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Grand Illumination - AleWerks Brewing Company

Grand IlluminationGrand Illumination

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
88
very good

167 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 167
Reviews: 93
rAvg: 3.91
pDev: 9.46%


Brewed by:
AleWerks Brewing Company visit their website
Virginia, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  10.00% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: hoppymeal on 12-20-2007)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 167 | Reviews: 93 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of smakawhat
smakawhat

Maryland

3.66/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2013, poured into a large snifter glass.

A little bit lifeless on the pour. Deep orange apricot with a bit of hazy and filmy appearance. One finger of light tan head is made and disappears pretty quickly to quite a thin but stable collar. There's a little bit of hint of orange glow towards the edges.

Nice little nose. Juicy fruit qualities, and tropical sweetness. Sort of a juiced papaya and passion fruit richness. Not overly sugary or sweet either, quite impressive but not too complex or diverse either.

Palate comes with a little bit of hop richness. Sharp bitterness and hints of oily zesty lime and lemon. Juiced tropics finish, but with large bitterness and bite. Slightly sour aftertaste, which feels quite a bit odd. Quite a good amount of sharp fizz on first sip, but slowly dissolves to a thin coating in the palate. Just a bit wet too in feel.

Overall it's not bad, quite unique, but probably not one I would want to gravitate to or have again in the realm.

Serving type: bottle

04-04-2014 22:38:05 | More by smakawhat
Photo of Alieniloquium
Alieniloquium

Florida

3.01/5  rDev -23%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

650 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Deep orange. Small off-white head. Thin collar.

Smell - Grapefruit hops. Fruity, otherwise. Pale caramel malt.

Taste - Grapefruit hops. Less fruity. Caramel malt. Bitter. A bit of nutty specialty malts.

Mouthfeel - Medium heavy body. Moderate bitterness.

Overall - Not very exciting.

Serving type: bottle

03-04-2014 02:18:38 | More by Alieniloquium
Photo of cosmicevan
cosmicevan

New York

3.81/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

Bottle 0968 from 2010 courtesy of hanzo. Shared with the mrs out of 2 alewerks snifters.

a - brew had a bit of a sludgy look. Mahogany in color with a generous khaki head that dissolved rather quick leaving sparse lacing slicks on the sides of the glass. Really muddy, rusty looking. Not all that attractive.

s - sharp crisp boozy toffee wafers.

t - surprisingly in a good place right now (not that i have anything to compare to, but 2010 is tasting nice right now). As the nose suggested boozy piny toffee with a sharp caramel tinge.

m - thick and chewy.

o - overall seems like a once hopped out american barley where the hops have fully faded and now pushes caramel booze. Reminiscent of bigfoot right after the awkward phase.

Serving type: bottle

02-23-2014 23:26:00 | More by cosmicevan
Photo of ThickNStout
ThickNStout

Georgia

3.3/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

22oz bottle from ThatCracker (thanks Andrew!). Bottle 571, 2013. Served in a Bruery snifter.

Pours opaque orange brown with a finger and a half ecrue head. A healthy layer of retention leaves plenty of lace.

Scents of orange, pine, earthy herbal notes and some caramel malts.

Lots of flavor here. Orange peel, caramel, pine, earthy mineral, floral bitterness, leather, toffee, hints of prune, something akin to sweet cough syrup and a significant booze kick. Overall bitter and boozey.

Oily, fairly heavy body with mild carbonation. Boozey, earthy, floral finish.

A relatively straight forward American barleywine. Good enough to drink when presented but I won't be hunting any more.

Serving type: bottle

01-27-2014 13:04:26 | More by ThickNStout
Photo of ThisWangsChung
ThisWangsChung

Maryland

4.2/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle (2013 vintage) into a tulip.

A: Pours a clear copper color. The head is a one finger pale yellow shade. Not only is the retention good, but it leaves behind some nice rings of lacing.

S: The hops here seem to be more citrusy than piny. I even want to say they're kind of berry-forward, suggesting this has Mosaic hops. Caramel and toffee malts are present, but thankfully are subdued. Actually, subdued is a good way to describe the general aroma; still decent, though.

