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Old Tom - Frederic Robinson Limited

Not Rated.
Old TomOld Tom

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

95 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 95
Hads: 166
Avg: 3.75
pDev: 16.27%
Wants: 3
Gots: 11 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Frederic Robinson Limited visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Strong Ale |  8.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: cokes on 01-13-2003

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (11) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 95 | Hads: 166
Photo of Viggo
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of bobsy at his insane barleywine tasting.

Pours a clear ruby red, some orange/brown highlights, medium sized light tan head forms, settles down to a thick ring, lace spots stick to the glass, looks good.

Smell is nice, brown sugar, caramel, very malty, lots of fruit, raisins, alcohol, pudding, pretty intense maltiness, a bit of alcohol comes through, good stuff.

Taste is similar, very sweet and malty, grapes, raisins, brown sugar, lots of dark fruit, alcohol, biscuit, pretty solid although not as good as the aroma.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with low to medium carbonation. A pretty solid English barleywine, I like it. Thanks Rob!

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Photo of bobsy
3.9/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I picked up this bottle in England because 1) Robinson's is local to where I grew up, 2) English barleywines kick ass, and 3) cats are amazing. Shared this one with a few other guys at a barleywine tasting.

Pours a rich russet colour with an off-white head that soon dropped to a collar. Nice sweet aroma with strong notes of raisins, alcohol soaked dark fruit and sherry. The flavour follows up with the same elements, but has the added bonus of some decent hopping, and a nice combination of flavours. In a way it felt like a cross between a barleywine and a pale ale. Medium body and carbonation. I thought this was quite well done. While not as rich and heavy as some of the others we had, I think this may well have been one of the most drinkable bottles we popped, which surprised me after the disappointing Chocolate Tom.

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Photo of Derek
3.99/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Chestnut, tan head, thin ring of retention, very little lace.

S: Awesome plum pudding, Christmas cake aroma, plenty of dark raisins, brown sugar & sherry. Really great aroma.

T: Dark raisin, christmas cake, dark toffee, warming alcohol.

M: Well-attenuated moderate body.

D: A decent drinker.

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Photo of JohnfromDublin
3.97/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was a 330 ml bottle that I tasted on Oct 17th 2009 (BBE Dec 2010). Firstly, I have to comment on the presentation. It came in a superb bottle with raised writing and an embossed label.

Poured into a Straffe Hendrick glass, this was a dark brown ale with a coffee coloured head. An immediate rich aroma rose, a bit like "fruit of the forest". Very interesting.

The taste was warming, of stewed fruits, brandy & port and malt bread.

Overall, I found this an excellent beer. It was to me a Belgian strong ale, reminding me of Goudon Carolus or even Chimay Blue or Unibroue's Maudite. It was not quite at the level of the three I mention, but a very drinkable strong ale.

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Photo of DerBayer
3.4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

The look is more of a Porter or Schwarzbier than a Barleywine -- minimal head though. Not bad in all.

Smells like a good old Barley wine, summer fruit, some alcohol and harvest spice. There is some chocolate in the background though again more like a Porter or maybe a Stout

Taste is overpowered by chocolate like Porter Stoutness

Mouthfeel is refreshing and creamy. I could have it again but I am disappointed since this should be labelled a stron Barley Porter so you would know what to expect

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Photo of fullsweep
3.62/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

330 mL brown bottle poured into a pint glass.

Cola-coloured ale sits underneath a very thick and rich beige foamy head. Lots of carbonation bubbling up underneath.

I didn't pick up much in the way of smell, to be honest.

Tastes of brown sugar and maybe a little dates or molasses.

Mouthfeel is very thick, rich and syrupy--more so than any other beer I've had so far.

Despite the relatively high ABV, this is a much more drinkable ale than other barleywines I've tried. There isn't the strong taste of alcohol like there is with some other strong ales. The smaller size bottle makes it easier as well. Very interesting indeed.

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Photo of thepeter
3.82/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - very dark brown, mahogany, slight orange color when held to the light. Head is a combination of tiny and medium sized bubbles that became a film rather quickly, and left a little bit of nice lacing.

S - dark fruit and candy sugar right off the bat. This smells sweeter than it tastes. A bit of brown bread, nuts and metal.

T - Burnt Roasted malt dominate the palate and give way to the dark fruits, raisins, caramel, nuts and booze. A lot of the nuttiness is in the finish and can be a bit bitter. A heavy aftertaste that was not my favorite but not all that bad was also present. The booze was not hiding anywhere which is OK with me.

M&D - Medium Carbonation, and a bit harsh going down. Would have loved it to be a bit smoother and easier drinking, but, HEY! this is a barley wine. So I should stop my Whining.

