Posted July 23, 2014 by Kevin in Eats & Drinks

Crunkle Sam: A barley wine made with citra hops and America

Clown Shoes Crunkle Sam
Clown Shoes Crunkle Sam

When sampling Barley Wines and Double IPAs I am frequently reminded that the distinction between these two styles can be somewhat blurred.  I recently put together a sample round of a few fine examples of each style at my local tap house.  None of them exemplified the similarity between the two styles better than Crunkle Sam from Clown Shoes.  This brew is planted firmly at the intersection of DIPA Boulevard and Barley Wine Street.  The description on the Ipswich, Massachusetts brewery’s webpage states that this beer is brewed to celebrate America.  Cheers to that!

At 11% ABV, this is a big ‘un.  It has huge citrus notes from the Citra dry-hopping that combine with an intense caramel malt character in the nose.  The complex aromas blend together and mask the huge alcohol content of this brew.  The crisp bitter finish suggests a busload of bittering hops were incorporated to the beginning of the boil.  This is a very drinkable beer and one of the most enjoyable of either style I’ve come across.

The beer has a clear amber-orange appearance that I couldn’t catch on camera – mostly because I was almost finished with my sample glass before I remembered to take a picture.  It has a thin, lacey head that doesn’t stick around too long.  Carbonation is on the light side.  The beer needs to warm up to around 45 degrees Fahrenheit before it really comes alive and blends seamlessly from start to finish.

This is a fantastic beer to enjoy now, but would also be a great candidate to have in the beer cellar for a year or two.  I’m thinking this will age into an incredibly complex and almost candy-like brew with a bit of time in the bottle.  I’ll see if I can hold on to one that long.



Kevin has been drinking and brewing beer for more than 20 years, and enjoys re-capping the interesting craft and microbrews that find their way into his glass. Feel free to contact him at [email protected] to talk favorites, but hold back on the technical questions – he sees himself as more of a beer nerd than a beer expert.