My very first thought was that if the beer was half as complex and entertaining as the label, I would be sitting pretty by the bottom of the glass,
The beer is from France's Brasserie Débauche, and is a barleywine aged in cognac barrels. Drawn by a comic artist named Grimal I am sadly unfamiliar with, the label is reminiscent of the infamous tarot card The Tower, 16th of the major arcana, and symbolic of change and upheaval.
Well, change is all well and good, but no one likes to talk about upheaval whilst drinking a 10% abv barleywine, so maybe it is best to forego the symbology at the onset and get into the beer.
My label ponderage did give the beer a little time to warm up towards the recommended 10 degrees celsius, but pouring it did unleash a particularly vigorous head of dense but fluffy sepia-tinged foam. The head actually insulates the beer tremendously well and makes discerning aromas fiendishly difficult, but bready malts and yeasts followed by sweetness are still detectable. Later on the beer takes on an almost winey character in terms of the nose, which seems wholly appropriate.
On the tongue, the strong alcohol and cognac elements assert themselves with a spicy, acrid tang. The sweetness comes through in the finish for me though, making the experience very pleasant overall. Bread and brandy mingle on the palate throughout each mouthful, leaving a tingly sensation afterwards.
La Débauche Cognac Barrel is almost as complex and intriguing as its label, which is high praise, and this beer is an excellent winter warmer and an excellent capstone to an even of warm fellowship on a frosty night. It could also be an excellent complement to certain dessert courses; not many barleywines could conceivably wash down a crème brûlée, but this one might make a go of it.