Ballards Brewery Split (275ml, 8.5% ABV)

Barley wine. The name gives you a clue: it’s made from barley (in other words, it’s beer) but it has something in common with the grapey stuff – the strength. At 8.5%, Ballard’s Split is a beer to be sipped, not guzzled.

The drawing on the label shows a man split down the middle, with an ‘In’ badge on one lapel and an ‘Out’ badge on the other. This couldn’t be a reference to a certain recent referendum, could it? Political beer? If it is, they’ve made the decision to sit firmly on the fence.

Ballards Brewery are veterans compared to many new breweries, having started all the way back in 1980. They’re a family outfit, with a commitment to brewing based on the best English traditions.

Split oozes out of the bottle an almost opaque burgundy. It looks treacly, with reluctant bubbles forming an enormous pillow of foam on the top. Use a large glass! The aroma is dense with alcohol and dark, stewed fruit.

CBallards Brewery Splitoffee, roasted malt, raisins and burnt sugar all vie for attention on the tongue. The texture is thick with bubbles, forming a mousse reminiscent of champagne. The finish is lingering, warm and boozy. I’m drinking this in the middle of summer, but already I can hear the crackling of a log fire and the wind howling outside. This would be an amazing beer after a spell out in the wintry cold.

Don’t be put off by the small bottle: this will last you every bit as long as a beer of more modest strength.

Written by Richard Salsbury

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