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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale - Mad River Brewing Company

John Barleycorn Barleywine AleJohn Barleycorn Barleywine Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

447 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 447
Reviews: 346
rAvg: 3.73
pDev: 13.4%

Brewed by:
Mad River Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  11.00% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
Same recipe each year. ABV varies slightly 9.5-11.0%

(Beer added by: xlperro on 10-26-2004)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Latest | High | Low | Top Reviewers | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale Alström Bros
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Ratings: 447 | Reviews: 346 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of minterro


3.64/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Bought at Little's Wine and Liquor store. Bottle is from 2011 and store cellared, so anywhere from a little over 3 years old. Never heard of this brewery before, I like the label though (different from the BA pic).

A&S: Almost opaque garnet colored beer. Lots of unfiltered specks floating around. Light tan head that doesn't hang around or leave lacing. Not a whole lot of aroma coming off this beer, but includes sweet maltyness, some alcohol, lacking a hops presence (not surprising with the aging).

T&M: This beer has got to be pretty bitter fresh even after 3 years aging, must be pretty brutal fresh. Alcohol presence is great with this amount of aging. Heavy on the malts with hints of carmel and apple cider. Kind of a nutty finish. Has sweeter elements of an English Barleywine and the bitterness of an American Barleywine. Semi-dry finish. Medium body, low carbonation. Pretty palate cleansing, no real chewy lingering effects.

Overall: Without having it fresh, this seems like a good one to site on so it can cool. Not spectacular, but not bad. At less than 3 bucks and 11% ABV it is work a try, but I personally wouldn't buy it again. Admittedly, this is my favorite of the two barleywine styles.

Serving type: bottle

04-06-2014 03:35:27 | More by minterro
Photo of zac16125

South Carolina

4.05/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a tulip
no bottling dates

A: Very dark brown, almost black, with just over 1 fingers width of light tan head. Head dissipates down fairly quickly and leaves a decent amount of lacing.

S: Dark fruits, caramel/toffee, cinnamon, bakers chocolate. Pretty sweet, with some balancing booze. Components are very nice, but its fairly mild.

T: Fig like dark fruits, toffee, vinous notes, bakers chocolate, some bitterness. Tasty

M/D: Full bodied, appropriate carbonation, ABV is very well masked, drinkability is good.

O: A solid barleywine. I really enjoyed this one. Worth checking out, for sure.

Serving type: bottle

03-15-2014 03:22:26 | More by zac16125
Photo of BlurryVisi0n

New York

3.54/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Served in a snifter glass. 2012 batch served 02/01/2014.

Appearance: A very dark brown looks almost opaque in the glass with very little bubbles to it's frame creating an off-white (orange-ish) head rising to maybe 1/8".

Smell: Light wood notes with a strong alcohol scent but dissipates very quickly.

Taste: Strong alcohol feel that almost smothers the rest of the brew, with the right dose of barley and very light bitterness.

Mouth: Nice stickiness but not exactly smooth, little rough and the body is somewhere medium but has a closer to flat feel.

Overall: Not a bad brew but better barleywines out there. Lacks complexity, this is more the "looking for a buzz" brew. Worth tasting I don't think I would keep it. Salud!

Serving type: bottle

02-02-2014 03:52:07 | More by BlurryVisi0n
Photo of BierJager89


4.34/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Dark brown with a light brown head.

S: Grapes in the nose, some malt and dark fruit as well.

T: Grape, dark fruit, malt, pretty much the same, but really good, a touch sweet.

M: Full bodied, smoothish.

O: A really good barleywine, from a brewery I don't know much about.

Serving type: bottle

01-18-2014 19:06:41 | More by BierJager89
Photo of Beerswag


3.91/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Bottle poured into st. Bernardus watou chalice
Smell is sweet not too much fragrance, fruity fig, and black cherry nose. Apprearance is dark cherry-wood, minimal head, gone in 2 seconds, even after vigrois pour, expected from a 11%abv'r. No lacing, not too resinous, drinking smooth. Taste is sweet malt, black cherry, sweet caramel, finishes with a good hop profile( possibly simcoe, cluster).mouthfeel is smooth and medium bodied with a slight crips bite on the end. Overall a decent barleywine that would even better paired with duck, pate, dry cheeses such as beemster, or an aged white or yellow chedder...