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Photo of crowncapcollect
3.13/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

330ml bottle (design is different to photo)

A good example of this style, but not really a style of beer I like. The treacle taste is a bit too dominant for my liking and it is a touch on the sweet side. But, it does look lovely and the smell is quite intriguing.

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Photo of soulgrowl
4.33/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Surprisingly excellent head, sandy white, airy and smooth with great retention. Body is thick coffee brown with sparks of bright red-orange. Lovely nose with plenty of caramel, chocolate, raisins, and vinous dark fruits, plus a honey-biscuit note reminiscent of graham crackers. Flavor is big on prunes, black tea, caramel, and dark rum, although the alcohol is well-integrated - not exactly hidden, spicy but not too hot or medicinal. Cola and oaky red wine round out the flavor. The mouthfeel is a nice balancing act; it's medium-bodied, lush but also quite dry. It could be richer, but that might make this too sweet. Overall this is very nice, almost Belgian in character - fruity, spice, drinkable and complex.

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Photo of Suds
4.23/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer falls into the category of brews that I'd wanted to try for a very long time. I'd read about the beer years ago, but never found a bottle until coming across it in a great beer shop in Italy. The beer pours a dark chestnut color with a firm and soapy head. The foam is densely packed and a chocolate-tan color with lots of staying-power. The aroma is solidly good, vinous, with plenty of oak and malt. There's also a touch of vanilla, caramel, and booze-infused dark fruit. The taste is complex and mildly sweet. Balance, drinkability, and subtle flavor nuances are the key to this beer. It's quintessentially English in style, not the in-your-face American strong ale. This suits the beer perfectly. Smooth and complex, the beer is a real joy. The carbonation was a little more pronounced than expected, but it fit nicely with the brew. Very enjoyable.

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Photo of Sigmund
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

330 ml bottle, bought in Scarborough. Mahogany coloured beer, large and lasting tan head. Malty sweet aroma, notes of port wine, oak and bakery. Excellent mouthfeel, full and rich. Flavour of generous malts, caramel, dried dark fruits, moderate but noticeable hops (Goldings and Northdown), port wine finish. Fairly sweet, but not cloying. A true classic!

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Photo of DaveUK
4.2/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - Deep reddish black with a strong head of light brown bubbles. A wonderfully, enticing look.

Aroma - Medicinal, phenolic character followed by rich roasted malt and overtones of dried fruits, such as figs and sweetened dates. A mild but intriguing mixture.

Taste - Rich but smooth malt, ripe fruits. Followed by warming alcohol. Further sips reveal raisins and other dried fruits along with the figs and dates of the aroma. The finish is soft and prolonged, conjuring treacle covered dates and flaming christmas pudding.

Mouthfeel - I dont think I have ever a beer of this strength with such a delicate mouthfeel. I could hardly detect any hint of carbonation, despite the adequate head. No sourness to speak of and superb, thick and chewy body that just slides down the throat.

Overall - A complex and rich brew, hardly any sweetness left on the lips but oodles of character and flavour. An excellent beer that I shall be buying again!

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Photo of haz77
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a red-tinged brown with small, lively bubbles of carbonation. The inch of head is light-tan, creamy and tight. It falls to a thin layer after about a minute, although can be easily refreshed with a swirl of the glass.

S - Chocolate, prune, dried fig, a little liquorice, some wine-like notes, toffee.

T - Initial flavour is of toffee/light molasses. The dried fruit appears in the middle with chocolate in the background. Finish is fairly sweet with a light tobacco flavour. Alcohol is well hidden.

M - Medium, mildly syrupy body and soft carbonation. Very pleasant.

D - A good offering. Lack of alcohol bite aids overall drinkability.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
3.15/5  rDev -16%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Fat, medium size bottle. No glued on label. Formed glass into the head of a cat. Kinda cool.
A dark brown, ruby pour. topped with a slight head, kind of soapy looking. Solid color, not bad.
Aroma is sweet. Raisin, plum other dark fruits. Almost too sweet. Like a wine, too much like a wine.
Taste follows nose. Plums, prunes, raisins, dark cherry. A bit slick, yet syrupy. Seems a bit broken down. Malts don't mesh well, hops are non-existant.
a bit hard to finish. Too sweet for me.

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Photo of BlackHaddock
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brown 330ml bottle, best before Sept 2008, drank July 2007.

Poured into one of my Gordon Thistle glasses. Very dark brown/red with a well formed off-white head. The head stayed throughout the drink.

Aroma was sweet malts and plum bread.

