumpkin will return in the fall, then next winter, there will be another seasonal. Eventually, there will be at least four a year, with two fluctuating to give drinkers something new.
The demand for the pumpkin was greater than anticipated, Gervis said, so Alltech has increased production of the barley wine, from the pumpkin's 5,000 cases aged in about 320 bourbon barrels to 7,500 cases of barley wine aged in about 500 barrels.
"We knew the pumpkin did well, so we knew we should do more," Lee said.
Will that be enough?
"We hope not," Gervis said.
Alltech also is going to send beer into more markets. It now goes into 20 states and three other countries: Canada, Ireland and China. Alltech will take some to France for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy in the summer, Gervis said.
But much of the Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine is spoken for, allocated to specific markets, including Lexington, where it will be available beginning the week of March 17 at most outlets that carry Alltech's beer.
The new seasonal also will be available for sampling in Alltech's new beer-tasting room, which was added for brewery and distillery tours. "It's our salute to seeing off the last of the cold chills," Gervis said.