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Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine - Kuhnhenn Brewing Company

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Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine
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BA SCORE
98
world-class

588 Ratings
THE BROS
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no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 588
Reviews: 190
rAvg: 4.43
pDev: 8.58%
Wants: 1,200
Gots: 118 | FT: 12
Brewed by:
Kuhnhenn Brewing Company visit their website
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  14.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 02-17-2003

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 588 | Reviews: 190
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Photo of Morakaton
4.74/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Photo of tectactoe
4.73/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Kevin for bringing this along - 2010 vintage. Yet another infamous Kuhnhenn brew that has eluded me longer than it should have. It pours a solid, red-tinted copper color with really nice clarity. Barely any head forms, though that's not much of a surprise for a three year old 15.1% ABV barley wine; a small beige collar is the one sign that carbonation still exists within this brew.

After popping the cap, the smell of Kuhnhenn's BBBW fills the room - after pouring it and bringing the glass to my face, it smells like I'm standing in a sticky caramel and toffee factory. So insanely sweet and so insanely strong. Sticky caramel, heavy toffee, dark fruits (prunes, juicy dates, raisins), and sticky maple syrup. The beer smells big... Actually, it smells HUGE.

The barrel influence isn't as strong as I was expecting, or at least compared to Kuhnhenn's other popular barrel aged beer, BB4D. Perhaps the barrel-aging time was left, or maybe it's the three years of mellowing that has muzzled it just a bit. Light, woody barrel and vanilla in the finish with pretty staunch booze and bourbon. The bourbon from the barrel is heavier than the barrel itself.

I cut this beer with a knife and take a bite... Seriously, the body is huge; extremely viscous, chewy, sticky, and creamy beyond your wildest dreams. The largest, caramel-y and toffee-laden backdrop asserts itself immediately with each sip; a substantial boozy flavor swims throughout the sugary sweet and malty base, confirming that the "bourbon" is more forward than the "barrel".

Plenty of dark, fruity sweetness plays amidst the caramel and brown sugar bath; more dates, more raisins, and tons of sweet prunes. Light anise and a drying, palate-scraping assertion of booze-soaked oak and wood lasts long into the aftertaste. Palate coating to the maximum, this is the type of beer you'll be tasting long after you've swallowed.

Such a treat, and such a great beer. Robust, ominous, and one of the best barley wines I can recall drinking in recent memory. Though many people would argue, I'd say that I enjoy this beer much more than Bourbon Barrel Fourth Dementia. This beer is just so hard to criticize. I'll be sure to stock up on this each time Kuhnhenn releases it... Such an awesome barley wine.

Photo of linnymtu
4.73/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Photo of mothman
4.72/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2009 Vintage

Big thanks to eyebrews for sending this one out

Pours hardly any beige head. Color is an amazing bright ruby hued mahogony brown. This beer is glowing. Very appealing.

Aroma: Sweet and malty. Caramel and toffee. Big oak flavors. Bourbon is subtle but a perfect amount for the beer. Raisins and dark dried fruit notes in there as well. Perfect.

Taste: More bourbon up front. Rich caramel and toffee. Big oak flavors again. Reminds me a bit of cedar. Vanilla comes out here. The flavors blend very well. A little hot, but not bad.

Mouthfeel: Warming and smooth. Fairly large bodied with a lower amount of carbonation. Ends a little dry with some bourbon notes. Very well done.

Overall, a damn fine ba bwine. A little hot, but still very well done.I don't really mind the small amount of heat for the style. They tops many ba bwines I have had. I really want more.

Photo of wellsnb
4.7/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Photo of mcallister
4.7/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle from the 2005 batch that has been in my cellar since release.

This is a dense, deep garnet, opaque and just plain dirty looking with almost no carbonation.

Nose is wonderful, full of dried sweet fruits of date, raisin, prune, and fig with large toffee reserves and caramel. Hints of milk chocolate, than a burst of vanilla and bourbon too round things out.

Beers really don't get much better than this. The bourbon and vanilla character is very well done and just adds a layer of complexity to the rich malt backbone instead of taking the lead role like so many barrel aged beers do. Tastes almost identical to the nose with a bit of acidity and warmth in the mouth and chest. Love english style barley wines and this one is one of the best I've ever had. Very sweet but not cloying, the epitome of an after dinner/dessert beer.

Photo of Mistofminn
4.7/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Mega thanks goes out to Mothman, for sharing this with me. 6 oz of this whale, all to myself!

Pours a amber orangish color, clear with some flaky sediment. Poured with a head, but shrinks and disappears. Leaves little to no lacing.

