Beer Profile: Barbar
Reviewed by Millie and Ken Carman
Brewer: Brasserie Lefebvre
Ale brewed with honey, coriander, malted wheat, orange peel.
Style: most likely “Specialty,” though there are several styles of Belgium beer where this might fit, since Belgian brewing is some of the most unique brewing in the world, style-wise. The bottle says “Blond,” which is a BJCP (Beer Judge Certification program) sub-category. (18A as of the 08 guidelines and Belgian Pale is 16C.) But the abv is off a bit and actual spices aren’t usually used, as the guidelines say. But Belgians are famous for crossing style guidelines when other; more traditional brewers, cling to more strict definitions. As Ken says…
“Brewers from Belgium have made an art out of using yeast that only a decade or more ago many other brewers would throw away as ‘tainted.’ Now they often try to do ‘Belgium’-style beer… with mixed results.”
“Being a honey based ale it might be that Barbar is based on the old Viking alcoholic beverage called Mid. Although the recipe for this beer is a closely kept secret of Lefebvre, and the origins of this beverage, as stated by Lefebvre, are from an old family recipe. Originating from a Viking beverage may also be the reason for calling this brand ‘Barbar’ (like barbarian) and putting a barbarian drawing as a logo.”
(Wiki does not list both the Honey Ale and the product just listed as “Barbar” by Beer Advocate: only Barbar, and it’s 8 abv. In that case “Barbar” is apparently both brand and the name of the beer. Beer Advocate lists plain Barbar as 7.8 abv and as a Pale Ale, rather than a Blond. It all a bit confusing.)
We started by considering this beer the Barbar Belgian Honey Ale; since both websites showed that product at 8 abv: like the bottle we have. The other product; simple called “Barbar,” on Beer Advocate looks a little more like ours, but is under 7.8 abv… and doesn’t list spices like ours does. Neither product looked totally like our bottle, which appeared to be a cross between the two labels. If this was an error, please understand the confusion was due to labeling and marketing.
“From the very start this unique product engulfs the whole mouth with pillow like carbonation. The nose is light banana and peppery: probably from the yeast and the Hallertau and Styrian hops. The pour is golden; clear, with a full, pillow-like head. The taste is a perfect blend of the spices, a strong but not overwhelming sense of alcohol and a nice peppery sense, wheat and somewhat of a Mead sense. The only thing missing is the rest of the grain, but it really doesn’t seem crucial to the presentation.”
“I sensed a sweet Belgian aroma on pour: typical of a Belgian yeast. Honey notes in both aroma and taste. The color: golden and yellow in color with a Belgian lace to the head. Not quite as peppery as some.”
Neither of us could agree what style it was. While much of our research indicated it was one of the styles mentioned at the beginning of the profile, once I reviewed the styles it seems to be a Belgian Golden Ale with honey added. It comes close to a Blond, but not quite. (Listed by the BJCP with a 7.5 abv max., for example.) It could also be considered somewhat of a Specialty product. But one must remember: this complexity and cross style profile is not that untypical of Belgian brewing.