Six Barleywine-Style Beers from Boston Breweries

These paradoxical brews are sweet, boozy, and a perfect companion to the cold.

Day & Night, a barleywine by Trillium Brewing Company. / Photo provided

Day & Night, a barleywine by Trillium Brewing Company. / Photo provided

Barleywine beer is a strange conundrum. The amber, boozy liquid is definitely beer, yet it commonly carries the fruity and sweet characteristics of wine. It even hits a similar threshold of 10-15 percent ABV. Those traits have made it a hit-or-miss with beer drinkers, some of whom are intimidated by the excess of alcohol, lack of hops, or prospect of a beer tasting like anything but. But when temperatures drop below freezing, or you find yourself snowed indoors, it’s hard to top a snifter of this warming and complex drink. Here are six local breweries offering their take on this black sheep of a beer.

Beer of Truth, by Bone Up Brewing Company

Co-founders Liz and Jared Kiraly laid their 10 percent-ABV barleywine to rest at the end of 2016. When they pull the bronze-colored beer out of its fermenting slumber, it will be the most high-octane beer they’ve brewed since opening. Liz Kiraly says that booziness will be subtle, though, and accompany expressive flavors of rye and fruit. Look for it on draft at the Everett taproom at the end of January.

Bone Up Brewing Co., 38 Norman St., Everett, 781-691-9092,

Blunderbuss, by Cambridge Brewing Company

Brewmaster Will Myers finished this beer in rye whiskey barrels for over six months to round out its character and craft a beer that, like wine, should be savored. The most recent batch of this 13 percent-ABV beer hit draft lines a few weeks back, flaunting flavors of dried fruit, oak, vanilla, and marshmallow. For the first time, the team bottled the beer to release at a future date, and the brewery will showcase Blunderbuss, along with a handful of other barleywines, at its 13th Annual Barleywine Festival on January 28.

Cambridge Brewing Company, One Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-494-1994,

Swarm, by Idle Hands Craft Ales

This honey-infused barleywine is more of a “warm weather” beer, says Idle Hands owner and brewer Chris Tkach, so we may not see it again for another few months. But maybe you’re familiar: the Malden brewery tapped a few cellared kegs to celebrate its reopening last year. The 9 percent-ABV sipper is brewed with a whopping 20 pounds of honey per barrel, and lightly hopped to give the beer a sweet and floral flavor.

Idle Hands Craft Ales, 89 Commercial St., Malden, 617-819-4353,

Brewery Maker, by Jack’s Abby

This 13.5 percent-ABV “lager wine” is aged in bourbon barrels that previously housed Framinghammer Baltic porter. The beer’s time at rest gives it a tinge of port and molasses flavor, but also smooths out the boozy beverage. It’s part of the brewery’s Maker series, which releases rotating lager wines to correspond with major events in the staff’s lives—the previous two beers in the series were named Baby Maker and Bride Maker. Brewery Maker is available in bottles at the Framingham beer hall now, and the next release in the series is slated for a spring debut.

Jack’s Abby, 100 Clinton St., Framingham, 508-872-0900,

Old Powderhouse, by Mystic Brewery. / Photo provided

Old Powderhouse, by Mystic Brewery. / Photo provided

Old Powderhouse, by Mystic Brewery

This 11 percent-ABV ale is technically a wheat wine-style beer, since it’s brewed with more wheat malt than barley. Regardless, it carries those same strong flavors of fruit and booze. The Chelsea brewers use all Massachusetts-grown wheat in the beer to create a terroir-driven, drinkable, and sweet profile. Creative director Louie Berceli says the next batch is on track for a March release.

Mystic Brewery, 174 Williams St., Chelsea, 617-466-2079,

Day & Night, by Trillium Brewing Company

This blonde barleywine is infused with Barrington Coffee Roasters cold brew for an added layer of flavor. The beer—a twin to the brewery’s Night & Day stout—definitely has a fruity coffee kick to it, but it also exudes hints of caramel, honey malt, and tart berries. It’s available in bottles at both the brewery’s Canton and Boston locations.

Trillium Brewing Company, 110 Shawmut Rd., Canton, 781-562-0073, 369 Congress St., Fort Point, 617-453-8745,