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Backburner (Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale) - Southern Tier Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Backburner (Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale)Backburner (Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale)

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

501 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 501
Hads: 888
Avg: 4
pDev: 13.75%
Wants: 72
Gots: 103 | FT: 7
Brewed by:
Southern Tier Brewing Company visit their website
New York, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  9.60% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerTruth on 04-02-2007

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Backburner (Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale) Alström Bros
Reviews: 501 | Hads: 888
Photo of mjgooner13
3.71/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - A coke a cola type color, a dark maple with hints of red on the sides. Left some nice lacing as i continued to drink.

S- had the usual sweet barleywine smell, of sweetness from some dark fruits and maybe some toffee.

T- Taste was not as sweet as the smell, which I think in this case is a good thing. Up front I get the same fruity tastes from the nose, some malt as well as licorice on the end. It was pretty well balanced throughout without really being dominated by anything.

M- Medium bodied and the alcohol was masked pretty well, so it went down quite smooth, which could make this one a bit dangerous with the 9.6 abv.

O- Def enjoyed this one, well balanced, hides the alcohol although you can pick it up a little bit, certainly wouldn't mind having one or two of these on a rainy day.

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Photo of OddNotion
3.72/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bought this about 10 months ago and it was old at the time I bought it. It was in a store with a very slow moving stock. The exact age/vintage is unknown. However, I know it is over a year old.

Poured into my DFH Signature Glass.

Appearance: Deep burgundy/ruby color with a one half finger off white head that dissipates relatively quickly. Leaves a cap and some lacing.

Smell: Dark fruits and caramel. This smells amazing. The smells are so bold and assertive, yet smooth.

Taste: Dark fruits, caramel, raisins. Not bitter at all. I guess this was older than I hoped. I like my Barleywines mellowed out but not to the point where the bitterness is completely gone. Honestly it tastes like a more assertive Quadrupel. It is good but I assume past its prime. I have not had it fresh so I can not compare, but most Barleywines start off with a more aggressive hop presence. The malt flavor in this is great.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, almost creamy, lightly carbonated.

Overall: I enjoy this, not my favorite for the style and I will need to find a fresh one for comparison sake. The malt flavor in this is amazing, I want to have this one with some bitterness and hop presence.

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Photo of oberon
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Southern Tier's two new offerings are seriously top notch and being so close in proxemity to the brewery they are easy to find and will be a main stay in my house.Poured into an oversized wine glass a deep amber almost burgundy color with a tight formed thin white head leaving shitty lace stuck to the glass.Big and balanced aromas deep cherry and brown sugar tones mixed with piney,resiny Amarillo hop aromas a defient rum like alcohol presence shows thru as well.Sweetish brown sugar and dark fruit flavors really hit home with a noticable sweet alcohol zip really coming thru as it warms to near room temp,the hops seem a bit overwhelmed by such a big malty sweet base but they show thru after a bit in a piney,grapefruit rind presence but never jumps out at ya.The hop burps came afterwords but the hop flavors need a bit of a push in my mind but they are everywhere else,big and brash Iam gonna hold one for a awhile and see what turns up.

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Photo of xcrunner78
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Aroma of a carmel malt with a hint of dried fruit and hopped very lightly. A tan head on top of a dark amber color. It has a very carmel, malty flavor that leads into some hopness and leaves a sugery carmely taste on the palate. Thick body and really smooth with a lot of alcohol.

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Photo of DawnL
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

True amber with a little sticky lacing at the rim.

Pleasant hops with some alcohol on the nose.

Lots of alcohol heat. A cross between fine whiskey and beer. Wooden quality - not oak and not pine - more like bramble. Very intense, especially the alcohol.

This brew coats the palate. Has some residual sugar that collects around the lips but is not evident in either taste or aroma.

The drinkability suffers just because of the massiveness of this brew.

All in all - I love this beer!

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Photo of chicano4craft
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dirty brown. Cloudy and slighty red. Creamy white head.

Nose is strongly caramel and toffee. Smells very sweet. There's a faint citrus smell way in the back. I'm not sure how old this bottle is. I got it in a trade a few months ago. But whatever hops were there have since faded to the background.

Hops are still hanging around in the taste. There back up singers to the sweet barley now. Not as caramel as I expected, but that's good. There's a bit at the end. It's by no means hot...but after half a glass I was feeling this one.

Mouthfeel is a tad syrupy and heavy. This and the hugh abv brings down the drinkability for me. Overall it was an enjoyable barleywine. I much prefer my barleywines fresh. I'm more into the balance of lots of hops and barley. Would love to try this one again.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a ruby-colored body with a short-lived, beige head.

Smell: A rich, malty sweet aroma with plenty of fruitiness held within notes of black cherries and syrup-soaked plums.

