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AleSmith Old Numbskull - AleSmith Brewing Company

Not Rated.
AleSmith Old NumbskullAleSmith Old Numbskull

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1,140 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,140
Reviews: 452
rAvg: 4.12
pDev: 9.95%
Wants: 179
Gots: 286 | FT: 20
Brewed by:
AleSmith Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  11.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: xlperro on 02-14-2002

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,140 | Reviews: 452 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of philbe311
4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - A fingers and a half worth of densely packed creamy yet chunky light tan frothy head... Modest retention gives way to an uneven lacing and thick collar... A warm reddish brown amber color... Mostly still with some faint sluggish carbonation clinging to the sides of the glass towards the top when agitated...

S - Rich caramel... Toffee... Raisins... Brown sugar... Dark fruits... Fig... Bland oranges... A subtle mix of piney hops and graperfuit... A touch of booziness... A hint of vanilla...

T - Much of the anticipated sweetness is absent... Bready malts... A bit of nuttiness... A sturdy pronounced hop bit rises on the finish that is mostly citrusy with a touch of pine mixed in... A bit of booze lingers...

M - Medium bodied... A tad on the thin side... Chalky texture... Perfectly carbonated... Not much viscosity... A bit chewy...

D - An interesting take on the American Barleywine... The appearance and nose are spot on, but from there the drinker is treated to a slight departure from expectations in the other facets... Another excellent job from Alesmith, a brewery that never disappoints...

Photo of MCorrea
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a hazy copper/ruby red. Needed a vigorous pour to produce a short lived 1/2 finger of white head. Fine lacing down the glass as the beer is taken in.

S - Incredible! Dark fruits, rum, raisins, everything you want from a quality barleywine.

T - Lots and lots of sweet malt flavors. Caramel , dried dark fruits, candy sugar. Beautiful!

M - Creamy and smooth. Just the slightest detection of hop bite on the finish.

D - DANGER WILL ROBINSON! This bad boy clocks in at 11% abv and hides it VERY well. A bottle is a bit pricey, so this is good for an occasional treat.

Photo of HopHead84
4.5/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5


God bless Alesmith's extended tasting room hours. On tap at Alesmith, Alesmith tasting room.

A: Appears a color at the crossroads of brown, red, and orange, with perfect transparency. The frothy head rises one inch above the liquid, leaving lingering bubbles and scattered lacing after the recession.

A: Aroma displays a monolithic hop profile with a mixture of pine and grapefruit. There's a firm bready malt foundation with light toffee notes and a touch of alcohol. Some earthy notes are evident as well.

S: Upper moderate bitterness with bold grapefruit rind and flesh notes, as well as pine and traces of orange. Malt provides some bread flavor in addition to light caramel notes. As the beer warms up the subtle malt sweetness comes through, constantly hounding the bitterness but never coming close to overtaking it. Alcohol is masterfully hidden for 11%. The finish is dry and bitter with lingering pine and grapefruit.

M: Upper medium body with moderate carbonation. Mouthfeel is dry and sticky, with a low astringency and some warming in the finish that stays with you for a while.

Overall: Another awesome Alesmith beer that I overlook far too often. One of my favorite American Barleywines and really fantastic when fresh.

Photo of turboge
3.94/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle has blueish lettering with silver foil on top. I don't know when it was bottled. "barley wine ale"

A: Reddish amber with a very small head, spotted trails of lace

S: Raisins and dark fruit

T: The first drink was the best. Very rich raisins with a bite. Some hop taste after it goes down but nothing overwhelming. It warmed my throat. Alcohol masked very well.

M: Very well balanced and somewhat light.

D: I will buy another one of these to age. Enjoying it very much.

I feel it is more balanced like a English Barley Wine without the heaviness.

Photo of WanderingFool
3.87/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This bottle of Old Numbskull has been sitting in my cellar for the past couple years. I'm basing this review on a well preserved aged version of the beer.

Old Numbskull pours a hazy copper color with a two-finger wide off white head on top. As the foam fades a sheet of netted lace clings to the side of the glass.

The aroma is malty with notes of caramel and dark fruits, such as raisins and fig. There's also a nice hint of orange citrus blended in.

Each sip of this medium to full bodied beer is soft on the palate, lightly chewy, with an oily finish. The flavor is malty sweet with enough hop bitterness to balance it out. It begins with sweet caramel malt, raisins/fig, cherry, vanilla and oak. Towards the end bitter orange citrus moves in. It finishes with a touch of medicine and alcohol. Once gone the dark fruit notes and citrus hops linger on the palate.