The nose is strong and intense. Big woody notes. I don't get a ton of bourbon here, or booze for that matter. Just a dry, oaky, caramely, malty barleywine. It smells fantastic.

Sitting here now reviewing this, I'm kind of amazed that the ABV on this is so high. I never imagined it was this high when I was enjoying it. Being the last beer of the night, one could argue my senses were skewed. I beg to differ, as we sipped on some low ABV sours for quite some time before cracking into this night cap. And boy was it a night cap...

The taste is great...brown sugar and caramel, oak and malts, sweet toffee and vanilla. Again, literally no alcohol, it's incredibly well hidden amongst the layers of intense flavors. It's different every time I take a sip, and evolves as it warms. This was sipped and savored over the course of half an hour or so.

About medium in body, with a pefect carbonation level. Smooth and slightly boozy in the feel. I only say that because you can feel the heat in your throat and stomach, it's just hard for me to taste actual alcohol. Drinkability is probably criminally dangerous.

Obviously, a world class beer. One I will probably never get to try again. The beer exceeds the hype on this one. If you don't like this beer, then BA Barleywine's just aren't for you, as this is the top of it's class. Thanks Ben for this once in a lifetime chance!

Photo of _morandi_
4.68/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Photo of EuphonicHops
4.68/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Photo of GoGriz
4.67/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I love Bourbon Barrel Barleywines and some just taste better than others. This is one of them.

Pours a super dark copper color with a thin filmy head that hangs around for a bit. The smell is of fig and dark fruit, brown sugar and caramel bourbony goodness. Hints of vanilla follow. The flavor is like the nose only balanced by a mild hop presence at the back end. My only knock on this beer is that it could be more decadent (a heavier, more extreme flavor profile) and I would imagine that in time it will be. I have an 08' that I will drink and compare this with later. Mouthfeel is perfect with a good creamy heft and nice carbonation. Drinkability is hard to judge...can you give a 15% beer a 5 on drinkability?

Do yourself a favor and track this down. If this beer was a woman, well you know....

Photo of Viggo
4.67/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had at Mondial de la Biere 2007. They give generous samples at the Petit Pub. 8 or so ounces for $5 CDN.

Pours a hazy caramel brown, thin off white head, lace spots, decent retention, head eventually disappears though. Smell is wow. Toffee, bourbon, alcohol, very rich, dates raisons, amazing. Taste is too. Sweet toffee, buttery oak, bourbon, dates, more toffee, bit of citrus, alcohol, super caramelized oaky vanilla goodness, just insane good. Mouthfeel is full bodied with low carbonation, hot going down, just right. Kuhnhenn is amazing.

Photo of woosterbill
4.67/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

2009 bottle into a Birra del Borgo tulip. Huge thanks to Knifestyles for sharing this fantastic beer.

A: Practically still, hazy orange body. While the lack of carbonation is a bit off-putting at first, closer observation reveals how richly the beer coats the glass with rich, symmetrical legs. This looks more like a fine whisky than a beer, and it's intoxicatingly appealing.

S: So rich, so insane. Vanilla and bourbon are the predominant notes, but it's so much more than that. The complexity is so great it calls for a narrative to explain it: this beer smells like a marshmallow that got toasted and lightly burnt in a cherry-wood fire, was extinguished in moist, leafy soil, and was then kept in a raw oak box full of fine small-batch bourbon. Yeah, it's that awesome.

T: How can something so boozy be so good? Smooth, rich, and sweet. Bourbon, vanilla, toffee, butterscotch, earthiness, tobacco, leather, and straight alcohol. Terrific.

M: Slick, substantial, and prickly with alcohol heat.

O: This is the third time I've been fortunate enough to taste this beer, but my encounter with the '09 vintage. It's significantly more complex and drinkable than the '10, but of course the '10 is a bit stronger, and also amazing. Whatever crazy things the Kuhnhenn people do to make this beer, they need to keep on doing it. I've never had a barrel-aged barleywine that manages to be so ridiculously dense with flavor while reining in the booze so elegantly; even though a couple ounces of this beer lasts a long, long time, I have no doubt that I could easily put back an entire bottle without losing the least bit of interest and excitement. It's only rival in this class of beer is Kuhnhenn's own Bourbon Barrel 4th Dementia, and I'd be hard pressed to choose a favorite. I guess I'll just have to try to them side-by-side someday!

Cheers!

