OLDE GNARLYWINE (2015): 100 Points
This Barleywine is released throughout the years in 22 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Making a Mondo Ultra Mega Super Premium Barleywine Ale is a little like having a kid. The first part is fun and messy, it takes a while to ferment, and then a whole longer to mature. It is expensive and takes up a lot of space. You worry about how it’ll grow up and whether or not you’ll still be friends. Eventually it stays out all night and comes home with it’s skirt on backwards. You know how it is. Usually we package our ales within 15 days of brewing. This one we aged in tanks for over a month. Why not buy three-? Drink one now, keep one in the ‘fridge for a month, and one for another year! Yummy. . .”
My Description: This Barleywine is clean, delicious, and leaves you thinking about it the next day. It begins with a good sized, beige colored head with an excellent retention level that leaves a wall of lacing. The aroma is inviting with warm caramel malt notes, citrus and pine hops, and a blend of dark fruits. GnarlyWine is medium/full bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. The complex flavor profile is nicely balanced with all the notes blending cleanly. A caramel malt backbone is also accompanied by biscuit malt notes. Pine hops, tropical notes, and hints of light fruits are welcoming additions. The transition to the aftertaste is wonderfully done as it introduces a hint of black pepper that delights. The finish is slightly bitter and satisfying. The alcohol is nicely hidden here, if detected it only adds to overall experience. This beauty is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with pineapple cake, roasted lamb chops, or a mild cigar.
ABV: 10.6% Color: Amber/Brown Sweetness: 2.5/10 Bitterness: 3.5/10
OLD HORIZONTAL (2014): 95 Points
Flavorful but needs aging
This Barleywine is released seasonally in the Winter months in 22 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “As much as we love to see you here enjoying our beer, we encourage you to buy a bottle of this one and head home to savor it within the comfort and love of your own retreat. There you’ll discover why ‘horizontal’ is in the name.”
My Description: This is an excellent barleywine with an array of flavors that satisfy and a body that’s addicting, this will only get better with age. It begins with a good sized, beige colored head with an excellent retention level that lasts for a long time leaving behind a nice amount of lacing. The aroma is pleasant with caramel malt dominating along with notes of raspberries, pineapples, and surprisingly herbal tea. The aroma is interesting in that there are contrasting notes but yet blend cleanly together. Old Horizontal is full bodied with a slightly lower carbonation level and a very dry finish, almost too dry. The finish will mellow out nicely with age. The flavor profile is complex with notes of caramel malt, dark fruits like berries and cherries, plums, and faint hop notes. The alcohol is beautifully hidden behind the thick malt base and I cannot comment enough on how smooth this ale is. The aftertaste is moderately bitter making this more of an American style barleywine, however the bitterness feels more sharp than it ought to be. I drank this beer now because if the brewer wasn’t ready to put their name behind it, they shouldn’t of released it. This beer needs aging but it is definitely a delight to drink it as soon as it hits the shelves. It is best served around 60°F and pairs nicely with meat pies, strong cheeses, or a mild cigar.
ABV: 11% Color: Reddish Mahogany Sweetness: 2.5/10 Bitterness: 4.5/10
BARLEYWINE ALE (2013): 89 Points
Part of their Big Beer Series, this American Barleywine is released randomly in 22 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Though individual examples of this style vary widely, barleywines are characterized by their full body, pronounced residual malt sweetness, fruity esters and, in the case of American versions especially, distinctive hop character, with a flavor profile that can lean towards the sweet or the bitter, or somewhere in between, and a color ranging from amber to deep copper. Barleywines tend to age nicely, especially bottle-conditioned versions, and have become quite collectible. Our Barleywine is rich and malty, with hints of fruity esters and a well-hopped finish. Enjoy this hearty ale with fresh fruit and ripe cheese on a cold winter’s night, or lay it up and savor it with a friend for a special summer treat.”
