Bison Organic Barleywine Ale - Bison Brewing

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Bison Organic Barleywine AleBison Organic Barleywine Ale

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57 Ratings
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Ratings: 57
Reviews: 51
rAvg: 3.59
pDev: 15.04%
Wants: 1
Gots: 0 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Bison Brewing visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  9.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: nickss on 04-07-2006

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 57 | Reviews: 51
Reviews by Tabni:
More User Reviews:
Photo of warriorsoul
3.88/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up my first organic barleywine at Whole Foods in Apex, NC last night...a steal at $3.99.
Pours a vibrant, clear cherry copper color with less than a half a finger of white head after an agressive pour...some spotty lacing and the head recedes rapidly.
Mellow in the nose...some faint raisins and cherry licorice.
Taste is quite good...more fig than raisin, with a fantastic earthy flavor that really complements this offering. A decent amount of fruity hops too, adding some bitterness to the brew.
Some more cherries find their way into the mix with the alcohol very well masked...quite dangerous at 9.5%. Finishes semi-sweet, with the earthy flavor around in the aftertaste.
Mouthfeel is full bodied and the carbonation is just where I like to see it...perfect for a cold night in front of the fire.

Photo of magictrokini
2.26/5  rDev -37%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

With the exceptions of St. Peter's offereings and Butte Creek's Organic Revolution X, the constant problem with organics seems to be a flat, wooden flavor. This beer is no different. Murky brown pour with no head. Aroma of caramel malt, grassy hops, and state bread. Wooden flavor, with a heaping of earthy malt and a hoppy finish. There is some toffee in there, as advertised, but it is blended with a syrupy, dirty mess.

Photo of IntriqKen
2.51/5  rDev -30.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Dark amber with a beautiful reddish hue when held to the light. Half finger head melts quickly.

Aroma is too subdued....pale malt...a tiny bit of caramel...a bit of alcohol.

Taste is almost bland for a barleywine. A little caramel...a little toasted amber malt...too little hops...a touch of alcohol.

Not bad...just disappointing and forgetable as soon as the glass is empty if you make it that far.

Photo of Metalmonk
3.41/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2005 bottling.

A not-overly-aggressive pour yields a huge head, dirty white in color and very rocky, topped by a glassy ruby-tinted brown. No haze whatsoever. Head retains well, leaving generous lace streakings.

Aroma is remarkably mild; caramel, vanilla, and homebrewed root beer timidly appear, while a weird astringent alcohol appears even further back.

Flavor recalls root beer again, and it would seem the hops have mellowed during its two years of aging. Something like molasses beefs things up, with caramel and vanilla also showing up. Unfortunately by the middle of the glass I'm feeling a kind of gritty, sugary sweetness that takes over everything this could've had going for it. The finish is the best aspect of the flavor, reminding of a nutty liqueur.

Mouthfeel offers a slight stickiness, despite being lighter and more buoyant than many other barleywines.

Like other Bison stuff I've had, this is good, clean and fairly enjoyable, but doesn't make me long to seek it out again. I completely appreciate their organic angle. There are much better barleywines, but there are some disastrous ones lurking about too. This is right in the middle somewhere.

Photo of tempest
3.95/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Opened a bottle from 2009. Needed a dessert beer and this did the trick for the most part. It was a bit aggressive for chocolate brownies, but probably would have gone well with stinky cheese and preserves. At first, I wasn't sure about this beer, but I enjoyed it the more it warmed up. Like I said, it's aggressive. There's a big fruity sweet malt flavor followed by a big kick of hops. The malts really dominate with plum and caramel candy followed by crisp apple (not cider) and cherries. There's a bit of smooth alcohol heat too, like you'd expect in an 8-yr scotch. I'd have hoped that were gone after a year in the cellar, but it still added to the complexity. All in all, a barleywine worth trying. Though I might give it two years next time.

Photo of silver0rlead
3.98/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a cloudy amber with a nice tan head that leaves impressive lacing. The aroma has a big caramel character, along with some piney and citrus hops, dark fruits and alcohol. The flavor is similar to the nose, with big caramel sweetness upfront, along with some piney and citrusy hops, dark fruits, and some alcohol. The mouthfeel is moderate and drinkability is excellent for an english barleywine. A very solid rendition by Bison, drinkable and not cloying like many english barleywines.

Photo of russpowell
3.95/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours amber with 2 fingers of fluffy sand colored head. Super lacing & above average head retention

S: Slight breadyness, caramel brown sugar, & slight smokeyness & fruittyness

T: Breadyness, caramel, pralines, Canadian Whisky & herbal hops up front. Dryness, slight boozeyness, & toffee as this warms. Fruittyness, especially plums & figs, dryness & brown sugar as this warms. Finishes fruitty, with a touch of apple pie & a kiss of alcohol

MF: Chewy, medium bodied with medium carbonation

Good drinkability, a solid English BW

Photo of mikesgroove
3.82/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I grabbed this one out of the cellar yesterday to see how it held up. This was a vintage 07 bottle that I had been waiting to take a try with. Served at a nice fifty degrees and poured into a snifter, this one was enjoyed on 04/12/2009.

