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23rd Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Ale - Karl Strauss Brewing Company

Not Rated.
23rd Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Ale23rd Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

37 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 37
Hads: 90
Avg: 4.08
pDev: 9.8%
Wants: 47
Gots: 27 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Karl Strauss Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Old Ale |  12.30% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: HopHead84 on 02-03-2012

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (95) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 37 | Hads: 90
Photo of Drinkerofales
4.23/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A brown, barely murky look starts out the beer, which shows some red when held up to the light. A large tan head which is bubbly and lively fills the top of the tulip, and sounds like rice crispies with all the bubbles snapping, crackling, and popping.

Smells huge of the bourbon barrel, so much so the first whiff made me cough. Booze are present and a sweet caramel malt joins the party.

Tastes upfront of the barrel, following the nose pretty closely. Fortunately, not overpowering the rest of the beer. A hint of smoky vanilla with the sweet malt. Dark fruits in the finish/aftertaste.

Texture is luxurious. While alcohol is present, it doesn't feel like 12%, until you get near the end of the bottle, and even then, it's only in your head. There is a thick viscosity to the beer, with good carbonation to lighten it up. I like the beer, I will get more.


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Photo of russwbeck
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A: Hazy brown pour that hints towards orange at the very edge. As the beer settles, the haze disappears and the color focuses more towards red. Really much lighter a pour than I expected from such a big beer. Initially a few fingers of off-white head builds up beautifully, but it doesn't stick around for too long. Spotty lacing shows up down the sides of my New Belgium Globe.

S: The aroma on this is no where near as harsh as I expected after smelling the pour right out of the bottle. A sweet, but balanced blend of aromas greets my nostrils. Very focused on the barrel, which is right up my alley as I'm not a huge fan of Old Ales. Bourbon, sure, but mostly vanilla and oak with undertones of Old Ale and booze.

T: The taste is a tad light, but oh so decadent. Mellowed bourbon, vanilla, dark fruits, and oak are the forefront. I do wish the old ale played a larger role, and that the overall taste was a bit stronger, but the taste that was there was phenomenal. It has a faint malt base, but it's completely focused on the barrel.

MF: The mouthfeel is very thin with a lower than average carbonation. The drinkability, however, is very high. The ABV isn't noted at the level I expected and the taste is wonderful I can't stop taking sips.

O: This was a really nice beer, but it just fell short of top notch. If the overall characteristics were stronger I would think this was all 5s. It's delicious, but not quite there. I paid a decent price for this in Washington DC, and I'm glad I did, but I probably wouldn't get it again.

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Photo of DovaliHops
4.22/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a slightly hazy, amber color with a nice red hue. Small off-white head. Scent is heavy with dark fruits...a bit of toffee as well. Great aroma on this beer. Lovely bourbon with nice oak and sweet figs/dates. Some vanilla as well. Taste is...wow, more well-balanced than I was expecting. I've never been a fan of Karl Strauss, but this beer is outstanding. Immediately I get sweet, burnt sugar cube flavors. Immediately followed by amazing date/fig flavors. Awesome bourbon flavor...very smooth. Tons of toffee with hints of coconut and vanilla. Great balance of malt/dark fruit/bourbon/oak. Alcohol is noticeable and slightly warming, but not nearly as hot as I was expecting. Mouthfeel is somewhat odd...very creamy, yet fizzy at the same time. Medium-full bodied. Drinkability is high. Overall, if KS continues to make beers this good, I will forget that I ever dislike them. Awesome beer!

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Photo of CuriousMonk
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The 23rd Anniversary Old Ale was aged for 12 months in American oak barrels and is the first Karl Strauss barrel-aged beer to be offered unblended. The company only bottled 413 cases of this beer, encouraging fans to enjoy one now and lay another down several years. Poured from bomber into tulip glass. Pours burnt amber along with a thin off-white head. The aroma of this beer is an epitome of an old ale – oak, toffee, and dried figs. Taste of light bourbon, oak, and molasses. Thin mouthfeel. I am only sorry that I did not lay this down for another year or two to see if the beer improves.

