1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Hellbender Barleywine - Pisgah Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Hellbender BarleywineHellbender Barleywine

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
87
very good

96 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 96
Reviews: 59
rAvg: 4
pDev: 7.75%
Wants: 88
Gots: 10 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Pisgah Brewing Co. visit their website
North Carolina, United States

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  9.80% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: oberon on 03-12-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Ratings: 96 | Reviews: 59 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by JohnnyMc:
Photo of JohnnyMc
3.25/5  rDev -18.8%

JohnnyMc, Feb 16, 2014
More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
3.85/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a 10oz glass at Barley's Asheville,poured a deep rich amber with good clarity with a thin white head.Big malt aromas mainly dried fruits like prune and raisin with a light herbal,viney note as it warmed more.Nice full chewey mouthfeel Iam glad it was a 10oz glass to be honest but the flavors were very nice,alcohol dipped fruit flavors melding into a definent hoppy sharpness into the finish that lingers nicely.Nice to see healthy doses of hops in a barley wine this one does and is quite nice.

oberon, Mar 12, 2006
Photo of blitz134
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Slightly cloudy garnet red body with a just off-white colored head. Reduced to a thin skim of a layer with superb lacing in the small chalice.

Strong citrus and piney hops dominate the aroma, some fruitiness comes in as well. Probably too hoppy for a barleywine, but the menu said this was dry hopped for a month and it is obvious in this sample, but it just smells so good. This amount of hopping was evident throughout this beer, this sample seems pretty fresh.

Taste was more like a double IPA or a strong ale to me. Lots of caramel, sweet malts form a solid backbone for this brew which then has citrus and floral hop flavors built on top. Raisin and plum hints try to fight their way through the hops. Again super tasty, but a bit atypical stylewise. I was expecting some more malty characteristics, but no complaints with what I got.

Full bodied overall. Fairly well carbonated, again breaking the style guidelines.

Drinkability is okay. This one sits really heavy on the stomach. Awesome hoppy flavor though, but no desire for an extra tonight. Served perfectly as a cap to my meal at Barley's in Asheville.

blitz134, Jul 03, 2006
Photo of marvin213
4.22/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Brown in the truest sense--like paint on a palette or a Crayola marker, or REALLY muddy water--I only wish the fizz lasted longer. A full head covered the post-pour, but it almost immediately dissipated.

A really nice blend of brown sugar and those Centennial hops hop from the surface thru the nasal cavity. As with most of these Pisgah beers, there's a pure, organic, wholesome touch on the nose.

As I sip slowly for the very first time, the most prominent feature is its oh-so-smoothness. It's like only the freshest brown sugar crystals provide the sweetness. It feels light, yet with the flavor you'd expect from a barleywine. Absent is the chalky vibe you get from a lot of them. The Centennials are just there, and--I'm consistently guilty of this--perhaps my only suggestion would involve more hops! Smooth, sweet candy, it's among the easiest-to-drink barleywines I've encountered. Certainly, a solid offering.

marvin213, Apr 07, 2010
Photo of kingjames1
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours from the bottle like a frothy root-beer almost, with a fluffy head that soon dissipates to a sticky lace. Smells of alcohol and fruit, with an upfront breadiness. Smells like a malt-bomb to me. Taste is great. The hops appear on the palat mid-way through, with some sourness and bitterness to balance the strong malt-sweetness. Definitely a barleywine. As with other Pisgah beers, it has a unique flavor I enjoy. Strong, but somehow balanced. Carbonation nicely balances the syrupy thickness, making it more drinkable. I could definitely sip on this while sitting back on the 'front porch' of the black mountains for a good while.

kingjames1, Sep 26, 2008
Photo of chinchill
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%

chinchill, Jun 10, 2013
Photo of glid02
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by Pisgah Dave - thanks!

Pours a clear brownish-copper color with a one-finger off-white head. The head recedes into a wispy layer on top leaving solid lacing.

Smells of sweet caramel malts with hints of toffee and brown sugar. As it warms mild amounts of toffee and leafy hops also come into play.

Tastes similar to how it smells. Smooth caramel malt flavors up front are sweetened almost immediately by solid amounts of brown sugar. Midway through the sip leafy hop flavors balance things out a bit and carry through to a solidly bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a solid thickness with smooth carbonation.

Drinkability is also good. I finished my glass without a problem and could have another.

Overall this was a solid beer for the style but the flavors weren't quite rich enough to make it great. Still, a good beer and worth a shot.

glid02, Mar 07, 2010
Photo of pwoods
4.45/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml corked and caged brown bottle poured into a chalice. Notes.

A: Great ruby mohagony pour, glowing and opaque. About a finger and a half of tight, creamy head forms and holds nicely. Good lacing.