This is definitely a sipping beer. It held up well after a couple of years. I'm guessing the alcohol burn has mellowed over time. Tasty and well balanced.

Photo of zeff80
3.97/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, copper color with a one-finger, tan head of foam. It left some sudsy trails of lace on the glass.

S - Sweet caramel malt aroma with some boozy notes. Slightly floral, too.

T - It tasted very sweet. Lots of caramel and some boozy notes. Not much of bitter hop presence to speak.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium to full bodied brew with a somewhat sticky mouthfeel.

D - This is a good barleywine. Big and sweet.

Photo of Jmoore50
4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I enjoyed the 2008 vintage of this beer along side the BA version. I like to taste the base beer along side a barrel aged beer just to get a hint of what different character might translate over.

This beer pours a nice amber brown color with a good level of carbonation. It has a good clarity to it and when poured vigorously it produces a nice white head.

Even with two years on it this beer has a nice floral hoppy aroma. Lots of caramel, biscuit and bread-y malts in the background give this a strong backbone. It also has some sweet sugars in it most likely resulting from age.

A mellowed hop profile is perfect alongside sweet sugary malt flavors. From what I have read in reviews it sounds like this is a fairly hoppy beer when fresh, so I now understand how the hops are still present.

A medium carbonation that is goes good with the hops, makes it even more drinkable. There is not a strong 'heat' character in this beer which made me happy. I am going to track down a fresh bottle and re-review.

Photo of twiggamortis420
4.37/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 mL pours a very clear, crimson color with a fine-bubbled, light tan foam. Fades pretty fast and leaves some spotty lacing.

Nose has alot of everything in it. Plenty of hops, alcohol, fruit and toasty malt. Not sure what vintage this is, but it is showing a bit of oxidation and this one hasn't cellared long.

Raisiny alcohol up front with a big malt body - toasty caramel. Surprisingly smooth at 11% and not much hop flavor, but shows a biting, resinous hop bitterness. Shows less oxidation in the taste, it reminds me of a burnt raisin bagel...in a good way. This is an excellent barleywine that gets better the further into the bottle you get. To style, yet different. Smooth, but has enough rough edges to make it a sipper and keep you on edge. I like it, but not sure about the ageability.

Photo of DovaliHops
4.32/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a slightly hazy (almost clear) reddish amber color with a small cream colored head that disappears quickly. Scent is very malty with strong fig aroma. Figs and raisins come through the scent the most, but there are also other dark fruits and toffee in there. I also get raw honey and chocolate. Taste is quite exquisite. Very well balanced with the hops, malt, and dark fruits. This one has been aged over a year, so I'm sure it's more hoppy when fresh, but this just tastes great. I get vanilla, toffee, and honey too. The alcohol is definitely there, but balance almost perfectly throughout all the flavors. Fantastic barley wine style ale. Mouthfeel is thick and full-bodied without being too syrupy. Drinkability is fairly high. This is a very rich beer, almost like a dessert... but it doesn't bring down the drinkability very much.

Photo of pecokid
4.29/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

This beer stopped me from watching the Stealers / Ravens game. I have no idea what vintage it is but I know I bought it at Grapes of Mirth in Ohio a couple of years ago. The hops are (still!?) overwhelming. There is no bitter/sweet balance, it is so much hops. The hops are intense. For perspective I started the day around 5 PM with Troegs Mad Elf, then Troegs Nugget Nectar, and then blended with some of my homebrew milk stout. There may have been half a glass of Samuel Smith Winter Welcome in there just before the Ale Smith Numb Skull. The viscosity of the liquid is tremendous and it utilizes every IBU of the hop character. I feel ashamed of myself for drinking this on any random day. Appearance: Copper/orange, slightly cloudy. Smell: Citrus herbal. Taste and mouth feel are difficult for me to separate. The taste is powerful hoppy and very sweet. The mouth feel definitely coats the entire palette. Drinkability is understandably low on this.

PS, for those of you on BA who are lamenting/debating Troegs Nugget Nectar and Bell's Hopslam, I may suggest you may consider a pause to consider this. Not the same style, but wow, it may give you some perspective.