T: Holy crap, where did all this blueberry flavor come from? And not the pure Fruity Pebbles you get in, say, Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat, but actual friggen' blueberries. This note hits the palate immediately and I love it. There's no way this isn't brewed with Mosaic - as well as this brew shows off the berry notes, how can't it be? It finishes with some more piny hop flavors, caramel, toffee, and a twinge of alcohol. Just an all-around excellent barleywine.

M: This is relatively light and crisp (for the style), yet still retains well-concealed alcohol. It's not overly dry, either. It does an excellent job of covering up the 10%.

O: I admit, when Bitter Valentine let me down, it made me take pause over this offering. I was dead wrong: this is freaking fantastic. There's just enough 'balance' to display the berry-forward goodness without overpowering the palate. One of my favorite hoppy barleywines to date.

Serving type: bottle

01-23-2014 23:15:39 | More by ThisWangsChung
Photo of jlindros
jlindros

Massachusetts

4.14/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bottle 190 2012 vintage, thanks to HeadyHops81 for this interesting barleywine, often one of my fav styles.

Light fizzy head, candy apple red color, hazy.

Nose lots of candy malts, light toasty reddish malt, sweet candy, red apple candy coating, light booze, some light esters, nice light spicy hops and bitterness, caramel and toffee, light mineral.

Taste is fairly sweet, lots of candy, mild syrupy, lots of sugar, caramel, toffee, red apple candy and genetic candy sugar, mild fruity flavor too, light warming booze with fruity ester kick, little creamy malt character, smooth. Hops are fairly bitter and spicy, little chewy. Finish is long spicy hop, quite bitter as it dries a bit but still sticky, lots of reddish candy lingering.

Mouth is med to fuller bod, little sticky syrupy, decent carb, nice warming booze.

Overall not bad. Nice malt characters, decent hop bitterness and balance, nice overall barleywine, nothing really wrong, but doesn't really go beyond either.

Serving type: bottle

10-11-2013 02:32:11 | More by jlindros
Photo of rudzud
rudzud

Massachusetts

3.99/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to JLindros for sharing.

A - Poured into a tulip a nice caramel hue with hardly any head thin halo.

S - Aromas of sweet toffee and caramel, light warm alcohol, faint sweet malts, soft vanilla.

T - Taste is nice citrus notes, faint sweet malts, caramel, toffee, faint booze. Quite nice.

M.- Mouthfeel is solid creamy, lightly carbonated, tasty.

O - Overall I enjoyed this beer, lots of caramel notes, not too sweet, solid

Serving type: bottle

10-09-2013 01:24:07 | More by rudzud
Photo of Vonerichs
Vonerichs

Illinois

3.81/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Deep reddish brown hue with a finger of tan head. No lacing and the carbonation stays active.

It has an astringent herbal tea aroma and cherry 'tussin. Deeps smell of toffee.

It's boozy as hell and the cherry flavor makes it taste like cough syrup. Toffee, prune, tea.

Mouthfeel is full and with average carbonation. The alcohol stays on the palate.

I like the aroma but the medicinal quality makes it hard to drink much of it. A good, but not great Barleywine.

Serving type: bottle

06-18-2013 00:13:46 | More by Vonerichs
Photo of teromous
teromous

Virginia

4.05/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2108 - 2012

A: Dark brown body with hues of red peeping through. It is dark but noticeably transparent. The head is slightly off-white, starts big, then recedes to a small cap. Leaves some lacing. It is a very beautiful looking barleywine.

S: It has a spiced rum scent to it, some plum, some brown sugar, and some alcohol.

T: Very malty and robust. Loads of caramel sweetness, along with some woody flavors. There's a high presence of roasted barley. Hop character brings out bitterness, but not a whole lot when it comes to flavor.

M: It has a very full and thick mouthfeel. It is very dexterous and robust. The bitterness is more towards the back of the palate.

O: Overall it was a good barleywine. I would have personally liked more hop character, but the bitterness was there. It had a good strong bitterness, but the malt really seemed to be the star of the show here. Lots of caramel sweetness at first, followed up by bitterness.