Taste: Strong, supporting malt backbone bringing flavors of sweet, charred caramel, dark fruits, and hints of chocolate. The beer certainly needs that malty brace for the sharp hop hit of soapy pine right at the end and into the long, lingering finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body, with a very thick, lush mouthfeel.

Drinkability: Its all kinds of decent!

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Photo of thecheapies
3.74/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bomber with no freshness date, purchased in 2012. Poured into two snifter glasses.

Tried to be vigorous with the pour to yield some head, but nothing stuck around. What was there fell to a thin ring in no time. The color is a dark coppery orange-brown. Not much more to say about the appearance. 2.5

I'm gonna try to let this one warm up and breathe a bit. The nose is offering a pronounced woody oak character along with citrusy hops a la tangerine and grapefruit. Some roasty toasty malts, but little toffee sweetness. There's a decent alcohol sting coming upwards. I wouldn't call the hops aggressive, but they're the main feature, thus far. 3.5

Oak, with the volume turned up, mixed with more orange rind hops. A dose of grapefruit pith, grassiness, and booze. The oak and hops are very prominent, leaving pale the semi-dry caramel malt. A semi-balanced, dry-hopped American-style barleywine, for sure. Missing some of the complexities of the hop-forward version that Bigfoot has. A little attenuated, but a decent drink. 4.0

Not much carbonation, as previously stated. The body is pretty light for a 9.6% beer. It's drinkable. I can say that much. Goes down pretty easily. Heady, but drinkable. 3.5

I'm not a huge fan of this kind of barleywine, but Southern Tier didn't make a bad beer here. I'd drink it again, preferrably to look for it on-tap. I wouldn't age it. Not sure what would be left of the original brew if one did. Give 'er a try. 4.0

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Photo of Amalak
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I had at Muggs Tavern in Williamsburg, Brooklyn off a pump cask.
A- It has a red color to it and has some bubbliness. There's a good foamy head that leaves some lace.
S- Hoppy with a hint of alcohol.
T- It's extremely hoppy and is very bitter. Intense taste is the best way I can put it. The hops overshadow everything else. There's some alcohol in there as well. Not bad at all.

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Photo of Casey10
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Not sure if I just had a bad bottle or something but was let down by this barley wine beer.

While the apperance was nice dark and the smell was good which was like slight carmel like smell.

The taste was okay as the mouthfeel I realize that that Barleywines can be hit or miss I gave this a good.

If I try this one again I hope that it is a bit better.

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Photo of lincoln44
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

22 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

Bronze amber color, clear but deep mahogany appearance. Not much head after the pour but may be contributed to the temperature. Nice lacing stuck around afterward.

S- Spicy, sweet, and slight floral hop aroma all combined. Picking up a roasted malt flavor, must have been used for color and depth.

Taste- Rich sweet and spicy taste. The hop flavor must be from the Chinook as it is spicy and not as aromatic yet still enjoyable. Kind of a woody taste coming through on the tail of it all.

M- slick feel from the high residuals and hop oils. Carbonation is right on for this style.

D-Not my favorite barley wine but enjoyable nonetheless. Spicier and woody taste compared to the BW I am familiar with. Overall decent brew but I don't think I would be searching for this one every time I go to the store.

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Photo of waltersrj
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pour: Deep ruby red with a brown hue and a 2 fingered off white head. Sticky lacing on the glass and decent legs.

Nose: Dark fruit, sweet sugars, very hoppy, caramel malt, and toffee.

Taste: Dark fruits, prune and fig, toffee, caramel, very bitter hops, slightly cloying malts, and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Thick but creamy with a slightly cloying feel.

Overall: a pretty good representation of an ABW, great hop and malt profile but not the best.

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Photo of BigMcLargeHuge
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Courtesy of RB's own GMCC2181 via sweet trade bonus, thanks Gabe. Pours clear crisp amber with thin tan head. The aroma is musty dark fruity esters, some pine and grassy hops followed by a note of alcohol heat. The taste actually feels a bit thin to start flowing into notes of prunes, raisins, followed by pine and grassy hop bitterness. Some moderate alcohol rises up toward the finish as a tasty roasted malt note brings this to closure. Feels like more age might help this some.

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Photo of torchednoodle
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to jctribe25 for this beer.

It's a decent barleywine. Pours a dark brown copper. Taste is of sweet raisins and fruit. There's some mild burn from the alcohol, but it really hides the alcohol pretty well considering 10%. Carbonation feels very good. The group I drank this with enjoyed this beer, but we agreed that it wasn't a standout compared to the other beers we were drinking that day.

