Norwegian craft brewers Lervig are total champions of barrel aging – and their Paragon barley wine ales are often praised as the pinnacles of their work! The 2019 Vintage is the latest expression in the much-lauded series. To create this very rich, strong, sweet and creamy beer, Lervig applied a technique that most of us whisky fans are well familiar with: They blended different brews that were kept for twelve or more months in ex-bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill, Angel’s Envy and Wild Turkey. As you can imagine, the time, effort and craftmanship going into the composition of the Paragon 2019 Vintage has its price. An 0.33 liter bottle sets you back a staggering 20 Euro. “So much money for just a beer? That’s insane,” some of you might say now. Well, you are right and you aren’t. On the one hand, the price is quite something – no doubt about that. But on the other hand, this is far more than just a beer. When I drank it, I spent close to three hours with it; three hours in which the Paragon 2019 Vintage was my sole companion and main point of focus. In many regards, the whole experience reminded me of a deep-dive into a top-class Pedro Ximenez sherry: It was lasting, it was special, it was memorable, it was challenging and it was rewarding. Most of all, however, it was helluva tasty and good!
Eye: The ale is almost black with just a wee bit of purple shimmering through. The head is dirty white and fragile; it dispenses quickly, leaving only a thin ring around the inner wall of the glass.
Nose: The rich and pervading first sniff reveals lots of bramble, malt and soy sauce. Further down in the compact and heavy bouquet, there is also some vanilla and peanut butter. And last but not least, I get dried fruits (rosehips, cherries) and dark berries (blackcurrants, elderberries).
Palate: In the mouth, the Paragon 2019 Vintage feels very creamy and gooey. It starts off super-sweet with lotsa maple syrup, plum jelly, nougat creme and raisin. Also eggnog-filled doughnut. The sweetness remains with us during the entire degustation, making this stunningly sticky Lervig creation feel more like a PX sherry than a high-percentage beer. Surprisingly for such a strong brew, the Paragon 2019 Vintage does not present itself forced or boozy at all – despite the fact that it has a soaring high ABV of 13.5 per cent.
Finish: The aftertaste lasts forever – and I am not exaggerating! Once gulped down, the thick and viscous beer leaves behind never-ending notes of very dark chocolate sauce and sweet licorice as well as baked raisins and cooked, sugared fruits.
Type: Barrel-aged barley wine
Alc. volume: 13.5 per cent
Bottle size: 0.33 litres
Price range: ~20 Euro
More info: https://lervig.no/ (Brewery)
*** I bought the bottle myself as a regular customer. ***