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Photo of mactrail
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Gigantic and boozy beer with a vast vanilla and woody flavor. Thoroughly fragrant with that vanilla up front. Hops are just moderately bitter. This is not so sweet after the first sip. It tastes more like Scotch liqueur than beer, but it thats not a bad thing. Fairly dry as you sip for a while but full of malt flavors. Seriously powerful and more complex and austere than most barley wines. I don't get the old ale taste so much, but it's quite a mouthful.

On tap at La Jolla location. Definitely will pick up a few of these for savoring in the year to come. So hot with alcohol it should last nicely, and not much residual sugar for the bacteria to nibble.

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Photo of rawfish
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark amber red hue with flashes of sunset orange. Forms a pale beige head of a finger and a half at the apex with poor retention. Spotty lacing but shows some good stick.

Brown sugar, toffee, oak and red fruit. Huge amounts of bourbon along with a distinct alcohol aroma on the end, quite sharp. Bourbon barrel is huge on this beer.

Sweet malts of caramel, molasses coupled with dates and a bourbon and oak wood complex that smooths this out on a long sip. Releases nicely with vanilla and bourbon at the tail end, touch of herbal bitterness.

Plenty of sticky malts are lightened up with a thin body with average carbonation. Releases pleasantly with less harsh booze than on the nose.

I think the brewers achieved exactly what they were setting out to accomplish on this one. Highlights big bourbon and barrel character accompanied by a wonderful malt escort. Not very complex but tremendous value and a slow sipper.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.2/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle donated by Thorpe429. Thanks Mike!

The beer is copper hued with a thin, light tan head. Upon tilting the snifter, a nice sheet of lacing coats the sides of the glass.

The aroma offers oak, vanilla, bourbon. Smells strong and bold. nicely done.

A bit sweet, though certainly not lacking in flavor. Loads of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. A bit of heat in the finish. A nice beer to sip and savor. Best in small quantities, or enjoyed over a prolonged period of time. Recommended.

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Photo of srandycarter
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - 3.5 Dark raw cider, only thin film of head. Spotty cling lace.

S - 4 BOOZE. Malt. Slight fruity/cidery characteristic.

T - 4.5 Deep caramel and hot. Bourbony booze. Hops cannot contain the sweetness.

M - 4 Heavy body, good carb, balance errs to the sweet. Pretty boozy.

D - 4 Very tasty. You could get hurt with this one.

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Photo of Dlish
4.17/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A- Very dark ruby color in the pour, I was surprised how light color this beer was. Final pour you get a glowing brown and red, little head retention.

S- Smell is very nice, get the solid Bourbon barrel smell. Lots of oak, and layers of vanilla in the background. I get some cheery from the bourbon aging. Despite the lighter color, you still get that solid imperial stout/barley-wine smell.

T- Get a lot lots of charred oak up front, some very sweet malt. There is a lot of wisky and scotch, I feel like i'm drinking a rich smoky islay scotch. I also get some caramel and charred brown sugar. A little to sweet for my taste on the malt profile, I wish the bourbon barrel would mellow out some of the sweetness.

M- A little more carbonation then I would want. The mouth feel is velvety. There is defiantly burn down the way on the throat.

T- Overall good anniversary beer, I wish Karl Strauss would do more big beers, to bad they can only do it once a year to get away with it.

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Photo of Chaney
4.15/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I've had this one in the cellar for a year. It is time...

Served in a Duck Rabbit snifter. That's good karma already.

A: It actually poured out a bit lighter in color than I was expecting, but still, it was a beautiful, caramel color that was uniformly murky and inviting. Not much head, but that's not what this is about anyway.

S: Buttery, coconuty, bourbon flair that was just the right strength to my mind. Lots of dark fruit as well: figs, raisons, and dates... all wrapped up in toffee.

T: First of all, I was awe-stricken with how smooth this one was. The coconut hit the palate first, then the molasses, and dark fruit, with none of this really sticking out of the pack.