Serving type: bottle

01-14-2014 01:56:19 | More by Beerswag
Photo of Patrick_E_Sweeney


4.06/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Served from a bottle chilled into a beer tulip. Relatively sparse, tan colored head, with a dark, dark brown color. Aroma of malt, scorched caramel, and alcohol. Taste is an initial very strong malt, a tad overwhelming, which gives way to light, lingering hoppiness, caramel, and toasted grain. Good balance of sweet and bitter. Sweetness fades and bitter remains for 30 seconds to a minute, with a pleasant mouthfeel. Overall very nice. Not spectacular, but definitely worth a taste.

Serving type: bottle

01-06-2014 23:27:13 | More by Patrick_E_Sweeney
Photo of jmdrpi


3.81/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle, 2012 vintage.

appears dark brown, opque, nice 1/4" cream colored head which lasts. aroma is quite malty - rich caramel ,raisins, alcohol. taste is strong, slight boozy aftertaste. actually more bitter than sweet. not quite thick, but definitely coats the tongue. slick mouthfeel.

overall - would be much better if the taste lived up to the smell.

Serving type: bottle

01-03-2014 04:48:00 | More by jmdrpi
Photo of mactrail


3.65/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

Dark, dark red amber in the Crooked Line tulip. Beautiful bubblefest and a creamy off-white foam. Very swirly in the glass and spritzy in the mouth.

This has an unusual musty and woody flavor. It's big and crazy with malt and caramel. Deep, dark roasted grain with a smooth mouthfeel and a sweet taste. Tangy and hoppy after the kiss of malt. Bitterness creeps up along with the wet barrel sensation. Some brown sugar and scorched caramel, but a surprisingly more dry finish.

A wintry powerful brew that is a little off-putting at first, and a little hot at the end, but it's an interesting variation on Barleywines. Better than most of the Mad River stuff, in my opinion. From the 12 oz bottle purchased at Bottlecraft in San Diego.

Serving type: bottle

12-13-2013 05:01:56 | More by mactrail
Photo of srhoadsy


3.93/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Served chilled into a tulip.

Pours a nice chestnut brown with an inch of dark tan head that recedes leaving moderate surface layer and lacing.

Aromas of toffee, dried fruits with an indistinct hint of hops.

Flavors follow through the aromas. The hops come more into focus, with hints of pine and candied citrus peel.

Medium to heavy bodied with a sweet finish. Moderate carbonation with a lingering aftertaste
of burnt sugar and bitter citrus along with some alcohol warmth.

I really enjoyed this beer. It's a hoppy barley wine that makes for a nice winter warmer.

Serving type: bottle

11-24-2013 23:53:50 | More by srhoadsy
Photo of ksimons

New York

4.05/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-a light chestnut with visible sediment and a fingers worth of tan head

S-caramel malt, toffee, rum soaked raisins, plums and cherries, and a small amount of hops

T-similar to the smell, lots of caramel and toffee, rum soaked fruits, and ends with a light bitter finish

M-medium body, medium carbonation, bitter finish left on the tongue

Overall I thought this was pretty good, better than the BA scores suggest. Really nice aroma, maybe a little on the hot side, but not overwhelming.

Serving type: bottle

07-04-2013 20:08:43 | More by ksimons
Photo of Dope


3.33/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

2011 batch.

A: Pours a clear dark red with some brown in there. Decent frothy tan head. Nice thick walls of lacing left behind from the slowly fading head. Great retention as well.

S: Very mild aroma. Almost don't get anything. A little orange marmalade maybe? Touch of stinging alcohol.

T: Interesting taste. It's kind of a sharp orange flavor initially, mixed with some raisins and toffee. Bready in the finish with some toasted malt and a little wave of bitterness from the hops. Somewhat harsh alcohol heat in the aftertaste. Orange flavor is odd, almost artificial or medicinal. Like someone dropped some tang in this.

M: Fairly heavy and thick.

O: Huh, very unusual barleywine. A bit unnecessarily harsh and almost no aroma. Not a bad barleywine, just unusual flavors and not quite right. It was okay, I drank all of it but it was kind of a mess if I'm honest.

