1. American Craft Beer Fest returns to Boston on May 29 & 30, featuring 640+ beers from 140+ brewers. Tickets are on sale now.

John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale - Mad River Brewing Company

Not Rated.
John Barleycorn Barleywine AleJohn Barleycorn Barleywine Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

482 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 482
Reviews: 353
rAvg: 3.74
pDev: 12.83%
Wants: 21
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: xlperro on 10-26-2004

Same recipe each year. ABV varies slightly 9.5-11.0%
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 482 | Reviews: 353 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of blitheringidiot
3.88/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark russet mahagony pour topped with a corner grabbing collar of khaki cap.

Lightly boozy awl-kee-hawl nose with wiffs of deep malt and spice cake hints.

First swigs: Cocoa and cake icing with a high amount of sugary sweetness. Bright with a doughy character. Circles around cookie dough.

Feel is smooth and buttery with a delicate carbonation.

Last swigs: Focused one trick pony of buttery cinamon crisp! Nice!

Photo of mikesgroove
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
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.

Photo of silver0rlead
4.13/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2006 version: Pours a cloudy brown color with some garnet highlights and a thick tan head taht retains impressively. The aroma has some piney and citrus hops upfront, along with some ripe berries (strawberry, blueberry), caramel, and a touch of alcohol. The flavor has some big citrus and pine hop flavor initially, along with a big caramel sweetness, some ripe fruit (strawberry, raspberry), a slight oakiness, and some alcohol. The mouthfeel is just short of slick, with low carbonation...very drinkable for the style. A very solid Barleywine from Mad River, they're big beers seem to be pretty good.

Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.4/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle says “celebrating the 2005 harvest”

This beer pours a slightly foggy amber, strawberry and honey color with a wide creamy collar of off white.

Smells of sweet red grapes, strawberries and brown sugar with a dry, earthy oak that works well with the sweeter aspects. There’s also a warm, aromatic alcohol glow to this one.

Tastes of light grainy barley with some caramel and a woody brown sugar. It then nicely fades into a dry subtle coffee and a little sappy green oak in the finish.

The mouthfeel is light to medium bodied and rather flat feeling.

This one’s just simple and solid. I really admire the upfront grainy nature of it. I guess another way to say it is that it is very direct. Great beer!

Photo of sponberg
3.7/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Go ahead. Pop one of these and see if Steve Winwood's voice doesn't come out of the bottle. 2005 edition.

The head on this one lasts longer than a, umm, well, it lasts a while. Dark ruby with a light reddish tan head that'd go great with a mahogany end table. Sweet toffeeish/dark fruit malts and some spicy, faintly citrusy aromas waft up from the krug.

I'm getting fruits, nuts - almost a Marzipan-y like flavor in here. Marzipan dipped in toffee maybe. With some citrusy and spicy hops on the edges. Definitely has a malty sweetness to it. Nine and a half percent and it only just shows up in the finish, along with a flavor I like but can't quite place - not chocolatey, not toffee, not figs or dates or marzipan so much, something in that general vicinity. Sticky chewy mouthfeel - lots of residual sugars in here.

Like it, but don't know if I could have a lot of them because of the sweetness.

(looks in the bottom of the krug) John Barleycorn is dead.

Photo of Higravity
2.89/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Nice garnet color with a slight head the quickly goes. A 2005 bottle conditioned properly. The smell is sweet malt with caramel tones but is backed up by large piney and spicy citrus hops and a bit of sulfur giving a medicine like quality to it. The flavor continues with a large chunk of bitterness but there is this tanic medicine flavor that digs at the tonuge almost numbing it to the flavors of the malt and blooming hops. This might straighten out in a year or two. The alcohol is well hidden and it has a good mouthfeel but it isn't too drinkable at this point.

