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M Belgian-Style Barleywine - Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
M Belgian-Style BarleywineM Belgian-Style Barleywine

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
100
world-class

82 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 82
Reviews: 37
rAvg: 4.69
pDev: 7.25%
Wants: 433
Gots: 7 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Midnight Sun Brewing Co. visit their website
Alaska, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  11.60% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes/Commercial Description:
This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

On this 10-year mark, Midnight Sun Brewing Company proudly releases its 1000th batch of beer - a larger-than-life Belgian-style Barley Wine (if such a style exists) simply called M - in commemoration of the enduring spirit that founded and sustains this little brewery in the extreme Northwest. Making M required a massive grain bill - seven seductive malts - boosted by strength-inducing Belgian candi sugar. Once original gravity hit 37 Plato, a frenzied fermentation ensued: four completely fabulous yeast strains, two of Belgian origin, transformed this sweet concoction into all that is beer. But not just any beer. A beer of madcap magnitude - 11.6% ABV. Character and complexity increased exponentialy while M meddled and mellowed for several months in all-American bourbon oak barrels. Blending the aged beer before bottling ascertained smoothness. M is mesmerizing, pouring dark and silky. Caramel and spice waft up from the glass; bourbon, molasses, leather and vanilla follow. The first taste proffers tobacco, burnt sugar and raisin with a sublime port-like finish, but bourbon - smooth, sensuous, brooding bourdon - is ever-present. The finish, a bit edgy like an American take on barley wine, provides the necessary leap toward overall balance. M is a precious gift to ourselves as well as you, seekers of beer-that-is-beyond-beer adventures... We are but mere mortals in the presence of M.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 06-16-2005)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 82 | Reviews: 37 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Thorpe429
Thorpe429

Illinois

4.43/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Huge, huge thanks to Scott for opening this bottle and giving me the opportunity to try some. Served in a Midnight Sun goblet.

Pours a very dark brown with a thin light tan head that recedes fairly-quickly, leaving behind a few spots of lacing as it falls to a thin collar. The nose has loads of dark fruits with plum and raisin being prominent. The background is a bit of caramel and toffee with very mild esters. Some barrel character is there, though it's in the background.

The flavor adds in a touch of port character along with a very mild oak and vanilla presence. Not the most complex that I've had, but quite good. Body is medium with low carbonation and a slight viscosity. Smooth with no noticeable alcohol.

Overall, a very delicious beer that I would have at any time. However, at this point, I'd say that things like King Henry and perhaps Kuhnhenn BB4D are equal or better. Still, what a damn fine experience.

Serving type: bottle

05-30-2012 12:00:40 | More by Thorpe429
Photo of ygtbsm94
ygtbsm94

Virginia

4.7/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Joe for sharing this outstanding brew! 22oz bomber pours a dark brown, opaque, with slight ruby hue in the glass. It has a very port-like nose of dark fruit, vanilla, bourbon, oak gooey malts you can almost taste through your nose. The mouth feel is smooth as silk with very light carbonation. The taste is rich and buttery with molasses, a long sweet finish loaded with dark fruit and bourbon; gotta love this taste. This brew is still very drinkable with the alcohol in the stealth mode; an outstanding finish, kind of like drinking a glass of port wine. Would love to have this superb brew again some day.

Serving type: bottle

09-18-2008 20:46:30 | More by ygtbsm94
Photo of spycow
spycow

Illinois

4.75/5  rDev +1.3%

01-12-2013 06:17:08 | More by spycow
Photo of largadeer
largadeer

California

4.97/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: M sits in the glass with a dark but clear chestnut colored body and a finger of tan head that slowly settles into a thin disc. An unusually beautiful barleywine.

Aroma: Spicy oak, cinnamon and nutmeg upon first smell. Caramel, tobacco and leather come out more as it breathes, along with a hint of earth and soy sauce-like oxidation. Rich and complex but not terribly sweet.

Taste/mouthfeel: Big oak flavors up front; spicy and leathery with a nice tannic backbone. Plenty of sweetness in the form of brown sugar, figs, dark chocolate and vanilla. No heat, no trace of alcohol whatsoever in fact. For such an incredibly complex beer, this is neither too rich nor heavy; the balance is impeccable. Finishes earthy, woody, chocolatey and semi-sweet. At over 4 years old, oxidation is present but very subtle, lending a hint of soy sauce and sherry. I can see this beer aging gracefully for many more years. Thanks for sharing the bottle, Stephen.

