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Before The Dawn - Steel Toe Brewing

Not Rated.
Before The DawnBefore The Dawn

Educational use only; do not reuse.

26 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 26
Hads: 163
Avg: 4.19
pDev: 22.2%
Wants: 102
Gots: 41 | FT: 3
Brewed by:
Steel Toe Brewing visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  13.70% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: claaark13 on 06-28-2012

Black Barleywine aged in bourbon barrels. Before the Dawn is a fusion of a Barleywine and a Russian Imperial Stout. Layer upon layer of complex malt character is what makes this beer so special. Caramel and toffee give way to molasses, coco and roasted malt. This rich and warming beer underwent a lengthy aging process in bourbon barrels which lends a wonderful oak and vanilla character followed by moderate tannin in the finish.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 26 | Hads: 163
Photo of GreesyFizeek
3.2/5  rDev -23.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Bottle shared by Curran last night.

Pours a light black/dark brown, with a small, fizzy head, and basically no lacing.

Out of the bottle, this smelled kind of like dirty diapers and bandaids. Once poured out, this aroma luckily faded a bit, I get some caramel and chocolate, but I also get a bit of metallic aroma as well. This isn't boding well.

For a 13.7% ABV BA stout/barleywine, the flavor kind of falls surprisingly flat. There's an odd vegetal quality, along with the aforementioned metallic feel, along with the expected black malt, chocolate, and caramel. It all just doesn't pop the way you'd expect it to, unfortunately. It seems like the bottle was possibly compromised.

This is medium bodied, with a lower level of carbonation, and a thick, creamy mouthfeel. This at least feels right.

I feel like I wasn't drinking the same beer that everybody else was drinking- there was definitely issues here.

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Photo of morimech
3.47/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 3.5

From the second release a day after picking it up at the brewery.

Dense, dark, thick black fluid with half a finger head that stuck around for good long time. The chocolate colored head settles to a thick cap. A lot of spotty lacing is left down the glass.

Bit of a weird aroma and not at all what I was expecting. Chocolate protein shake, wet lumber, vanilla, and lightly roasted malt. No significant sign of alcohol.

Not that whiskey forward but the barrel does play a significant flavor factor. I get more vanilla and woodsy flavor, then the whiskey. Some roasted malt with notes of chocolate and coffee. I could swear they put some lactose in this beer. Slight alcohol flavor and heat in the finish.

Thick and rich body. Very nicely carbonated gives a silky smooth, big beer feel.

I know the beer was originally brewed to be an imperial stout. I honestly do not know why they would go away from that style descriptor as it has better stout qualities, such as viscosity and luscious mouthfeel, than a lot of big stouts. I do not think barleywine when I drink this. The Bourbon barrel did not come through that well and this beer has some bizarre flavors for a barleywine or imperial stout. Huge letdown.

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Photo of brentk56
3.79/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Couldn't possibly be any blacker and the head is as dark as any I have seen; though the foam doesn't get that high, it leaves viscous spots of lacing

Smell: Molasses, licorice, charred oak, Bourbon, pine, prune and chocolate; quite boozy

Taste: Molasses, licorice and prune, up front, with a growing burnt oak character; Bourbon and pine build, after the swallow and there is some chocolate in the finish; still quite hot and boozy, even after a year

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with low carbonation; warmth in the gullet

Overall: I had high hopes for this beer as I have enjoyed most everything else I have tasted but, despite the creativity of brewing a black barleywine, the flavors really clash

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Photo of womencantsail
3.9/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The pour is very dark brown in color with a khaki head. A light roastiness followed by tons of whiskey, vanilla, caramel, and dark fruits. A really nice barrel aroma to this. A light oxidation on the palate, but really great barrel flavors. Whiskey, vanilla, caramel, and dark fruits. There’s a rather strong roasted malt note, and some spiciness of wood and rye.

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Photo of rudzud
3.92/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Shared with JLindros and Threelions.

A - Poured into a Kate the Great tulip a nice dark black hue with a thin mocha head that fades to leave light halo and thin wisps.

