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Grand Illumination - AleWerks Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Grand IlluminationGrand Illumination

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

101 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 101
Hads: 220
Avg: 3.92
pDev: 14.29%
Wants: 30
Gots: 48 | FT: 3
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: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 101 | Hads: 220
Reviews by manleyphoto:
Photo of manleyphoto
4.15/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Think global, drink local. That is the motto of the craft beer industry. Now, I'm not much for sloganeering, but that is a mantra I can get behind. At one time in this country the only beer you could get came from a local brewery. Different regions championed different styles and the variety was dependant on the taste of the local drinkers. Now, most of the beer consumed in the world comes from huge international breweries with multi-million dollar marketing departments and shipping networks that reach to far corners of the globe. The real tragedy in that fact is that they are all producing the same kind of beer.
We are lucky here in Hampton Roads to have several local beer makers with passion for producing quality products. One of those breweries is the Williamsburg AleWerks. They make beer roughly in the American-colonial style with a strong modern twist. In addition to their regular lineup AleWerks has introduces a line of limited release Brewmasters Reserves. Souped-up beers that higher in alcohol and flavor than the year-round releases. All of this year's Reserves are produced in a run of 2007 22-ounce bottles that are numbered. The Williamsburg AleWerks website: www.williamsburgalewerks.com even has a place to register your bottle to tell the brewer what you plan to do with it; drink it now, or store it for later.
One of the newest of these is Reserves is the Grand Illumination Ale. A barley wine named for the Williamsburg festival. Barley wines are big beers; big malt, big hops, big alcohol. They are perfect for sipping on cold winter nights and stand up well to aging. Grand Illumination is a rich beer with a massive malt character that tastes of toffee and burnt-sugar caramel. There is also a huge bouquet of citrusy American hops to balance what would be an overwhelming sweetness of the malt. This beer has a lot to offer and a good addition to the AleWerks line. I can't think of a beer that goes better with cold weather than a barley wine, and this is great choice. Barley wines are meant to be cellared to mellow out the flavors, and while this beer is good, it's also a little rowdy. I'm excited to taste it again after a little bit of age. I think I need to buy another bottle to give it some time, while I try another bit of local flavor I can really get behind.

 2,310 characters

More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
4.08/5  rDev +4.1%
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.

 519 characters

Photo of DanGeo
3.67/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of JacobMutberg
4/5  rDev +2%

Photo of joel66
3.75/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of Tiderion
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
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.

 608 characters

Photo of megamass
4/5  rDev +2%

Photo of SkinnyElvis
4/5  rDev +2%

Photo of Mantooth
3.94/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of dmk91
3.5/5  rDev -10.7%

Photo of glid02
3.88/5  rDev -1%
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.

 1,028 characters

Photo of Metalmonk
4.54/5  rDev +15.8%
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.

 1,442 characters

Photo of Sammy
3.48/5  rDev -11.2%
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.

 263 characters

Photo of dafizzif
3.97/5  rDev +1.3%
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.

 643 characters

Photo of NeroFiddled
3.96/5  rDev +1%
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.

 2,921 characters

Photo of dirtylou
4/5  rDev +2%
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

 495 characters

Photo of avisong
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.03/5  rDev -22.7%
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.

 339 characters

Photo of ERAUPike2005
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1014-2014 - poured into snifter. Pours a deep Carmel color with a slightly tan head that dissipated quickly. Nice lacing on the glass.

Nice notes of fig and maybe banana on the nose. Booze is well hidden.

Taste is very nice and a bit on the sweet side. More dark fruit notes, carmel, with a bit of heat on the back back end from the alcohol. Nice reminder that it's there but not to forward or in your face.

Medium mouthfeel- seems just right. Not syrupy and not thin.

Enjoyable beer overall. I haven't had many Barelywines but I enjoyed this a bit more than the offering from SN. I would purchase again. Cheers.

 624 characters

Photo of PaBeerLover
4/5  rDev +2%

Photo of Vonerichs
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
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.

 468 characters

Photo of GFish
4.25/5  rDev +8.4%

Photo of GRG1313
3.5/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of akorsak
4.12/5  rDev +5.1%
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.

 1,157 characters

Photo of macesq
3.67/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

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Grand Illumination from AleWerks Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 101 ratings.