Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

Alaskan Barley Wine (Pilot Series) - Alaskan Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Alaskan Barley Wine (Pilot Series)Alaskan Barley Wine (Pilot Series)

Educational use only; do not reuse.

294 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 294
Hads: 608
Avg: 4.12
pDev: 9.47%
Wants: 147
Gots: 159 | FT: 12
Brewed by:
Alaskan Brewing Co.
Alaska, United States | website

Style | ABV
American Barleywine | 10.70% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: John_M on 03-18-2007

Alaskan Barley Wine is a full bodied ale, deep mahogany in color and brewed with an array of complementing malts to achieve its high original gravity. Multiple hop additions in the boil and dry hopping during fermentation provide contrast to the big malt character resulting in the smooth balance that distinguishes this specialty brew. Like many fine wines, Alaskan Barley Wine may be aged in the bottle and gains deeper malt complexity and smoothness over time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Alaskan Barley Wine (Pilot Series) Alström Bros
Reviews: 294 | Hads: 608
Photo of drpimento
4.53/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Excellent brew! Served at a good temperature and with a nice, light tan, thick, foamy head and plenty of lace. Color is a clear, dark red amber. Aroma is malt, hop, fruit, taffy. Flavor is like nose, but with a lot more going on - malt sweet is on top with plenty of hop and yeast bitter under, then a little carbonic tang to complete the experience. Body is full and lush but with ever so slight bitter points. Carbonation is spot on. Finish is just as it should be for the style: long, boozy, and satisfying. One or two would be just right. Very well crafted product.

 569 characters

Photo of morimech
4.03/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage

Dark crimson color with a solid two fingers of head that had excellant retention. The head settles to a thick cap. Moderate amount of sticky lacing is left down the glass.

Aroma is an interesting combination of tropical fruit, caramel, and floral elements.

The flavor seems to be hop dominated. I get a lot of tropical and floral hop flavors. Underlying caramel and sweetness. Neither overly sweet or bitter.

Good carbonation that compliments the bigger body. Enjoyable texture.

Did not really expect the tropical fruit elements to come from an Alaskan barleywine. Still a very enjoyable beer.

 611 characters

Photo of UnknownKoger
4.42/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Been saving this one for a few years. 2009. Time to crack it. Poured into Bruery tulip. Appearance is a hazy copper. Still very well carbonated. One finger foam head quickly dies down.

Smell is great. The hops are still there. Slightly fading into the malt background and mingling nicely. Some toffee sweetness and sweet fruits.

The taste is outstanding. No flavor dominates. They all mesh perfectly. This is an American barleywine through and through. It's got enough hops in there, but they're not overpowering. Age has done wonders for this beer.

Mouthfeel is nice. It's a bit chewy but nothing big.

Overall this is outstanding. What a great barleywine. I wish I had more of these. Cheers

 696 characters

Photo of lurpy1
4.08/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tough night. Faith in humanity gone. Where to go? Town Hall Tap! Ordered this Guest Tap, poured into some sort of faggy goblet. I took a lot of crap for the cup. Those who took a sip of this stopped giving me crap.

Pour is a bit of a mahogany stain color. Can't pick up on strong odor, a little bit of burnt grain, caramel, fruit. I just think my despair was getting in the way of my nose. Taste, on the other hand, is great. Alcoholic as it should be, with grain, caramel, figs and what I believe to be a bit of apples. Great. Smooth and a little thin, good for guzzling, but the alcohol won't permit it.

Excellent beer. Alaskan nailed this one.

 648 characters

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

2009 Vintage enjoyed 04/03/2012.

Three years of age has done nothing to tarnish the beauty of this polished russet-amber ale. It remains spectacularly clear and, although its tone is fairly dark and reserved, it leaks glowing golden and ruby highlights onto the hand.

There's not much missing from the aroma either. With a maltiness that smells of molasses and dark, sticky fruits and a hoppiness that smacks of orange marmalade and pine serum, we can safely say all parts remain accounted for. It resembles a good quality wild honey, one you'd likely pay a small fortune for at the farmer's market.

