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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.
very good

475 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 475
Reviews: 351
rAvg: 3.74
pDev: 13.1%
Wants: 22
Gots: 24 | 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: 475 | Reviews: 351 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of canucklehead
3.83/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

This poured a reddish dark brown with a minimal head. What got me about this BW was the smoothness of the main body. This is not a huge beer but rather almost an Old Ale. Don't age this too long as the flavours are blended well now. Very food friendly.

Photo of RenoZymurgist
1.9/5  rDev -49.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Poured a dark red with a small white head that subsided quickly. The aromewas of fruity esters and s touch of alcohol. The taste was not very good at all. It was sweet but in the finish there was a strange lingering bitterness that was unpleasent. The body was light for an ale of this gravity. This barleywine needs to be aged at least two more years.

Photo of Bighuge
4.05/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Burgandy tone. Thin beige head. Aromas of caramel and tropical fruits like pineapple and mango. Flavor follows suit. Sturdy caramel malt flavor balanced nicely with bright hop flavors or citrus and resin. Bitterness is even keeled and nice. Alcohol held in check. This is flavorful, drinkable, good...

Photo of merlin48
4.22/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clean, dark chestnut brown body with a small, but lasting, beige head. No lace.

Aroma is heavy with apples, pears, and plums, all soaked in molasses and rum.

Mouthfeel is full bodied, and awash with flavors.

Taste is nicely complex, even at this young age. Dark fruits and molasses, warming alcohol, and some rough, pine hoppiness. Nice notes of figs and caramel jump out of the snifter near the finish.

An excellent barleywine. The hops are still a bit rough around the edges at this early age, but this one should age with grace.

Photo of ADR
4.08/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Heavy sedimented brown appearance, dull yellow 1/4 inch head. Thick opaque ring laces. Nice aroma, plums and caramel, that sense of hop prickliness to come that mark so many American Barleywines. Starts molasses sweet, dark with raisins but the hops don't wait until the end -- they're there out of the gate. Finishes rummy with a balsamic bitter you can emphasize by licking your lips. Thick and alcoholic, compares to Old Horizontal in texture, maybe less grainy than Bigfoot. Could use some aging for me to say that there's a lot of drinkability here.

Source: Liquid Solutions

Photo of ark57
4.35/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A murky brown, but an amazing aroma. It is quite fruity with notes of cherry and apricot and a slight hoppiness. Its full body is quite complex and malty. There noticeable alcohol in the finish and just enough bitterness to balance the sweet tastes. I think that this beer would age very well and would like to try it again in a few years.

Photo of freed
4.13/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Dull brown, but radiating some oranges and yellows. Head is thin and move like giant plates (tectonics). I think I saw Pangea. Foam laces the edges of the glass for the first half, but little is left afterwards.

Aroma isn't bold, but the mixture of earthy malts and slightly fruity yeasts compliment the somewhat alcoholic sensation that accompanies each whiff.

The taste is a sweet, rich kiss of malty goodness. A full, rounded breakfast of grain fills the mouth without having too heavy a body. The sensation of alcohol is apparent, but not quite like a single malt. Also, instead of peat flavors, this beer is complimented by an orchard tart from the yeast. Overall quite nice, and a pleasant surprise for an organic ale.

Photo of nomad
3.4/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours out a deep and opaque crimson, a very nice color. Had a fluffy, soft head leaving wispy stain with wide and fine lace.

Smelled of grapes, alcohol, and esters that are both musty and fruity. Had some bread-like malt in the background, but altogether not terribly great smelling on account of the dominating alcohol.

Taste is big, sweet, and hoppy, but also softly of alcohol. Each is startling at first but then mixing together quite well. Butterscotch flavor is slim and playful, nicely weaving in and out of the rest. The malt is lean in body but hefty enough in effect, just balancing the citric hops that have calmed greatly and become wrapped around the alcohol. Nascently spicy of an earthy and hearty quality. Thicker mouthfeel complements it all.

On the verge of becoming something highly interesting and drinkable already.

Photo of genaro
3.88/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

John Barleycorn 2003. It starts off with a nice mahagony color with little head and no lace. The subdued aroma was fruity and citrusy at first and more malty as it warmed up. The initial taste was one of pears, apples, and some caramel. This later changed to figs, more caramel, and alcohol. The mouthfeel was a little chewey with not much hop bite. The finish was smooth, dry, and a bit citrusy. A good point is that this beer is brewed from 100% organic barley.
Not a bad winter beer. It does mellow you out.

