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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale - Mad River Brewing Company

Not Rated.
John Barleycorn Barleywine AleJohn Barleycorn Barleywine Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

357 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 357
Hads: 499
Avg: 3.74
pDev: 14.97%
Wants: 19
Gots: 29 | 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
Reviews: 357 | Hads: 499
Photo of Ungertaker
3.05/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

12oz bottle, vintage 2010, poured into a Deschutes snifter.

A- Acorn brown with little light penetration and a thin, off-white head that leaves a fast-receding lacing.

S- caramel, raisins, alcohol, bread

T- strikingly similar to the aroma. Although, the alcohol comes through with an astringency that comes close to complete dominance.

M- a great balance between medium to thick consistency and medium carbonation.

O- aside from the astringency, this was a decent beer. Take that away, and this would be a good beer. I received this in a trade. I can't say that I would ever buy it because there are just too many better barleywines out there.

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Photo of metter98
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
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.

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Photo of thagr81us
3.5/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served from tap into a sampler tumbler. Poured a brownish orange with a half finger off-white head that subsided to a minimal amount slowly. Maintained phenomenal lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, caramel, spices, earth, and subtle alcohol. The flavor was of sweet malt, earth, subtle alcohol, and caramel. It had a medium feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a decent brew. There was nothing on this one that really made it stand out from other Barleywines I have tasted in the past. All of the usual Barleywine flavors were present, but it just wasn’t complex enough to put this one into another league for me. Worth trying if you get the chance or are a big fan of Barleywines.

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Photo of RexF
4.72/5  rDev +26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Barleywine is normally not my thing, but I found myself drinking a Barleycorn and I have to say it was totally delightful.

A friend ordered two after dinner and it was a perfect end to a big meal of steak and grease.

I've never ordered after dinner beers for the purpose of being a stomach settler, but John Barleycorn was exactly that and now I want to have one again.

Are all barley wines this good? I don't think so,

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Photo of kbutler1
3.18/5  rDev -15%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle. 2010 vintage. Pours a dark copper color with a light tan head that collars around the glass. Sweet aroma of caramel, slight toffee, vanilla, and some citrus notes. The aroma is nice. Medium mouthfeel but bordering on a little light. Slight roast, caramel, some booze, and a lingering bitterness. Leaves a little orange like sweetness on the lips. As it warms it has a slight soapy note to it.

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Photo of hdelavega
3.62/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Marked harvest 2007
Poured to my Kuhnhenn snifter.
Pours a murky opaque brown that yielded about a quarter inch of off-white head.
The nose is of rasion, a bit of plum, minimal booze, burnt candy sugar, and some caramel malt.
Fairly sweet flavors, I get more rasion, some light spiced rum flavors, some fleshy fruit, vanilla.
Very light body, very low carbonation, leaves a powdery like coating, very interesting.
Overall, I feel this barleywine may be one that is best enjoyed fresh, it does have some very nice characteristics but the flavors seemed a bit muted and the mouthfeel was not what I suspected.

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Photo of Beerdregs
3.77/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Somewhat cloudy dark brown color with minimal head that did not stay around very long.

S: Raisins, plums and dark malts in the nose. Can perceive a slight alc. aroma.

T: Taste is much like the aroma. Dark, overripe dried fruit taste with heavy sweetness which is cut by the alc. bite.

M: Sticky/sweet mouthfeel with ample carbonation which is suprising since there is so little head.

O: Not very high on my list for barleywines. Just too little going here compared to other brewers out there. Interestingly the aroma is better than the taste of this beer.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.83/5  rDev +2.4%
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...

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Photo of ChadQuest
3.92/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2010 vintage
Pour is a dark amber, like the color of the resin that mosquito is trapped in for jurassic park, but with a generous head at the top. creamy and tan.
The aroma is one that draws me in, a very nice balance of sweet caramel and some alcohol heat which is a positive for my palate.
This is the type of American Barleywine i enjoy, hops that are faded but show lightly, a lot of caramel, and a generous helping of alcohol warmth. I know most people would want to tame it, but this is what i relish.

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

2007 Vintage poured into a Duvel tulip.

A: 1 finger lace, dissipates to outer ring, nice clusters on the swirl.

S: big malts, sweet, mild hops

T: caramel/toffee roasted malt

M: Solid carbonation, perfect in a lot of ways in regards to mouthfeel for a BW.

O: Maybe it's just me, but the vintages of this BW are solid...never had it fresh but had several '07 & '08 and at the price point this is a good BW for not being barrel aged...solid clean BW.

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Photo of zakyj
2.9/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12 ounce bottle poured into pint glass.

A - Little head, clear copper color, with minimal lacing.

S - Malty, very sweet and caramel. little fruity hint as well but no much as to note.

T - Very sweet almost to sweet for my taste. Very little going on though, not bad, but not great. High alcohol taste as well.

M - Thick syrup like feel. covers the palate nicely with a slightly above average finish.