S: Pungent citrus fruits sopping with great, complex alcohol. Sweet malts blend nicely with the alcohol, caramelly and full of deep, dark fruits.

T/M; Damn fine alcohol line in this one. Plays through all the flavors. Pungent and astringent citrus. Controlled bitterness. Sweet, rich malts and dark fruitiness. Caramel, toffee, maybe a bit of tobacco in the back. medium full body but not heavy. Smooth carbonation that is just lively enough.

D: Great, great sipper. And only 8% >:)

pwoods, Oct 29, 2009
Photo of seavercm
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%

seavercm, Jan 31, 2014
Photo of Metalmonk
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dirty-white head, not huge but lasts a good while. Color of the liquid is reddish copper, hazy and almost opaque, although a shadowy hand can be seen through it when held to light.

Huge candy-like syrupy malts dominate the aroma. A little black tea, a lot of toffee and caramel, dabs of vanilla and sherry. Wowza.

Flavor brings all of that in, minus the black tea and adding brown sugar (and wouldn't you know: this is actually brewed with brown sugar). Citrus fruits come in, although they're polite and well-integrated. Toffee and caramel are big here, and the vanilla twists around something that reminds of sweet cherries, sour cherries and strawberry Twizzlers (hmm). Something like cinnamon-flavored ice cream comes in, emphasis on the "cream," and that leads me to thinking "deep fried ice cream." Would be an amazing thing to pair Hellbender with, anyway. Candy-like presence remains on the tongue, but never gets too sweet. Likewise, alcohol remains tempered and merely one component of the flavor (the label states both 9.8% and 10.2% as the ABV...either way, it's big). Seems this is one of few barleywines that is not only complex, but subtle...doesn't hammer you over the head with its bigness. Just catches up with you, if you're not careful.

Smooth feel, although a tinglier ride than expected thanks to ample carbonation. It's not bothersome or even unlikable, and it keeps the round, sticky, syrupy body in check.

Interesting, very drinkable, a little different from the norm. And this beer is a total win-win...Pisgah donates a portion of sales to Wild South, a non-profit that works to save fragile/endangered ecosystems (win), and it tastes freaking fantastic (the other win).

Metalmonk, Sep 03, 2010
Photo of augustgarage
3.88/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Looks like I'm just another in a long line of recipients of mikesgroove's generosity - thanks again!

I've taken many day (and night) hikes in the Columbia Gorge seeking out Pacific Giant Salamanders, so you can imagine that when I saw this label I immediately thought of Cryptobranchus alleganiensis (a cumbersome name for a beer, I admit) - very happy to see that some money went towards this species' habitat conservation when this beer was purchased.

April, 2008 vintage. 10.2% ABV. Poured from a caged and corked 750mL bottle into my Dogfish Head 22oz snifter.

This guy throws off immense carbonation, generating a couple fingers of wide dense papaya whip foam with superior retention and thick almost oily lacing and legs. Bulgarian rose body which is suffused with a stunning crimson glow when held up to bright light.

Not as hop-forward as many examples of the style, the smell is rather sweet, malty, and full of alcohol esters. Faintly perfume like, with burnt caramel, dark fruit, and a touch of forest floor.

Malty flavor with an earthy, Ponderosa pine element from the hops. Light vanilla or butterscotch joins with toasted rye, stale hazlenuts, and a touch of clove-studded navel orange mid-palate. Very faint brown sugar is in there as well. The finish is clean yet dusty, sweet yet drying...with a bready malt bill spine.

Not quite medium-bodied, with almost too much carbonation for the style (Belgian Barleywine?). Warming but not solventy, though the ABV catches up with you...

Surprisingly mild for the style - it is a toss up between "subtle" and "boring" really...

augustgarage, Feb 13, 2010
Photo of dirtylou
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

on-tap at the brewery

I've had this before, but not yet reviewed. This is kind of the prototypical english barleywine - not too flashy - its moderately hoppy with notes of sticky pine resin. Supported by a big caramel malt profile, hellbender remains in balance and hits the style pretty square. It's just not overly exciting in the world of extreme and barrel aged barleywines - this seems like a dying style to me.

dirtylou, Dec 01, 2013
Photo of russpowell
3.7/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Review based on notes, got this one from jwc347, thanks John!