Serving type: bottle

03-24-2013 17:53:15 | More by teromous
Photo of alpinebryant
alpinebryant

Connecticut

3.86/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

2011 Bottle, nicely aged from a trade, thanks!

A: Pours a very cloudy dark copper color with sticky lacing and a large head that settles in a few minutes to just the edges and a white dusting on the top.

S: Aroma of plum, sweet malt and a light hop profile. This is a very light aroma beer and it smells almost more like a tripel, which smells great, just not what I was expecting. Caramel and toffee.

T: Tons of caramel and long roast caramelized sugars, sweet cotton candy and earthy notes. There is a slight herbal taste along with some tannins that are minor. More than anything this is what I would call a 'chewy' barleywine. Earthy fall leaf flavor and a bit of burnt sugars in here. There was plenty of bittering here, Cascade like hop flavors that I can pick up and dirt.

M: Chewy and a medium to high level of carbonation. Quite good here I think.

O: Overall, its a decent barleywine. Almost a blending of styles here belgian tripel or double in flavor with American Hops. Rock candy and cane sugar like flavors give a little spike on my tongue along with spiking the abv.

Serving type: bottle

02-10-2013 18:59:51 | More by alpinebryant
Photo of ckollias
ckollias

Maryland

3.81/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Enjoyed this bomber bottle of a Belgian tulip glass.

A: Pours an amber off-white head that slowly dissipates leaving a decent trail and ends in a wispy lace.

S: Sweet extremely malty and barley-wine esk aroma.

T: Very sweet and complex flavors. High alcohol burn masked by the sweetness.

M: Heavy body and medium carbonation.

O: Really good barely-wine – nice sipping beer at 10% abv.

Serving type: bottle

02-09-2013 20:04:39 | More by ckollias
Photo of siege06nd
siege06nd

Virginia

3.96/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

A. Pours a deep gilded copper, like the last vestiges of fall. Thick and creamy khaki head that erupts to two fingers and settles to a half finger. Excellent retention. Lacing is also top tier: tight, uniform and coating.

S. Classic American Barleywine notes of caramel, raisin, dates, and a resinous blast of hops. Very well-rounded nose.

T. Follows the nose but with more pronounced hops and less residual sugar. Caramel and dark fruit flavors quickly yield to bitter, zesty hops. Herbal and slightly medicinal, age would definitely help this. Right now it is a bit of a hop bomb, with the malt qualities lagging. Still, it is solid.

M. A bit overcarbed which masks a lot of the flavor. Also the hops are a bit overriding and unbalanced. Not to say that it is bad, just some weak spots in an otherwise really good beer.

O. The craftsmanship shows here. It is an above average barleywine, one of the better ones out there. Age will help this a lot, as fresh the carbonation and hops are a little overbearing. That said, it is reasonably balanced and hits the right notes. It is much better than it has to be. I recommend it.

Serving type: bottle

02-03-2013 17:27:18 | More by siege06nd
Photo of axman
axman

Virginia

4.08/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Opened 2007 bottle number 0294 and poured it into my Mad Elf snifter for New Year's . . . wasn't exactly sure how long to hold onto it before opening. Very rich mouthfeel, almost sticky. Tastes of caramel, dates, and dried figs (one glass went very nicely with the duck I roasted today.) Beautiful mahogany color with a thick, lingering tan head that laces the glass nicely.

Most barleywines I've tried are too alcohol-forward for me, but I think the aging on this one tamed it nicely--I liked it quite a bit. I also have bottles from 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013, but am not sure I want to wait for them all to reach five years of age.

Serving type: bottle

01-02-2013 00:34:18 | More by axman
Photo of GregSVT
GregSVT

Texas

3.9/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle into a tulip - 2011 Vintage #1356

A: Pours a dark ruby reddish brown with a decent tan head that fades to a ring and leaves some lacing on the glass.

S: The nose starts with piney hops and citrus followed by caramel malt, slight toffee aromas, and brown sugar. There's also a hint of vanilla in there which is very interesting.

T: The taste is a step up from the nose. The caramel, vanilla, and toffee are more pronounced and the hops are more in the background with pine and citrus flavors on the finish.

M: The feel is on the thicker side of medium with nice creamy carbonation.