S - Aromas of somewhat black malts, caramel, light, roast.

T - Taste is much much better, chocolate, caramel, bourbon, faint alcohol. Really smooth and clearly aged, very mellow and balanced.

M - Mouthfeel is really nice, creamy, alcohol hidden well.

O - Overall, this beer was really good. I had high
higher expectations but yah, this was good.

Serving type: Bottle

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Photo of jlindros
3.97/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to rudzud for sharing.

Light fizzy dark head, nice legs, pitch black.

Nose is pretty interesting, lots of fudge and cocoa, chewy dark malts, dark choc and nice cocoa fudge caramel, faint oak and bourbon.

Taste big fudgey cocoa, chewy dark malts, cocoa, some booze and cocoa, fudgey, chewy, create dark choc, etc. Finish dark fudgey cocoa, bitter notes, Light roast, etc. into a mild vanilla barrel and some bourbon notes.

Mouth is fuller bod, decent carb, light booze.

Overall interesting, a bit too dark and roasty for a barleywine, more like a stout, but nice beer.

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Photo of Rutager
4.02/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks Steasy66!

Appearance. Pours pretty much black with a finger of thick tan head.

Smell. Dark malts, caramel and a little chocolate, molasses and a bit of licorice.

Taste. Whiskey and molasses, vanilla and chocolate, dark roasty malts and maybe a drop of coffee.

Mouthfeel. Full body, warm booze, smooth low carbonation.

Overall. Nice stuff. Wish I had noticed the abv before I decided to solo this. Should be interesting anyways....

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Photo of Powderhornphil
4.02/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black with a brown ring around the very edge. About a half finger head. When the head settles it looks like an oil slick.

Aroma is dark fruits, molassis, caramel.

Tastes of charred fruits. Caramel, brown sugars. Lots of the deep fruit notes of a barley wine. Bitter charred stout notes.

Medium mouthfeel. Big sticky sweet finish.

Overall nice beer. Not as hot as I would have thought.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
4.04/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Very dark body. Nearly black. Almost no head.

Smell - Molasses and whiskey. Lots of dark brown sugar.

Taste - Very sweet. Strong oak. Whiskey isn't that strong, but it complements the malt character well. Intense molasses and chocolate malt. Oaky finish.

Mouthfeel - Low carbonation. Medium heavy.

Overall - Excellent. I like the molasses component.

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Photo of maximum12
4.05/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Haven't sampled this since the day of the release when I popped bottle open to share with the homies in the Beer Bus. I liked it then; but the heat! Has it calmed? We shall see. 750 ML bottle split with my wife before a Breaking Bad episode.

Pour is dark December no stars black. Nose is rustic roast, vanilla, with a peck of vanilla from the whiskey.

Before the Dawn has a unique fingerprint. Wow. Tons of roast that's co-mingled with a Halloween bag full of toffee, which perhaps justifies the 'Black Barleywine' monicker. Touch of spice. Vanilla comes on like a divorced suburban housewife on the finish, along with a shot of bourbon & a bludgeon of alcholic wooziness. Creamy & sweet. Despite the booze, I'm at least three ounces ahead of my wife already. That can't be good. I have two flights of stairs to climb later.

Before is mellowing, like a glacier. I might be dead before the alcoholic canines fully disappear. Nonetheless, one more excellent beer out of Steel Toe, & I'm always looking forward to the next thing coming out of the tanks.

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Photo of dbossman
4.09/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black with hardly any head and minimal lacing

S: Malty, boozy; some bourbon and dark fruits; man, that smells good

T: Not too complex but tasty; bourbon, oak, and dark fruits blend together nicely

F: A touch thin but creamy enough to create a decent mouth feel on the finish

O: A very nice, boozy and yet not-too-complex barrel-aged barley wine; I wish it tasted as good as it smelled but I will take it nonetheless--it's a nice beer

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Photo of tewaris
4.1/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Looks black, duh.