Photo of mmmbeer
4.25/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. stubby with "Celebrating 2005 Harvest" on the label. It pours a hazed garnet color that is a coppper/strawberry red when held to the light and topped with a small tan head that reduces to a collar with an island of foam in the center. The bouquet consists of sharp piney/citric/perfumy hops with sweet, vinous, and perhaps chocolate malts to back them up. The taste is about the same with a medium to high bitterness that brings it all together. The body is somewhat oily and coating, with a full body that leaves a long finish. Overall a pretty good barleywine, and I wish I had some more bottles for cellaring purposes.

Photo of BitterBrian
4.54/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is one of those beers that I think is very under-rated. I just don't get it. This might be top five material.

Poured a nice mahogany brown into my delerium snifter. Not much head there - I even let it warm up a bit after taking it from the fridge. What head was there left some light lacing.

But, the smell? . . . Mmmmm mmm. Raisins, red grape, cake, blueberry muffins. . . It sounds like I'm pulling this stuff out of my ass, but really, it smells like a tastycake truck met head on with Sara Lee. - Which is pretty damn close to the taste too. Throw in a little fig and some alcohol and there you have it. Really a nice complex, yet mild barley wine - despite it's 9.5% content. The finish is very fruit like and not too alcoholic. It's more like I just ate a grape a few miniutes ago instead.

This gives the same impression as a nice quad, but not as filling. If I'd find this again, I'd definitely pick some up.

Photo of Sammy
4.03/5  rDev +7.8%
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.

Photo of brentk56
3.73/5  rDev -0.3%
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

Photo of rodrot
3.65/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2005 bottling. This beer poured a hazy reddish brown color with a small tan head that lingered in the glass. The smell was malty and fruity with a spicy hop aroma in the backround. Taste was very fruity and malty with notes of caramel, rum soaked cherries, dark fruit and bitter hoppiness in the finish. However, I kept tasting a slight funky cardboard flavor that was unpleasant. This was a pretty full bodied barleywine, but it tastes like something is off and unbalanced. I gave the taste a 3.5 because of that cardboard aftertaste. I plan on aging my last 2 bottles for a year or more to see how this beer matures.

Photo of RedHaze
3.7/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2005 Harvest, courtesy of bditty187.

Pours a dark red tinged brown, with a two finger off-white head that settles slowly to a thin cap and leaves behind tons of thick lacing.

Smell; sweet caramel malts, citric and piney hops and there's some dark fruity aromas as well.

Taste; a rather strong alcohol taste on the first sips, along with those hops, which have hints of grapefruit and pine trees. Sweet caramel and toffee, with a nice touch of cherries and figs. The alcohol presence fades quite a bit as it warms, making this quite drinkable. Mouthfeel is medium to full, and almost velvety smooth.

Photo of Crosling
3.7/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Enchanting deep red color. Spotted, yet well laced film coating the surface. Aromatics of maple and honey covered dark fruits, along with a touch of caramel and toffee. The flavor, like the aroma, is much more malt accented with maple, caramel, fruit and toffee characteristics. Well balanced, not amazing, but balanced and pleasing to drink.

Photo of IrishRedRock
4.1/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Recently picked up a bottle of this 2005 vintage. I always grab a few bottles of this beer whenever I see it, because the different vintages are so vastly different, and being that I'm in love with the cherry cheesecake 1997 version, my mind always wanders to that upon seeing any vintage of this, and thus I MUST pick it up.

Very murky red in color with a solid ring of lace. Pouring this beer I knew it would be different from past vintages I'd had - I could smell leafy hoppy goodness immediately. The past vintages I've sampled, even when fresh, don't have that American Barleywine hop kick that can be found in so many of its counterparts. Along with the hops, the aroma is tangy, fruity, and mildly smoky. Quite soft and lush on the palate, and melding with the sticky caramel maltiness and earthy hop undertones is the signature plum sweetness that it seems can be found in each vintage, to varying degrees. Finishes with moderate bitterness and a lingering apple flavor.