O: This is tasty for what it is and something I would probably drink again. I'd love to see it with a few years of age to see how it tastes when the hops fade even more.

Serving type: bottle

08-09-2012 03:49:23 | More by GregSVT
Photo of claspada
claspada

New Jersey

3.73/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle 0079 from the 2010 batch.

Pours a hazy, ruby/mahogany color with highlights of orange beneath a creamy khaki head of foam. The head retention is average and leaves some spotty lacing.

Aromas begin with waves of caramel dark maltiness and lighter toffee. Lighter dark fruity notes emerge with some light faded citrus and earthy/herbal hops that emerge more as it warms.

The tastes follow the nose but less complex and enjoyable. Opens with the faded herbal/earthy hops but then you get the caramel and toffee maltiness, but it is not as full flavored or malty as I expected. Finish is slightly watery and lacking overall which is really really surprising given the ABV and style.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with medium carbonation. The body is much less full and the finish leaves much to be desired.

Overall, while this is extremely drinkable and tasty, I cannot give it top marks for the style. Finish is on the watery and simple side, and the flavor profile does not leave you wanting more. Maybe it is because I have sampled pretty much every top barleywine on the planet and I am extra critical because it is my favorite style but this is less than memorable and I won't be revisiting anytime soon.

Serving type: bottle

05-17-2012 01:29:06 | More by claspada
Photo of scottfrie
scottfrie

California

3.43/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle into snifter. 0387 bottled 2010. Thanks to the BA who sent this to me long ago.

A: Pours a lightly cloudy burnt copper with a finger of greasy dark tan head that quickly faded into a thin collar that left soapy lace down the glass.
S: Sweet sugary notes of candied fruits and caramel malts. I get some dried dates and dark fruits as well. Not super complex, but still good smelling.
T: Subtle flavors. Dark fruits, mellow hop resin, caramel, and maybe a hint of vanilla. I get big notes of leather and tobacco coming through in the finish.
M: Full body, greasy slick mouthfeel, mostly hidden alcohol and easy carbonation. A tad sharp around the edges.
O: Solid barleywine. Nothing outstanding but flavorful enough and easy to drink. Would drink again, but wouldn’t go out of my way to obtain.

Serving type: bottle

04-19-2012 02:38:35 | More by scottfrie
Photo of avalon07
avalon07

South Carolina

3.68/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a brownish color and a murky texture. There was a two inch, foamy, long-lasting head. Good lacing.

S: A fair amount of hops in the aroma, with a good shot of malt as well.

T: Tasted of hops, malt, caramel, and a slight hint of a grassy quality in the finish. The taste here is a bit unfocused and out of balance. There should be bigger hops presence. Not a bad flavor, but not as good as it could have been.

M: A good amount of carbonation with a somewhat slick finish. Medium-bodied.

O: Grand Illumination is one of those beers that just wasn't pushed quite far enough. Some attributes are good, others not as much.

Serving type: bottle

04-09-2012 12:11:35 | More by avalon07
Photo of dafizzif
dafizzif

Virginia

3.98/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle 0982 from 2010 poured into St. Bernardus goblet.
Appearance: Hazy dark bronze with thin off-white head.

Smell: Alcoholic dark fruit. Smells of hazelnuts, nutmeg, raisin, and apricot with caramel malts. No hops at all as expected.

Taste: Intense malty taste with spicy finish. Tastes like dark fruit with a warming alcohol feeling. Hops flavor have totally faded though there is some bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Syrupy and kind of thick but not much more than a medium body. Still a bit of carbonation going on.

Overall: Pretty good beer, but not the best barleywine I have ever had. The age seemed to have made this a pretty neat beer.

Serving type: bottle

04-07-2012 19:29:16 | More by dafizzif
Photo of FeDUBBELFIST
FeDUBBELFIST

Pennsylvania

3.58/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bomber to snifter. Bottle #0378, 2010 vintage. Served at room temperature. Sampled 3/30/12.

A: Pours with a solid 1 finger head of light brown foamy head which hangs out for a half-minute before fizzing out. The body is a dark tawny brown and hard to see through, until backlit, when it becomes crimson tinted ruby with impressive clarity. Lacing is spare. A crescent shaped collar remains along the glass's edge.