Dark and chocolaty aroma with with a good presence of barleywine fruitiness. Tastes big and somewhat boozy with a finishing roast and you can tell that it started its life as a stout (if the rumors are true).

However, there's plenty of toffee sweetness and dates/figs notes that make it a barleywine alright. Much lower barrel presence than their first one (Lunker) but delicious nonetheless.

I am comparing it to a 2+ years old Nightstalker because that's what this is reminding me of. The mouthfeel could have been better. Overall it is very good and I might have rated it higher had there not been a pour of MOAS on the side to keep things in perspective.

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Photo of claaark13
4.16/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Cork and caged 75cl bottle served at cellar temp into a Hill Farmstead tulip. Schlais is the man. This is a "Black Barleywine" aged in rye whiskey barrels.

A - Nearly black pour with a 1" creamy mocha head. Turns into some nice lacing. Looks more like a RIS. Seems to stick relaly well to the sides, but the legs don't remain too well. It looks fantastic, but I'd expect this out of a RIS, not a barleywine. Confusing?

S - Loads of caramel upfront. Dark malts, some spices. There is some barrel as well. Smells like a regular BA Barleywine.

T - Carmel, some vanilla throughout. Mild spices come through. Very smooth, vanilla finish. Some woodiness comes around as well as some mild booze. A little bit of roast starts to come through. The finish shows the slightest dry character mixed with creamy roast. Spiciness from the rye barrel is present. Minimal alcohol present considering the ABV%. Mild hops in the middle show as bitterness. I find a little coffee as well.

M - Somewhere between medium and thick. Feels pretty thick and creamy on the tongue.

O - It seems like the roast is what differentiates this from a regular American Barleywine. This is a great beer. Really tough to compare it to the Barleywine style. The spices from the rye barrel are a bit light, but the caramel/vanilla is nice. The roast gives it some RIS characteristics, but the Barleywine seems to still dominate. Don't age this, drink it now. I need another one. This is very interesting.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.16/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

thanks to egrace84 for the bottle share!

poured into crooked stave tulip glass.

Appearance: black bodied beer with thinf brown cap that quickly drops to mo head.

Smell: Big spicy rye malts. Oak, vanilla, smoke, and cherries. Big notes of black licorice.

Taste: Rye whiskey upfront. Black licorice. vanilla and oak. Finishes with roasty / smokey notes and a lingering light char.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer with low carbonation. Smooth beer with a little bit of a booze burn.

Overall: This one is big on the rye malts and black licorice. I do really enjoy the charred aftertaste that just lingers on for a while. This is a solid BA American Barleywine that travels the path less ventured.

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Photo of mothman
4.2/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Short review: reminds me of BCS

Light tan head. Color is black.

Aroma: a lot like BCS 

Taste: more BCS flavors but a little bit of coffee and roast

Mouthfeel: warming and smooth. Medium carbonation. Full bodied. Ends with a bit of roast and heat.

Overall, a really great beer. Really surprised with this one. Really reminds me of BCS.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.23/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to jmgrub for sharing this one at GRG1313's tasting.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, caramel, toffee, vanilla, bourbon, wood, and alcohol aromas. Taste is much the same with cocoa, caramel, toffee, vanilla, and bourbon flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roast bitterness and an alcohol kick on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer with nice stout like qualities that work well with the barleywine characteristics.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.28/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle from eawolff99. Served in a Russian River tulip.

A - Tan foam settles to a thin cap, thick collar, and spots of lace; impressive retention for a 13.7% beer. Body is near-black, which is unsurprising for a 'black' barleywine.

S - Massive rye whiskey and oak aroma, with a mix of roasted malts and caramel sweetness in the background. Vanilla presence increases substantially as the beer warms up, and the choice of rye imparts a nice mildly spicy character. A mix of stout and barleywine characteristics for sure, and while a tad boozy it's not offensive for the ABV.

T - The taste has a bit more subdued rye whiskey presence, with more of the base beer shining through. Starts off roasty and chocolate-heavy but transitions to sweeter barleywine flavors in the finish. The rye is certainly still there but integrates better, and the oak is dialed down a notch or two.