Photo of hoppymeal
4.67/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark amber to brown and clear with the slightest flash of some cream colored carbonation that fades back in an instant. Aroma is rich sweet maltiness, prunes, raisins, cherries, aged overripe fruit, and coconutty alcohol. Nose is a good indicator of taste here as the beer is incredibly rich and sweet. Bourbon comes thru in the taste but only very lightly, a little cola flavor is evident which mixes with the sweet sugary fruity and pruney maltiness. There is alcohol evident in the taste as well, no real bite, just a nice mellow warmth. Fairly full in body, the carbonation is definitely low as evidenced on the pour, there is a nice tingle on the tongue that balances the sweetness and some dryness in the warming finish. This beer was absolutely incredible for me, one of those that every smell was as good as the first and every taste made me say wow. A nice sweet night cap, and even though the alcohol content is quite high I savor each drop and know I could definitely drink more of this.

Photo of DavoleBomb
4.66/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured into a snifter. 2011 vintage. Big thanks to Urbancaver for hooking me up.

3.5 A: Murky dark brown color. Just a quarter finger of tannish head than falls quickly and leaves very little lacing. Kuhnhenn has little time to worry about their beers asthetics.

5.0 S: Aggressive, complex, yet extremely complementary. Thick, rich caramel and toffee. Huge raisin, tobacco, plum, prune, and date slap the smell receptors silly. Only mildy boozy despite the huge ABV. Bourbon and barrel add more complexity to an already superbly complex base. Leather, light peat, earth, and melon fruits in addition to oak and vanilla from the barrel.

4.5 T: Tastes like the nose, but isn't as aggressive (how could it be, really?). Huge raisin, prune, tobacco, plum and all that jazz. Again the booze is hidden very well. Big sweetness, but nothing out of hand and definitely not Bruery level. Leather, peat, earth, melon, vanilla, oak. Wonderful taste.

4.5 M: Heavy body. Carbonation is on the lower end of acceptable. Rich, palpable thickness without necessarily being overly chewy.

5.0 D: A taste could have also been a 5.0, so I'll add it here. Really wonderful beer. Kuhnhenn are masters at hiding booze while delivering the amount of flavor that you can only get from a huge ABV beer. Not quite as good as BB4D, but damn close.

Photo of fishmich
4.64/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Photo of cosmicevan
4.64/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

big thanks to bierenutz for hooking this one up. put a 2010 and 2011 in the fridge, starting out with the 2010 and will hopefully move onto the 2011, but after 15.1%, not sure i'll be able to tackle a 14.5%, but hey, it IS monday...isn't it? enjoyed out of my kuhnhenn snifter.

2010
a - popped the bottle and filled my glass, the brew poured a rich mahogany caramel color with a fingers worth of greyish creamy head that fizzled away in less than a minute leaving a small ring of bubbly head around the surface of the brew. no lacing to speak of whatsoever. pretty much what i'd expect for a beer this big.

s - as soon as i popped the bottle i could smell this gem. in a word perfection. caramel soaked in bourbon. a really perfect blend. great sweetness. nuttiness. really just a magical blend. the heat is invisible in the nose.

t - the taste is just as spectacular as the nose, but the heat is a bit more evident. for a 15.1% beer though, this is WELL hidden. excellent english barleywine with toffee and caramel like malts.

m - the heat can really be felt in the aftervibe. my mouth tingles with delight of the booze that has just gone down my gullet. SUPER smooth...super amazing.

o - overall, i am blown away. all this talk of king henry and abacus/sucaba, and even BB4D to a large extent. where are the people screaming from the rooftops about BBBW (i do know that there are a few of you out there though). can't wait to rip open the 2011...the plan is to open it when i have an ounce or two of this left for comparison. fingers crossed that i can handle all that dynomite brew tonight.

*** ** ***
2011 (side-by-side with a few ounces of 2010 saved for comparison)

a - 2011 looks a bit deeper and darker and more purple.

s - there is a distinct difference in the smell, the 2010 clearly carries more booze when compared to the 2011, but both hide it magnificently. the 2011 has a stronger sweetness presence, but the 2010 is far more complex (and also warmed up a bit, so perhaps things will change). much more nutmeg in the 2011.

t - wow, the 2011 might taste better. in the side-by-side, the 2010 tastes much more boozy. the 2011 is just phenomenal (both are really). both are balanced amazingly. both exhibit everything you want in an english barleywine and HUGE ABVs that are well masked and masterfully crafted.

m - just as smooth as the 2010, the booze is just as well hidden. the 2011 clearly has less booze in a side-by-side.

o - choosing a favorite between the two is like choosing a favorite child...just not possible. they each have characteristics that are amazing and both have similarities that are just top of the heap.

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Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine from Kuhnhenn Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 588 ratings.