For this week’s Thirsty Thursday beer painting, I decided to immortalize the Deal with the Devil Barley Wine by Anchorage Brewing Company. In 2015 Gabe Fletcher opened his new brewing facility in South Anchorage after slaving away in the underbelly of the now defunct Sleeping Lady Brewing Co. for over five years. He worked like a crazed monk building up his amazing collection of awesome brews. After years of hard labor, and slowly building up his forest of foudres, Gabe unveiled his new building in South Anchorage last year. Due to the unknown events and delays that happen when a new building is in construction, Gabe didn’t find time to brew his signature brew, the Deal with the Devil Barley Wine. Here we are again at the time of year when everyone pops open their favorite barley wine from the cellar the week before the Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival. Luckily, Gabe thought ahead a few years ago when he laid down the original batch. One solo whiskey barrel was saved from the original batch of DWD, and he left it there for three whole years. So last Sunday Gabe released 200 bottles from this lone single barrel.
Here’s the history of the Deal with the Devil batches that have been brewed so far. First batch I will call Batch O (for original), which won first place at The Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival (GABBF) in 2013, and was not bottled. The next year, Batch #1 won third place at GABBF in 2014 and was released in champagne-corked bottles. Finally, Batch #2 was a larger release and came out in bottles with a black bottle cap. Gabe brewed Batch #2 night and day for two weeks at Sleeping Lady Brewing Co. while Greg Mills (Sleeping Lady’s Head Brewer) was in an ultra-marathon ski-race in the Wrangell Mountains. Since they were sharing the brew kettles, this was a clutch, to get a longer brew session to make enough DWD! I remember going in there and just breathing the aroma from the kettles. It was amazing! So when we talk about which beer is in the latest limited release, it is actually batch O, the original batch, the one that won first place in 2013, but it was aged longer in a different barrel, whiskey not cognac! The bottles are labeled Batch #2 though, which is a little confusing. Who knows how many barrels of DWD are out there. My wife spotted one at the brewery that is aging with Brett, but we don’t know which batch that is. In any case, that should be interesting.
When I heard there was going to be a limited release of only 200 bottles, one $50 bottle per person, I knew the Alaskan beer nerds would not hesitate to get there early. Sure enough, there was a contingency of barleywine buffs staking their claim on this liquid gold, some die-hards even got there four hours early. Luckily it was a warmer-than usual January day (thanks to climate change… about 36 degrees). Bringing in camp chairs and tables, they set up a game of cards and had propane heaters going. I got there 45 minutes early and was about the 100th person in line. There were still plenty of bottles left for people behind me! Unfortunately we didn’t get in the moment the line started moving. About 45 more minutes until we made it to the front to buy the bottles. I also bought a $12 glass of Batch O (labeled at the brewery as Batch #1) that Gabe just happened to find for this event. That was a good deal for 10 ounces, considering the bottle I had just bought had 22 oz for $50! $1.20 per oz, verses $2.27 per oz. That’s nearly half off! The glass I had was fabulous. The live band was loud and jazzy, and Delicious Dave was making sandwiches. Overall, a well thought-out and well-executed event. A unique line for a special release of an exquisite barley wine! Cheers to Gabe Fletcher and his family!
The original oil painting, and 52 limited-edition prints are for sale at my Etsy shop, RealArtIsBetter.