The pour was decent, though a bit lifeless for me. Rich amber color, almost copper in hue with a nice touch of cloudiness to it that really gave it a very thick look, nearly opaque at times. No real head though, and it almost looked flat at first pour, not really encouraged right off the bat. The aroma was rich and sweet. Nice notes of bready malts, hints of almost honey like notes and a nice fruit touch toward the finish. The flavor though really perked me up a bit. Sweet, mellow, with all notes of ABV long gone by the wayside. Lots of biscuit like notes, a touch of faded hops and a load of grain all combined to really give quite a nice show overall. Very impressed here with the way it tasted, especially in the finish, which was again very sweet, and nearly perfectly placed. An easy sipper I almost went through this one too quickly as it had mellowed to the point of being equally rich and subtle.

Overall a very solid offering here that has aged very well. I would have no issue with trying this one again, much better with a couple years on it I have to admit.

Photo of scottoale
3.68/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2005 Vintage

From a 22oz. brown bomber, pours a dark hazelnut brown ale with a two-finger tan colored head.

Smells of caramel and toffee with notes of chocolate and some roastiness.

Cereal and grainy cracked malt with plenty of sweetness dominates. Chocolate comes in with some nutty roastiness, winding down with a tea and tobacco bittery finish. Definetly an English style to this here barleywine.

Medium-plus body with it's 9.5% ABV really well masked. Mouthfeel is ok, nothing really note worthy...drinkability is above average with good taste. Definetly worth a try, though not exceptional.

Photo of twiggamortis420
3.95/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2005 Vintage

Pours a very clear dark copper color with a tan, large-bubbled head. Average retention with nice lacing.

Nose is quite pleasant with alot of caramely sweet malts and a heavy dose of fruitiness - green apples, plums and raisins. Hops are there with some floral and grassy notes, but have most certainly faded over the past 4 years. Surprisingly little oxidation is evident, still smells pretty fresh.

Sweet toffee and caramel maltiness are decently balanced with some hop and fruit flavors. After having a couple other Bison offerings, this one has been the most impressive. A bit of graham cracker and smokiness come out more as it warms. Slightly oxidized and a bit thin, but it has held up well. An enjoyable drinking experience!

Photo of joshwlt
4.05/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

(2005 vintage, 3 years old) Poured into a goblet it doesn't produce much of a head at all... On my second pour even after shaking the bottle a bit I only could get maybe half an inch of a lightly browned head that didn't last long. Some strings of lace. Has a ruby peach tea color. Smells slightly sherry-like... currant, a little bit of alcohol and sweet caramel malt actually accompanies the smell, which made me think there would be a bevy of caramel malt when tasting, but is misleading. Hits the mouth with salt... yes salt and pepper... Spicy hop... not grapefruit, not piney, not even earthy just peppery spice is created by the alcohol and hop profile. It is immediately followed by a light raisin, liiight caramel malt, and buttery oiliness is left on the lips. The moutfeel is great in this beer, which isn't usually something you can rave about but this is just interesting because while all the flavors are light the mouthfeel is actually quite an experience. Again starts off peppery tingly followed by a juicy malt and dark fruitiness and finishes with a tea leaf-like dryness on the tongue, but you can lick your lips to find a buttery oiliness. I think this beer is great; most great beers in my book have 5 or so moderate to bold noticeable flavors intermingling; this however, has multiple light characteristics dancing around and deserves thought, and maybe even solitude. Drinks quickly and leaves you feeling good, alcohol is not too noticeable except in maybe the smell or the mouthfeel but certainly do not taste ethanol even with such light characteristics in this beer.

Photo of mntlover
3.7/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear copper color with a beige head that falls slowly and laces well. A good looking beer or normal anyway.

Aroma is good malty lots of citrus mixed with pine and other fruits. Some caramel and toffee hints present. Close to a Bigfoot, but not quite.

Taste is malty lots of fruitiness with caramel and toffee hints. Good hop flavors mingled with alcohol that is noted and just a touch too much, but then again not too bad. Has some English aspects lots of malt toffee hints but also has lots of citrus hops like an American style so its a toss up for me.

Mouthfeel is medium approaching bigger. Mellow carbonation that is good.

Drinkability is ok not a great BW but it is ok and cheap also. Four dollars a bomber not a bad deal either.