Alaskan Barley Wine soaks the mouth in flavors of red grape, date, fig, golden raisin and a mellow brandy-like warmth that is disrupted by a brutish pungency courtesy of some notably bitter hops. For all its caramelly and molasses-like features, the beer's toasty malt base just doesn't stack up against the piny, Pacific Northwest style hopping.

Barleywine is a style that wears many hats. This offering falls somewhere between what we consider 'traditional English' varieties and the aggressive American ones. It has a spicy hop bitterness that is almost scathing (especially when compounded with the near 11% alcohol) yet it drinks with mellow composure; a potent yet soothing tipple.

Labels often make embellished claims. But when the brewery says this ale is "perfect for sharing with friends" take them at their word. Not only is it potent stuff, but it's a drink that encourages slow, pensive sips and warm reminiscences. Its candied-cherry and apricot notes and port-like aftertaste are definitely the stuff to be savored.

A 22oz bottle of Alaskan Barley Wine is basically the adult version of a pacifier. Burp me and I'm ready for bed. All is right with the world and Good Night. Indeed, the sweet, syrupy, honey-like coating on my lips will last long after I turn the lights out (which, truthfully, is the only logical thing to do by the end of the bomber). Sweet dreams!

 1,993 characters

Photo of tavernjef
4.18/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Deep and clear dark cherrywood with a lofty tan topping of creamy foam sitting about a finger high. It keeps its seat for great length and laces out lots of patchy sheeting patterns.

Aroma is plump of dark caramel malts and dark fruity accents, as it's quite soaked with dates, figs, and raisinyness. Hops add some dark orange marmalade and deeply set pineyness.

Taste is warm and malty with a solid smooth and gooey portion of dates, starfruit, figs, and some maple thrown in there. A touch of vanilla and some orangey piney hop tones way in the background. Lots of malty goodness seducing itslef in caramel and dark fruity stickyness.

Fairly chewy full body; smooth, warm, girthy, and lengthy with lots of cheek sticking malts and a nice little graxing touch of palate squeezing hoppyness.

Overall, this stuff is very solid, it has an enjoyable balance and hefty, warm, malt laden body that i tend to like more out of a Barley Wine. I really liked this stuff and will most definatley pick up more of it.

 1,010 characters

Photo of SpdKilz
3.83/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage.

Appearance – Pours into a hotel cup with a dark mahogany color. Little head and little lacing.

Smell – Sweet dark fruits, caramel and molasses, lots of raisin and brown sugar.

Taste – A sweeter barleywine. Caramel and molasses up front which is then taken over by the dark fruits. Slight oxidation and metallic flavors? Heavy crystallized brown sugar.

Mouthfeel – Medium bodied, decent carbonation.

Overall – Sadly not really impressed with this beer. There was an off-putting metallic taste that I couldn’t get past, and it was a bit too sweet for my liking. Curious how very old vintages taste.

 627 characters

Photo of adrock7309
4.15/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Obtained a 2011 bottle from Pairings in Eden Prairie, MN

Poured into a bells tulip glass. Initial pour drew no head but as the beer settled about a fourth of inch of head developed and then quickly fell back. No lacing on the glass but a thin strap of bubbles along the edge of the beer where it met the glass.

Aromas of red grapes, muttled piney hops, some butterscotch and caramel. There was something vinous and fruity about the smell combined with a strong presence of alcohol that was just fantastic.

Taste was rich and sweet. Again with the faint hops and caramel notes. I was surprised how much i was picking up a dark fruit and juicy grape profile. It was fantastic. The fruit gave way to the caramel toffee flavors as it warmed. I also thought there was a nice warming from the alcohol.

Mouthfeel was smooth and velvety and a bit hot on the finish. I think this would definitely benefit from another year or so in the cellar.

Glad I have another to age a while - overall a fantastic brew!

 1,002 characters

Photo of harrymel
4.29/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2011

Pours a dark brown with a finger of latte foam which falls slowly to a quilt of the same. Spotty lace. This beer smells chewy, like toffee and bubble gum and sweet caramel. They talk about the hops being added for balance, malarky - this malty with english influence. It smells beautiful for a fresh barley wine IMO.

