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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale - Mad River Brewing Company

Not Rated.
John Barleycorn Barleywine AleJohn Barleycorn Barleywine Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

464 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 464
Reviews: 349
rAvg: 3.73
pDev: 13.14%
Wants: 21
Gots: 22 | FT: 1
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
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Ratings: 464 | Reviews: 349 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Sammy
4.05/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

1997 bottle that i was saving for a special occasion but had anyways. It had mellowed marvelously and was a magnificient aged barleywine. Reminded me of a mellow balanced cantillon open fermentation. A cloudy fruity appearance. Clearly barley and malt in taste.

Sammy, May 07, 2006
Photo of t0rin0
3.63/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was a 1998 bottle thats supposedly been kept in the fridge. I guess I should have tried a new one first to see what this beer started out as. The appearance was a murky brown with some red showing through. Had a nice amount of carbonation and produced a decent sized offwhite head. The murkiness is evidence of its age as it sounds like this beer started off pretty clear.

The smell was very inviting. It was very malty and a tiny bit hoppy in the nose. It smelled of a well aged barleywine. The taste was very interesting. Part of it consisted of that sweet malt/maple syrup taste that comes from age. But the other part tasted like A1 steak sauce. Now, there were 7 of us that did a barleywine tasting of about 15 different beers and everyone agreed that there was a weird steak sauce flavor in there. It actually didn't take too much away from the beer but it was very strange.

The body was relatively heavy and went down smooth. This was a drinkable beer after 10 years, so I'm guessing its drinkable when its new.

t0rin0, Jan 15, 2008
Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.48/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2010 vintage.

10% ABV per label.

Pours a murky super dark brown with a 2 inch puffy light khaki head that settles to a thin cap. A nice latticework of lace forms on the glass on the drink down. Smell is of toasted malt, brown sugar, toffee, and lots of citrus zest hops. Taste is of malt, brown sugar, and some citrus zest flavors. Pretty straightforward progression from the nose. There is a very mild bitterness that quickly fades from the palate. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly flat mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good barleywine but nothing too special. I didn't find this one to be as bad as others seem to think in the reviews.

UCLABrewN84, Nov 22, 2011
Photo of djrn2
4/5  rDev +7.2%

djrn2, Dec 12, 2011
Photo of zestar
3.75/5  rDev +0.5%

zestar, May 31, 2014
Photo of acurtis
3.75/5  rDev +0.5%

acurtis, Jul 14, 2013
Photo of metter98
3.85/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is nearly opaque brownish amber in color. It poured with a half-finger high light beige head that died down and left wispy patterns of bubbles covering the surface and lacing running down the sides of the glass.
S: There are sweet aromas of caramel and toffee in the nose along with some notes of alcohol.
T: The taste is very similar to the smell and somewhat boozy with a moderate amount of malty sweetness. It also has notes of dark fruits in the flavors.
M: It feels relatively full-bodied on the palate with a light to moderate amount of carbonation and some hints of stickiness; the alcohol leaves warming sensations in your mouth.
O: The beer definitely tastes strong, but some of the alcohol is masked from the taste. It’s a good beer so slowly sip and savor on a cold winter night.

metter98, Jan 28, 2012
Photo of brentk56
3.73/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a hazy copper color with a frothy head that displays good retention and a bit of splashy lacing

Smell: Toffee and leather notes; a touch of raisin

Taste: Opens with caramel and raisin flavors that are quickly subsumed by the piney hops; slightly medicinal and astringent on the finish

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and creamy with plenty of carbonation and some warmth in the gullet

Drinkability: A little too over the top on the bitterness; lacking a good malt backbone; definitely not cloying but the beer lacks the balance between the sweet and bitter flavors that define the best barleywines; aging a couple of years certainly helps this brew

brentk56, Apr 23, 2006
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.1/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2003 Harvest. Majestic magenta with a definite orange influence when backlit with sunshine. The pale caramel cap is on the small side, even after an aggressive pour. That isn't surprising, I suppose, in light of the ABV. A slurred collar of lace is the only glass decoration. Despite the lack of icing, this really is a good looking barleywine.

The nose is chock full of toffee and all manner of alcohol-soaked fruits. I don't mean alcohol as in raw ethanol, because that's barely evident. I mean cherries and figs soaking in tawny port and cherry brandy. One thing is certain when drinking (and smelling) a four year old barleywine, the various flavors (and aromas) will be nicely melded and will feature nothing but smooth edges.

My first sip tells me that was a good call. John Barleycorn is nothing if not well-mannered at this stage of the game. Why on earth would anyone drink a barleywine fresh when the years are so kind? Although it's hard to be sure, I think this vintage has some time on it yet.

