Back on the 12th of September, French Broad’s head brewer Chris Richards and his stolid cohort, decked out in rubber boots and caked in barley powder, munched on Christmas cookies and listened to loud, seasonally premature music. The high was 76-degrees, but you have to get into the spirit of things.

Next they dumped just shy of a ton of grain into the 15-barrel lauter tun. In fact, our lauter tun isn’t quite equipped to handle that much grain, so Chris jury-rigged on the fly an ancillary tank from our two barrel system, which he then used (I may be abusing the jargon here) to sparge the wort. We wiped sweat from our brows. Andy Williams demanded figgy pudding.

The first ever French Broad Brewery barleywine is available as of today. For a month it’ll be exclusive to the Tasting Room, where Arielle, Lauren and Alexandra will be serving it out 10-fluid-ounces at a time. Only ten, because we’re pushing 11-percent alcohol by volume here.

???????? ????? is what the Greeks called it. (Although they use Greek letters instead of question marks–a task, it turns out, this blog program isn’t capable of.) For those of you who need a little refreshing on your Greek alphabet, or who aren’t right now as close to the Wiki page as I am, (and who lack the neural computing power to automatically translate question marks into Greek) that’s pronounced krithinos oinos. (I think that second word, the one meaning wine, is pronounced “weenos”.)

Some smart people claim that barleywine is essentially indistinguishable from any other early ale. Other smart people say differently. But I don’t think anyone would dispute that we are dipping our cup into the river of our gustatory past when we brew barleywine, just like we do when we roast a chicken or process grapes or malt oats. It’s old-fashioned. It’s like seeing a play or attending a symphony, only you drink it.

So come in, welcome, have a seat. Here’s your program. When the lights dim, that’s when you look identical to your ancestors. That’s when the magic happens, when the human epic is distilled to a single cold, dizzying moment that fits into the palm of a hand.