M - Smooth, full body, with sticky and chewy heft to it. Surprisingly creamy and low in oaky dryness considering how potent the aroma was. Well-hidden alcohol makes this a bit deceptive, and there isn't a ton of burn or warmth.

D - A very good beer of which I'd never heard, so kudos to eawolff99 for the recommendation on this one. Great complexity that clearly delivers all the flavor elements advertised from the description: Rye Whiskey Barrel-Aged Black Barleywine. Surprisingly mellow already, but should age quite well for a number of years. Deceptive stuff, which resulted in a lot of drunk folk; make sure you have a few friends on hand before opening this one.

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Photo of jera1350
4.34/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage- Thanks Rouse!

Pours a thin black color. Has the look of a dark colored barleywine. Thin head of khaki foam and a bit of lacing.

Lots of bourbon/whiskey in the nose. Vanilla, light roast, oak and toffee with a hint of alcohol.

Even after a year, the barrel notes are intense. Not overly so, just very up front and delicious. Loads of bourbon, vanilla, toffee, caramel and some roasted malt. There is a bit of coffee that comes out in the aftertaste. Slightly boozy and warm.

Heavier end of medium bodied, very smooth and mildly dry.

I can't imagine how hot this must have been fresh. At this point, it could benefit with some more age, but it is damn delicious as is. Teeters on the line of stout and barleywine, but I think the latter is more accurate. Packs a punch in abv and flavor and is amazing in the barrel aged beer category. Great job Steel Toe!

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Photo of jmarsh123
4.38/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Schlais for the bottle!

Pours dark brown almost black with a small beige head receding quickly. Legs down the glass. Good lacing and retention for the ABV.

Bitter Baker's chocolate, a little toffee and spicy rye whisky in the aroma. Doesn't smell overly boozy despite the ABV and the chocolate character is bold and welcome.

Strong dark chocolate is the first thing that comes through on the flavor. Very much the most bold flavor. Bits of toffee and some more spicy whisky come through near the end. Finishes with a distinct rye kick and a little warming booze. Present, but well integrated whisky.

Medium mouthfeel. Good carbonation perhaps a touch higher than I'm used to on the style, but it works well with the whisky.

Very nice surprise and glad I traded for one. Can stand toe to toe with many BA American Barleywines around.

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Photo of thagr81us
4.42/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Shared by caSSino during BRoss242’s send-off party before he moves! Will miss you man! Served from bottle into a Mikkeller taster flute. Poured black with a half finger light tan head that subsided to a minimal amount quickly. Maintained decent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, roasted malt, vanilla, dark chocolate, and dark fruit. The flavor was of sweet malt, caramel, vanilla, dark chocolate, roasted malt, caramel hop, and dark fruit. It had a heavy feel on the palate with medium carbonation. Overall this was a fairly great brew. This was definitely the highlight of the tasting this evening as I was really wowed and shocked at what I found upon first investigation. Everything was really well balanced and all the flavors and aromas were spot-on for the style and with all the right intensity. I could have easy pounded a full bottle of this with no problem, but sharing is caring unfortunately. An absolute must try without a doubt as this was one of my biggest surprises of the year so far.

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
4.45/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A big thanks to Jeff for this one. 750ml waxed and capped bottle into a Founders snifter. Shared with schen9303.

Pours pitch black and super viscous. A thin dark fudge colored head sits atop the brew but dissipates quickly. Thick, oily legs coat the sides of the glass. Lacing is spotty and sparse with little stick. Awesome.

Nose is roast, raisin, molasses, booze, chocolate, fudge, and sweet soy sauce. Deep, rich and delicious.

Opens sweet soy sauce, raisin, chocolate, fudge, and molasses. Super sweet and heavy. Boozy in the middle with a bit of smoke, roast and tobacco. Finishes liquorice, cocoa, fudge, and more molasses. Really sweet and decadent. Like drinking a cocoa-dusted brownie.