Photo of armock
4/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap at the brewery

A - Poured a dark copper brownish color with a tan head that leaves lacing behind

S - Is of citrus hops on a sweet malt backbone

T - Just like the smell citrus hops on top of sweet malt

M - This beer has a medium body with medium carbonation to it

D - This is a good hoppy Barleywine thats very enjoyable with its good taste its a little too easy to drink worth picking up to give it a try sometime

Photo of farrago
3.9/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

An average pour yields a super-sized, frothy head of reddish tan delicate, large bubbles which dimples down to the surface, while wispy the lacing pretty much there for good. Vibrant sunset red color, all burnt and aglow, the orange influence helps maintain transparency and brightness, only few scattered micro-bubbles to be seen. Tangerine, grapefruit initiates its presence in your nose, the pine, vanilla cream, coal tar, moss and lichens, toffee hit you scattershot, takes awhile to sort it all out, the breadiness is sweet and close to fruitcake, however, the nectarine, apricot, pineapple scents not aggressive, overall the hops clearly in control and, while messy, the good kind of messy. Medium-bodied and lighter of touch than expected, the carbonation flips the flavors like flapjacks in your mouth. Here you feel the alcohol and there's a whiskey, vanilla, oak barrel aspect upfront. The tangerine, pink grapefruit, blood orange citrus remains a major factor. Pine sap, floral dew, orange pekoe tea, moves into plusher golden raisin, fig to apricot, nectarine, mango, pineapple fruit. With some warming you get additional caramel, honey coating. Overall sweet and not that dry while at the same time not uncritically relying on sugar to impress. Hard to fully accept it within its typed idiom.

Photo of stakem
4.12/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from notes taken on 12/9/10 and shared with wishuwerebeer. Bottle care of joefc earlier in the year. My best guess is this is an '09 bottle.

Poured into a snifter, this brew appears a clear ruby amber color with a creamy tan cap. Fairly decent retension, as the head fades it leaves patchy lace clinging to the glass.

The smell of this brew is quite malty with a big fruity sweet nose that smells of caramelized sugars, fruity hops and a mellow indication of alcohol. Once warm, there is a vanilla smoothness about the nose which is quite enjoyable.

The taste of this brew is toasty caramel malt that is initially sweet that turns herbal bitter and bold with alcohol. A bit of a mineral quality exists with the herbal hops that lasts on the tongue. The alcohol warms the back of the throat with a mild fruity flavor that is somewhat rind-like. The initial grainy sweetness that was upfront and toasty turns lightly musty and drying as the brew warms and the alcohol comes forward.

Medium to full bodied brew with a moderate to light amount of carbonation. This is quite a contrasting brew from start to finish, from fruity sweet to herbal and bitter. Very bold and enjoyable it wouldn't hurt to have a few of these in the house with varying ages.

Photo of JamnesCameron
4.54/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Purchased late summer 2010, guessing it is a recent vintage. Blue lettering on bottle and silver foil.

Poured into a snifter.

Pours a muddy, reddish brown with a good finger of light tan head. Appears effervescent, but head does not last. Should be much clearer.

Aromas of orange and grapefruit citrusy hops, some piney resins, and a rich toffee malt backbone to brace everything up. A little winey, with some raisins and figs showing up as well.

First sip is..well...not as bitter as I was expecting. Very restrained bitterness, like an English barleywine, but with American west coast hops. Bitterness is in a nice balance with the malt. Toffee malt and a little alcohol bite ride along together in the finish.

Mouthfeel is huge, chewy, not cloyingly sweet. A little hop bitterness gives a slight pucker effect, but so that your cheeks cave in. Some alcohol warmth as well.

Outstanding example of a barleywine. Good balance, nothing excessive or "in your face" that is typical of American versions of the style. Very nice.

Photo of bosco7
4.44/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Not sure of the vintage. Poured with no head and large soda like bubbles.

Graham crackers, hint of cinnamon, caramel, and raisins in the nose. Fantastic.

Tastes phenomenal. Bread pudding comes to mind with all the bready and caramel flavors. Hops have dropped out on this one. Finish is warming.

Mouthfeel is full and inviting. This is what a barleywine should taste like. My only complaint is with the lack of a head

Highly recommended.