Serving type: bottle

07-26-2009 21:38:02 | More by largadeer
Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
westcoastbeerlvr

California

4.5/5  rDev -4.1%

11-02-2013 21:01:44 | More by westcoastbeerlvr
Photo of MasterSki
MasterSki

Illinois

4.8/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Huge thanks to Derek for pulling this out of the cellar this weekend, and graciously welcoming me into his home for the most obscene collection of beers I've ever seen. Served in a tasting snifter. Bottled May 5th, 2005.

A - Pours with a small tan head that dissipates to a thin collar and some light haze, with minimal lacing. The body is a very, very, dark brown with no hints of transparency. This looks quite a bit different from the other barleywines in the line-up.

S - Caramel, dark fruits, port, raspberry puree, vanilla, chocolate truffle, tobacco, leather, and notes of sherry-like oxidation. There isn't a ton of obvious bourbon from the barrel-aging process - perhaps that has mellowed out over the intervening years. This is quite unique and doesn't really fit the traditional barleywine mold - more of a mix of a Belgian Dark Strong and English Barleywine, with hints of candi sugar and estery yeast.. It's wonderful, but didn't really jump out of the glass the way some of the other beers did, even when it was warm.

T - The taste is actually quite a bit better, as the oxidation is less present and better integrated into the flavor profile. Mid-palate a spot-on chocolate raspberry port flavor emerges. The aftertaste is lightly tannic and oaky but lingers nearly indefinitely.

M - Soft, smooth, chewy, medium-full body. There's minimal alcohol heat, low carbonation, and a dry tannic finish. There's some light residual stickiness as well, but this never gets cloying or syrupy.

D - This was the one of the easiest drinking high-gravity brews I've had the pleasure of trying. My 4-5oz went down really easy, even though I tried to savor it. Compared to Wooden Hell, and especially The Perfect Storm, this was significantly mellower and suited for indefinite sipping.

So it's time to answer the $600 (or more) question. While this was excellent, it was probably the 4th or 5th best beer I had at the tasting. Considering you could buy three cases of The Perfect Storm, a plane ticket to Europe, or God-knows-what-else, there are probably better ways to use your disposable income.

Judging from some of the other reviews it seems like the oxidation is starting to be deleterious instead of complementary - hopefully this will loosen some of the bottles being hoarded in various cellars. I think it's time for Midnight Sun to fire up the mash tun and give everyone the privilege of trying this fresh.

Thanks again Derek, for sharing a very good beer that I was beginning to think I'd never get the chance to try.

Serving type: bottle

05-24-2010 20:58:02 | More by MasterSki
Photo of drabmuh
drabmuh

Maryland

4.48/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A generous pour shared by Scott the other day in Waldorf, MD. Year of the whale continues. Served in a Midnight Sun glass because I would never have the opportunity to do that again.

Beer is brown, dark brown with a thin head on it, tan bubbles, no lacing, moderate retention, low carbonation.

Aroma is really nice. Probably the highlight of the beer is the depth of the aroma. Obvious things like caramel, raisins, a mild plum presence, other things like figs, chocolate, roast, mild yeast, vanilla. A very nice aroma.

Beer is strong and medium in body, sweet up front, a mild roastiness, subtle bitterness, figs and plums on the body, no hints of oxidation, no paper, nothing at all. A nice finish with the flavor carrying through to the end.

While this beer was good, approaching great, sometimes the point of climbing that mountain isn't to get the top because there is a treasure there, it is just to get to the top. This beer didn't change my life or open up what I thought a beer could be. It wasn't the platonic ideal of a barleywine, King Henry is a better beer in my opinion, but I got to drink this beer with a few friends, reflect on the evening and really tease apart the flavors and variables at work here. I'll never get to have it again, but it would be too difficult to rebuild that day anyway. Some things, once is enough.