Full bodied with low carbonation. Warm and viscous in the mouth and goes down boozy, sticky and rich. Finishes messy with a sticky, sweet aftertaste. Amazing.

I'm very impressed by this huge beer. Certainly up there as one of the more memorable barrel-aged beers. Worth trying.

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Photo of DAThompson
4.48/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Luckily, I was able to make the release party, so my first taste of Before the Dawn was right from the Steel Toe Taproom.

The pour was dark and opaque; almost black. There was a finger of light tan head on the pour. Chocolate and malt came across on both the smell and the taste. Although the barrel could have been stronger, I enjoyed the more subtle, almost sweet, rye barrel flavor. That taste of rye really made the beer stand out from all of the other bourbon-aged beers that I've had. Although this was billed as a barley wine, it was much more stout-like in character in my opinion.

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Photo of KevSal
4.5/5  rDev +7.4%

This beer is fantastic, much more in the vein of a ba impy stout but the barleywine aspects are there. This is seriously tasty, near assassin/gom tasty, no foolin. Dang its a good time to be livin in MN for sure.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.57/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Steel Toe Brewing Before the Dawn Barrel Aged Black Barley-wine Ale. Malt Beverage Aged in Rye Whisky Barrels. Brewed and Bottled by Steel Toe Brewing, St. Louis Park, MN. Zero vowels, consonants, or syllables of gobbledygook accompanying the legal label information.

Utter darkness, completely opaque, with a slight, slim head of cocoa-tinged foam.

Aroma: Whiskey hits first, and nothing but. They spell it "whisky", though, which probably means it's Canadian. Rich, large, and lovely. Vanilla, molasses, black cherry. Pepper and anise. These are all but associations, and just the tip, just the start, only what's popping out at me. A little char and roast roars up, too, lush malt is keeping up with the work of the barrel.

I get the name now, all of a sudden. "It's always darkest…" Damn, why did I not get that till now?

Taste: Thick, viscous, rich, and ridiculous. Huge whisky flavor, intense malt domination, not a whistle from hops, but the viscosity is terribly felt and the tastiness is monumental. All those flavors from aroma come back in spades on the tongue. We've got the char, the roast, the anise, the molasses, a whisper of espresso, and a big bite of chocolate. It's utterly indulgent, and abundantly rewarding. It's goddamned good, is what it is!

What else it is, is a hell of a nightcap. I wish they packaged this in little "nip" bottles, 6 ounces or so, so I can pop on off, and slowly consume as I slip into slumber. Once a night, for nights on end. That's the dream, anyway.

It's a great big, beautiful blend of flavors. The vanilla, anise, cocoa, whisky and molasses all popping out at different intervals, but all part of this wonderful stew.

I just noticed what else is missing from the label. Alcohol content is missing. I'm guessing it's 10-12%.

So huge, so vast, so long. But no "so, long", I'm not even halfway into the bottle. More fun to come. I'm going to slowly sip the night away, and lean back, reeling with the feeling, while Coltrane plays something deep, long and ponderous. Ah, that's the stuff.

Have you ever heard anyone say, "What's my favorite beer? The one in my glass right now." I think that was Michael Jackson. Sounds like him. This is my favorite beer right now. And maybe it will be even after I'm done drinking it. It's amazing. It's perfect. It rocks. Long may it wave.

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Photo of larryi86
4.58/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Thanks bstyle of for this!
750 ml bottle poured into a snifter

A- Black with a nice dense dark khaki head.

S- Bourbon, toffee, molasses, some vanilla, some chocolate, roasted malts.

T- Bourbon, molasses, vanilla, chocolate, roasted coffee in the finish, toffee, some dark fruits, nice balance of flavors.

M- Smooth, full body, slick.

O- This is a great barrel aged beer with a really nice balance coming from the coffee finish. Alcohol is kind of there but is not too much or off putting. Worth seeking out, I really hope to get more of this in the future!

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Before The Dawn from Steel Toe Brewing
91 out of 100 based on 26 ratings.