Serving type: bottle

06-26-2013 02:52:42 | More by Dope
Photo of Slatetank


3.71/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A 2011 bottle purchased from Half Time, enjoyed chilled from a snifter.

The color is like caramel with a translucent clarity and thin beige cap which rises and settles to a ring with small beading and minimal lace. The smell has a caramel and dried fruit sweetness in the aroma with light stone fruit scent from the yeast. The feel is semi-dry with light sweetness and toasted malt in the texture with moderately high alcohol influence and moderate bitterness and and drying finish.

The taste is slightly caramel up front with a toasted and woody malt flavor with some light spice and dried fruit presence in the yeast profile. The taste has a mild hop accent which contributes to the bitterness in the taste which balances the malt sweetness well, but it also propels the alcohol in the taste forward on the palate adding to the perceived spiciness and warming accent in the semi-dry finish. The overall Impression is that this is a cellar worthy barleywine. I consider it pretty drinkable for the style since it is not intensely sweet, but it does have a strong alcohol influence which detracts slighlty.

Serving type: bottle

05-16-2013 18:46:48 | More by Slatetank
Photo of boilermakerbrew


4.15/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Picked up a 2010 vintage from the local store.

A- Pours an opaque, deep, deep, mahogany. Very small, dense head that only retains a little, but leaves a little foam around the top. No lacing.

S- Huge, sweet malt scents with more huge, bitter oak and a little hops. Terribly complex with a lot of booze kicking in at the end. Overall, the combined scents give a barrel-like scent to this beer.

T- Huge boozy flavors hit up front with a fair dose of hops bitterness. Small transition over to some mildly sweet caramel malts. Big oak-like flavors push it back towards the hops and booze. Ends with a pretty strong combination of hoops and alcohol bitterness that lingers. Interesting and complex, just mot entirely good flavor combinations.

M- Thick and syrupy across the tongue. Very low carbonation with lots of alcohol detectable in the taste. Alcohol has a surprisingly low amount of burn for its prominence in the taste.

Overall, this has been aged between 2 and 3 years, and could stand up for years to come. The alcohol is somewhat overpowering the flavors of the malts, but the hops are still prominent.

Serving type: bottle

04-24-2013 22:08:07 | More by boilermakerbrew
Photo of BeerlyLegal


4.5/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had a 2011 12oz bottle poured into a tulip.

In my opinion this is a damn good barley wine and a bit surprised by BA's ratings. Maybe a little bit too sweet for some, but overall a beautiful brew with an 11.1% ABV that sneaks up on you nicely.

I scented a cheese plate with grapes and apples.

I tasted a caramel syrupy flavor mixed with hints of dark fruit, molasses and malt. With that said, you would think this is a sticky beer however it has a very smooth finish that allows you down it quite easily. I would love to get my hands on this again.

Serving type: bottle

04-20-2013 05:43:50 | More by BeerlyLegal
Photo of evilkalla


3.18/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Serving: 2009 vintage bottle into an ale glass. I drank a couple of these soon after purchase and they were a little harsh, so I've left them on the shelf for a few years. Figured it was time to see if they have improved.

A: Poured thick, slightly hazy, with a small amount of carbonation. Deep amber/brown color. Has a thin film of a head which receded quickly.

S: Has a slightly sweet malty smell to it, but all traces of hops have vanished. Not surprising given the age.

T: The slightest bitterness, with a strong flavor of dark caramel malt. The alcohol is noticeable but not offensive. It has improved a fair amount since I tasted it about three years ago. Overall, a fair but middle of the road barley wine.

M: Thick mouthfeel which is expected given the amount of malt in this beer. Not bad.

O: This is a barley wine that was not very good when it was younger, but improved a bit with a little aging. Still doesn't blow your socks off but it has a relatively mild flavor which isn't offensive.

Serving type: bottle

03-05-2013 00:36:40 | More by evilkalla
Photo of AmitC


4.03/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured the 2011 limited release from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter.

Clouded Brown color. a lot of suspensions and haze. Dirty. About half finger thick tan colored head that stays well as a layer. Decent to excellent lacing on the sides. Almost opaque. Calm.

