John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale - Mad River Brewing Company

Not Rated.
John Barleycorn Barleywine AleJohn Barleycorn Barleywine Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
84
good

356 Reviews
THE BROS
77
okay

(Read More)
Reviews: 356
Hads: 496
rAvg: 3.74
pDev: 10.7%
Wants: 19
Gots: 26 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Mad River Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  11.40% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: DOCALYN on 09-23-2001

Same recipe each year. ABV varies slightly 9.5-11.0%
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale Alström Bros
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Reviews: 356 | Hads: 496
Photo of pat61
4/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

L: Cloudy Chestnut with copper highlights, slight head, delicate lacing, low head retention, very dense but clear.
S: malt, dark fruit, not much hop, esters, maltiness is intense, no diacetyl, no DMS.
T: Rich malt balanced by alcohol and hops, strong malt and dark fruit balanced by alcohol. Hops are strong but compared to the malt, not prominent.
F: Full body, chewy but not syrupy, low to moderately low carbonation
O: While hoppy, the big malt dominates and the hops are not as prominent as an American IPA. (515 characters)

Photo of demon
4/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

L - Nice very dark brown. Some light passing through the sides. Enjoyed my beer on the warm side so it developed a nice two finger thick head that died down nice and slow.

S - The second I cracked this bottle open a fruity aroma was released. Peaches and apricots come to mind. Smells like a very STRONG beer. At 11.40%, yeah, no kidding.

T - Very nice fruity, alcohol-y, malty flavors here. Caramelized sugar pulls in strong, and the malty aftertastes are awesome. The alcohol is very well balanced in proportion to the other flavors here considering how strong it is.

F - Nice and smooth. Quite a bit sticky. Feels great.

O - I respect my liver enough to don't drink barleywines all that often, so I'm probably not the best judge of this style here. Looks like the consensus is that this beer is "okay", but I thought it was actually pretty good! It definitely exceeded my expectations. Considering it's an 11.40% barleywine, it is offered at a very reasonable price point (paid ~$2.75 for a single 12 oz @ Whole Foods).

I would buy this again. (1,053 characters)

Photo of danieelol
4.25/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Absolutely extremely solid. Cannot believe the exceedingly low ratings here.

Pours basically black with a whitish slightly tan head, thinking more of an old ale than barleywine

Smell is altogether slick smooth malty yeast...reminds me of the smoothness of Hangar 24 Hammerhead just with a little less bourbon...just so perfectly reserved and integrated...like you only get the good parts

Taste is similar, just a good big black barleywine. Not too much and surprisingly tame for the alcohol content. Just nice and subtle all the way through.

Real solid beer. (562 characters)

Photo of mxchap
3.83/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Overall: A solid barleywine, especially considering the price. If pressed, I would describe it as a more sweet and less bitter version of bigfoot. [3.75]
Look: If oil was dark brown, this would be that. No head, and minimal bubbles from a straight down the middle pour. [2.5]
Smell: Soy sauce, booze, plums, tobacco, leather. [3.75]
Taste: Follows the smell. Similar to bigfoot in a lot of ways, except less bitterness and a sweeter malt presence. [4.0]
Feel: Pretty well balanced. There is a viscous thickness associated with the malty sweetness, but it doesn't linger too much on the finish. Very drinkable for 11%. Adequately carbonated [4.25] (646 characters)

Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.45/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle into a wine glass.

Appearance: Pours a murky dark brown color with lots of chunky sediment. The head is around a finger high (maybe a bit less), and off-white in shade. While it's quite creamy looking, it doesn't have very good retention. There are splotches of lacing left behind, redeeming its aesthetic appeal slightly. (3)

Smell: The hoppiness has been subdued well, which makes it almost seem like an English-style barleywine. Though if I concentrate, I do pick up touches of tobacco. This also has very powerful candied notes in particular, along side a mild hint of leathery booze. Overall, this has a sweet nose, but one that's also well rounded considering. (3.5)

Taste: At first, some of the faded hops come through with some pine and tobacco. After that...well, it turns a malt bomb. Featuring notes of raisins, caramel, brown sugar, and rum, there's no doubt this is a massive beer. After warming up appropriately, it even becomes a bit salty. My only problem with this is its lack of depth - because a little bit of alcohol comes through, I'd expect that to help reveal some additional complex notes. Alas, it doesn't. I'm still enjoying it, don't get me wrong, but it could have been even better. (3.5)