O - I am glad I picked it up but wont be going back to get it again. Nothing at all really stands out. Bottom line; a very typical barleywine, if you see it, try it, but no need to go look for it.

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Photo of beerandcycling88
3.47/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a snifter. 2009 vintage.

A Pours a copper color with little head.

S Very sweet and fruity with a lot of raisin and some sherry like notes.

T Like the nose, very fruity with raisins and sherry. Also a bit of caramel and a lot of alcohol.

M Thick and syrupy with a warming finish from the alcohol.

Overall this is a pretty good barleywine but nothing special. Worth drinking if you see it, but you don't need to go out of your way to find it.

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Photo of Gobzilla
3.75/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: poured a light brown in color with brown highlights and a little head with very little lacing sticking to the glass.

S: lots of caramel upfront on the nose with brown sugar notes, hints of hops, and a little booze as well.

T: the caramel sweet alongside the malts were more apparent on the palate, with brown sugar accents and hints of booze.

M: the brew was medium in body with a moderate amount of carbonation which had a sweet, boozy, and smooth silky finish.

O: it was drinking better than I thought and was even more tasty than I thought it would be.

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Photo of chugalug06
2.95/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Very deep purple in color. Head slowly rises a creamy cream color. Decent lacing too. Good clarity.

S - Lots of raisin/grapes. Smells a little bit sugary and cotton-candy esque. A little flat on the nose.

T - Missing some serious complexity. Very bland, not what I was expecting from MRBC. Lots of strange bitterness with heavy heat notes.

M - Great carbonation, weird suagry-ness.

O - This brew did not measure up to MRBC's stigma... Very disappointing. Recommended, but not worth a hunt. Very average.

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Photo of colforbin73
3.42/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2011 vintage poured into a large tulip.

pours a murky brown without too much of a head. it has a nice burnt amber color when lighted from below and looks fairly clear -- but as it sits in the glass, it's flat a brown murk.

there are some good roasty mats in the aroma -- but it is not a very strong or floral nose. the first sip is not bad, it hits like a barley wine, but only slightly sweet, somehwat saccharin tasting. the very aggressive hopping is ok at the front of the drink -- evoking fall harvest flavors, apples, maple syrup. but ultimately it is a little rough, not a full enough malt flavor and too bitter.

i don't find the beer overly boozy in flavor as others have noted. of course at 10% it does pack a wallop. glad i got to try this, and it wasn't bad, but it is not a great example of the style. maybe in a year or two this will mellow out a bit -- but for now, i find this to be too harsh.

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Photo of bamadog
3.58/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Review is from notes taken on 12/9/2011 and poured from the bottle to a pint glass.

Appearance: pour comes looking a little chewy, so that's promising; color is a dark coppery color with a deep mahogany core -- looks like a dark iced tea; starts with a one finger tan head with decent retention and that fades to a thin and uneven cap; body is murky/cloudy; a few spots and strands of lacing are left behind, but not really a lot.

Smell: Not as strong as I thought it would be, but it smells alright -- a fair amount of piney/citric bitter hops blend with a super sweet caramel maltiness with just a touch of spiciness; I actually think it smells a bit more like an Old Ale or more of a British style Barleywine.

Taste: Not too bad, and if I had to guess, I feel that the average of B at this time is pretty much spot on for this beer. A little more hoppy in the mouth than the nose (but just a bit) and the hops are bitter and have a touch of citrus to them (I'm reminded of orange peel); maltiness is big and offers a nice balancing aspect, and I feel it comes through as the dominant flavor in the end; touch of alcohol, but coming in a 11%, I actually thought it would be a little boozier.

Mouthfeel: Body is medium weight, and the body is creamy with soft carbonation that brings a little bit of life -- quite fitting of the style; a moist stickiness is left all over the roof of the mouth and that holds on to the bitterness and allows it to linger into the aftertaste; belly is left a little warm from the ABV.

Overall: Not bad, and it's around all the time, so I think if I were in the mood and didn't want to pop for a more expensive version, I could go back to it.

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Photo of KAP1356
2.72/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12 oz. bottle I received as an extra sometime back. 2008 vintage poured into a Weyerbacher tulip...

A - Pours a pretty cloudy and murky brownish color - kind of mud like. A half finger of tan head forms and quickly recedes to a collar. Not the most inviting looking beer.

S - Brown sugar, caramal, and, surprisingly, a good bit of alcohol comes right through. Malts, and some wheat like aromas come out too. The alcohol aroma really detracts from this so far.

T - Really sweet malts, and quite bitter out front along with a lot of alcohol, which is really not hidden well at all. Really quite one note for me.

M - Not much carbonation and quite thin body. Not anything to write home about.

O - Eh. Nothing special. It's not the worst beer I've ever had, but it is quite far from good in my opinion.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.48/5  rDev -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.

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Photo of suspect
2.68/5  rDev -28.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Dogfish Head Signature glass. From a "Celebrating 2008 Harvest" bottle.

A: Cloudy medium brown color. Aggressive pour leads to a thin ring of head that disappears to a cloudy smattering of foam on the top of the beer. Lacing is thick and consistent.

