A note to graphic designers of beer labels. When making four brews with the same overall name and design, with similar names that are only distinguishable upon close scrutiny – choose a little bit more different colored labels. Sure, all four of these brews are delicious. But when I go to the store and can’t remember if I’ve had the Jack and Ken or Ken and Fritz, telling the difference between dark mauve, dark brown and black is tough. But I finally found the one that I hadn’t yet tried – the Jack & Ken’s ale.

Described as a “black barleywine” this brew is a tribute to Jack McAuliffe, a pioneer brewer and owner of New Albion Brewery (CA). I’ve been enjoying this series so far, and if my research is correct then this is the third (of four) in the series.

The aroma on this is fantastic – knocks you back with sweetness, hops and very much like a barleywine – the sweetness is all there. There’s a little roast in the nose, too, which is a great thing as far as I’m concerned. Like most things that come from Sierra Nevada, the smell is just as good as its taste. The first thing that I noticed was that it really is thick in the mouth – what some would call “full-bodied” – and made me feel like I was drinking something kind of expensive or rare. It had a lot of malt – some nuttiness, some nice sweet caramel (but not as much as a typical barleywine) and thin veil of smoke flavor. Really unique, and I wish I could find this more often. I have to say that this style is unlike anything I’ve tasted – it has a complexity of flavors that wash over your tongue and are a little different each time.

I have heard from more than a few people that this one is their favorite of the anniversary lines. Having not yet tried them all, I’ll have to say that it’s definitely my current favorite, and I’ll be grabbing another bottle or two to enjoy before this is gone.