My Description: The alcohol notes are highly evident in this ale, I’ve had stronger barleywines that hid the alcohol better than this beer. However, it is still a really good barleywine and a pleasure to drink. It begins with a large, tan colored head with a really nice retention level and it leaves a remarkable amount of lacing for this style of beer. The aroma is pleasant with notes of citrus hops, alcohol, caramel, and some herbal hops. Barleywine Ale is full bodied with a lower carbonation level and a dry finish. There is a malty backbone but alcohol notes dominate the flavor profile. There are also notes of dates, herbal hops, citrus hops, and hints of yeast esters. The aftertaste is moderately bitter and the heat from the alcohol can be felt going down your throat. You cannot drink this beer quick, it is only made to sip. It is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with baked ham, strong cheeses, or a cigar.
ABV: 10.6% Color: Orange/Amber Sweetness: 2.5/10 Bitterness: 5/10
OLD FOGHORN: 93 Points
This Barleywine is available year-round in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “The malty sweetness, fruitiness, unique hop aroma and high original gravity of Old Foghorn® Barleywine Style Ale is to beer much as port is to wine. Old Foghorn® is brewed based on historic English barleywine methods. It is highly hopped, fermented with a true top-fermenting ale yeast, carbonated by a natural process called “bunging” to produce champagne-like bubbles, and dry-hopped with additional Cascade hops while it ages in our cellars. Made only from “first wort,” the rich first runnings of an all-malt mash, three mashes are required to produce just one barleywine brew. Introduced in 1975, Old Foghorn® Ale was the first modern American barleywine sparking renewed interest domestically and in Britain. The name was derived from the English tradition of attaching the word “old” to barleywines to denote their tradition, intensive brewing process and cellar aging, and “Foghorn” gave it a San Francisco flair. Today, Old Foghorn® Ale is best enjoyed sipped after a meal.”
My Description: This is a great representation of an English Barleywine, which is going to be more on the sweeter side than an American Barleywine. It begins with a good sized, light beige colored head that surprisingly lasts for quite some time leaving behind a decent amount of lacing. The aroma is sweet and slightly complex with notes of fruit esters like cherries and raisins, caramel malt and toffee, and a slight hint of pine hops. Old Foghorn is medium/full bodied with a slightly lower carbonation level and a semi-dry finish. The complexities continue in the flavor profile, which is delicious and satisfying. A brandy like backbone holds up notes of caramel malt, toffee, raisins and other dried fruit, brown sugar, cherries, and a hint of alcohol. This transitions cleanly into an aftertaste that is minimally bitter with a lingering caramel note. This ale is smooth and makes for a great sipper. It is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with dark chocolate, grilled steaks, or a cigar.
ABV: 8.8% Color: Garnet Sweetness: 3.5/10 Bitterness: 2.5/10
SWEET REPUTE: 92 Points
Soft and Sweet
This Wheat Wine is brewed sporadically in limited quantities in 750 ml. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “It’s not always a good thing when your reputation precedes you. But the complexity of this powerful wheat wine will give it a Sweet Repute no matter where, when or how your paths meet. Our brewing team painstakingly choreographed each layer of this beer’s characteristics, starting with a healthy wheat and roasted malt base and adding clean, fragrant hops. It’s one-hundred percent barrel aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels and bourbon barrels over the course of sixteen months, then blended using carefully calculated ratios for the ultimate final product. The resulting 12.6% ABV liquid pours a bright warm russet with a stubborn ivory head and an intoxicatingly sweet nutty aroma. Take your time allowing the layers of flavors to unfold…Because it’ll only get better.”
My Description: This beer is meant to be sipped and it is hard not too with the high alcohol content and the very sweet body. Sweet Repute is not overly complicated but does deliver a satisfying array of flavors. It pours a good sized, light beige colored head with a nice retention level that holds as a film for a while and it leaves behind a decent amount of lacing. The aroma smells inviting and sweet with apparent bourbon notes and hints of caramel and light fruit. Sweet Repute is full bodied with a lower carbonation level and a semi-dry finish. The flavor profile is definitely on the sweeter side. Upfront there are notes of caramel and dark fruits along with a soft maple presence and faint notes of stone fruits. The aftertaste is minimally bitter and very smooth. The alcohol is beautifully hidden behind the sweet malt flavors. It is best served around 60°F and pairs nicely with strong cheeses, roasted game meat, or grilled steaks.