Photo of barleywinebrewer
3.63/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

this one was tasty and tough. An organic barleywine. Listed here as an english barleywine but with a hop characteristic more towards an american barleywine. I got this via trade so no idea of the costs. Others noted about $4 per bottle. If that's true I'd be stocking up. Quite tasty. Rich malts, light citrus hops, medium bodied. Easy to quaff a bomber. What's not to like other than the classification. I might have ranked it a touch higher in taste if it was an american categorization.

3-28-08 with over 14 months in the cellar this one feels more like an english barleywine. A tasty treat and I'll stick with my review above including the stock up. Wish I had a few more to see how this continues to change over time.

Photo of Reidrover
3.31/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I am intrigued it's not often you see an English style barleywine outta Cali!. 2005 vintage
22 oz bomber served into a dimpled pint mug.
Lovelly looking beer,hazy dark golden /amber brown, hints of orange, small bubbly off white head.
The aroma is all malt though its rather on the subdued side for my taste
Again the taste is very malty and slightly roasty but gets sweet and rather thin near the end of the mouthful, at which point some hops are tasted and the alcohol is detected, though thankfully it is pleasing.
Mouthfeel is pretty nice thoug the alcohol seems to thin it out a tad.
This beer at the moment has for me average drinkability..I will certainlly finish the bomber, but not sure if i would buy another.
It says on the label this must be cellared for many years..maybe that would help.

Photo of Neehan
4.15/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

This pours a murky, hazy, dirty (good dirty) pour with good retention and liveliness in the glass. The smell is of balanced fruits balanced with dark spices that lead to a dark, very complex taste that combines sweetness, bitterness, smoothness, and deliciousness. Grapefruit in the smell, taste, and finish. Quite pleasant. This is very interesting as the mouthfeel begins quite creamy and frothy at first, but at half-glass picks up a sharp, crisp nature with a bitter bite at the end. A sipper, but a damn good one at that. This one seems to have flown in under the radar.

Photo of srrn
4.5/5  rDev +25.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a slight carmel color with light colored head. This is a lighter colored barleywine than most. Smell was a bit of carmel and apple. Taste of this beer is amazing, a bit of a higher hop profile in this barleywine (I would have thought of it as an American Barleywine) that perfectly offsets the sweetness of the malts. I enjoy barleywines but sometimes they are coyingly sweet, this is not. Highly drinkable and recommended.

Photo of jdhilt
3.45/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a two finger off-white head that fades slowly leaving a good lace. Cloudy amber color. Medium carbonation and medium bodied. Alcohol/malty nose. Starts sweet & sour with noticeable alcohol flavor, leaves a slight bitter after taste. $3.79 for a 22oz bottle from John's Market Tigard, Or.

Photo of dfillius
3.82/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a pint glass. Bottle says this is the 2005 rendition, I drank it in October of 2007.
A: Cloudy, orange-red-amber hue. Very little, thin head; just a tiny ring of it.
S: Toffee nose, alcohol undertones as well.
T: Sweet with nice bitterness on edge of tongue. Sweetness in the midle of my tongue. Sweetness is only not cloyingdue to the bitterness. The flavors are not tied together though, they are very independent and seperate on the palate.
M: Fizzy on the middle, drying on edges. Nice syrupy sweetness all around.
D: I could enjoy another but...

Photo of IrishRedRock
4.2/5  rDev +17%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bomber. Lovely ruby-tinged amber hue, lacing is good. Candy-sweet malt nose, with plums and citrus rum. Yow. Bedtime soon. Flavor is not big on the hops, but it doesn't need to be. English in style, ie not an American hop monster barleywine, but holds a very nice complexity. Vanilla and sherry undertones throughout balance the chewy, grassy earthy malt wallop that this packs. Vanilla and alcohol linger in the finish. Just a hint of carbonation on the palate - utterly smooth. An extremely tasty and drinkable barleywine, and its organic to boot. Very nicely done.

Photo of bort11
3.55/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Received as part of the New Anniversary Bomber Bif, thanks to Solomon420.

22 oz bottle, 2005 vintage. Poured into a tulip glass. Fluffy khaki tan head that has a moderate lacing. Color is a dark reddish orange.
Smell is slightly bitter toffee flavor. A little buttery. Taste has more caramel malted flavor that finishes with a mild hops bitterness. Hops are more floral than citric.
Mouthfeel is a little thin, but the carbonation gives a smooth creaminess. Not too bad, goes down pretty smooth. Don't really feel the alcohol...much.

Photo of stephendr
3.44/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz. bottle- color of dark reddish purple , with a long lasting white head - nose of oats , apricots , mangos , sour milk , and maple – different taste of prunes , sweet , oatmeal , chocolate , resin , and grapefruit - body is medium , silky , and with low carbonation – aftertaste like a porter , and some what tart – I really do not know what to think about this beer!