I have no doubt that the hop attack has faded to a considerable extent, but I'd have to say English barleywine rather than American barleywine. The star of the show is a wonderfully rich maltiness that is reminiscent of brown bread slathered with thick layers of cherry and plum jam, then drizzled with melted caramel. A modest amount of black tea leaf bitterness keeps things from becoming too cloying.

The mouthfeel is light-medium for the style on first blush. However, as the beer approaches room temperature, it develops a stealth viscosity that is most enjoyable. It's slowly morphing from summer-weight silk to winter-weight. Sip or gulp... it's up to you.

John Barleycorn is a barleywine that doesn't get a whole lot of buzz. If I lived in Mad River's distribution area, I'd buy a sixer every year and would do a killer vertical tasting every now and again. This is good stuff that is disappearing remarkably quickly.

BuckeyeNation, Sep 13, 2007
Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a deep brown color ale with a nice foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of sweet malt with some dry and bitter hops also noticeable. Taste is a balance mix between some sweet malt and some bitter and citrusy hops. I personally like more malt heavy barley wine then hoppy barley wine so this was not necessarily for me. Body is about average with some good carbonation and no sign of alcohol.

Phyl21ca, Jul 27, 2007
Photo of mikesgroove
3.88/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a thick brown, though you can see some light through it, no head and a nice lace top it off. Smell is hopped for sure, but with a subtle sugary undertone, and a hint of alcohol too. Taste is not very strong at all. There is the natural piney hoppness you would expect from a barley wine, but not too strong, there is also a sugary, nuttiness about it as well. The alcohol is there, and that keeps this a sipper. It is actually nicely carbonated, and not harsh going down, has the warm feeling on the way. Overall this was a good brew, I would not mind having another and certainly kept me warm this evening.

mikesgroove, Nov 27, 2006
Photo of ygtbsm94
3/5  rDev -19.6%

ygtbsm94, Jan 29, 2012
Photo of jaydoc
3.25/5  rDev -12.9%

jaydoc, Feb 12, 2014
Photo of kylehay2004
3.5/5  rDev -6.2%

kylehay2004, Jan 19, 2014
Photo of Knapp85
3.53/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2007 bottle, drank in 2008. The beer poured out as a hazy brown color. The head was pretty nice looking and thick. The lacing was pretty good here also. The smell of the beer was pretty hoppy with some sweet barley in the mix. The taste of the beer was very hoppy all around and was sweet too. The mouthfeel was thick and syrupy, had some decent carbonation to it. Overall I found it to be a pretty good barley wine.

Knapp85, Jun 25, 2011
Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.53/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a clear, bright carnet body with a small, off-white head.

Smell: Whiskey-scented aroma with hints of sweet caramel, vanilla, spiced plums. Some perfumy peach notes.

Taste: Sweet and syrupy, yet also earthy and grainy, with flavors of caramel, stewed plums, and brown sugar. The sweetness is backed by plenty of hop bitterness and, again, hints of peaches which meld with the alcohol is provide a shot of peach schnapps. Ends with a dryish, woody finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Dense, sticky mouthfeel. Relatively low carbonation. Quite warming, alcoholwise.

Drinkability: Paired very well with the movie "The Lost Weekend".

ChainGangGuy, Jun 24, 2007
Photo of oberon
4.28/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2005 bottle,poured a deep burgundy with a fluffy,sticky off white head that sticks to the glass as it settled,big orange and caramel aromas and as it warmed a herbal hop presence really showed thru quite nice.complex and flavorful raisin and deep orange with a light spiciness almost like gingerbread finishing quite dry.Iam not sure if this years vintage is better than pasts but this beer is vastly underated,flavorful and complex a top notch American Barley Wine.

oberon, Nov 21, 2005
Photo of SocalKicks
3.5/5  rDev -6.2%

SocalKicks, Apr 06, 2014
Photo of emerge077
4/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Despite sharing it's namesake with a certain Chicago institution of douchenozzlery, this was a good barleywine!

2007 bottle, black ink label with a seal depicting crossed scythes in front of a sprig of barley i'm guessing. 10.8% abv.

Deep fossilized amber tone, with creamy tan foam that sticks around. A healthy skim maintains itself for the duration of the glass. Aromas of brown sugar, spice cookies, overripe or stewed fruit, and some mild fusels on the tail end.

Brown sugar, caramel toffee and spicy hops. Residual dry bitterness lingers for awhile in the finish. Herbal essence also stays after the malt and sugars have subsided. Some alcohol notes, but not too distracting. Slightly syrupy with low carbonation. This works well as an intended nightcap...

$4 single at Sahara Mart in Bloomington, IN.

emerge077, Oct 14, 2008
Photo of zeff80
3.3/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - Poured out a clear, orange color with reddish highlights. It had a small, off-white head that left a little soapy residue of lacing.