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Photo of PorterLambic
3.76/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Arrives in a snifter, a hazy dark brown with no head.
Smell is piney hops with some dark fruits and malt. Not exactly as expected but well balanced.
Taste is hoppy, sweet, malt, pine and some generic dark fruit notes. Balance is good.
Full bodied, warming and quite smooth. Extremely light effervescence, as expected. A nice sipping beer. Well done. So much better when it warms, easily twice the beer. Let it sit for 30 minutes at least and love it.

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Photo of Vierenner
3.77/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Flavor and sweetness resemble many other Southern Tier brews. I can't pinpoint it, but there must be a substantial, common ingredient in all of them (Cuvee Series One, Oat, etc). I think there's too much sweetness, really. However, if you're looking for a desert-like beer, this could work very well. Very little hop bite makes the desert experience work.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 from joe1510 .. shared a small glass with Brenda.. mine poured into my Smokestack goblet..

1" head with beautiful lacing.. brew is dark brown with not much showing until I held it to a light and it revealed a crystal clear ruby brew.. very pretty for the entire bottle.

Aroma is American hops but with a significant backboard of malts caramel and even some chocolate as it arms.. . yeasty fruitiness reminds me of overripe plums... does have a distinct solvent characteristic as it warms.

Flavor is very nice.. just enough bitterness to balance the malts.. good caramel.. toasty and much lesser chocolate malts.. complex malts with the fruitiness from the yeasts make this a memorable brew. Pine and citrus hops play very well with the overall sweetness. Bready midpalate and a long lingering hoppy/fruity finish combines with caramel remnants. Body is pretty much exact so is the carbonation..

I wish Backburner and other Southern Tier brews were available to me.. This BW is pretty classy fresh.. an would probably age like a champ if I had them in the cellar.. Good Stuff! Big props to joe1510 for a great trade!!


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Photo of StephenRich
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

In the early 1900s and before, a brewers first runnings of the mash (the first amount of sweet liquid that they would drain off the soaked malts) would always be the strongest, and would indeed be very rich given the large quantity of malted barley used at the time. Every successive running would allow the brewer to create the same beer, but with lesser alcohol and character each time. Thus with 1 mash but 3 sparges (filtering water though the grains) the brewer could create 3 similar beers of varying strength (ie. 12, 7, and 4%). This very first running, the strongest of the three, created a high alcohol beer known as a Barleywine.

Today a barleywine is widely considered by brewers and beer aficionados to be the epitome of brewing expertise. The style has become popular enough too that various brewing regions have adapted the style to their own preferences - and hence, the American Barleywine was born. This is of course a more heavily hopped, and drier barleywine than the original English style, and it commands respect world wide. From Up-State New York then comes the Southern Tier Back Burner Imperial Barleywine style Ale; a quintessential example of American Barleywine.

Although Southern Tier calls it an Imperial Barleywine, it is really just a Barlywine. These beers by definition are anywhere from 8 to 12% abv, and sometimes even higher. The Back Burner comes in at 10% abv, thus placing it directly in the median. An Imperial Barleywine would be 18 or 19% - they do exist. Southern Tier's recipe is a relatively simple one; the Back Burner is brewed with three grains, two hops, and is dry hopped with an additional two. This would seen very classically American to me. This beer is released every February so to enjoy its warming malts in the dead of winter, however you could easily hold onto it until the next cold season runs by. Beers like this beg to be aged smoothing out the flavors and bringing greater complexity and power.

I opened the Back Burner up at the upper end of cellar temperature around 13 or 14C (57F) and poured it into a wide mouth snifter. The beer was very silky and oil like showing great depth in color even before the growing ruby beer hit the glass. What formed was a richly crimson red beer with deep caramel browns, copper, and thick burgundy resting in the center. A short head just under an inch build up showing dense carbonation, tightly packed bubbles, and a soft light brown to tan color. It sat there with a creamy and silky cap to a monstrous looking beer.

The nose is richly warming with thick and gooey caramel malts. Its filled with the aromas of light brown sugar and toffee, but shows a definite dry side, and citrus hops are also easily present. Its not overly bitter, and seemingly less so than many of its American counterparts, but the hops come in with a proper balancing of the rich malts which show a strong presence and an obviously dry sweetness.

On your palate the Back Burner delivers smooth and creamy malt flavors at every inch. The richly caramel malt aromas burst into action now showing your tongue a wide dark fruit flavor that hints at dried cherries, blood orange, a touch of spice and hints of warmth. Toffee and caramel are really round here and melt across your cheeks bringing deep flavor everywhere.

The overall sweet malt sensation is dry, but somehow very fruity. It strikes a very nice balance between rich sugar and mellow malt. What helps create this illusion is a soothing dose of both bittering and aroma hops. The backbone of the Back Burner is dense malt (dark cherries, dried apricots, prunes, and figs), but it is made possible by a lightly grapefruit flavored hop aroma that brings a touch of pine, earth and spice along with it. It helps to soften this beer without being too bitter.

