Jay Brooks has written a thoughtful post about his impressions after a barley wine tasting session that takes extreme beer in another dimension altogether:
It’s a simple, if punishing format, where a new beer is opened roughly every five minutes over a period of several hours... Last year something like 160 beers were tasted, beginning around 11:00 a.m. and going well into the evening. That year I made it to 110 beers before reaching my limit. The year before, I only made it half-way, and dropped out at beer 75, owing to getting very, very sick — not from the beer, just a feverish flu — which I detailed then in Pride Goeth Before A Fall. And that brings me to my point. We all have our limits, and it’s not only good to know them, but also pay them heed.
If there was an ounce sample for each barley wine and an average strength of 10%, well, 160 samples equals 16 ounces of pure alcohol or the equivalent of more than a full bottle and a half of 80 proof spirits. Not an lethally insane amount of booze but a heck of a serious quantity that would leave me and you staggering if not throwing up. In addition to the pounding, isn't the real point is that the last two-thirds of the tastings are pretty much a waste. Your palate would be entirely screwed by that point so all you are doing is pouring back the really nice stuff and saying to yourself "that was really nice" or rather "tha wass real nie." What other observations do you make on the 147th sample? When I was in college there was a game called "the Century Club." Simple rules: drink an ounce of beer a minute for 100 minutes. One hundred ounces of 5% beer only has 5 ounces of pure alcohol yet it would stagger many that took on the test. It was as dumb as beer pong. Dumber really as no skills were required.
So, what makes taking on the 160 samples of barley wine different? That the samples are good and rare? That the drinkers know a lot about good and rare beer? Or is this just another working of century club? Is it all that brighter than beer pong?