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The headline may have left you wondering: barleywine? This stuff isn't actually wine, though it is comparable in both complexity and alcohol strength — hence the name. From their darker, malty, and fruity English origins around the turn of the 20th century to the hoppy American versions of today, barleywines range from 8 percent to upwards of 20 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). And they're the centerpiece of Cambridge Brewing Company's Barleywine Festival, an annual showcase of their seasonal barleywines and barrel-aging program. On January 31 from 5 pm to midnight, fans of both will get to check out more than a dozen expressions of their Arquebus (summer, lighter) and Blunderbuss (winter, darker) barleywines. Expressions will range in year from 2006 to 2012, dry-hopped, and most are aged in bourbon or wine barrels. Two years of CBC's Bad Knees, an old ale finished in Blanton's barrels, will also be pouring.

Barleywines are no joke. They command your palate and demand your respect. So if you're new to these brews, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

• Ask for small pours. You'll be able to taste more and pace yourself; these ABVs range from 10.5 to 14 percent.
• Start with the older expressions; they tend to kick first.
• Hydrate. Drink water between beers. This will also help cleanse your palate.
• CBC is serving a special menu for the evening — think rabbit mole, chicken lollipops, and wild-boar goulash, just to name a few items. Eat. Keep your stamina up.

There are no tickets or reservations, and tables are first come, first served. Hope to see you there. Cheers!

CAMBRIDGE BREWING COMPANY
1 Kendall Sq, Cambridge
617.494.1994 or cambridgebrewingcompany.com

GOT BEER COMMENTS?
DROP A LINE TO BROS@BEERADVOCATE.COM OR @BEERADVOCATE.

  Topics: Liquid , Cambridge Brewing Company, Cambridge Brewing Company, Food and Beverage,  More more >
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ARTICLES BY JASON AND TODD ALSTROM
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