Malt, cola, hints of burnt sugar and stone fruits. This beer has me at first taste. I have had this a few times, almost always with a year or three on it. This beer leaves the shelves in this area, and now I realize why, it's great fresh! Malty and sweet with a slight bitter/dry tone, it hides the alcohol like an opaque condom as it slides down my throat. Off-full bodied with moderate carb, the finish is semi dry and inviting.

Really a nice beer. I have a hard time telling folks about this beer, as it's a nice hidden PNW secret.

 867 characters

Photo of FightingEntropy
4.47/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

According to Alaskan Brewing, Alaskan Barley Wine was introduced in 2003,brewed yearly and even won a Bronze medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup. First time I've been able to get a bottle thanks to Alaskan being distributed in Minnesota now.

Thin dirty tan head was tough to pull up. Even with a hard pour down the middle, the head fell quickly to nearly nothing. Iridescent ale that moves between copper and mahogany. Dry hopping apparent in the nose along with a strong alcohol hotness from the 10.7% ABV. Hops smells like a combination of English and northwest hops. Not listed on the website--just a guess. Dark cherry, figs, raisins, and a strong caramel malt--but still hangs below the hops. Heavy fruit and alcohol continue in the taste to support a strong hop bite. While not a lightweight ale, the beer has a subtle balance between big hop, malt and alcohol. Everything is big but balanced, so the effect is sweet and mellow. As it warms, all three elements open up and invade the senses. Drink it slow and enjoy.

 1,020 characters

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

Three year old 2008 properly cellared bottle. Pours a deep ruby amber, half finger medium to fine light brown head that fades slowly to a ring around the glass. Aroma of caramel malt and dark fruit, very well integrated, a prototypical aged barleywine aroma. Flavor follows with caramel malt, dark fruit and a definite hop presense on the finish. Nicely integrated and tasty. Body has become creamy and pleasant. Very nice. Tasted with a fresh 2011; see that review for comparison. There is no doubt that aging this beer is an excellent decision. I like the fresh one a lot, but this is very nice.

Hmm, appears that we can't review a beer twice, so here is my 2011, fresh bottle review:

Pours a deep ruby amber, half finger medium to fine light brown head that fades slowly to a ring around the glass. Aroma of caramel malt dark fruit, light hops dominated by alcohol. Flavor has sweet malt, light and dark fruit with a neutral hop finish and a bit of alcohol burn. Paired with a 2008 aged bottle. The newer barley wine has much more pronounced light berry like fruit flavor, but not as well melded with the malt and a more pronounced alcohol presence throughout the taste. The flavors are nice and only docked for points because of the booze component.

I gave the fresh bottle a 4.5 3.5 4.5 4.0 4.5; a slightly lower score, but this is very nice. A great barleywine that is good fresh and better cellared.

 1,410 characters

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


A: Nice Reddish/Brown color, quarter inch creamish head, decent lacing

S: Some sweetness, hops smell nice, some malts coming through, touch of cherry in there

T: Grapefruit hops, some fruits, touch of dark cherry, spice, and booze

M: Light, tasty

O: Exceeded my expectations, I can't complain, good stuff

 314 characters

Photo of MattyG85
4.03/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from 22 oz. bottle into a Surly Darkness Chalice glass. 2011 Bottle.

Appearance: Pours a deep dark brownish mahogany red with a moderate amount of bubbles. Decent two finger off white head fades into a thin patchy layer. Decent amount of lacing on the glass.

Smell: Aroma is fairly sweet with some dark fruits including prunes and dark cherry. Hints of citrus grapefruit hops and molasses. I'm even getting a little whiff of apple and banana. Sweet caramel malts round it out. Smells good.

Taste: Like the smells leads, a fruity and sweet taste. Sweet caramel malts with some toffee and dark fruits. Notes of prunes, cherry, apple, and banana. A light taste of citrus hops with some grapefruit ester. Hops are fairly tame and not very bitter. Sweet but not cloyingly sweet. Tame but pretty good.

Mouthfeel: Medium to heavy bodied with a light to medium level of carbonation. Very smooth for the abv. Feels like its already aged a couple years.