Photo of byrd
3.38/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pretty small tan fizzy head that quickly dissipates to a very sparse sprinkling of a lace. Dark brown in color with a slight haze. Aroma is not overly abundant, but is primarily of malt – a little bit caramel, very light hops, and what seems to be a bit of saltiness. Medium mouth feel, but sometimes the flavor seems a touch watered down. Malts are present in the start, but are fairly short lived. Decent hop flavor comes in towards the end with a bit of roastiness. And I’m still picking up a bit of saltiness? The aftertaste lingers for a good while. Okay barley wine, but I’ve certainly had better. Not very heavy, and doesn’t really need to be aged, but it might help this brew. This one came highly recommended to me, but I probably won’t be recommending it to anyone else.

Photo of Gusler
4.08/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours from the 12 ounce bottle a somewhat hazy orange-amber color with the head pythonic in size, creamy in consistency and a toothsome light tan color, as it slowly dissipates the lace forms a thick veil to obscure the glass from prying eyes. Nose is sweet malt, light hints of fusel alcohol, caramel, quite crisp and fresh; a pleasant beer to sniff, start is ambrosial, rich in malt with the top moderate to full in feel. Finish has a unsparing acidity, the hops quite pronounced in their spicy bite, somewhat bitter and dry aftertaste, a quite nice barleywine, and Mad River a long time favorite Brewery.

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

Appearance – Dark brown and cloudy with a decent head that actually left a little lacing.

Smell – The toasted malt base and sharp, offsetting hops are complimented by a strong aroma of sherry or whiskey or something like that. It may even be reminiscent of sweet vermouth.

Taste – Yes, this is a very balanced barley wine. The malt and “sweet vermouth” flavors blend well together and are offset by a sharp but unobtrusive piney hop taste. This one is also loaded with gritty sugars, predominantly white table.

Mouthfeel – The ale was balanced but could have been smoother, IMO. Otherwise, the mouthfeel was terrific. The body was on the heavier side of medium, which contradicts some of the other reviews. Did they beef things up for the ’03?

Drinkability – Very nice. This went down well for a 9.5 ABV. I will certainly buy again if given the opportunity.

Photo of lou91
3.13/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This is actually a review for the 2003 but I can't add a beer yet. The abv is 9.5%. Having been burned before by this product I noticed no one else reviewed so I took one for the team. I bought a single bottle just to be safe. Nice dark brown and opaque color with no head on the pour. Despite intense swishing there was little smell given off-only a nice subtle cotton candy smell. The taste was nice with a rich balance of malt and hop flavors. As it warmed, there was an artifical sweetener flavor that didn't sit right. To its credit, it was easy to drink. But this is also bad for the style. As a serious BW drinker, a good one should give you pause and make you reflect and take a good hour to finish. This one I killed in 20 minutes. Not repulsive but not a barley wine. Maybe as a scotch ale it will sell more. Break a 6-pack at berkeley bowl $1.25.

Photo of GCBrewingCo
4.1/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Beer poured a turbid medium brown with little carbonation. The aroma is sweet malt, caramel, and floral hops. The flavor is smooth with malt sweetness well balanced by hop bitterness. The finish is slightly bitter and dry, but has a roasted flavor in the background that is quite pleasant. The alcohol is only present in the warmth you feel after consumption.

Not an over the top beer, but well done in regards to the balance between bitterness and hops.

Photo of beerguy101
3.95/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Medium brown color. Small head. Aroma is malty and slightly sweet. A medium bodied barley wine. A touch of grapefruit is balanced by a slight maltyness. This is a mild flavored barley wine, kind of a nice change of pace from the big in-your-face Barley wine so typical of the west coast. Well balanced. Very drinkable. Would improve with some aging. 9% alcohol not very noticeable. Very smooth. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is slightly bitter.

Photo of pezoids
4.45/5  rDev +19%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This was 2000 Harvest sample. I let this one warm up a bit before sampling. This beer poured a bright and clear amber/ice tea color. Had a long lasting frothy and dense white head. Heavy sweetness in the aroma. Cordial like caramel and toffee. There’s the smokiness of peated malt in the taste. The alcohol peeks through the sweet malt and other complex flavors, including fermented fruits, caramel. Perfectly carbonated and very flavorful. Also getting nice peppery/spicy notes. I enjoyed this beer. An excellent barleywine and very well made in my opinion.

