1. American Craft Beer Fest returns to Boston on May 29 & 30, featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers. Tickets are on sale now.

Grand Illumination - AleWerks Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Grand IlluminationGrand Illumination

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

205 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 205
Reviews: 99
rAvg: 3.9
pDev: 9.49%
Wants: 29
Gots: 50 | FT: 6
Brewed by:
AleWerks Brewing Company visit their website
Virginia, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  10.00% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: hoppymeal on 12-20-2007

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
to view all ratings, reviews and sorting options.
Ratings: 205 | Reviews: 99
Reviews by Eriktheipaman:
Photo of Eriktheipaman
4/5  rDev +2.6%

More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
4.08/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2010 vintage.Bottle #841. 10%ABV.70 IBU's.Poured into an imperial pint glass a mix of russett and burnt orange with a well formed one finger off white head that held very well.Sweet toffee,light nuttiness,dark fruit,and a decent smack of herbal hop in the nose.Vinious and cakey upfront but the sweetness melds into leafy and herbal hop in the finish,everything comes together quite well.Chewey mouthfeel without being overbearing,its what an American Barleywine should be in my mind,big,chewey,and hopped up,very nice.

Photo of JacobMutberg
4/5  rDev +2.6%

Photo of joel66
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of Tiderion
3.83/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I had this beer following the actual Grand Illumination event. It's an exceptionally dark beer with a punch of flavor. The recipe has definitely been improved over the years as it is no longer as harsh. I would say that this is the type of beer of which you only want to drink one or two in a single sitting. That is its only downside though.

Flavor was a strong barley flavor with minimal excess. Color was pitch black. Aroma was and expected but pleasant barley/hop combination but it had an extra scent. Perhaps an additive I could not distinguish.

Great beer for the cold season in which it was brewed.

Photo of megamass
4/5  rDev +2.6%

Photo of SkinnyElvis
4/5  rDev +2.6%

Photo of dmk91
3.5/5  rDev -10.3%

Photo of glid02
3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by Ben - thanks! Bottle 0322 of the 2009 vintage.

Pours a dark copper color with a half-finger cream-colored head. The head recedes into a wispy layer on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of sweet caramel malts with moderate amounts of vanilla and sugar-soaked dark fruits. Also present are slight hints of toffee that intensify as the beer warms.

Tastes more robust than it smells. Smooth caramel malt flavors kick things off and are joined quickly by solid amounts of slightly burnt toffee. Midway through the sip the flavors turn a bit toward the sweet side with the addition of vanilla. Vanilla and caramel malt flavors carry through to a mildly bitter ending leaving a slight alcohol burn.

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

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

Overall I thought that this beer had a lot going on and just didn't seem very well integrated. Not worth seeking out but worth trying if you see it around.

Photo of Metalmonk
4.54/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy, muddy burnt ruby/brown. Off-putting bubbles cling to the sides like soda, unlike any barleywine I've seen. That quickly fades and after all it ends up looking nice. Head doesn't last long, but that's no surprise considering style/ABV. Some lace, not much.

Aroma is absolutely wonderful. Molasses, honey, vanilla, wood, toffee, plum, fig, cola, alcohol. All well-balanced and equally represented. It points to what should be a very balanced flavor, always the key with barleywines and a common fault with so many.

So...is it? Is it balanced, is it all the aroma promises? Pretty much. Everything given in the aroma comes through in the flavor, with a healthy dose of chocolate and caramel. Hints of char and cola (and a little heat) in the finish. All kinds of dark fruit, thick gooey syrups, dark candies and earthy wood tones provide layers of depth, making for a very impressive experience.

Mouthfeel is a smidgen thinner than at first, but with warming it becomes creamy and buttery enough. And with the wonderful flavor, it pulls through well enough.

An ideal American barleywine. I've been disappointed with a number of them lately, but Grand Illumination performs wonderfully. Too bad it's such a limited run (my bottle is #1459 of 2007). I should be lashing myself with whips 2007 times for not picking up more than one bottle when I had the chance. Hopefully Williamsburg Alewerks will continue doing this annually.

Photo of Sammy
3.48/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2007 edition, thanks Radek. Strong barley aroma. The taste, strong barley and young. A beautiful peachy coloured body. A lot of foam on head. Creamy butterscotchy maplesyruppyfull mouthfeel. A bit of chocolate.So-so for its style.Likely more intersting when aged.