Really interesting. This is a vastly underrated barleywine (all vintages) but the 2005, at least when fresh, would surely satisfy fans of more highly regarded American barleywines. This isn't thick and overpowering; the body is thinner than the barleywines from the likes of Rogue, Great Divide and Victory, but nonetheless is quite complex and enjoyable. And you can bet I'll be purchasing a few more bottles, as these age in a most interesting fashion. (Send me more '97!)

Photo of jameaterblues
4.4/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

So I sit here with the second half of the 2005 John Barleycorn. It poured a reddish amber color, with a very thin off white head that laced the sides of the glass. It has the slight smell of hopps, but predominant sweet malty tones. The taste is wonderful. Very smooth, with the malt taste(maybe a slight hint of caramel) really standing out to me, almost sweet, but not really. It finishes with a slight bitterness. The smell of this beer, to me is much more sweet than the taste, and that is part of the reason I enjoy it so much. I highly recommend it. The carbonation is moderate and I love how it feels on the tongue. I could drink alot of this(it is kinda high abv so be careful), it probably good that my supplies are limited.

Don't forget to check out the label. The bottles have wonderful wood cuts on them, and they are different every season. I don't get to encounter enough organic beers, I'm really happy this one made it to my fridge.

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

Year 2000 vintage.
Pours a very hazy amber, copper and gold. Thick ring of light tan head. Some visible sediment.
Aroma of caramel, toffee and a touch of gingerbread along with citrus and pine hop notes.
Flavor seems to be dominated by brown sugar and toffee with a touch of sweet caramel. Almost a hint of peaty, earthy notes in the background.
Mouthfeel is lush and full with a awarming almost scotch-like alcoholic pop. Definitely powerful and full.
Drinkability is solid though high ABV, as advertised would make it tough for more than just one.

Photo of Iguana
4.27/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - Pours a dark amber, with a nice half inch head that laces up and lingers throughout the whole experience.

Smell - Smells of sweet fruit, very strong pleasent aroma.

Taste - Tastes just like it smells, of sweet fruit, with a pleasent hop bitterness finish. Very smooth and nice.

Mouthfeel - Quite smooth, and well balanced. Bitterness is noticeable but doesnt stick around for ages like some barleywines i've had.

Drinkability - Really tasty, gonna have to try and score a few more bottles of this while its still in season. Dont know as i'd chain drink em, but more then willing to drink this again!

Photo of AlexJ
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

My first taste of this for about 6 or 7 years, and still a respectable brew. Nice deep mahogany color with burgundy highlights and a thick head of dense khaki that retains nicely, eventually settling into a thin veil. Abundant lace.

Aroma is nice but understated. Scorched caramel and brown sugar with gingerbread spice. Gentle nuances of berries, arpicot, and dark cherry. Deeply candied orange and grapefruit peels drenced in herbal-pine hop resin.

Flavor has the same deeply carmelized sugar and malt character and a great candied orange skin hop note that is very attractive along with hints of pine and sticky green herbals. It has a wierd void in the middle though, it's just missing something. Where's the fruit and delicate spice I found in the nose? It starts and finished well enough, the middle is just empty, odd.

Body is solidly medium, perhaps a bit light to hold all the interesting flavors. Texture is smooth and creamy nevertheless. Very sessionable for a barleywine, it doesn't overwhelm you the way an Old Ruffian or Double Bastard does. Worth trying.

Photo of MuddyFeet
3.5/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 1997. I believe it came from Nerofiddled for helping to kickstart BIF 17. Sorry if I got the credit wrong, let me know and I will fix that error in memory.

Poured an off-brown that was scarred with some red tinge. No head or carbonation. Absolutely flat but not negatively. There was a slight hiss of CO2 when I popped the cap. Unfortunately, not one iota remained in the beer.

Nose was ful of fruit--cannot quite place it but they are more of the acidic and sour varieties. Those fruit aromas come out as cherries and raspberries in the flavor. Just a full wallop in the teeth of sour fruit. However, I cannot find any hops and the malts are just being crushed by all the fruit. Not exactly sure I would quantify this beer as a traditional American barleywine. Much more of a fruit wine.