Photo of ekardz
3.45/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a reddish amber, little to no head, with almost no carbonation. Smell dark fruity notes, plums/raisins, resiny, malty, and somewhat boozy. Taste lots of sugar, malts, not much alcohol, lacks the flavor and complexity I was expecting in this barleywine. Medium bodied, no carbonation, dry finish. Very drinkable for 11% but not much flavor or reason to drink. Would not purchase again.

Photo of Pahn
4.21/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750ml bottle into Duvel tulip. Not sure when this was bottled, but I've had the bottle for about 6 months.

Appearance: Free pour yields a two and a half inch fluffy offwhite head that dissipates very slowly and sticks all over the side of the glass. Pours a translucent, orange-ish dark red and leaves streaks and walls of thick lacing. Looks great.

Smell: Cascade hops and sugary malt reminiscent of other great American barleywines like Great Divide's Old Ruffian or Avery's Hog Heaven. The sugary sweet notes are very deep... they're thick and fruity; decadent. One sniff tells you exactly what style of beer this is, and that it's probably a pretty good representation of the style.

Taste: Up front there's the same sugary, caramely, fruity sweetness infused with Cascade (I think) hops as in the smell, followed by a pleasantly strong bitterness tinged with some emerging chocolate flavor that segues into a slightly roasted tasting finish. Alcohol is felt in the chest but not in the taste.

I seem to be writing "taste follows smell" in a lot of recent reviews, but the degree to which it's true in this beer is particularly notable. I'll go with the most ridiculous analogy that came to mind... it's like the smell is getting a good look at an attractive person, while the taste is making love to that person. You experience all the things that drew you in from the start, only more closely and potently, along with additional surprises.

At first, I considered giving this only a 4.0, because while the tastes are deep and great, they're not really anything I've not had before. I bumped it up to 4.5 because the malt flavor up front really is excellent, and the way it incorporates bitterness, extra notes of roasted flavors and chocolate, without any solvent like alcohol (in an 11% beer) is very impressive.

Mouthfeel: The weakest aspect of this beer, which isn't saying much considering that the beer is quite good. Medium body that's a little on the thin side. Mild carbonation. Approaches creamy but doesn't really get there.

Drinkability: This beer nails the style, so if you like spending a night with slow drinking, solid American barleywine, you'll have nothing to complain about with Old Numbskull. I'm not sure I'd pick it up if I saw it on the shelf next to the other barleywines I've mentioned above, but in a more abstract, generalized way of looking at it, I would definitely have this beer again.

Old Numbskull is a pretty refined take on its style. The flavors are distinct and clean, the bitterness is amped up but used to great effect, and the alcohol is well-hidden (at least as far as the taste is concerned).

Photo of misinformed
3.61/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750ml bottle, pint glass, reviewed 11/29.

A- Medium amber/orange/brown beer poured with a 1" rocky, tan head. Nice "Brussels" lacing as it was consumed.

S- Not very assertive. Malt, notes of honey sweetness. Some faint floral notes, but not a lot of hop scent.

T- Mild floral hops, with some faint citrusy sweetness at first. Following the hops are dark roasted malts. Caramel and a little bit of bittersweet chocolate. Finishes bitter, with a bit of citrusy sweetness again. Balance leans towards darker malts, with some hops to back it up.

M- Medium bodied, lightly oily. Not anything particularly interesting here. No noticeable carbonation or heat.

D- No trace of the alcohol anywhere. I like the darker roasted malts here, but there aren't enough hops to balance it out. I'd describe this as lightly sweet with a mild bitter finish. The flavor seems sort of faded or washed out, especially the hops, but without a bottle date it's hard to tell if that was the original intent. Not my favorite by any means, but a solid barleywine.

Photo of Gobzilla
3.9/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured a reddish brown with yellow highlights and had a thin bubbly head and left a little frothy lacing sticking to the glass. A nice bouquet of hops are noticeable on the first whiff with caramel coming through as well alongside candied sugar notes but faint dark fruit character. The booze comes out more on taste but meshes good with the caramel notes alongside hopppy and slight brown sugar accents. It still had some good sweetness from the malts and candied sugar. The brew was medium in body with a good amount of carbonation which had a sweet slight dark fruity, hoppy, and sticky finish. It drank pretty good and the hoppy bite did add a little dimension to this barleywine. Alesmith does the style right; solid barleywine.

Photo of Tilley4
3.4/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a murky brown with a small head... Very murky and dull...

Big faded hop aromas here along with sweet toffee and caramel malts... Raisiny fruity sweetness with a little booze...