Serving type: bottle

05-29-2012 18:06:40 | More by drabmuh
Photo of Halcyondays
Halcyondays

California

4.75/5  rDev +1.3%

11-06-2012 04:22:47 | More by Halcyondays
Photo of imperialking
imperialking

Illinois

5/5  rDev +6.6%

11-15-2011 21:58:23 | More by imperialking
Photo of yourefragile
yourefragile

District of Columbia

4.5/5  rDev -4.1%

01-26-2013 02:07:11 | More by yourefragile
Photo of DoubleJ
DoubleJ

California

4.5/5  rDev -4.1%

10-29-2012 22:50:22 | More by DoubleJ
Photo of zestar
zestar

California

4.5/5  rDev -4.1%

07-19-2014 08:31:25 | More by zestar
Photo of Huhzubendah
Huhzubendah

District of Columbia

4.63/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow...bottle shared by scraff. Thanks a lot, Scott!

The beer appears a dark, chestnut brown color and displays a small, oily, beige head. Only sparse lacing is left behind as well as an oily, filmy layer that coats the snifter.

The aroma shows a bit of age and a myriad of scents, to include figs, raisins, plums, oak, booze, maple, brandy, toffee, caramels.

The beer is rich and luxurious, yet light on the palate somehow. Smooth and velvety, a silky feel. The flavor resembles a fine tawny port or sherry. Dark fruits coated with brown sugar. A delicate sweetness is present throughout. A light, warming booze presence, but unobtrusive. This beer goes down effortlessly. What an experience.

Serving type: bottle

05-29-2012 17:15:20 | More by Huhzubendah
Photo of Gonzoillini
Gonzoillini

Illinois

4.75/5  rDev +1.3%

11-27-2013 07:36:24 | More by Gonzoillini
Photo of HopHead84
HopHead84

California

4.97/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer was brought to our tasting on 7/25/09-7/26/09 by a very generous Stephen.

M appears very dark in my snifter, nearly black. The creamy one finger toffee head lingers atop the liquid for a long time. The retention is good, and when the head finally recedes it leaves creamy swirls in my glass of various shades of brown. Some scattered lacing sticks to my glass.

The aroma is truly remarkable. I stuck my nose in the snifter and kept it there for 10 minutes before finally taking a sip. The aroma opens up with a complex interaction between sweet Belgian candied sugar, bourbon, and chocolate. The candied sugar is permeating, at all time lending a perfect level of sweetness to the beer. Beautiful notes of caramel dance across my olfactory with vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon following close behind. Molasses is present, as well as tobacco and a leathery quality that goes hand in hand with the earthiness of the beer. The alcohol is almost completely hidden. Fruit notes are evident in the form of dates and figs.

The flavor of this beer was a difficult one for me to describe. There was so much going on I couldn't possibly capture it all with a mere pen and paper, and for a split second frustration washed over me when I came to that realization. I took small sips with a blank note pad before me for many minutes before I finally began writing everything I was experiencing.

The flavor is initially of sweet Belgian candied sugar and brown sugar, with some strong oak and chocolate notes. The chocolate falls somewhere between dark and milk. It's too dark to be milky and too milky to be dark. It's just like this beer to simulate a chocolate flavor I can't adequately describe. The spices I smelled are present in the flavor, playing off the oak, along with a lesser vanilla character. Earthiness accompanies leather, rich toffee, and caramel. Bourbon is ubiquitous, and I taste a touch of soy sauce as well as a hint of tobacco. The fruit component of the beer is of the dark persuasion, simulating raisins, plums, figs, dates, and grapes. I see the bottle says 11.6% ABV, but I taste no alcohol. The finish is rich and seems to sum up all the flavors I've experienced on my journey through M, finally choosing to linger on my palate for a long time until I take my next sip.

M is full bodied with a complimenting low level of carbonation. The mouthfeel is soft and smooth on the palate, almost silky at times. Other times it's chewy, creamy, and sticky.

This beer far exceeded my expectations. This is in my top 5 of all time. At 4 years, this beer is remarkable and shows no signs of going downhill any time soon. Get your hands on this at all costs! This is near perfection.

The doubt as to whether or not this beer would be in the lineup, and the anticipation that it might be plagued me for over a month. First it wasn't going to be there, then it was, then it might be, then it wasn't, then it was again, then we heard nothing two hours into the tasting, and then it finally showed up at my door. I can't thank you enough Stephen. It's safe to say I would have never tried this beer if not for your generosity. For me, this was the highlight of the tasting.

Serving type: bottle

07-31-2009 00:06:40 | More by HopHead84
Photo of Alieniloquium
Alieniloquium

Florida

4.09/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

650 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Dark body. Nearly black. Small khaki head.

Smell - Sherry and a bit of cardboard oxidation. Sweet brown sugar and caramel. Mild dark roasted malts.