S: The nose has some great moments where brown sugar, vanilla, caramel and honey come together in a beautiful balance. A little bit of oxidation and shoe leather conflict slightly, but overall the nose is very impressive. Marris Otter is definitely a standout, and I'll admit, I am a sucker for it.

T: The flavor is pretty standard American Barleywine. Some of the nuance from the nose is lost - particularly in the delicate flavors of vanilla and honey - which were the standout features from the upper register. If the initial flavor carried through to the finish, the palate would have been more successful, but the lasting notes didn't provide much to contemplate.

M: The mouthfeel is solid, even if the carbonation is a little too coarse for my taste. Semi full, relatively thick. Tongue coating - but not cloying - with sustained bubbles to tidy up the tongue.

O: Overall, Grand Illumination is an average barleywine. Williamsburg Aleworks would have something truly special here if the nose translated to the flavor more directly. All of that said, I would be proud of myself had I brewed this beer.

Serving type: bottle

03-30-2012 22:41:36 | More by FeDUBBELFIST
Photo of TechTriumph
TechTriumph

Virginia

4.05/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From notes on 12/11/11:
2010 release; Poured in a snifter.

A - 1/2" of very light tan, frothy head that quickly recedes to nothing; Very cloudy and deep dark brown in appearance; Barely any lacing at all

S - Bold aroma for sure; Strong toffee and sweet caramel malty backbone with earthy notes and a bit of fruity and citrusy hops

T - Nice malty presence here as well with caramel sweetness, toffee, sugar cane, and some cocoa nibs too; There's a bit of citrusy hops and dark fig-like fruits, but much more in the background; A warm, boozy, peppery taste comes in the finish

M - Some carbonation present; Medium to full bodied; Some peppery, alcohol taste and warmth felt in the aftertaste; Slight syrupy mouthfeel as well

O - The Barleywine style tends to be hit or miss for me, but I thought this beer was pretty good. The aroma and strong, malty profile were the highlights here, though not surprisingly there was a bit of heat in the finish. I'm glad that I got to try this beer, and if I see it again, I'll pick one up and try it with a bit more age to see how it mellows.

Serving type: bottle

01-29-2012 21:30:31 | More by TechTriumph
Photo of B33R501
B33R501

Pennsylvania

4.35/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

another great beer from an very underrated brewery, 2010 vintage that i would love to have tried fresh. still great, obviously this beer has and will age well.

more of a caramel sweet malt bomb now, thick and rich, fruity. didnt get much in the way of hops. beautiful beer, very drinkable, this bomber disappeared quickly.

recommended. will look for the 2011 version. 2012 been a very good year for beer so far, keep the misses to a minimum, my goal.

Serving type: bottle

01-24-2012 14:20:29 | More by B33R501
Photo of Retail1LO
Retail1LO

Pennsylvania

3.95/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22 oz. bomber into a Founder's snifter.

First beer from this brewer. Pours a cloudy, garnet shade of red with a nice 1" crown provided by a straight down the middle pour. Crown fades quickly, but leaves copious amounts of lacing on the sides of the glass in it's wake. The smell is typical of many beers within this style with a sweet, malty nose, with some burnt sugars blended in, and some mild booziness. The taste is rather delightful. Shades of vanilla, caramel, and malt all compliment one another quite nicely. Very easy drinking. The mouthfeel is very smooth. The booziness is remarkably absent on the finish, and the carbonation level is just right. Each sip has a slightly malty finish, but it doesn't linger but for a second or two. Overall, this is a pleasant surprise. Would drink again.

Serving type: bottle

01-21-2012 23:07:37 | More by Retail1LO
Photo of billab914
billab914

Virginia

4.03/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 vintage poured from a 22oz bottle into my Dogfish snifter. It poured a deep mahogany color with a thin, bubbly lacing scattered across the top of the beer. Nice head retention and lacing. Love the color.

The aroma has a good amount of bitter, citrus rind hoppiness coming through. Caramel and toffee mix with some vanilla and brown sugar. A little bit of a sweeter dark fruit presence is there as well.