Aroma still has a lot of hops coming through and at first smell it comes of as an earthy IPA. A good amount of malts and a very typical Barleywine style aroma with a good mix and interplay of earthy, ground hops and strong malts. Very slight alcohol warmth that comes through. A lot of bready and some caramel notes come through in the nose.

Taste is just decent. Again very typical. Some sweetness of malts and hidden yet coming through bitter hops. A good amount of booze and very good alcohol warmth. Finish is semi dry to slightly bitter sweet.

Mouth feel is heavy medium to almost full bodied with a very good chewing texture. Some booze that shines or what looks to be killing the rating of others. No astringency except for 11.1% ABV.

I like it and it drinks good. However, i would not buy it again just because of its price.

Serving type: bottle

02-22-2013 00:29:54 | More by AmitC
Photo of Beaver13


2.95/5  rDev -20.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle. Pours dark murky copper red with a small off-white head that quickly goes to a thin collar.

The aroma is sweet caramel malt with some dark fruit, molasses and alcohol.

The flavor is sweet sugary caramel malts with dark fruit and a medium bitter finish with a big harsh alcohol burn. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with low but spritzy carbonation.

Overall, it's an ok barley wine but not well balanced - too sweet with lots of harsh bitter alcohol.

Serving type: bottle

02-17-2013 05:48:03 | More by Beaver13
Photo of tdm168

North Carolina

4.25/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - dark amber with a thin white lacing that fades rather quickly; there are some hops floating in the rather dense liquid

S - sugary, bready, cake batter, citrusy hop aromas

T - caramel, bread, candy sugar, birthday cake, citrus, bitter finish

M - full bodied, warm, well carbonated

This is a really nice, balanced barleywine. It's incredibly malty and sweet, but the hops are also intense and balance the flavor. The ABV is well hidden adding only some warmth to the mouthfeel. For 11% this is dangerously drinkable. I really enjoyed this one. I will definitely pick it up again.

Serving type: bottle

01-26-2013 13:08:15 | More by tdm168
Photo of portia99


3.2/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2008 vintage (9.1% on the bottle) 12oz bottle poured into a Brooklyn snifter.

A - Pours a muddy brown color touched with amber. Lots of haze and floating particles throughout. Low off-white/tan head.

S - A touch tart, fruity and astringent. Lots of caramel and toffee malt aromas, sweet and sugary. A bit yeasty and somewhat boozy.

T - Underlying hop bitterness, a bit medicinal. Earthy and grainy malt, fruity - a bit apple and grape-like. Caramel sweetness, brown sugar, burnt sugar. Fair amount of oxidation in this 4+ year old twist off bottle.

M - Body is rather thin...surprisingly so. Carbonation is lively and at a higher level with a firm tingle on the tongue. Alcohol is noticeable but only mildly giving a faint touch of warmth. Hops give a bit of a medicine-like bitterness.

O - Overall, just an average barleywine. This is a well aged bottle showing a fair amount of oxidation. The age is obviously showing a bit here and really isn't doing this much service. Better fresh?...I don't know, but as this is just an average barleywine. I wouldn't turn it away, but not anywhere near the top end of the range for this style.

Serving type: bottle

01-18-2013 23:55:46 | More by portia99
Photo of cocojoe


3.45/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is a 2011 version coming in at 11.1% ABV

A: Cloudy caramel brown color with amber hues. Very little head.

S: Sweet, floral, caramel, toasty, cashews, figs

T: Super thick and sweet front, really smoothe and thick the whole way through, caramel and dark fruit, some really dark notes as well, subtle roasty notes. Definitely an American barleywine, has a fairly strong hop presence as well. Finishes a little flat for me.

M: Thick, sweet, full body

O: Not my favorite American style barley wine. The aroma is really nice, but something in the flavor is lacking a bit. Not a whole

Serving type: bottle

01-01-2013 10:49:15 | More by cocojoe
Photo of mdfb79

New York

3.9/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 12/18/12 notes. Had this on tap at Beer Authority in NYC.

a - Pours a brown amber color with two inches of fluffy off white head and moderate carbonation evident.

s - Smells of chocolate, roasted malts, dark fruits, toasted malts, and some sugar. A little sweet but a ton of chocolate. Some light alcohol.

t - Tastes of milk chocolate, dark chocolate, roasted malts, toasted malts, toffee, caramel malts, burnt malts, light dark fruits. Taste again has a ton of chocolate, even more than the nose. The caramel is nice too; better than the nose.

m - Medium body and low to moderate carbonation. Body is pretty smooth, with no real alcohol coming through in the taste or mouthfeel at all.

o - Overall a pretty good barleywine, though different than most because it has a ton of chocolate and roasted malts. Taste is very good with nice caramel as well, and no real alcohol heat. Would like to have it again sometime.