ABV: 12.6% Color: Reddish/Brown Sweetness: 4.5/10 Bitterness: 2/10
OLDE SCHOOL: 94 Points
Love the old school
This Barleywine is released seasonally in Autumn in limited quantities in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Fermented with dates and figs, this smooth barleywine has a unique flavor. At about 15% ABV, this beer is a great candidate for aging. Over time, the beer dries out and the pit fruit flavors come forward and the hops recede. Our recommendation? Grab a few bottles when you find it — enjoy one now, and age the others for a bit. Let us know which you prefer!”
My Description: This Barleywine has a strong presence and warms you up nicely. With an easy sipping body and tasty flavors it is one of the finer Barleywines out there. It pours a large, light tan colored head with a good retention level and it leaves behind a nice amount of lacing. The aroma is interesting and welcoming with notes of caramel malt, dates, figs, peaches, and hints of dark fruit, it smells great. Olde School is full bodied with a moderate carbonation level and a dry finish. The first thought about this ale is how much fruit flavor there is: figs, apricots, and dates to name a few. Olde School has a deep and rich malt backbone with caramel notes, hints of honey, and citrus notes. The aftertaste is slightly bitter and the alcohol is nicely hidden for this level of ABV. It is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with cherry pie, blue cheese, or honey baked ham.
ABV: 15% Color: Copper/Orange Sweetness: 3.5/10 Bitterness: 2.5/10
INSANITY: 96 Points
May cause temporary insanity
This Oak-aged Barleywine is available seasonally in late winter 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Insanity is made by aging our perfectly balanced Blithering Idiot Barleywine in oak bourbon casks. This incredible combination creates a mélange of flavors from rich malts, raisins, and dates to oak, vanilla, and bourbon. Insanity will be yours this February!!!”
My Description: This is a delicious sipper with a plethora of flavors and a smooth body. It begins with a decent sized, beige colored head that lasts for some time and leaves behind a good amount of lacing. The aroma is strong with notes of oak, vanilla, alcohol, dark fruits, and malt. It is full bodied with a lower carbonation level and a dry finish. Flavors will develop very nicely as this beer breaths and gets warmer in your hand. Flavors include sweet caramel, vanilla, dates, oak, tobacco, and a hint of bourbon that comes through. These flavors work harmoniously together and transition nicely into an aftertaste that is slightly bitter with a touch of lingering pepper. The alcohol is nicely hidden and contributes an additional taste note that is welcomed. This Barleywine is best served around 50°F and pairs nicely with dark chocolate, lamb chops, or steaks.
ABV: 11.1% Color: Murky Brown/Garnet Sweetness: 3.5/10 Bitterness: 2/10
BLITHERING IDIOT: 89 Points
This English Style Barleywine is available year-round in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Our barleywine is made in the British tradition of balanced hearty ales. Blithering Idiot is a deep-copper ale with intense malty notes of dates and figs on the palate that follows a pleasurably malty aroma to your taste buds. The finish is warm and fruity, and begs for the next sip.”
My Description: Barleywines should be saved for occasions when you can sit back and sip slowly. However, if you are going to sip on a beer it better be really good. Blithering Idiot’s smooth and creamy body accompanied by enjoyable flavors and a warming finish makes this beer a great one for sipping. It has a decent sized, light tan colored head that fades rather quickly but holds a thin film for most of the way producing some good lacing. The aroma is mild and sweet with faint notes of caramel, alcohol, and some dark fruits. It is full bodied with a lower carbonation level and a semi-dry finish. The flavor profile is definitely lead by a malty sweetness that is almost bisquity with hints of dark fruits like raisins and figs. The alcohol is nicely hidden but it will be felt and it pops up in the taste occasionally. The aftertaste is warming with a touch of bitterness that brings balance to the beer. It is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with strong cheeses, lamb chops, or a grilled steak.