Mouthfeel: While it's a big beer, it manages to restrain not only some of the sweetness (surprisingly), but some of the booze as well. The key word is some - there's still a mild prickle on the tongue and a heavier warming of the esophagus. It's still a massive, full-bodied beer, which means one couldn't chug this...and thank cripes for that. Even with the lowish carbonation, it's still a steady sipping beer. (3.25)

Overall: The brewery actually aged this in the bottle a year themselves! Seriously, what a brilliant yet seemingly simple idea. Having said that, this one lacks the complexity to become a great barleywine even after a year of age. But I still enjoy it enough to want to buy a bottle or two of it so I can age it even further. (3.5)

3.45/5: Fairly rudimentary for a barleywine, but at least it's well balanced (2,065 characters)

Photo of BeerAdvocate
3.35/5  rDev -10.4%

From BeerAdvocate Magazine #72 (Jan 2013):

John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale, 2011 Cellar Reserve

Its always a good time when you can hunker down on a cold day with a Barleywine, JB has been around longer than most and may have not gained absolute national recognition though it certainly has reached cult status amongst the more weathered beer geeks. Very bold and pretty much an “in your face brew”, bordering massive at 11% abv so clearly this is a sipper which is just what this winter will be calling for.

STYLE: American Barleywine
ABV: 11.0%
AVAILABILITY: Winter seasonal

LOOK: Garnet amber hue, beige lacing

SMELL: Very estery, fresh grass, citrus rind, caramel, brown bread, tangerine zest, pungent hop, cherry compote

TASTE: Very smooth, creamy, slightly chewy, husky, dried grass, leafy, tobacco, toasted orange peels, rose water, faint cherries, spicy, hop bitterness, biscuity, nutty yeast, drying semi-bitter finish


From BeerAdvocate Magazine Volume III, Issue II:

A winter seasonal brewed to honor the harvest (maybe in Cali, but not Mass.) and holidays, in limited 10-barrel batches with certified organic barley malt.

Out of the 12-ounce brown, twist-off stubby, this brew pours a thick, dark copper with rich ruby hues and an impressive two-finger, off-white, creamy head and sticky lacing. Up front, the nose is subtly teased with herbal and raisin notes and ripe, fruity esters. Firm, full bodied and creamy on the palate. Semi-sharp bitterness followed by softer leaf and resin hop flavors. A smooth maltiness coats the tongue with some sweet caramel, brown sugar and soft toasty/bready notes. Overripe stone fruits, esters and a grape-like back. Then, it's all gone. Warming and peppery alcohol pricks the palate, with a very strong, solvent-like presence. A bit biscuity toward the end with an astringent hop finish and alcohol on the breath.

It's decent, and certainly a strong beer, but both the malt and hop profiles seem to be lacking some depth and definition, resulting in flavors that are quick lived and fall flat. As with many of the reviewers, we agree that this one is too boozy. (2,127 characters)

Photo of happilyhopped
4.26/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured the 2013 Vintage on November 25th, 2014 into a large snifter glass. Beer case says beer was aged a year in bottled already, but i cannot verify that. Here is my review of the beer however:

Look - Pours cloudy and is a volcanic soil kind of mud brown. Think hawaiian soil (a little red, a little orange, but mostly muddy brown). There is about a quarter inch of head after a decently aggressive pour. The heads is milk white in color and dissipates quickly leaving almost no lacing. When held to the light, the light permeates the peripheries and you see colors of orange and red/amber. The center is still a dark murky brown that light does not penetrate.

Smell - I get the caramel malt right away and it smells like it will taste sweet and delicious. Definitely get a little rustic bread smell and a bit of the the alcohol heat flares the nostrils. Also pick up the smell of sweet apple. It smells creamy/milky.

Taste - Right away i get a lot of that caramel sweetness that you find in an english style barleywine. Somewhat of a honey wheat bread with butter kind of flavor. Really good. Then, after the initial sweetness fades, comes the hop bitterness. It isn't as strong as a beer like Bigfoot, but it definitely bites through the sweetness to remind you this is an american barleywine.

