Although the first recorded Barley wine dates back to the ancient Greeks, the heavily hopped barley wines of modern times were originally created in response to the disruption the hundred years war caused to supplies of Claret for the British aristocracy. War meant no Claret, which clearly wouldn’t do!
Barley wine was then created as substitute – sweet and strong and made from purely home sourced ingredients. Nowadays the style has an increased hoppiness versus the original incarnation driven predominantly by American tastes for stronger heavily hopped beers.
The classic example of this genre is Anchor Old Foghorn widely recognised as one of the best on the market for the last 40 years.