Serving type: on-tap

12-20-2012 20:29:23 | More by mdfb79
Photo of Scotchboy


3.93/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2011 12oz bottle poured into a New Belgium Globe.

A: Dark ruby-brown pour yield a nearly opaque body in the glass...off yellow head settles into a constant ring, and traces of alcohol legs are visible on the glass.

S: Strong malty presence with a moderate dark berry note underneath...moderate sweetness and some sugary notes. Faintest suggestion of a floral hop or even citrus?

T: Toffee and lightly toasted caramel...basically, miles of sugary malt. That berry note comes though again as well as a noticeable alcohol heat that doesn't distract. Faint suggestion of citrus again.

MF: Moderate-to-full bodied with a faint sticky sensation...a touch viscous. Dry alcohol faintly sticks to the back of the throat. Carbonation is light.

O: Its a pretty decent aged barleywine, and I'm kind of surprised more fans of the English (malt-forward) style don't like this one. I prefer these strong beers with more of a hop presence.

Serving type: bottle

12-17-2012 14:47:14 | More by Scotchboy
Photo of mschind


3.48/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2011 batch from a 12 oz bottle

A- Looks viscous as it pours and not much head. Clear, dark brown color.

S- Malty with some molasses and brown sugar.

T- Very sweet up front followed by a modest bitter twang and then strong alcohol and maybe some hops in the finish.

M- Syrupy and lacking in carbonation.

O- Maybe this needs some age to mellow out the alcohol and bring out some complexity. However, this would work well with a rich dessert like cheese cake or tiramisu.

Serving type: bottle

12-06-2012 01:13:51 | More by mschind
Photo of FosterJM


3.8/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1634th Review on BA
Bottle to Snifter

2011 Release
Purchased a single bottle at Total Wine, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

App- A dark murky ruddy brownish dense color with a small 1/2" head that was a little bit of tan color. A small head was there and fell quickly. A little bit of a cling on a good swirl was present as well.

Smell- A little bit more of a grainular malty beer. It was still a pretty potent BW aroma. Malty, caramel, sweetness and boozy. A little sugary and plum like to me.

Taste- I am not convinced this was an American BW. This was more malt forward with more a subtle hop bitterness. The heavy flavors dominanted in the glass are sweet malts, caramel with a mild astringent flavor. I would say some over ripe citrus on the back of this one as well.

Mouth- A fuller medium body with a solid medium carbontion. The residual flavors are off caramel, astringent fruits and some brown sugar grain malts. Was pretty solid.

Drink- A nice barleywine but nothing too fancy or overwhelming. A solid above average and on the border of being great. Id have again or just age a couple if I find more.

Serving type: bottle

11-30-2012 18:14:18 | More by FosterJM
Photo of DocJitsu


4.05/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I couldn't tell if I was pouring beer into a pint glass or oil into my car's engine. Pours a murky deep amber color with a big, fat, fluffy, light tan head. The head kept growing even after I'd finished my pour. I was worried I'd gotten too aggressive and that my desk next to my keyboard was going to be sticky for a while.

Toffee, brown sugar, and cinnamon rolls on the nose. A thick, slick liquid swells in your mouth with the first pull. A lot of sweet stuff in there. Not enough alcohol flavor or warmth to account for the 11% ABV. There is a bit of tartness that cuts the sweet explosion. The tartness, mind you, is the same you'd get from a sweet cherry sucker and not from an unripe banana or a grapefruit. My only criticism is that it finishes a little too quickly. Once it does finish, there's a bit of bitter alcohol that remains on the tongue. Not bad though.

Serving type: bottle

11-28-2012 03:10:08 | More by DocJitsu
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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 447 ratings.