Photo of aaronh
2.58/5  rDev -31%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Pours a cloudy orange amber with minimal head and a fairly good amount of floaties. The aroma is very strong and sweet from a distance, but there's a definite malt smell. Up close, the smell becomes more fruity, having a definite apricot note atop the malty sweetness. The taste is like moldy,wet straw that has been sugar coated and doused with rubbing alcohol. High amounts of fusel type alcohols in this one, even after 4 years. A strong bitterness emerges on the finish. Mouthfeel is average for a barleywine. Drinkability is not good. Drinking this brings to mind cokes' review of Doggie Claws, with his apocolypse now theme and hints of napalm. The strong alcohol in this baby makes it a killer. I may try to light it and use it as a torch. Hoping for a rare gem on this purchase and I got burned.

Photo of Loki
3.53/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled in a 12 oz bottle from 2001 harvest on May 24th, 2003.

Poured an amber color with a 1/2 inch head that faded to a small covering and left decent lacing.

Aromas of sherry, grapes, sugar, and alcohol from the nose.

Tastes of sherry, buttered kettlecorn, and alcohol. Medium body, but seemed light for the style. Coats the tongue, but not the mouth. Smooth but very sweet and over the top on the alcohol taste.

Photo of RBorsato
3.13/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark Brown/Copper with a low light brown head, lots of sediment and little-no carbonation. Malty aroma; vineous. Also kind of sprucey or piney (?). Sugary sweet flavor with a light alcohol finish; vineous and winey. Full bodied but very flat with a very sweet malty finish.

Not much better than the 1997 version. If I tried a later year of this beer I'd drink it fresh.

Labelled as 2001 Harvest
Tasted: 05/10/03

Photo of Darkale
2.93/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Cloudy butterscotch in color, thick and slow-pouring, with a short, tan head. Lacing is good.

Aroma is candy -- butterscotch and caramel.

Taste is just as sweet, even sweeter. Caramel, toffee, hint of coffee. Slightly burning in the mouth, and thinner than one would expect, only slightly chewy. Aftertaste is an odd combination of hops and malt. Pungent, slightly sour, dry and astringent.

Not the best example of a barleywine. Aftertaste is too sour, taste is too thin and cloying.

Photo of Jordan
4.2/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3.5

Potent aromas of complex alchohals and candied caramel. Heavy body; creamy mouthfeel. Sugary sweet butterscotch, burnt caramel and complex alchohals make this one of the maltiest beers I have ever sampled. Perhaps TOO sweet!? I would say yes if you plan on sitting back and drinking a sixer, however this is perfect for a nightcap or for a relaxing drink on a cold winters night. Where are the hops the other two BA's have commented on? Maybe it's the age?

Drink this one at room temp.

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

The color is a medium amber with not a medium head that will cling to the glass sides. The aroma is of malts and spices. The taste was malty, with a hint of spices and caramel. The after taste was creamy smooth with a good balance of sweetness and a hint of bitterness. This is my first time tasting this beer and I like it. Not the best but very passable!

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

Pours a slightly hazy ruby/amber color with a nice, creamy, tan head that sinks but leaves a nice lacing down the goblet. A nice rich malty aroma dominates with some subdued alcohol in the background. Intense chewy hoppiness with a slightly harsh alcohol finish to it. Some slight fruit flavors and a little vinous quality as well. Slightly thin for the style and not quite as warming as I would like it to be but not a bad brew either, just nothing special. I was hoping for something that was going to be able to warm me up a little better than this but it isn't bad at all.

Photo of marc77
3.68/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Hazy, tawny bronze in hue, topped by a thin, but dense light tan head. Sugar coated nuts and vinous sherry sweetness upfront in aroma, followed by notes of bitterscotch and deep caramel. Hints of leafy tobacco accompany the earthy and slightly woody hop nose. Dark toffeeish sweetness hits the palate at first, then yields immediately to a citrusy hop flavor and sharp bitterness. The muted malt character surfaces as the hop profile fades, and is dominated by butterscotch and well toasted malt. Mild fruity esters eek in, but are nearly lost to the strong hop profile. Lightly bodied for style, but quite dextrinous and smooth in mouthfeel. Finishes w/ a snap of sweetness and quickly fading bready malt and butter. This has the potential to be an excellent barleywine, and is certainly worthy of cellaring. In its current state, the drinkability is already very good-- perhaps dangerously so.

Photo of DOCALYN
2.05/5  rDev -45.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Weirdest beer I ever had. the herb used is rosemary and I can't imagine why one would spoil an othrwise good beer with this herb. I dumped my beer down the drain as the taste was too funky for my tastebuds.

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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 475 ratings.