Overall: Overall this is a pretty good barleywine. For a fresh bottle it is very smooth with no noticeable alcohol heat. Could of used a little more hop bite, but the fruity flavors are pretty nice.

 1,158 characters

Photo of Mdog
4.88/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Red, purple highlights, big head, good lacing. Basically perfect looking.

Smell: Very nice dark fruits, more caramel in later sniffs.

Taste: Dark fruit, rich darker caramel, hint of citrus. Very balanced and very tasty. Awesome.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: Feels great, no alcohol burn, extremely tasty.

Wow, this beer is off-the-charts good in my book. I usually like to age barleywines but this one would not last in my fridge. Just excellent look and taste. Highly recommended!

 492 characters

Photo of xnicknj
4.41/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into tulip, 2009 vintage - thanks to beerandraidersfan

Pours a deep chestnut brown color with bright reddish hues shining through. A crop of beige head retains on top of the brew while drinking, leaving patchy lacing on the glass. Very nice.

Very faint notion of faded citrusy and piny hops. Caramel, bread and sweetness with a mature malt complexity. Soft boozy warmth.

A little citrusy and sticky on the tongue up front, light touches of piny resin. Thick caramel and syrup touches with some bready notes. Layers of malt flavor with a smooth sweetness followed by pleasant warmth. Some hints of raisin and cherry. Finishes warm and citrusy.

Fuller medium body, milder carbonation, creamy and slick on the tongue. This really aged nicely, with minimal oxidation and improved malt flavor. The heat has subsided as well, making it even more enjoyable. I'd definitely like more of this.

 909 characters

Photo of cofeeguru
3.47/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Having had several barley wines, I was excited to try this on tap. The aroma is sweet with a definite boozy note, a little stronger than the typical barley wine. The taste was very much the same, sweet, boozy, and a little lighter than others I've had. The alcohol was noticeable, as was the hoppy bitterness at the end. A tasty mid-range barley wine, but definitely not my favorite of the style. I'll have it again, though, as an inexpensive version of one of my favorite beer styles.

 485 characters

Photo of Nerudamann
3.43/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a bottle into a snifter glass.

Look – ruby tinged dark brown in color, with about half a finger’s worth of beige-colored foam that dissipates somewhat quickly.

Smell – fruity aroma, almost like grapejuice. A bit earthy in its presence.

Taste – fairly fruity in the initial taste as well. In the middle it becomes a little more mature in its taste. Bitterness from the hops arrives near the finish and lingers a bit in the aftertaste, which somehow seems to almost take your breath away.

Mouthfeel – surprisingly light and a little more toward the watery side than I would have expected from a barleywine. But even so, pretty well-balanced.

Overall – Not a bad-tasting brew at all! To be frank, it’s not the best barleywine I’ve ever had, but it’s still a pleasure to sample and think about.

 825 characters

Photo of CuriousMonk
3.58/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage poured into a tulip glass. Pours a deep mahogany along a medium tan head that dissapates quickly. Aroma of sediments/yeast, alochol, and raisins. A somewhat alcoholic punch in the flavor but not too much, slight bitterness. Picked up some cherries, bread/dough, dark fruit in the taste. Medium-bodied. Bitter finish. Overall, a quite decent barley wine, but not as mind blowing as I'd hoped it to be (such as the ratings indicate). I'd be open to trying out a fresher version in the near future.

 508 characters

Photo of Rifugium
4.3/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

First had: bottle share at Beermongers, Portland, OR
'07 vintage, had in Dec. '11, courtesy of writerLJberg. Thanks!

Poured a somewhat cloudy reddish brown with a wispy off-white head. Aroma of dark dried fruits, caramel, and promises of alcohol. Taste...man, we're talking some extreme raisin character in this beer, probably more pronounced than any other beer I've had, possibly even Raison d'Extra. Aftershocks of sweet caramel, booze, light dashes of brown sugar, hints of wood and leafy hops. Intensely flavorful, but pretty well-mellowed by aging for 4+ years. Very enjoyable selection.

 594 characters

Photo of comfortablynumb1
4.1/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5


Bomber into a Bruery snifter...