Photo of dafizzif
3.97/5  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.

Photo of NeroFiddled
3.96/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

Photo of dirtylou
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle, split and shared, 2007 vintage

thanks darkness.

appearance: served in a ommegang chalice, dark ruby body, light tan head - minimal retention

smell: rich dark fruits, vanilla bean, booze, sticky pine, heavy malts

taste: a nice barleywine - heavily dictated by the malts as the hops have faded into the background by now. syrupy malts, sticky pine resin, brown sugar covered dark fruits, dates, caramel and toffee, radiant alcohol.

mouthfeel: smooth, medium-heavy

overall: solid

Photo of avisong
4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.03/5  rDev -22.3%
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.

Photo of PaBeerLover
4/5  rDev +2.6%

Photo of Vonerichs
3.83/5  rDev -1.8%
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.

Photo of GFish
4.25/5  rDev +9%

Photo of GRG1313
3.5/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of akorsak
4.12/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to jnn4v for this 650 mL bomber, #500 of 2,007 from the, wait for it, 2007 release. A trade at the 2009 BA Gathering in Baltimore.

A: The barleywine is dark. Somewhere between crimson red and creekwater brown lies Grand Illumination. As you'd guess, I can't see through it. A smallish head, no more than half a finger, left scant lace in its wake.

S: Toffee and caramel, each in abundant supply, drive a very sweet malt body. Aside from the sweetness, the ale has a heavy concentration of malts, very sticky.

T: A fistful of flavor. As in the nose, the malts are the dominant aspect of the beer. Caramel and vanilla (!?!) flavors emerge, all driven from the concentration of malts. Spicy cinnamon also makes a brief appearance before the muted bitterness of aged hops brings it to a halt. The combination of big malts and hops is nearly blinding, a treacly combination.

M: The mouthfeel is heavy, full of both hop and malt intensity. It's a barleywine, so there is an abundance of flavor and enough to keep a palate occupied.

D: But at 11%? Damn, that's a lot of alcohol. I'll be sipping on this beer through the NFC championship game, no doubt.

Photo of philbe311
3.97/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2009 Edition - Bottle 1680/2009 - Poured into an over-sized snifter...

A - Very slight head that is light-to-medium tan colored, moderately creamy, and loaded with big chunky bubbles... Almost no retention gives way to a very slight delicate milky way like lacing with bigger pancake batter like chunky bubbles towards the sides of the glass... The color is a fully translucent warming medium brown with some faint ruby undertones... Very still...

S - Stellar aroma... In your face sweetness... Bursting at the seems with dark fruit... Dates... Fig... Cherries... Raisins... Brown sugars... Bread pudding... Subtler notes chocolate and caramel... A bit woody with piney hop notes...

T - Equal parts sweet, boozy, and hoppy... Mostly sweet while it rests on the tongue, turning boozy and hoppy thereafter... The finish is of booze with some additional hoppy notes rising on the deep finish... Something is a tad bit off and the whole doesn't equal the sum of its parts... Lack a little in terms of depth and complexity...

M - Medium bodied... Light carbonation... Chalky... A bit of a dry finish... A faint booziness lingers... Could use a bit more mellowness...

D - A boozy sipper... There's a lot of good things going on here, but it's not quite an elite American Barleywine... Still a very solid offering from Williamsburg Alewerks who has yet to disappoint me... This one could use some aging to smooth out the edges...

Photo of Devi0us
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of BeerSox
3.8/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bomber into an 8oz snifter.

Ultra deep mahogany color with a thin tan head that slowly settles to a thin rim. This one is so dark it's nearly opaque, a rare characteristic in a Barleywine.

The aroma is also very unique with a lot of molasses that almost covers up the spicy hops.

The hops provid a good amount of bitter flavor, however there is some residual sugar left in there that balances it, but is also a little cloying. The flavor reminds me of grape soda. Full bodied with a low amount of carbonation. The finish is the lingering bitter hops.

This is a really really sweet Barleywine. The bottle says "1892 of 2007" so I'm wondering if this is a 2007 vintage (I'm sure it is). So after around a year, I'm assuming the hops have faded quite rapidly. I think this one should be enjoyed fresh.

Photo of hoppymcgee
3.75/5  rDev -3.8%

to view all ratings, reviews and sorting options.
Grand Illumination from AleWerks Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 205 ratings.