ABV: 11.1% Color: Murky Brown Sweetness: 3.5/10 Bitterness: 2/10
STONE OLD GUARDIAN: 91 Points
This Barleywine is a special release that is available for a limited time throughout the year. This is the 2011 release. It is available on draft and in 22 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: The aroma is bready with yeast esters and toffee and caramel. The flavor is malty and yeasty, fruity, some lingering bitterness. Full body upfront, finishes dry, with a touch of alcohol.
My Description: Barleywine is a beer that is strong, flavorful, and designed to be sipped and enjoyed. This is definitely one that I can enjoy. The head is nice but it disappears rather quickly leaving some bubbles and little lacing, which is normal for a 12% beer. The aroma has an apparent hop fragrance that is nicely accompanied by a sweet candy like scent. You will also smell some dark fruits, raisins, molasses, honey, and caramel. The aroma is complex and enjoyable. The beer is definitely strong and fuller bodied with a good carbonation level for a barleywine. You will taste some sweetness up front with notes of malt, figs, dark fruits, and alcohol. The aftertaste is a 180 because it is bitter with a hop taste that is really nice. This beer is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with gourmet cheeses, steaks, or lamb chops.
ABV: 12% Color: Hazy Amber Sweetness: 4/10 Bitterness: 7/10
BIGFOOT (2012): 94 Points
Drink two of these, you’ll see Bigfoot
This Barleywine has a yearly release and produced in limited quantities. It is available in 12 oz. bottles. Enjoy!
Brewer’s Description: “Our award-winning barleywine boasts a dense, fruity bouquet, an intense flavor palate and a deep reddish-brown color. Its big maltiness is superbly balanced by a wonderfully bittersweet hoppiness.”
My Description: You know that if Sierra Nevada is making a barleywine it is going to be on the bitter side, which this definitely is. And this bitterness is strong and good. It has a nice sized light tan head, with a great retention and really good lacing. The aroma smells like you are in a hop forest; it has fragrant notes of sweet woodsy hops with a touch of toffee. This beer is full bodied, very smooth, and has a lip smacking dry finish. Up front you will taste flavors of dark caramel malt and as the beer warms up, dark fruit flavors develop that are a welcomed addition. The alcohol is nicely hidden behind the strong woodsy/citrus hop flavors. The aftertaste has a moderately high bitterness level that lingers. It is best served around 60°F and pairs nicely with pork chops, swordfish, or steak burgers.
ABV: 9.6% Color: Brown, Red Hues Sweetness: 3.5/10 Bitterness: 7/10
GRIFFIN’S BOW: 90 Points
Fruity and Bitter Barleywine
This Barleywine is part of their “Batch No. 1” Series that is available for a limited time. It is available in 22 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “From the aroma and notes of sweet honeysuckle, pineapple, and grapefruit, to richer hints of burnt sugar, and toffee, this intriguing brew is full of complex flavors. the distinct character of toasted oak adds depth and contrasts the light fruit sweetness. This unique take on a barleywine ale surprises with its smoothness and balance of fruit, hop citrus, and warmth.”
My Description: This barleywine is complex and not typical of other barleywines but still damn good; and note that this is not for the average beer drinker. The head is off-white in color and bubbly. It lingers for a bit producing some minor lacing which is really good for a beer with this much ABV. The complexities start with the aroma; you will get notes of pineapple, citrus hops, herbs, honey, apricot, and some candy-like notes. The aroma changes as the ale warms up so just enjoy it the whole way through. This ale is strong and you will feel it, but it is also smooth and complex. This ale in the front of your mouth is sweet with notes of pineapple, grapefruit, and apricot. The aftertaste is noticeably bitter with the addition of pineapples and other fruits. You will also pick up on some alcohol notes but it is only minor compared to the other flavors. This beer is full bodied but tastes like a medium bodied beer and it will coat your mouth with fruit flavors. This beer will deliver different flavors as it warms up, such as toffee, so enjoy it all. It is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with fish, herbed chicken, or coconut shrimp.