M: Not even a trace of booze on this and it was utter perfection in that regard. Actually, I would have preferred a bit more heat, but that is just personal preference and a minor quibble. The carbonation was fine and this wasn't syrupy or sticky in any way.

O: 12.2% ABV? Really? REALLY? This was my first Karl Strauss brew and I'm already a fan.

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Photo of jegross2
4.11/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Reviewing the 23rd Anniversary Old Ale from Karl Strauss Brewing Company out of San Diego, California.

Score: 92

February 2012 vintage bottle served in a tulip taster glass and enjoyed on 03/01/13 from a bottle I brought to the Beer Temple to share with the store's customers. Review is from iPhone notes

Appearance: Bourbon caramel color. Virtually no head off the pour, and what little head there is quickly and totally settles. Minimal lacing, but the brew leaves oily streaks on the side of the glass. 3.5/5

Smell: Very smooth, no booziness. Vanilla, caramel, stale hops, and smooth/sweet bourbon notes. Some oakiness too. 3.5/5

Taste: Taste is much better than the nose. This brew practically smacks you over the head with delicious vanilla flavor with notes of caramel, cocoa and smooth bourbon. Less sweet than the nose led me to believe, but it's still a "sweet" (but not cloying) malty brew. I love the bold vanilla/caramel flavor of this brew! 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, viscous, with minimal carbonation. Nice maltiness and a little stickiness. 4.25/5

Overall: The aroma and appearance were not anything particularly special, but the taste was divine. While not the most complex barrel aged beer, I loved how bold the vanilla and caramel flavors were. I think this is drinking about as perfect as it will get (in act, the nose was a little stale from the faded hops), and I do not see this benefiting from further aging. It tastes like how 100% Cuir is currently drinking with less complexity. Open your bottles now!

Cost: $12 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

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Photo of aasher
4.07/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours a medium bodied, somewhat cloudy dull amber in color with a one finger off white head. The nose is nice and bourbon forward, without being boozy. There is initially red fruits up front with a moderate amount of oak, vanilla, and caramel. I really like the nose. The flavors too are bourbon forward. The barrel shows itself off, showcasing plenty of vanilla, toffee, oak and bourbon. I dig it. It drinks like a lighter bodied barrel aged barley wine. The lighter body increases drinkability and appeal in my opinion. I could see how that would also turn some people off. Overall this is a really nice beer. It's enough to satisfy the barley wine fanatics that's for sure.

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Photo of FosterJM
4.05/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1135th Review on BA
Bottle to Snifter
22 oz

2012 release
Purchased for 8.99 @ Bevmo's Chino Hills

App- About the color of orange juice and fresh caramel out of the pot, with a one finger khaki colored head. Left zero cling and had a bit of a swirl on the top.

Smell- I really got nothing from this that was wowing. Wasnt overly aromatic even when it warmed it was minimal. Notes included, bourbon, oak, vanilla and citrus. Very light.

Taste- So the taste makes up for the app and the nose. It was very smooth without being burning and a bourbon bomb. Well layered with some notes of bourbon, oak and citrus. The citrus flavors layered with a matched malt backbone to create a well drinking beer.

Mouth- A lighter medium body with a medium carbonation with a smooth residual bourbon and cream type of flavor.

Drink- I enjoyed this beer better than 22nd Vanilla stout because the vanilla was too small. This beer seemed to be just about right. Well crafted, layered and smooth. Glad I have one to lay down, but then again might need to find more to just drink.

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Photo of claaark13
4.03/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks Kevin. Poured at cellar temp into a Hill Farmstead tulip. I really need to start using one of my other glasses for tasting. Nah.

A - Comes out as a dark orange with a touch of brown/red. Bubbly white head turns into lacing. Looks a little light for the style, but otherwise nice.

S - Lighter malts, candied fruit, oak presence.

T - Caramel and barrel take over almost immediately. Some candied fruits, malts, and some woodiness. Finishes a tad dry with noticeable heat, but nothing unpleasant. I'm not sure about the base on this one, but the barrel really takes hold of the beer. Favorable barrel notes are present from start to finish. Remarkable that it isn't hotter. There is almost a creaminess to it.