S - It smelled of sweet caramel and biscuity malts.

T - This really had a boozy taste. It overpowered the caramel and biscuity malt flavors. The was a strong bitter hop taste too.

M - It was crisp and sharp with a dry finish. A full-bodied barleywine.

D - This was a little hard to drink because it seemed to lack balance. It was too boozy for my tastes.

zeff80, Jan 30, 2009
Photo of NeroFiddled
4.03/5  rDev +8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

When I reviewed this beer 3 years ago (the 2000 bottling) it was nice, but a bit aggressive; and I noted that I felt it would take a few years of aging. It was 2 years old then, it's 5 now, and I'm happy to say that I was correct in my analysis. It still looks like mud from all of the yeast, but it has mellowed a bit, and it still retains almost of the nice fruitiness, hops, and maltiness that it started with. Still, I'm not sure the results are worth the wait... maybe I should have given it 10 years!

NeroFiddled, Sep 24, 2005
Photo of StonedTrippin
3.85/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

sturdy barleywine from mad river. vintage 2010 listed at 10%abv. pours a slightly cloudy light molasses color with a faint orange tint. 2 inch off white head. smells of dried fruit and alcohol, sweet malts as well. flavor is huge malty base with gentle bittersweet fruits, plums maybe, and a major alcohol finish. even more pronounces as it warms, almost to the level of a sweet rubbing alcohol. a good winter sipper but a few of these might put you under. mouthfeel is full bodied with moderate carbonation and a booze burn. might age well...

StonedTrippin, Jan 13, 2012
Photo of WVbeergeek
4.03/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appears a copper orange crystal clear in the body with a large off white billowing head after a vigorous pour into my Gulden Draak chalice. Lacing is even and thick with each sip pretty impressive looking brew. Aromatics are full of caramel malty layers with over ripened fruit soaking in alcohol along with big citric and brash pine hop character. Almost a buttered rum bread smell very luscious and inviting to the senses and than you have to dive into the first sip. Of course we're expecting west coast brashness but from back around the 2007 harvest this one is just starting to mellow out a bit. Sweet candy coated hops brown sugar, caramel, and honey sensations all at once. Full bitterness follows the barrage of malt flavor with citrus, pine, and earthy qualities noted and a nice kick of alcohol making it's presences known as well. Mouthfeel is definitely on the light side of the syrupy spectrum medium to full bodied range indeed, sticky with residual sugars left over after fermentation but makes it into a true after dinner or dessert beer depending on your preference. Carbonation level is great and hop burps singe the nose hairs occasionally providing smiles for us beergeeks lucky enough to have access to this brew. Drinkability and overall is pretty killer I grabbed a sixer at 15.99 but it was worth every penny and they disappeared much faster than I had expected. Session beer hell no, perfect for enjoying a cigar and good conversation with friends, hell yes.

WVbeergeek, Apr 20, 2008
Photo of nickfl
3.98/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Scant half finger of off-white foam on top of an opaque, reddish brown body. The head settles quickly and leaves no lace.

S - Moderate aroma of generic pine hops backed by sugary malt notes of caramel, brown sugar, and molasses. Some slightly fruity yeast character of red apple and plum.

T - Sugary malt up front, lots of toffee and caramel, balanced by moderate hop bitterness and notes of pine. The hops become more pronounced and spicy towards the middle with notes of pepper, bitter greens, and mustard that contrast nicely with the sweet malt. Finishes with a good mix of strong malt and hop flavors that meld in the aftertaste to form an impression of lightly sweetened pipe tobacco and burned caramel.

M - Medium body, moderate carbonation, and a slightly sweet finish.

D - Once again Mad River Has done me right; I never hear anyone talking about this brewery, but they seem to make some pretty solid beers. The hops and malt are well balanced and manage to play off each other well in this beer. My only complaint is that it is perhaps a touch too sugary. I find nothing serious to complain about and the hop flavor in particular is quite complex and well done. I'd drink another one if I had one.

nickfl, Dec 16, 2009
Photo of TheManiacalOne
4.15/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2007 release, acquired from mikesgroove courtesy of the I Want That IV BIF, so a big "Thank you" goes out to him. Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a light reddish brown color, with a thin off-white head that fades quickly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of caramelized malts, brown sugar, a good amount of hops, some citrus and a touch of alcohol.

T: The taste is very malty up front with flavors of caramel, brown sugar and citrus. A strong hops presence quickly follows along with a slight alcohol sting. Overall, it's pretty nicely balanced. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and very smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, clean finish especially for a style that tends to be a little sticky.

D: Tasty, goes down very easily, not too filling, strong kick, very good representation of style, this is a nice high-gravity beer that is worth drinking for as long as you can until the ABV catches up with you.

TheManiacalOne, Sep 28, 2008
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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 464 ratings.