Poured copper/brown with 3 fingers of tan head. Good lacing & head retention

S: Faint breadyness & herbal hops

T: Herbal & resiny hops, dryness & slight toffee flavor along with some leafy hops up front. Jammy fruittyness, and brown sugar, which got stronger at room temperature, along with leafy hops on the back of the throat as this warms. Finishes fruity (apricots & pears) & with leafy hops

MF: Kind of wet for the style, got chewier at room temperature, this had very low carbonation

Drinks easy for the style & abv, but this barley wine didn't quite pull together for me

russpowell, Sep 04, 2008
Photo of thagr81us
4.28/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had during an afternoon ticking session at Pisgah! Served from tap into a shaker pint. Poured red-orange with a one finger bone white head that subsided to a minimal amount slowly. Maintained excellent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, citrus, and citrus hop. The flavor was of sweet malt, caramel, citrus, and citrus hop. It had a medium feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a pretty good Barleywine. Very nice aroma and flavor going on here. The citrus aspect I got in this one really made the beer for me. Even at 9.8% there was no sign of the alcohol in this one at for me. This one is definitely worth trying without a doubt!

thagr81us, May 04, 2011
Photo of mc4z
4/5  rDev 0%

mc4z, Nov 29, 2013
Photo of JamLand
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%

JamLand, Jun 15, 2013
Photo of akorsak
3.88/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to ncvbc for this bottle. Opened in the wee hours of the morning at Tröegs during the Splinter Black release. This cork was a bear to get out.

A: The barleywine is a copper color, brown and orange in tandem, that is opaque. The only thing visible in the glass is the swirl of yeast particles. A small head sat atop the ale, a white color. The cork removal issues caused a slight ding here.

S: The nose has all the key ingredients of a rich barleywine, toffee and caramel and rich breads. Hops, surprisingly, aren't a factor (at the time I didn't think that it was English).

T: The spicy warmth is a nice touch on this cold day. By spices, I primarily mean brown sugar and caramel. This is by no means a quad or spiced ale. Rich caramel and toffee, aided by several years in the cellar, are chewy and sweet. Hoppiness is minor, an afterthought amongst the malts. A decent barleywine, maybe with a little too much time under its belt.

M: The mouthfeel is malt sweet, plenty of rich syrups that sit heavily on the palate.

D: A tad heavy, all the better for sharing in a sub-freezing temperature. A visually appealing bottle.

akorsak, Dec 16, 2010
Photo of KevinGordon
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%

KevinGordon, Aug 08, 2013
Photo of JohnGalt1
3.55/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22 picked up back in March from Izecold88... Thanks Manny for a great trade!! Shared it with the Boise peeps a weekend or two ago.

Pours a clear deep orange.... good 1" foamy white head.. nice lacing..

smell is dominated by a pretty sweet smelling maltiness.... caramel essence... flowery hoppiness... could use more hops for sure.

Flavor has a good bitterness that is quickly enveloped by thick almost syrupy malts.. hops are more grassy than the nose, but a bit of pithy citrus shows with alot of warmth.

I would have preferred more hops... and more carbonation.. the body seems too thick given the carbonation.

Good.. better than okay... glad I got to this one before letting it age any longer. Thanks again Manny.. any time brother, let me know.

4.5/3.5/3.5/3.5/3.5

JohnGalt1, May 27, 2010
Photo of mikesgroove
4.55/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had the pleasure to finally make it up to Asheville after a far too long hiatus from there. Finally getting a chance to taste some of these years Pisgah was by far the highlight for me. I had been waiting forever for this one to come out, but ever since it did have not been able to go up to try it, so needless to say I was a very happy man. I decided to sample a bottle at home last night and really sit down to enjoy this one. The beautiful 750ml bottle was pour effortlessly after a big POP into my Terrapin glass and I proceeded to enjoy it at cellar temperature. As a side, this beer is over 10%ABV, well 10.2 to be exact and not the 8% listed in here, so this is a much bigger monster.

Appearance - The pour was very active. A very cloudy and very hazy amber color was then presented to me in the glass. Bright when put up to a light it had an almost honey color to it. Lots of carbonation bubbling up to the surface initially, as this was clearly going to be quite the large beer for the night. A huge three inch high head of white foam then came up over the top and only gradually settled down into the glass. However even after setting down, it still demonstrated quite nicely the rocky, and cratered filled head of foam on top. Excellent side glass lace then followed suit and really rounded this one out very well.

Smell - The aroma was different at first, not really what I was expecting when I poured it, which took a moment to get used to. It was definitely bottle conditioned as I picked up the yeast aroma right away, and the huge malt bill clearly identified this as an English Barley wine, which the label also clearly indicated. Lots of caramel and earthy notes riddled throughout. Some delicate light, sweet notes as well, and a good touch of a candied like smell way in the back. As it warmed I picked up the faintest of hop notes way in the back as well.