Medium body and very puckering from the sourness. Bit sticky too. This is alright for what it is, but if you're expecting a hoppy/maly barleywine you should look elsewhere.

Photo of oberon
4.26/5  rDev +13.9%
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.

Photo of RootedFool
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This year's release of Mad River's John Barleycorn Barleywine pours lagubrious mahogany with an aura of crimson radiating along the edges of my Duvel tulip glass, an appropriately regal vessel for this lumbering diva of a brew. The head rises at least an inch tall, dim white (slightly more off than off white) and has the consistency of whipped cream. The nose is softer than I expected, causing me to draw my nose so close to the beer I snorted a little bit of it -- no worries, as I think the high alcohol content (9.5%) cleared my sinuses. The smell opens with some cotton candy sweetness that segues quickly into tangerine rinds, fresh cherries, sour dough bread, a few hard shakes of black pepper; a solid coupling of hops and malts. An upper-cut of hops greets my palate upon the first taste, welling up from beneath my tongue and circling around to the roof if my mouth in a slow arc; strong flavor of grapefruit rinds encrusted with brown sugar. The middle brings out the hop bitterness even further, to a puckering degree, but it quickly recedes into the finish where the malt sweetness -- maraschino cherries, fruit cake, gingerbread -- has more room to move. Alcohol is warmth is evident as a warming factor at the back of my throat, but doesn't intrude into the taste. The mouthfeel is dense and chewy -- sticks to the ribs.

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.03/5  rDev +7.8%
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!

Photo of NoLiberty
3.73/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Nice full caramely head that retains some surrounding lacing. Pours a clody rich amber.
Aroma: Strong malty sweetness with hints of raisin. Almost Belgian?
Taste: Also full malty front with initial sweet fruit. A clean low-alcohol middle with hints of nuts. Mild finish with lingering wild , sour afterntaste.
Mouth: Not completely full but very smooth.

Photo of sulldaddy
3.59/5  rDev -4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Wow I get to review this oldy and give it the 5th review to be official.I am sampling a cold 12 oz bottle in a snifter. Picked it up @ Kclingers pub. Pop the cap and there is some oxidation on the underside of cap. uhoh.
The beer pours a slighty cloudy deep mahogany color with zero head even with some aggressiveness on the pour. The aroma is fruity with pears and red grapes. Also some sour cherries and funky musty vinegarness that reminds me of a flanders red.
That is exciting for me!
I swear I get some cinnamon in there too, which strikes me as odd and makes me sniff twice to be sure.
First sip reveals a liter body than expected and mild yet tingly carbonation. The beer is a little syrupy in texture but thin, almost like if maple syrup was heated up and poured.
The beer is tart and fruity up front and through middle with a bit of funky bite on the finish. The finish is also a little hot and the alcohol comes through on swallow.
While I am a fan of trying old beers, I am not sure how well this one held up. It seems a little funky but not way off, just not expected barleywine qualities.
It is a good experience, so if you see a bottle give it a shot, who knows what you will think.

Photo of Fish113d
3.59/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a rich, thick, dark brown color with 1/4" of fizzy, tan head that dissipates very quickly like a soft drink leaving a defined edge layer around my glass. Pretty hazy to peer through.

Aroma is of some serious caramel and piney hops tones. Alcohol tingles the nose as well. Maybe a slight biscuity smell comes through as well.

Taking a sip, I gets lots of caramel and rasberries, as well as lots and lots of bitter hops. On the finish I also get a shot of nutmeg as well as a decent alcohol presence that tingles my tounge just a bit, leaving a dry oak flavor.

Rather dry and full-bodied. Carbonation is present but the alcohol quickly burns that off as well. Nothing too spectacular, but decent overall.

Very drinkable, however, not one of the best I've ever had. I had fun drinking it as I always do, and I'd suggest trying it out.

John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 482 ratings.