S: Booze, sugar, caramel, sugar and booze. This one is hot and you can smell it. Not much hop presence.

T: The taste has backed down some (not a lot) from the nose but the sugar certainly did not. It's sweet and relatively unbalanced. End of the taste is boozy.

M: Little carbonation, pretty thin body but man the abv (which is listed as 9.1% on my bottle) leaves a hot aftertaste that's hard to shake.

O: Not a really terrible brew, but not really great either. Probably not a brew that I'll seek out again.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
2.52/5  rDev -32.6%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Light red and brown pour, all kinds of chunky yeast and whatnot floaties all over this, does not look attractive whatsoever, the lack of head didn't help either. Aroma, heavy on the alcohol, a little bit of bitter sugarness came in afterwards.

Taste, whoo, still very hot, yeasty grittiness on the teeth, ample sweetness and huge bitterness still on this one. Tough to pull much in the way of taste out of this, the alcohol is just omniprescient or whatever that word is. Had em fresh, had em aged, just not a fan at any stage of this, despite liking many Mad River brews. Seemed to be lacking the necessary malt additions to soak up the alcohol presence.

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Photo of leschkie
3.03/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2009 cellar reserve. 12 oz bottle poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Pours a translucent apple juice color with a very thick, frothy head that reminds me of freshly prepared creme fraiche. For a barleywine, however, I was expecting to see a deep ruby-based color.

Smell: Typical aromas in an American barleywine, but not quite as pungent as what I'm used to. Malt, barley, caramel, and wheat constitute the olfactory profile. Perhaps slight scents of hay and hops.

Taste: Similar to the nose up front, but somewhat bitter in the finish. Slightly watered down compared to what I'm used to in a higher-quality barleywine. Nothing really to get into a frenzy over.

Mouthfeel: Light- to medium-bodied. Lower amounts of carbination. Very little satisfaction from letting this one roll around in my mouth and tongue.

Overall: Definitely not one of my favorite barleywines, but decent. It needs character and personality...definitely suffers from a serious identity crisis and I just don't know what Mad River was trying to paint in this portrait. I bought a 4-pack of this based on the recommendation of the liquor store beer guy so I could try one and give out the rest as trade extras. With that said, I apologize in advance to those who received this as an extra in their trades with me…I didn’t know, I swear!

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

appearance - cherrywood brown, quite saturated. minor head, with decent lacing. last maybe a couple minutes then i get the rim.
smell - lots of brown sugar, caramel malts, alcohol (nicely added), minor pine tar hops
taste - brown sugar with caramel up front, hops finishes it off very lightly with a good alcohol burn...typical for the style but done well.
mouthfeel - medium to little carbonation for the style, thick bodied and not very cloying for how much sugar there is

reviews seem harsh, i think this is a pretty good barleywine. could age really well.

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Photo of Infamous7100
3.47/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: not much to speak of. Mahogany, opaque and a very thin, near non existant head. No lacing to speak of.
S: I get some sugar and perhaps some vinious scents. However, the most prevalent scent is booze.
T: I get the sugary sweetness up front and some bittering hops toward the back. Vinious and piney, but nothing truly remarkable. A nice boozy burn as the last bit trickles down my throat.
M: Little to no carbonation, but it is creamy. Not as heavy as a 10%very abv would usually be.
O: I would have loved for this to be a bit more aromatic and flavorful. Its mostly just booze and a tad bitter at the finish. Not bad, but not sure its worth the price.

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

12 oz bottle. 2008. $2.79 from Beer Run.

Appearance: Mostly clear reddish brown, looks about like iced tea. Off white head, brief retention, but leaves some decent spotty lacing.

Smell: Rich caramel malt and toffee notes, dark fruit. Lots of sweetness, attenuated hops, little whiff of alcohol.

Taste: Surprising hops bitterness still present in this three year old beer. The malt flavors don't taste as good as they smell. Still good, but lacking richness and complexity.

Mouthfeel: Good mouthfeel for a barleywine. Thick, slightly sticky.

Overall: Its a good barleywine, and a decent value. I wish I would have tried it fresh, I bet its pretty hoppy. good, but not the best.

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Photo of GeezLynn
3.46/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

“Celebrating the 2007 harvest”

A: Reddish brown with a minimal white head that vanished very quickly.

S: Pretty simple – burnt brown sugar and vanilla with some noticeable ethanol.

T: Although time has softened it a bit, this is still a pretty sharp barleywine. Strong burnt caramel and bitter, piney hop flavors stand out. A bit of buttery flavor underneath. Not much in the way of fruit, but alcohol is not nearly as apparent here as in the nose. Finishes with a prolonged bitterness.

M: Medium to thick bodied for the style with low carbonation. Not overly sticky despite lack of carbonation and well within style guidelines.

Not overly impressed with this, especially given that it has had 4 years in the bottle to meld. Not bad, but not one to look for in my opinion.

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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 357 ratings.