Tangy, malty, old Sharaz wine flavour, very different from other Barley wines I have had over the years. Complexed and interesting.

A very good beer. By far the best beer I have had from the Robinson brewery.

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Photo of Stephen63
3.67/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Strong dark body with slightly thin head, needed to pour carefully to get a finger of foam.

S - Lovely aroma of plums and prunes, very enticing.

T - As above but almost caramel/toffee stickiness in pleasant way. Not too bitter, malty hops on the finish.

M - Good carbonation and full bodied.

D - Nice warming beer but more of a nightcap than anything. Very drinkable as a late night beer.

Would recommend this as a barley wine for those who have not tried the style.

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Photo of karst
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Clearity that suggests filtering in a deep garnet BW with light tan head.
Aromas of dark fruit and kettle caramelization with some notes of licorice and earthy hops.

Flavors of toffee and prunes woody Fuggles hop component mixed with nutty finish. Not as sweet as I would expect in an English BW. The price of good attenuation is found in the medium mouthfeel and thinner body that you expect in BW.

Alcohol well hidden in somewhat complex malt flavors. Interesting flavors help bring up the drinkability.

Presented to the 2007 BJCP class in St. Louis, MO. Thanks for sharing your beer knowledge.

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Photo of stcules
3.41/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A beautiful dark mahogany color. Brownish head, relatively abundant, compact and sticky, even if not too persistent. Good appearance.
The smell has good woody notes, with vanilla and raisins. A good dark maltiness in the background.
The wood note becomes softer in the taste. Not bad at all. Intersting and pleasant. Woody and vanilla. Even some chocolate.
In the aftertaste a good resolute bitterness. And again wood and vanilla notes.
More than plesant.
Good nightcup.

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Photo of seanyfo
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A- aggressive pour into a duvel tulip producing a 3 finger tan head with a body so stealthy black it makes children cry for fear its a black hole about to suck them in. Head reduces very fast with very minimal lacing.

S- Very sweet raisins, cinnamon and roasted malt. Hints of marzipan

T- Sweet raisins, and marzipan,dary cherries with a nutty toffeey quality. Finish is rather smooth for 8.5% A little watery even. has a nice alcoholic warmth to it though, which warms through the taste and is not unpleasant.

M- medium carbonation, perhaps slightly more than i like for this level of alcohol. I prefer something a bit chewier for a old ale/barley wine style. this is maybe a bit thin when served from the fridge

D- Its an ok barley wine, but i would take a harviestoun old engine oil over this any day. Its just too thin for my tastes. Actually reminds me of a poor doppelbock

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Photo of GreenCard
3.92/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2nd review (bottle purchased at the same time as the one from my original review below)...

Appearance: dark brown to mahogany, good clarity, dense layer of tan foam that collapses to a creamy cap, specs of lace

Aroma: chocolate cake, root beer, malt, rye, roast, sherry

Flavor: mild malt sweetness with an acidic edge of roast; burnt almonds, unsweetened chocolate; woody hop flavor/bitterness; hint of sherry-like oxidation; finishes semisweet with an aftertaste of Armagnac and Kahlua

Mouthfeel: medium body, terse carbonation, alcohol warmth

Other comments: This sample was nearly a year old. Still seems quite fresh and hasn't changed much from the first review. I'll have to let the third bottle sit until beyond the best-by date (Jun 2007) to possibly see some more drastic changes.

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Photo of wl0307
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

New packaging: a brownish 330ml bottle embossed with words Robinsons OLD TOM STRONG ALE, with a pix of OLD TOM Cat's face blinking with one eye~~ BBE MAR 07.

Served cool in a broad-rimmed goblet.
A: beautifully clear dark ruby hue, coming with a thick and foamy light beige beer head, gradually settling to a thin layer of froth sustaining constantly on top.
S: deep scent of caramel malts bringing mixed aroma of mildly preserved figs, sweet plums, dried black dates, preserved black cherries, a little licorice syrup and a touch of coconut, with good backbone of treacles/burned sugars and fruity hops; each swirling bring out more perfumy scent of fruity esters and creamy note... so smooth and quietly pleasant~~
T&M: slightly fizzy on texture upfront, followed by raisins, toffeeish malts with a not-so-sweet treacles-edge, coming hand in hand with moderate alcoholic warmth creeping down the palate... the mid-flavour sees a flow of bitter-sweetness and mildly spicy hops developing quietly, lending some depth to the smooth, dark-fruity vinous texture of a forteified wine (maybe tawny port?) and an underlying herbal-syrupy maltiness at the back of the palate. Surprisingly clean and moderately-lingering bitter finish, without the slightest trace of sugary or syrupy aftertaste while the alcohol hides just too well underneath.
D: compared with my previous note of this beer on draught, it seems that the bottled version shows less alcoholic warmth and also less explicit fruity elements but better-balanced... Slightly lighter-bodied than expected, this beer just punches above its weight and makes a really smooth yet complex digestive instead of a glass of port to round off my X'mas celebration~~ Wonder how it'd taste if bottle-conditioned?