M - Medium body with some prickly carbonation.

O - Really a good beer. Not sure if aging will improve this beyond toning the heat down a bit and possibly merging the barrel more with the malts.

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Photo of Duff27
4/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a thin head that dies quickly. Collar left. Translucent caramel brown/orange color.

Very sweet smelling beneath the barrel notes.

A mix of sweet caramel and bourbon. Noticeable alcohol burn. Toffee! Would put this right at states ABV.

Average to above average carbonation which adds bite.

High abv but very smooth and drinkable.

First of all let me say, great price point. Nicely integrated old ale with the barrel aging. Thanks egrace84.

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Photo of charlzm
3.94/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Consumed February 10, 2012 at Karl Strauss, Universal City.

Beer is a murky caramel brown with no head at all (the waitress filled my 12 ounce snifter to the very brim).

Aroma is sweet with caramel, vanilla and bourbon notes.

Flavor follows nose, with the addition of modest alcohol heat and a white-cake pastry sort of component. Maybe some fleeting toffee and maple, but maybe not. Not terribly complex, but delicious.

Thicker than water? Enough to notice, but not much more. Beer has almost zero carbonation, but it is a little dry on the finish and that goes a long way towards cutting that sweetness at the end of each sip.

Overall, not the best old ale I have ever had, but deadly drinkable and unexpectedly good for a Karl Strauss brew.

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Photo of MasterSki
3.94/5  rDev -3.4%

2012 vintage bottle from Shane. Thanks! Served in a snifter.

A - Off-white foam settles to pretty much nothing. Attractive transparent amber body. Could have stood for a bit more head, but not terribly offensive for the style and ABV.

S - Lots of bourbon and oak, bread and toffee malts. Even though the barrel presence is heavy, the beer is surprisingly mellow. Fairly restrained sweetness for the style; a bit more burnt than cloying. Perhaps a touch of marmalade.

T - Taste is a bit more simplistic. Heavy emphasis on oak, with light whiskey and a fairly neutral bready malt backbone. Perhaps a bit simplistic; really needs a bit more sweetness to balance the barrel notes.

M - A bit thin for the ABV, but still decidedly medium. Tannic, dry, with a hint of lingering stickiness. Not much alcohol presence at all. Lower carbonation.

D - About what I expected; a solid barrel-aged old ale that has a few shortcomings. Still, it's easy to drink and one of the stronger offerings I've had from this brewery.

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Photo of womencantsail
3.9/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Amber in color with a thin khaki colored head. Smells of bourbon, vanilla, wood, and dark fruits. Plenty of caramel, toffee, and brown sugar to go along with it. Perhaps a hint of molasses along with some light oxidation. The beer tastes great. Caramel, toffee, brown sugar, and bourbon are the primary flavors with vanilla, oak, and dark fruits such as plums and raisins playing a role as well. The only knock I have on this beer is the body, which is quite thin.

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Photo of beagle75
3.89/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a bomber into a half-pint chalice.

A: Slightly hazy, medium amber color with a fine peripheral ring of off-white bubbles. Scant lacing remains on the glass.

S: Rich treacle laced with candied orange peel and heady spirituous vanilla.

T: Begins off-dry, with caramel and mild dark cherry fruit. Bourbon is featured in the middle, only slightly oak-influenced, but so is an assertive breadiness that seems entirely driven by English malt rather than yeast. The finish is booze-soaked, showing some fruitcake that seems ester-driven in the high alcohol presence.

M: Medium viscosity, syrupy and slightly acidic on the palate, with moderate carbonation.

D/O: A fine (and rare) old ale by a West Coast brewery, it generates an interesting mix of traditional malt-derived qualities as well as a fair amount of barrel influence.

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Photo of Sarlacc83
3.86/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

22 oz bottle from Shane. Thanks!

A: Caramel coloration with a creme head that's content to rest around the edges. Surprisingly light on its legs.

N: Caramel, vanilla, brown sugar, toffee, and malts. Honey at the edges, and plenty of deep oak.