Definitely faded a bit... Very sweet and syrupy with the malts dominating... No booze really. Not much in the way of hops either. All sweet malts and fruits...

Probably an older bottle... Tough getting through this... Too sweet for me...

Photo of emmasdad
3.63/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2009 vintage. Pours from the 750 ml bottle a medium to dark clear reddish-orange color, with a little white head on top. Aromas of toffee, caramel, citrusy hops and a little vanilla. Medium bodied, and drinkable, hides the 11% alcohol fairly well. Flavors of citrusy hops, sugary fruits and sweet caramel. A nice barleywine, easily drinkable for its ABV.

Photo of billab914
4.01/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml bottle into my Dogfish snifter. It poured caramel brown in color with a big, fluffy and frothy off-white head to it. A thin, frothy layer remained covering the beer well into drinking it and left some great lacing as well. Exceptional looking barleywine overall.

The aroma has some big citrus notes to it with pineapple juice and grapefruit being the most prominent. As it warmed more of the malty, caramel like flavors really started coming out.

The taste shows more of malty, caramel and fruity flavors more prominently than the aroma did. The citrusy, grapefruit like flavors show through enough that you wouldn't mistake this for an English version though. The bitterness and sweetness really seem to balance each other out pretty nicely. Very flavorful beer overall.

The mouthfeel is on the thicker side with carbonation being below average, but I wouldn't call it low. Drinkability is good, it was a very nice barleywine to sip on this evening. The hoppy, citrus flavors went pretty well with the big malty and caramel flavors and really balanced them out as well. Very good beer overall.

Photo of Jayli
3.99/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured in to my Brooklyn tulip

A: This beer pours a ruddy, garnet, brown with a RIDICULOUS four finger of creamy, rocky, khaki colored head. The head retains forever and leaves spotty chunks of lacing on the glass.

S: Nose is floral hops, mild caramel notes.

T: Taste is floral hops at the forefront, with just a minor hint of citrus. Not what I would expect in a barleywine! Mild toffee and caramel malts come through and really give a robust middle. Finish is raising and hints of grassy notes.

M: Medium body, medium carbonation, crisp body with a mildly oily finish.

D: Goes down dangerously easy, great kick, nice representation of style. If it weren't for the ABV, I would drink this beer all night.

Photo of TCHopCraver
4.15/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes on 9-17-10. Props to zoso1967 and TCGoalie for bringing this brew to my mouth.

A: The color is a little strange... its murky, light brown, reddish orange hue reminds me a little of loose feces (not really in a bad way, though). Atop this curious looking body is a one finger, khaki head in my oversized wine glass. The carbonation bubbles are moving very slowly and the lacing is thick and swirly.

S: A very robust smell of musty caramel and brown sugar emanates from this numbskull. There is a slight citrus presence of orange zest along with some white pine coming from the hops. I also smell some thick, creamy butter. The biggest aroma in the batch is that malty, mustiness.

T: A musty caramel and brown sugar sweetness is tempered by a tingly pine hoppiness. The order of that taste on my palate is the brown sugar upfront, with the musty caramel taste in the middle, finished by the drying pine hop bitterness.

M: This numbskull MF has a very creamy, buttery, medium feel on my palate with a lovely, dry hop bitterness at the end.

D: I really could not detect the 11 % a.b.v. at all. This is very smooth drinking beer that is not exceptional, but was quite tasty and will be worth another try in the future.

Photo of TCgoalie
4.22/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Notes from 9/17/10

All hail zoso1967 for relinquishing his grasp on this bottle for TCHopCraver and I to enjoy.

Pours a murky brown with hues of gold. If you put a couple of ice cubes in it, I may have mistaken it for iced tea brewed with dirty river water.

The smell is typical barleywine, brown sugar, caramel malts, funk but has some added citrus, lemon and orange. I really enjoy the smell of a barleywine.

There is a lot of brown sugar up front in the taste leading to a malt funk which reminds me of how my basement smells(in a good way). There is a substantial pine hop bitterness at the end which drives the aftertaste. The flavor profile is smaller than I thought it might be given the smell.

The feel in the mouth is of a medium bodied nature. There is also a touch of drying in the end.

This is very drinkable and a solid barleywine. I would be happy to have it again.

AleSmith Old Numbskull from AleSmith Brewing Company
92 out of 100 based on 1,140 ratings.