Mouthfeel - Nice and syrupy on the front like most barelywines. Coats the tongues and allows you to taste everything the beer has to offer. But there is also a nice carbonation that comes through and bites into the tongue...almost similar to that tingle sensation you get from rye whiskey. Medium carbonation...not too intense, almost like a mild champaign.

Overall - I think this beer is better than its rating. It reminds me of a cellared Bigfoot Barleywine from SN. The malt has had some time to cut through all the hop bitterness, but that bitter hop flavor can still be found if you let the brew linger on your tongue for a split second. I am going to cellar some of these to see how the hop and malt profiles play out. (2,027 characters)

Photo of Fatehunter
3/5  rDev -19.8%

Pours the thinnest head on a dark brown body.
The aroma is grain, both dry and wet, honey and slight barnyard. Nice.
The taste is malty but not too sweet. A mild lemon and grapefruit bitterness in the middle. Finishes with a sticky sweet note and a little alcohol heat.
The texture is thicker and sticky.
It's got a nice alcohol heat but the rest of the flavor is muddled. (372 characters)

Photo of Dan_McNeely
4.41/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Decided to try it from a wine glass. Very strong bold look. It's a bit lighter in appearance at the top. It had a deep brown almost dark toffee color. A very muscular look to it.

S- Roasted Barley smells very fine and smooth. If it tastes like it smells, it will go down easy. I don't smell the booze. It's has a confident aroma, an almost I'm better than you feel. Again, very masculine, in a suave sense.

T- The taste sweeps in letting it self be known. As suspected, much like the aroma it's like Fabio from a romance novel. It holds a welcoming bitter aftertaste that I can enjoy. A bit of a deep chocolate after taste.

M- Heavenly. I've not had a barley wine with this much distinction and just makes my mouth feel good. Light, but not too light. I can tell it's a high percentage, but it's telling me, "Don't worry, you'll enjoy this", in a not so creepy way.

A gentleman's beer, dark, handsome, intelligent, confident something I can be proud to drink. This is a fantastic beer, it really improved my attitude after a long day at the office. Even if you've never had or usually don't enjoy this style, I highly suggest to pick it up. (1,150 characters)

Photo of Huhzubendah
4.1/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from RussianDragon. Thanks Dave!

2012 Vintage

The beer is slightly murky with a chestnut brown body and a half inch of tan head. Aromas include toffee, dates, booze, malt, perhaps prunes or raisins. Thick body with a mild but present sweetness. Big flavor with malt complexity, a touch of brown sugar. A nice beer to sip and savor. (340 characters)

Photo of spinrsx
3.92/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12oz Bottle from the Total Wine Palm Desert CA for $3.50 - 2012 edition

Appearance - Hazy brown colour with a good size frothy beige coloured head. There is a low amount of carbonation showing and there is some good lacing. The head lasted for around 5-6 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, caramel/molasses/toffee, anise

Taste & Mouth - There is a below average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, molasses/toffeel, and hops. There is also some vanilla, some burnt notes, and anise.

Overall - Pretty solid stuff. The booze is well hidden and there is a nice balance of sweet and bitter. Maybe a little thin for a barleywine, but lots of great flavours. A wood aged version of this would be excellent I'm sure. (730 characters)

Photo of minterro
3.63/5  rDev -2.9%
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. (1,211 characters)

Photo of zac16125
4.03/5  rDev +7.8%
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. (615 characters)

Photo of BlurryVisi0n
3.51/5  rDev -6.1%
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! (731 characters)

Photo of BierJager89
4.32/5  rDev +15.5%
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. (285 characters)

Photo of Beerswag
3.89/5  rDev +4%
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... (611 characters)

Photo of Patrick_E_Sweeney
4.08/5  rDev +9.1%
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. (484 characters)

Photo of jmdrpi
3.83/5  rDev +2.4%
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. (364 characters)

Photo of mactrail
3.65/5  rDev -2.4%
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. (736 characters)

Photo of srhoadsy
3.92/5  rDev +4.8%
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. (569 characters)

Photo of ksimons
4.06/5  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. (490 characters)

Photo of Dope
3.33/5  rDev -11%
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. (874 characters)

Photo of Slatetank
3.71/5  rDev -0.8%
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. (1,110 characters)

Photo of boilermakerbrew
4.18/5  rDev +11.8%
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. (1,113 characters)

Photo of BeerlyLegal
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%
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. (554 characters)

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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 356 ratings.