It is actually not very bitter at all, not compared to most American Barlywines. But it is dry, dry and malty. There is greater complexity in the flavor than I would have originally anticipated as I begin to get vanilla, a hint of ginger, and Grand Marnier. This is a warming and rich barleywine, but it dryer than I normally enjoy. I tend to favor the juicy, gooey barleywines. This though would make an excellent desert pairing with rich chocolates, or would be a wonderful companion to a aromatic cigar.

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Photo of Jayli
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had at The Abbey in Worcester 2/13
This beer pours a a mahogony color leaning more towards a plum color with an off white half finger head that holds nicely. Thick lacing that are present throughout. Nose is a big malty presence with hints of sweet caramel and sugar. Hops are also present with pine and floral fruit aromas. Alcohol is also very present in the nose. This is the first barley wine that I've tried and based off the nose, I thought that I would not like it. I was wrong! Taste is way more mellow than the smell - in a good way. Caramels, chocolate, brown sugar mixed with pine and floral hops. I found this to be very well balanced. Somewhat thick and juicy in the mouth. This is definitely a sipper, and with the high ABV not one to sit with for a session - however definitely a beer that I would have again!

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Photo of siege06nd
3.79/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A 2011 bottle, poured into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint.

A. Pours a very cloudy, ruddy copper color. Not much head to speak of, just a wisp of a cream colored neck around the top. Lacing is also very faint. Meh.

S. Toasted malt, raisin, caramel, and some subtle hop notes.

T. Lots of toasty bread crust, some toasty caramel, raisin, toffee, spicy and bitter hops, and a fairly big booze burn on the back end.

M. Boozy finish but everything else is pretty well-balanced. Slightly astringent and drying from the bitterness and alcohol burn.

O. A solid American Barleywine and, I think, one of the better versions that is readily available. That said, with a little bit of effort, far better can be had, including Gratitude and Dogfish Head Olde School.

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Photo of Sammy
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks Derek, this was good drinking for a young fresh BW.The malt and fruity yeast was enjoyable in the aroma, there was lace on the opaque brown. Amarillo and C-hop. Appropriate above-average carbonation. Above average mouthfeel.Some complexity and significant fruitiness to taste.

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Photo of augustgarage
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Courtesy of ShogoKawada (thanks!) - poured from a 22oz bomber into my Dogfish Head oversized snifter.

Sienna body with bronze highlights and a beige pearling collar and isthmus. Decent retention. Light lacing.

Malty aromatics with caramel, toffee, and a touch of sherry as well. Lightly herbal hop notes.

Zesty earthy hops with a touch of citrus throughout - but the sweetness from specialty malt and a touch of oxidation is paramount. Moderately bitter at times, though this is by no means a hop-bomb. There is a touch of fruit in the drying finish, though the caramel never abates entirely.

Medium-bodied with sufficient carbonation. ABV is well hidden.

Uncomplicated, slightly sweet barleywine.

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Photo of jim102864
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reddish brown ibw from a bomber bottle poured into my Chimay snifter. Thick pour with no head and moderate carbonation.

Pleasing nose with berry esters such as blackberry and other dark fruit. Backgound whiff of anise from cherry licorice and caramel; very aromatic nose. Sugar is evident and Willimette hops.

Anice from licorice with a slight booze burn in the finish. Phenolic with a mediciny tongue. Some carbonation adds to the exprience.

Mouthfeel was thick and chewy. Chinook and Willimette, and Amarillo hops open their doors.

Definitely a sipper but a lovely interpretation of the style. Let it warm up.

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Photo of Hibernator
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Southern Tier Backburner
22 oz brown bottle
Served in an Allagash tulip glass

Pours a mahogany brown with a decent head on top.

Whiffs of a caramel sweetness, malts and perhaps some fruit.

Bready and crusty dark bread backbone with a strong caramel malt presence. Sweet and sugary with hints of apple and even darker fruits like prunes.

Certainly a complex beer with an alcohol warmth and brown sugar punch on the finish. This beer is all over the place - acidic, bitter, sweet, sugary and bread flavors.

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Photo of t0rin0
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

While this was overall a good beer, I was expecting more after having the Unearthly, Choklate, Pumking, and Jahva.

Pours a deep clear brown. Plenty of foam and good retention.

Smell is quite malty and very boozy. This is a 2008 bottle but it seems that the hops have faded. There is a little european hop nose, so I checked the bottle and sure enough they used Willamette hops, interesting.

The taste is again boozy but also malty. Not overly hoppy like some other reviews have said. Again, this is probably 8 months old, so who knows.

Mouthfeel is medium/heavy, alcohol taste and effects keep it from being as drinkable as it could be. Enjoyable.

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Backburner (Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale) from Southern Tier Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 501 ratings.