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Photo of mdagnew
3.97/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

330ml bottle bought from Sainsburys

Poured a dark ruby / mahogany colour... Head was creamy tan and poured very big and foamy. Fades to a very thin layer...

Aroma - Dark fruits - blackcurrent, figs ? Brown sugar, light roast malt, some banana, caramel....

Taste – Raisins, warming alcohol notes, slight aniseed, light maltiness, some nuttiness...

Feel - Quite sharp initially but smooth after.. Quite light bodied - i expected it to be much fuller...

Overall - A pretty good beer.... Worth a try... Not quite as good as i was expecting though....

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.52/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Toasted walnut brown that becomes brilliant scarlet with even weak backlighting. The head is ecru in color and is nicely firm and lasting. Even so, the cap displays nothing in the way of geologic features as it drops and doesn't grace the glass with any lace at all. It'll do, but Old Tom needs to work on his looks.

This beer doesn't smell ballsy enough to be a barleywine (maybe it's a 'barely' wine?). I have to keep reminding myself that it's an English version of the style, but it really does smell more old aleish to me (I wonder why the photo at right says 'Strong Ale' where mine says 'Barley Wine'. Hmm... ). The nose is caramel malt-dominant with quite a bit of fruit as well; figs and plums for the most part. It's also vinous with more than a passing resemblance to a big, spicy Cabernet. Old Tom is growing on me with each sniff.

Unfortunately, the beer is underwhelming on the palate. The flavor could fairly be called lackluster, the mouthfeel is nothing to write home about, and even the alcoholic punch is more like a light tap on the chin. Alcoholic heat rushes in on the finish, although it feels half-hearted as well. This kitty had better steer clear of any more alley fights because he's short on both teeth and claws.

I feel a little better about things as the beer warms. The flavor profile improves throughout each mouthful, even if the finish can't quite overcome a shaky start. The plum jam fruit flavor becomes more and more concentrated, and raisin paste and (weak) port wine enter the fray just prior to the finish. If those flavors could be amplified at least two-fold, they might have a chance to impress.

The mouthfeel is where this experience really suffers. It's waaay too light and insubstantial for the style; it doesn't allow what flavor is present to be appreciated in the best possible light. Without a doubt, this is least impressive mouthfeel of any barleywine that I can remember drinking.

Old Tom is not a good barleywine, no matter its country of origin. It may have originated from a hand-written recipe from 1899, but this is one instance where historical accuracy should take a backseat to common sense. This kitty could stand to replace a large portion of its soft purr with a snarling lion's roar.

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Photo of canucklehead
3.16/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A pretty brown beer with a nice head, but alas nut much going on below the surface. Very smooth and somewhat malty, this beer is too subdued in the flavour profile to being highly regarded. I sensed the quality but could not really grasp the nuances as they were too far down in the mix.

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Photo of blitheringidiot
3.47/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Decorative 9.3 fl oz. Browner bottle with attractive red & gold trimmed triple label with a winking cat on the body and a brief explanation on the back describing an 1899 hand written recipe as the source. Cryptic neck imprint: L2296 16:56.

Well, let’s let the cat out of the bag and into a wide mouth tulip, shall we? Pours out a rough stormy opaque dim brown with a thin settled tan collar head cap. A few healthy swirls erupts the tan cap to a coating leaving scattered spotty lace.

Persuasive tobacco leaf malts and woody charcoal hickory notes.

First swigs: Dull wood essence. Dry lingering pancake batter flour malt aftertaste. Slight smoky caramel, as in the nose. As warmed, some delicate date, fig and walnut nuttiness peak out. Otherwise, the fruit characters are subdued as with the hops profile. Slightly diluted middle.

Medium body with soft gentle carbonation. A rigid original style interpretation that favors harmless benign style prior to mouth shattering zing.

Last swigs: Flour and walnut. Authentic traditional English emphasized Barley wine. 8.5% ABV is completely hidden. Picked up as a rare treat with my 2004 Secret Santa BA Kathleen. Thanks! As much as American Barleys are a favorite, props to the real thing. Always appreciating the original idea. Some envy over fellow BAs who have enjoyed this on cask.

Beer is good. Happy beering.

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Old Tom from Frederic Robinson Limited
85 out of 100 based on 95 ratings.