Taste - The flavor followed suit as well. Really pulling the malt profile way out in the front. There were lots of bread like hints and a good dose of grain like flavor at first too. The rush of caramel quickly faded and a nice banana and raisin filled yeast note then came over it. Very complex and unique for the style I have to say. There was a nice and slight hop bite to it in the finish, but nothing terribly distracting about it at all. Really quite interesting and a definitely different take on the style. The finish had a touch of pepper, almost what seemed like a buttery taste and a slightly bitter hop dryness. I was very surprised by this one, kind of a hybrid Barley wine, Belgian Strong for me, really well put together and ridiculously smooth as well, I would be shocked to find anyone who can find a lot of alcohol in this one, really quite nice.

Mouthfeel - The Mouthfeel here was outstanding though. At first I thought this was going to be way too carbonate with the initial pop and pour, however it mellowed out quite nicely and ended up really pulling together quite well, for this I was very glad. It was light enough not to be like a syrup, but thick enough that it drank the way it should have, perfect.

Drinkability - For something that was over 10% it came off outstanding. There was no doubt this was strong, but I never would have pegged it for as strong as it was. Maybe 8% tops, but nothing more. It was a superb sipper and an outstanding nightcap.

Overall I have to say I though this was excellent. It was a different take on a style that has been played to death as of late, and the bottle conditioned was really showing up well. I am very glad that they are so close that I get to enjoy this as much as I do. Really an outstanding beer, from an outstanding brewery, kudos for another gem.

mikesgroove, Jun 05, 2008
Photo of wcudwight
4.7/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

After seeing a hellbender(or muddog as locals call it) in the wild for the first time while fishing this past week-end, I decided Hellbender Barleywine would be the next beer I drink. So here I am.
Much better looking than the salamander it's named after. Brown in color with some haziness to it. Nice thick white head that fades to a rocky 2" and holds awhile. Lot's of sticky lacing lines the side of the glass.
Wonderful earthy aroma and lot's of candy sugar.
This is the smoothest barleywine I've ever had. Good mixture of brown sugar and mild prickly tasting piney hops. Raisin bread and tart green apples. Peppery finish. This is good stuff.
Full bodied but maybe a bit tad for a barleywine.
Drinkability is off the charts. It seems that some brewers these days try to see who can make the biggest barleywine. But Pisgah simply just made one of the best. This barleywine is more smooth than a lot of brown ales I've had. It goes down wayyy to easy.
1$ from the purchase of this beer goes to protect the hellbender and thier habitat so go buy a bottle of Pisgah Hellbender Barleywine today. You'll get one hell of a beer and protect one of the ugliest animals ever in the process.

wcudwight, Jun 10, 2008
Photo of blackie
4.13/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a: big fluffy off-white head recedes partially to leave an ample coating on the surface and clinging to the sides, the beer is a slightly hazy dark pecan brown in color

s: big malts give aromas of burnt toffee, dried dates, raisins, and carob, very nice to see a rich barleywine with a restrained sweetness, a touch estery with some overripe banana, big spicy-earth hop note well blended with the malts, light booze, ample dark sugary liquors, quite nice

m: carbonation on the high side of things but very smooth, body light-full

t: toasty toffee malts strongly reminiscent of dried dates and raisins but lacking the heavy sweetness found in others, a bit of dark fruit bread in the finish, hop flavors big but earthy and delayed so as to blend in rather than cover the malt complexities, bitterness starts lower and grows to leave a satisfying semi-dryness in the finish

d: nicely drinkable

750 generously shared by a friend in Fayetteville while in town on business

blackie, Oct 23, 2008
Photo of NastyNate11
4.25/5  rDev +6.3%

NastyNate11, Jul 13, 2013
Photo of mntlover
3.81/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Been holding on to this on advice from the store. Been a year or so and can't wait any longer. So into my snifter it goes.

Pours a deep dark reddish walnut color, almost the shade of my bedroom suite. Decent thumb sized tan head falls fairly fast to ringed scum with some lace here and there.

Aroma is nice sweet brown sugar coated plums, light currants rich sweet sugary caramel malts with toffee hints. Some nice hops to balance out the sweetness mostly herbal/earthy like for me.

Taste is pretty much like the nose sweet malts, not as sweet as the nose brown sugars seem on the low side. Some good dark fruit notes earthy hints toffee notes and some spicy alcohol notes that linger into the finish. Good earthy finish enough hops left to make it not cloying. But to tell the truth for an English Barleywine I could use some more free sugars floating around in this one to make it a little better.

Mouthfeel is nice smooth but adequate amount of carbonation. Body is almost full just seems a touch light for a monster of a brew like this.

Overall not bad just seems to lack a touch of oomph for a big ass malty barleywine.

mntlover, May 09, 2014
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Hellbender Barleywine from Pisgah Brewing Co.
87 out of 100 based on 96 ratings.