Photo of DogFood11
2.11/5  rDev -41.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

750 brown bottle. Organic English Barleywine. I haven't had a whole lot of luck with organic beers, quite to the contrary. I don't know if its because of the ingredients or that the ones I've had have just been brewed badly or even better yet my palate just cant get this niche type brew. Anyway on to the review. It pours a copper color and leaves fine and cover style lace.

Yeah once again there is just something odd about these organic beers and yet I cant say its one repetitive theme. All have had different reasons for me not liking them. This one has little to no hop presence which is not unusual for the English version. What is unusual is that this one really needed a balancer as its astringent and has a crab apple lean to it. Suggestions of apple juice lay underneath, slick and partially watered. Tobacco is mild but evident. Slightly oxidized with some wet cardboard feel to it.

Notes: Once again the "organic" beer has let me down. I will try just about anything once but the organic thing is starting to wear my patience thin. Put up or shut up. Its like that sorghum thing for those that cant have gluton. Just doesn't work to this point.

Photo of WesWes
3.5/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a cloudy, dark amber color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is decent. It has a warm, malty scent that boasts of pale, crystal, roasted, and Munich Malts. It's a bit sweet smelling with a nice hop balance. The taste is decent as well. It has a bitter hop taste that really sticks out over a palate of roasted and crystal malts. It's rich and flavorful, while warming in the finish. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a full bodied beer with adequate/good carbonation. This is an above average beer, but I'm not in love with it. There are many other barleywines in the market that I'd rather have.

Photo of bruachan
3.96/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

nice head. great, merengue creamy goodness (oh, and it sticks)

nice red and tobacco sunburst color. very nice, actually. my first sniff brings caramelized sugars and deep, dark fruits. hot, too. not as dynamic as it could be, however

molasses flavors and port. actually it tastes almost exactly like a batch of BW i brewed to which i added a bottle of port. it tastes stronger than 9.5%, to be honest: hot, chesthairgrowing

thick and brownsugary. i almost feel i am drinking caramelized cane juice

Photo of TheLongBeachBum
4.3/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 22oz Bomber, picked up for $3.59. Dark purple & soft gray main label has a pronounced silhouette of a Bison set against a sky blue background. The main label lists the beer as ‘Bison Organic Barleywine Ale’, stated at 9.5% by Vol. No freshness date.

The blurb states “Our Bison 2005 Barleywine is in the traditional English style. Its original gravity was 1.092 using 4 organic malts. We enjoy hints of toffee in its balance of rich malty flavor and good bitterness.”

Appearance: Aaarrrrgggh the English aromas immediately remind me of the sanguine dulcet tones of Matt Monro and “On Days Like These” as Rosanno Brazzi winds his way up the Alps in that gorgeous blood red high revving 350hp 1967 Lamborghini Miura P400…then all of a sudden we meet the DB7 Earthmover in the Tunnel. Bham!!! The alcohol makes an entrance like the black suited Mafia…then just as quickly as they appeared, it rescinds again.

Nose: Charlie Croker leaps in with a cheeky Cockney malt ridden nose that is supported by some ‘Camp’ Freddy limp wrested caramel fruits and soft alcohol traits. Warming Devon toffee and figs lend depth. Tea Mr. Bridger?

Taste: Gorgeous rounded malts link nicely with a feint bitterness that balances but not overtly. Chewy and warming with an alluring depth. Talks like Michael Cain with a high-brow introduction from Noël Coward and a respectable middle that John Le Mesurier couldn’t top. This has a class profile.

Mouthfeel: 5-4-3-2-1 GO! "You're only supposed to blow the Bloody doors off". As the tight-blinking Benny Hill so immortally said, “Are they Big? I like ‘em Big??” This is one that Professor Simon Peach would be proud of, for it does the business throughout. As bold as the Imperialistic Mr. Bridger’s ambitions, this does not disappoint. A solid performer.

Drinkability: Runs around like the demented Red, White and Blue Mini Coopers screaming through the streets of Turin, often comes close to scraping the sides a few times but it nevertheless impresses as it runs down the stairs and across the dams.

Overall: Enjoyable with a definitive Englishness about it that shines through, dare I say that this reminded me of Ballard’s Old Bounder…..a fine English style “southern” 9.4% Barleywine that always impressed me.

Yes, Mr. Bridger, I like this one. And @ $3.59….I’ll be picking up a few more of these I think, plus one or two for aging. Recommended.

The 1969 definitive English ‘Italian Job’ Barleywine and not that shitty 2003 US remake version. Top marks to Bison for this one.

“We are the Self-Preservation Society….”

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Bison Organic Barleywine Ale from Bison Brewing
82 out of 100 based on 57 ratings.