Taste - Sweet. Sherry flavored oxidation. Caramel. Some roasted malts. Dates. Not any barrel, really. Lots of raisin fruitiness.

Mouthfeel - Thick bodied. Sweet, but not overly so. Alcohol is still prevalent.

Overall - Well, I'm underwhelmed. It's really good, but it's not earth-shattering.

Serving type: bottle

05-19-2014 00:54:31 | More by Alieniloquium
Photo of AgentZero
AgentZero

Illinois

4.5/5  rDev -4.1%

06-23-2012 19:01:38 | More by AgentZero
Photo of DefenCorps
DefenCorps

Oregon

4.97/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Stephen really took the You Bring the Cheese to the next level with bottles of this and the 2005 Berserker. Thank you, Stephen, this is one of those I never thought I'd see.

A: Very dark brown, rather surprisingly so for a barleywine with a thin beige head. Brownish highlights. Retention isn't great, but this is an attractive beer nonetheless.

S: Insane depth and complexity. Oak and bourbon apparent at first with a lot of brown sugar, toffee, cocoa, slightly charred caramel and vanilla. Mildly nutty, with a skin-like bitterness, mild oxidation, just beautiful. The Belgian yeast character is noticeable (but not whelming) with a mild spiciness, with nutmeg being the dominant component to my nose. By far the most complex beer I've had.

T: 600+ reviews in, this is the first time I', having a hard time describing a beer. Most of my reviews deconstruct a beer into 3 or 4 segments - opening flavors, what follows, a mid-palate and a finish. This beer doesn't fit that mold, and gives me a very hard time.

Needless to say, the immense depth on the nose was only a sign of things to come. Very, very complex, but also incredibly well integrated. A complex blend of sugar, honey, toffee and a mild coconut, bourbon, vanilla and oak dance around the palate, with cocoa and more toffee. The finish is outstanding, incredibly long and flavorful. Truly exceptional

M: Big in body without being syrupy, soft carbonation that enhances the velvet-like character of the beer and an incredible finish with a complex blend of brown sugar, toffee, bourbon and tannins. This is the second beer that I'd give a 6 for the mouthfeel (after Pliny the Younger)

D: This is one of the most drinkable beer out there. I would trade a kidney for this. Worth it's weight in gold. Stephen, I can't thank you enough for a truly religious beer experience

** March 28 2010. I got to try this again at the Most Epic Fucking Tasting You Wish You Were A Part Of. Thank you, Trey. **
I'm going to have to up the appearance, it looks great with nice lacing and great head retention.
The nose is as excellent as I remember it being. The spicy alcohol character is present, brown sugar and bourbon being a little more forward. A touch of oxidation is also present, with raisins and dates. More molasses, is present.
The palate opens with plenty of molasses, dark brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, caramel, buckwheat honey. The spice character is excellent, I'm getting a little nutmeg and mace, and that complements the alcohol really well. This beer is perfect right now, if you've got one, drink it now.

Serving type: bottle

07-29-2009 17:13:56 | More by DefenCorps
Photo of RoyalT
RoyalT

Ohio

4.97/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance – This one came out of the bottle a deep, almost black color with a thick, easy brown head.

Smell – The thick, rich yeast is music to my olfactory bulb. It is so rich and buttery that it literally made my mouth water. There’s some strong alcohol in here but it’s so smooth.

Between the rich malts, creamy butter, massive but enticing alcohol, and gooey malts you can almost taste this ale with your nose. There is some toasty notes mixed in with the bread and maybe even a hint of white wine, but overall it just sits on that butter yeast.

Taste – The flavor comes right up to the smell. The big, rich yeast and luscious butter are perfect. It tastes like a perfectly toasted, buttered piece of bread.

Mouthfeel – This ale is full-bodied in the mouth and leaves the sensation of drinking the finest of liquors. It is tingly and fluffy on the tongue and is great to hold in between the cheeks.

Drinkability – I almost feel like I’m jipping the review. It’s not a lot to write for an ale that almost scored an overall perfect 5.0. The ale was just that good, though. I’m hard pressed to remember the last time I enjoyed drinking something this much.

Comments – Big cheers to skyhand for popping this beauty shop at her Bobbing for Beers Ball on Halloween night. The scariest thing of the night is when we all realized that the Midnight Sun M bottle was empty.