A - Pours a ruby brown with a one finger kahki head. Head retention is decent and there is a little slippery lace to be had...

S - Caramel, dark fruits, molasses, some floral hops, and a hint of alcohol...

T - Pretty sweet. Caramel, molasses, and figs. Hops are present, but for the most part are overrun by malt. Sweet malt lingers in the finish. Abv is very well hidden...

M - On the higher end of a medium bodied feel. Carbonation is light...

O - Glad I picked this one up. Not world class by any means, but very solid. Definitely picking up another one to sit...


 621 characters

Photo of RuckusDu
4.25/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 Vintage

A - Pours about a one finger head on beautiful dark amber body which is clear. Head is light tan in color. Whatever minimal lacing doesn't last long.

S - The booze comes out along with some sweet hoppiness. Cherries, prunes, and caramel.

T - A real treat as the sweet malts are so perfectly balanced with smooth, mild hops. Nice caramel flavors mix with a slight nutty-ness. There is some red and green apple flavors as well.

M - Considering the high alcohol content, this is pretty good. Lower carbonation and medium body.

O - Tastes like an ale, not a super-sweet barleywine which makes this a great beer. I put this in the fridge tonight (the day I purchased it) to see if I should get some to age. Well, I'm going to need lots of this beer to drink now and age. Wonderful stuff which I hope to enjoy many more times.

 840 characters

Photo of brewcrew76
4.08/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage

A - Rich deep mahogany, auburn with a thin khaki head that settles momentarily with a ring of foam and then disappears completely.

S - Spicy, earthy aroma with rich caramel malts, dark fruits, alcohol and molasses.

T - Very sweet, caramel, brown sugar, molasses, dark fruits, herbal spicy hops, alcohol.

M - Full bodied, slick and smooth.

D - I like big barleywines less as I get older but this one is pretty good. Have to buy another bottle and let it age a little.

 484 characters

Photo of cdkrenz
3.64/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - One inch of an attractive tan head. The body is deep brown and also a good looker.

S - A moist hop and mild malt aroma.

T - There is a strong presence of sweet malt. The hop flavor is not as evident as I like in a barleywine.

M - Full bodied for a thick, smooth and silky feel. The mouthfeel could beits est characteristic.

~ The beer is a good drinker and offers a very nice 'head'. I really enjoy this style and a would get this beer again but if I do it will be for purposes of storing in my cellar for a few years.

 528 characters

Photo of whatthehull
4.62/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 edition


A - A really nice translucent blood red, half finger tanish head and some sticky lacing

S - Tons of sugar up front, malty, really nice red blend nose, very sweet fruits (plums, guava, nectarine and such), a nice wheat note, booze, molasses, candy sugar, grainy bread yeast, caramelized apples, jasmine, some wood and nice mineral notes

T - It amazingly enough tastes just like the nose, not quite as pretty but still very nice. The booze is toned down in the taste, but the sugar, malts, fruits and flowers are all there. So crisp and refreshing with an awesome bitter end

M - Full bodied, well balanced, just enough complexity, low acidity and long beautiful finish

D - This is one for the books, lovely nose, great taste and very refreshing! If you like barley wines or ale that is more malty and sweet, check this one out. Oh and if you want to age this one, please buy 2 because this is just so fresh and crisp, wow

Final thought - Alaskan, you made a wonderful beer, full of flavor and life and I want a case, please? 11% and $8 a pop, pick these up for sure!

 1,090 characters

Photo of crossovert
3.77/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

650ml bottle. 2011 Vintage.

It pours a deep mahogany with reddish/purple notes. The head is fluffy and off white and takes a while to recede.

The smell is great. You can tell it is an assertively hopped northwestern-style barleywine. The hops have a definite citrusy vibe and seamlessly blend into the sugary scented malt bill. There is also a hint of banana which is odd but it works.

The flavor is big on the sweetness. It also seems yeastier than the average barleywine. Nice alcoholic punch but not too much, slight bitterness which is sad after smelling the aroma but it still is a nice barleywine.

 606 characters

Alaskan Barley Wine (Pilot Series) from Alaskan Brewing Co.
92 out of 100 based on 294 ratings.