ABV: 11.5% Color: Light Copper Sweetness: 5/10 Bitterness: 5.5/10
OLD RUFFIAN: 98 Points
Barleywine for the ages
This Barleywine is released seasonally between January and March. Available in 22 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Seemingly mellow at the start with subtle fruit aromas and complex caramel sweetness, it quickly becomes aggressive with its bold hop flavors and huge hop bitterness.”
My Description: I’m a sucker for hops and Barleywine. Put them together with brewers who know what they are doing and you get this beautiful treat. It starts off with a decent sized beige colored head that quickly fades but leaves good lacing. The aroma is amazing and welcoming. It has fragrant notes of pine/citrus hops, some caramel sweetness, and a touch of malt. It is full bodied, smooth, with a good carbonation level. Up front you will taste sweetness with notes of malt and caramel which leads into an aftertaste that is slightly bitter with flavor notes of hops and dark fruit. The alcohol is well hidden making appearances only slightly. Overall, this is a high quality barley wine that is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with blue cheese, grilled pork tenderloin, or caramel cheesecake.
ABV: 10.2% Color: Clear Reddish/Brown Sweetness: 4.5/10 Bitterness: 5.5/10
HORN DOG (2011): 91 Points
Brings out the horn dog in you
Part of their Canis Major Series, this Barleywine has a limited release each year and is available in 12 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: “Malty sweet with hints of brown fruits (i.e. figs, dates, raisins) and a warming alcohol tingle.”
My Description: I’m liking this barleywine, mainly because I was in the mood for something sweet. So, if you are looking for a more balanced or bitter barleywine, keep shopping. It has a good sized, tan colored head that lasts the whole way, which is impressive considering the ABV. The aroma smells of sweet malt, a touch of licorice, and some darker fruits like dates. It is a more medium bodied barleywine that is really smooth and definitely gets better as it warms up. Up front you will taste flavors of sweet malt accompanied by a touch of dark fruits. The alcohol is apparent but not intrusive, it’s more of a characteristic or flavor that fits well. The aftertaste is somewhat bitter, but it is still a barleywine that is on the sweet side. It is best served around 60°F and pairs nicely with blue cheese, fruit desserts, or a spicy chicken dish.
ABV: 10.2% Color: Caramel Brown Sweetness: 5.5/10 Bitterness: 3.5/10
SOLSTICE D’HIVER: 94 Points
The Winter Solstice
This Barleywine is released in the middle of December every year as their winter seasonal in 11.5 oz. bottles.
Brewer’s Description: ” Its taste is delicately sweet and liquor-like with a hint of burnt caramel coming from the malt and a prolonged boiling time. It is a very bitter beer with aromas of hops and alcohol, and flavours reminiscent of red fruit brought by the English-type yeast we use to ferment it. The aftertaste is accentuated by the wonderful flavour of hops. Solstice d’Hiver is brewed only once a year, and is then aged for 4 to 5 months before being sold.”
My Description: This Barleywine is satisfying on a cold winter night: it tastes delicious, it has a warming alcohol presence, and the body feels clean. It has a good sized, beige colored head with a decent retention level and it leaves behind a good amount of lacing. The aroma is pleasant with notes of dark fruits, caramel, burnt malt, and a touch of brown sugar. It is full bodied with a lower carbonation level and a semi-dry finish. This ale is nicely balanced with a clean, malty backbone and a moderate bitter aftertaste that lingers slightly. There are notes of dark fruits, such as cherries and raisins throughout accompanied by notes of citrus hops, roasted malts, and a touch of earthiness. There is also a hint of alcohol to help bring it all together without being too intrusive. This beer gets better as it warms so sip and enjoy. It is best served around 55°F and pairs nicely with roasted duck, grilled steak, or a bean stew.
ABV: 10.2% Color: Hazy Chestnut Sweetness: 3.5/10 Bitterness: 5.5/10