Serving type: bottle

11-05-2005 01:22:27 | More by RoyalT
Photo of gford217
gford217

Georgia

4.6/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I want to start off by saying thank you to the generous BA who shared this with a few of us last night. I definitely thought trying this one was beyond my reach. "We are but mere mortals in the presence of M." Indeed.

Pours extremely dark for a barleywine, dark mahogany brown, with a small beige head. It looks almost like a Belgian dark in color, almost black.

Aroma is outstanding and has clearly held up to the years in the bottle. It's a good bit fruiter than I was expecting, certainly more than the typical barleywine. Lots of raisins and plums mixed with chocolate and caramel. The oak is present with some light tannins, leather and booze.

The taste just doesn't live up to the aroma though it's still extremely good. This is clearly where the age is beginning to catch up to M, with hints of oxidation creeping in. The booze soaked dark fruits are in the forefront, but with a chocolate-covered character to the whole thing. The finish is a mixture of port, oak and the oxidized notes. It's a tough call between 4 and 4.5 on the taste but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt....

The mouthfeel is creamy, smooth, and softly carbonated. Hides the alcohol exceptionally well
.
This is one of the more complex barleywines I've ever had and the nose really stands up to anything I've ever smelled in the style. I have to imagine that this would have been one of the best beers I've ever tasted if I had it 2-3 years ago. As it is, I feel lucky to have been able to try it and it has held up much better than could be expected.

Serving type: bottle

09-13-2012 15:32:14 | More by gford217
Photo of whartontallboy
whartontallboy

New York

5/5  rDev +6.6%

06-24-2012 05:44:25 | More by whartontallboy
Photo of tpd975
tpd975

Florida

4.95/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I am proud to say I was lucky enough to have this beer twice in a two month period. First bottle provided by matta. Second bottle bonused in a trade by a wonderful BA in the great white north, and shared with the tampa, orlando, and miami crew.

A: Pours a nice deep shade of brown with tinges of angry maroon showing through. The head is rather small with little retention or lace.

S: Wonderful malty sweetness. Tons of sweet molasses, chocolate, caramel, and over ripe dark fruit.

T: This one has gloriously aged. Tons of wonderful malt sweetness. Molasses, caramel, and rich nutty toffee. Dark fruit is there with mild chocolate, mild woody notes and a dash of vanilla.

M: On the fuller side of body, rich, bold, smooth, sweet, tasty, with a bit of booze in the finish

D: Wonderful, a masterpiece that is not only rare, it is great. One of the best aged beers I have ever had. Wish I had been drinking good stuff to have tried this one fresh as well.

Serving type: bottle

02-20-2010 13:39:00 | More by tpd975
Photo of hopdog
hopdog

Pennsylvania

4.65/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle acquired in trade with DarkElf (thanks!).

Poured a dark mahogany color with a smaller sized tan head. Aromas of dark fruits, chocolate, caramel, light roast, smoke, brown sugar, bourbon (not overpowering) and wood. The woodiness came out more and more in the aroma as the beer aired out. Aromas were very complex and I kept getting more as I smelled each time. Tastes of dark fruits (raisins and plums), caramel, earthy / peaty, woody, candi & brown sugar, and vanilla. Very sweet, not cloying, but any sweeter and it would be. Alcohol completely hidden. Creamy body.

The barrel aging was done very well; it complimented both the aromas and tastes nicely.

Notes from and tasted on 3/20/07

Serving type: bottle

11-05-2008 00:53:10 | More by hopdog
Photo of jophish17
jophish17

Georgia

4.5/5  rDev -4.1%

06-15-2014 01:17:43 | More by jophish17
Photo of cpetrone84
cpetrone84

Pennsylvania

4.1/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Wonderful moment with two great friends, cheers to Kevin and Jeremy. Pour is black with light brown head. Nose is salty, soy, and date. A fair amount of berry fruit sweetness behind. Taste is a bit less soy, sweet berry, dates and figs. Some caky rum soaked raisin or date. Really soft body, full an gentle at the same time with very soft carbonation and extremely inviting. Overall, not really any oxidation, a really well put together beer, lots of sweetness but not sugary, nothing mind blowing but very solid.

Serving type: bottle

02-02-2014 17:17:15 | More by cpetrone84
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M Belgian-Style Barleywine from Midnight Sun Brewing Co.
100 out of 100 based on 82 ratings.