T: Tasty bourbon mixed with ample vanilla and honey. Caramel and toffee make for a sugary treat. Still balanced, I get some bitterness of hops and a hint of dried pineapple.

M: Rather light for an Old Ale. It doesn't ruin the beer, but it could use some further heft and stickiness. However, it does drink far too easily for a 12.2% beer since the alcohol is shockingly absent.

O: A well-rounded beer. Balanced and enjoyable; Drink it soon, I think.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.79/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

650 mL bottle poured into a snifter. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Deep amber. Not much of a head. A few chunks around the edges.

Smell - Simple nose. Bourbon, oak, vanilla, and caramel.

Taste - Again, it's simple, but nice. Bourbon, vanilla, toffee and brown sugar. Dries out quickly with an oaky finish.

Mouthfeel - Astringent and boozy. Oaky in the finish. Medium body.

Overall - It certainly isn't a complex beer. Lots of barrel and some caramel malts to back it up.

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Photo of largadeer
3.73/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks, Shane.

Pours a dark brownish-amber capped by a finger of head that settles to a collar pretty quickly. Nose is fairly good, fruity, grainy and sweet with a good amount of barrel coming through that lends a bit of heat and nicer notes of caramel and vanilla. Palate is also solid if unremarkable. Big caramel and dark fruit flavors, some boozy astringency, a touch of vanilla. Body is medium, perhaps a bit thin for the style and ABV. Solid stuff overall, a fine offering for a good price.

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Photo of maximum12
3.73/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had a couple ounces of this at a tasting a few months back & it zoomed towards the top of my most-wanted posters. Then while engaged in trade discussions with the generous Kyle2k10, he noted my interest & offered to throw it in in exchange for two green socks. 22 oz. bottle opened up with my lovely, lovely wife.

Curtain up: the pour is a dark, clay-court red with minimal carbonation. Nose is a bit hard to pick out, but there's bourbon, carmelized sugar, heavy dose of sweets.

Karl Strauss 23rd Anniversary an alcohol spike to the forebrain. Hot, sweet booze oozes out into the mouth & lays tracks down the centers of reasoning & coordination. Plenty of 12.3% caramel & toffee, along with the beginnings of oxidation. Bourbon presents itself as more vanilla & heat than straight hard alcohol. Nice butterscotch, too. Lack of carbonation limits the drinkability, that & Earth's gravity.

Not the category-killer I remember from our first brief encounter, but nonetheless a very good beer.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.7/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

At the time of this review, this is #12 on the "Top Beers - Old Ale" list served in a snifter. Beer is dark yellow / light amber with a mild haze, a little white head, decent retention, no lacing, low to moderate carbonation.

Aroma is strong, boozy, a little overwhelming.

Beer is medium in body, thin on the front with the booze and alcohol, sweet, lacking that classic old ale character of depth. This is a good beer, a little hot, pretty strong but not overwhelmingly good. I don't think I'd have it again.

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Photo of stakem
3.58/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bomber split with friends and poured into a snifter. The brew appears a burnt copper color that is lighter to mahogany with a bit of an orange hue. A tan cap about a finger strong sits atop and leaves some stringy lace on the glass. A swirl revives a yellowish tan froth back to the surface.

The smell is solid with caramelized sugars. Hints of vanilla, oak, orange marmalde and an overall sugary candy quality fills the nose. As it warms up, there is a faint floral to citrus component mixing with minerals but overall the aromatics are all about the sugary quality of this brew.

The taste is caramel to toffee sweetness. Vanilla is present from the barrel aging mixing with fruity and floral elements. Big sticky sweet aspect to this brew with a bourbon burn trying to cut through. Oak and booziness persiste into the aftertaste with a mild orange zest aspect.

This is a medium to fuller bodied brew with a modest amount of carbonation. It is a big and boozy sipper with a cloying amount of sweetness and not enough alcohol or hops to cut it. Quite unbalanced and was a chore to try and get through my glass. As an after diner sticky sweet dessert, this might be more fitting. Not something I would care to have again though.

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23rd Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Ale from Karl Strauss Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 37 ratings.