The taste shows a lot of bitter, resiny, citrus rind like hoppiness to it throughout. The malty flavors start to come through in the finish with some sweeter, caramel and toffee flavors lingering into the finish. I get a hint of chocolate to it as well.

The mouthfeel is on the heavier side with carbonation being average. Overall it was a pretty solid beer of the style. The resiny, bitter citrus was a little strong in it at times, but overall things came together pretty well. A very nice beer to sip on this evening.

Serving type: bottle

01-16-2012 00:16:10 | More by billab914
Photo of brewandbbq
brewandbbq

New Hampshire

3.5/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle from 2010.

Pours clear mahogany with a ruby hue and a thin, tight head of beige. Wide tears of lacing and a whispy surface for the duration.

Plump malt, brown sugar, dried figs, and some underlying citrus starts the nose. Butterscotch, toffee, and caramel follow through.

On the fuller side of medium bodied. Tacky and sticky with a slight prickle of carbonation.

Sweet malt, Sugar Daddys, chipped toffee, and Werther's candies lead off the palate. A mild bitterness tries to cut the sweet malt but falls short. Any other hopping is subdued with only a hint of pine and citrus follows through.

Finishes with sweet malt, caramel, and a hint of hop bitterness.

Quite an average Barleywine, tasty enough but lacking any real hop character and too sweet for my taste.

Serving type: bottle

01-12-2012 00:33:16 | More by brewandbbq
Photo of NeroFiddled
NeroFiddled

Pennsylvania

3.98/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Williamsburg Alewerks
"Brewmaster's Reserve Grand Illumination Ale"
0357 - 2010
22 oz. bottle; $4.99 @ Whole Foods, Plymouth Meeting, PA

I had this in 2002 and I wasn't impressed. It was OK, but far from anything special. However, I've noted in the past few years that all of the Williamsburg beers have improved greatly; and I'm not sure what change occurred, nor do I care to research it, but this one is no exception.

It pours a clear, ruby-mahogany body with glistening highlights of orange beneath a creamy head of tan froth. The head retention is initially quite good, and it initially leaves some very nice rings of lace about the glass. Following that, however, it's down to the occasional streak and a mostly spots. Subsequent, or at least late pours bring up some of the sedimented yeast and it becomes hazy, or even cloudy.

In the nose it's malty with loads of caramel, and a bit of floral, gently spruce-like, and delicately minty hoppiness.

The mouthfeel is full-bodied and dextrinous, with a gently crisp, moderate carbonation. It's a good balance. Any more malt, or any less carbonation and it could go over the top. At the same time, any more carbonation would probably seem unnatural, and cut through the malt in a bad way.

The flavor displays all of the malt suggested in the aroma and mouthfeel. It's rich and golden and densely caramelish. There's a lot of golden caramel, but also a nice bit of the darker stuff. As is often the case, there's a bit of honey as well, and a little bit of alcohol slips through. At 10% abv that's not surprising. Nor is the fact that the Maris Otter is quite clear in its presence. It's such a distinct, rich and grassy malt that I'd normally reserve it for lower gravity beers or stout or porter, but it pulls through here without becoming too dominant. Based on its prominence, however, I have to call into question the designation of "American Barleywine Style Ale". It's loaded with English malts and yet I find only minor hints of American hops. Sure it's 10% abv, and that fits the American style, but really what we have here is a strong English-style barleywine with some American hops thrown in. That said, I get a fair bit of floral character, some mint (often occurring because of the combination with the maltiness), some raspy/bitter pine, and a very mild not of tropical fruit/citrus. The bitterness is solid, and it balances nicely. It finishes sweetly malty, and almost cloying, but somehow it just pulls through. There's a pleasant note of orange in the aftertaste (I'm not sure what hop that might be coming from, perhaps the Columbus), along with some tobacco.

Overall I found it pleasant; it can be a little sweet at times, and a little harsh at times, but for the price it's still a pretty good deal. Does it have the finesse, balance, and polish of the world's greatest barleywines? Certainly not, but it's still fairly nice. Worth a shot.

Serving type: bottle

01-11-2012 01:33:10 | More by NeroFiddled
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Grand Illumination from AleWerks Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 167 ratings.