My twelve month saga begins. Ok…so it might end up being more like ten months, but who’s really counting? The goal: sample all twelve of Three Floyds’ seasonal (monthly) offerings…in the year they were brewed. The purpose: get familiar with one of the highest rated craft breweries in America, and see if I agree with their elite status.

Exhibit A: Behemoth Barleywine, January Seasonal.

Thoughts: I’ve already declared in a previous review that Three Floyds brews big beers. Clearly, if you have a vocabulary, this beer fits into that category (although some would say 10.5% ABV is low for an American Barleywine). And upon cracking it open fresh from the fridge, you might think they have a point. I don’t smell alcohol, I smell hops. Delicious, piney, citrusy, American hops. Which is great, but it (initially) smells more like an Imperial/Double IPA than a Barleywine.

The first sip proves my nose doesn‘t lie. Darker, caramel and fruit flavored malts give this beer some added nuance to differentiate it from the Imperial IPA crowd, but the 80 IBUs make their presence known. Your mouth is awash with flavor: peach, grapefruit, raisin, toffee…and perhaps even a hint of licorice. Behemoth definitely strays toward the “fresh” side of the Barleywine genre, opting for a powerful American hop punch above a thicker, sweeter malt body. Mouthfeel isn’t all too syrupy, and it’s highly carbonated for this style in my opinion. But these nuances just complement the hop-juice-like freshness. A bitter kick lingers on your tongue, even as you realize that the amount of malt used must be fairly epic in order to provide the balance and subtle sweetness that also refuses to go away.

But wait, what’s this? An hour later…and I’m eating my words. Upon warming, this beer morphs into a completely different animal. Malts and alcohol are dominant, proving that Behemoth really is “best enjoyed while keeping warm in the brutal winter months.” It’s sweet, smooth, and stings the back of your throat a bit; like having a dessert that goes straight to your head, not your stomach. The hops are still there, but sugars prevail. Wow; a true two-for-one. A bit more alcohol and this could pass for a nice glass of port.

Conclusion: This beer is legit. Think Arctic Panzer Wolf and Dirty Bastard combined and you’ll be on the right track. Congratulations, Three Floyds. So far, I’m convinced.