Rock Art Brewery in Morrisville, Vermont is one of the classic American craft breweries that you don’t hear too much about. Founder and Brewmaster Matt Nadeau looks and sounds like just the kind of guy you want behind your beer: humble and down to earth with a heavy Nor’eastern accent and a flock of creative beers to boot (check out Matt’s Ridge Runner video). I first heard about Rock Art because of the epic lawsuit that Matt found himself in with the cronies of Monster Energy drink, who claimed that Matt’s “Vermonster” beer infringed on their copyright. More on that story when I review that beer. Many thanks to my brother-in-law for bringing me back some Rock Art beers from a recent trip to Vermont!

Rock Art’s Ridge Runner is a “mild Barley Wine” Ale brewed with no less than the following: Pale, Dark Crystal, Munich, flaked barley, black and chocolate malts, and Cascade, Crystal, Challenger and Perle hops. Now I am no expert when it comes to Barley Wine, but any brew that totes those ingredients is one I gotta try. I poured (excitedly) the Ridge Runner into my favorite snifter glass, producing a finger and a half of light tan head. The color was a dark amber – looks mostly brown, but obviously red when held up to the light. The nose was a little confusing to me … I picked up mostly the roasted malts, but they were faint. Probably due to the fact that there are some seriously sweet malts, and some seriously aromatic hops involved, there was no bursting nose. Everything equalized, leaving a somewhat boring nose. Not bad, just boring.

After one sip I decided that this is a satisfying Barley Wine. Now I’m told that Barley Wines are close kin to Old Ales: deep, rich, high in ABV. I would say that’s true in the case of Ridge Runner. This beer has a sweet, roasty flavor to it that spikes ever so slightly in between the start and the finish with a little kick of hop bitterness. It boasts a 7.5% ABV, which could be hidden a little better with a little more carbonation. Mild compared to other Barley Wines I’ve tasted, this Ridge Runner is probably the most enjoyable I’ve tried so far.

ABV: 7.5%

Grade: B