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Olde School Barleywine - Dogfish Head Brewery

Not Rated.
Olde School BarleywineOlde School Barleywine

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

2,386 Ratings
very good

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Ratings: 2,386
Reviews: 1,023
rAvg: 3.97
pDev: 12.85%
Wants: 224
Gots: 664 | FT: 38
Brewed by:
Dogfish Head Brewery visit their website
Delaware, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  15.04% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: UnionMade on 10-10-2002

Bold, yet smooth! Fermented with dates and figs, this bone-crushing barleywine has a unique flavor.

85 IBU
ABV varies from 13-16%.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 2,386 | Reviews: 1,023
Photo of JAStheAce
2.24/5  rDev -43.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

A - Bright blood orange with no head whatsoever

S - Fruity, piney and reeks of booze and alcohol

T - Very bitter and extremely strong on the alcohol. This stuff is really strong and the booze is masking any other flavor. It is warming me up though. I can barely take it down but do feel it will help put me to sleep.

Overall, I am not a fan of this beer. It overwhelms the tastebuds with alcohol and as being only my second barleywine, I am starting to crave me some Bigfoot and am beginning to understand how truly great it is.

Photo of drtth
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Lightly chilled and poured from a 12oz bottle into a Duvel glass. Glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically. Since this was bottled 21 Nov 08, it has just over 6 months of bottle age.

Appearance: The beer pours out a clear reddish dark copper color, the off white head is just under ½" (about a finger's width) but recedes fairly quickly leaving a ring around the liquid and a thin layer of foam. Sipping leaves a high beer mark line of foam with some nice speckled lacing on the side beneath the line, over time the lacing becomes less and less. By midway through the beer there is virtually no foam or lacing left to be mentioned.

Smell: The aroma is sweet with traces of the figs and dates used in the brewing. There is also alcohol here but nowhere near as strong as I was expecting it to be, but strong enough to dominate.

Taste: The taste is very sweet with brown sugar and light caramel flavors initially. Then the fruits used in brewing (dates and figs) put in an appearance. The sweetness and fruit flavors give way to some modest hop bitterness but the alcohol is ever present even though it does not burn.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with a smooth creamy silkiness that leaves the mouth feeling empty. The finish is long and surprisingly dry as the sweetness gives way to the alcohol and some traces of hop bitterness that leave one wanting just another small sip.

Drinkability: Drinkability of this beer depends on how you approach the drinking. This is a beer to be sipped and savored, and, as the bottle suggests, to be poured into two snifters and shared. One of these a night is way more than enough given the high ABV and the intensity of the sweetness and the other flavors.

The name "Olde School" seems appropriately related to the fact that this is most like an English style Barleywine. As is the case with some other DFH beers this one has been placed in the wrong category so I have rated it as an English rather than an American style Barleywine. I am definitely looking forward to tasting this beer at age 1 and beyond. (My guess is that more age will increase my appreciation for this beer.)

Note on 8 Mar., 2010: Now having one from the same batch so the bottle has about 16 mos. of age on it. The flavors have begun to mellow out and the sweetness is more prominent. I'm also finding that it pairs quite nicely with a blue vein cheese, in this case a Wisconsin Gorgonzola. This is definitely a combination worth trying. I suspect that if I were reviewing this beer tonight and without the cheese that it would score a bit higher than it did with the first bottle I reviewed.

Photo of popery
3.2/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A thick, sweet and strong barleywine that relies on its size to stand out. Olde School pours dark and bright with a fair head that leaves moderate lacing. The smell is sweet and malty with some boozy stone fruits, like apricots and nectarines soaked in rum. It smells like a very, very strong pale ale, balanced and not terribly interesting. The booziness doesn't have anything to hide behind. The flavor reminds me of the beer version of a mediocre port. It's as if Dogfish Head's goal was simply to create a huge barleywine, rather than to create the best barleywine possible. Admittedly, that's completely an issue of personal taste, and I very much appreciate DFH's willingness to experiment in the so-called "extreme" side of the beer world. It's beers like this that expand brewing for everyone and lead to industry-wide innovation. That said, this beer is entirely too syrupy, sweet and boozy for me. I would probably enjoy it more if I had split the 12oz bottle with one or two people. A small snifterful is my recommended serving size.

Photo of photomike
3.79/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Special thanks to BA bulletrain76 for bringing this one over for an epic night of beers.

Pours a dark red-amber color with unsurprisingly low head. I was a bit shocked to see some spotty lacing left behind by what little head dragged down the sides of my Orval goblet.

Smell is like a big whiff of spiked, heavily spiced apple cider. Mulling spices: nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and allspice. Rum-like vapory booziness.

This guy is sweet and boozy with a lot of spice and baked apple flavors. Well bittered hop backbone lingers through the finish.

I dig the mouthfeel on this. Silky and smooth with an amazingly clean finish. Hot with a boozy sting.

For a 15% barleywine, this ain't bad. It's a definite sipper, but no element of this beer is so out of balance that you don't want to drink it. The sweetness isn't too much over the course of one bottle, and the clean finish makes this go down surprisingly easily.

Photo of AVDeuph
3.12/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I am not a huge fan of barleywines, so please keep that in mind. I wanted to review this beer because it is fun to write down thoughts and it helps me build my tasting vocabulary.

A: I love the color; a hazy gradient of orange and red hues that is literally shining in my glass, it would make a perfect sunset. Beautiful.

S: The smell hits you hard and is unrelenting. Alcohol, sweaty medicine, and a faint background of hops if you really take a long draft.

T: Taste is equally bombastic. Liquor is really ruling the day here, with the medicinal qualities also finding their way into the mix.

M: Pretty lively carbonation, but heavy and somewhat coating, perhaps to be expected.

D: Very few people would ask for another round, put in that way.

It's alright, but the sharp, stingy tastes and smells are not ideal for me. Particularly the aroma of the beer I thought was uninviting. I will be a while until I drink this again.

Photo of bgjohnston
4.06/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This is a very strong and unusual beer. I have been enjoying it for months, and find myself coming back to it for more.

Pours clear with a small head that goes away pretty fast. Smell is sharp and distinctive: it is definitely a very strong beer. You can smell the sweetness and alcohol equally well.

Taste is what keeps me coming back for more, despite having a preference for a lower ABV generally. Caramel/date sweetness, slight floral hoppiness, and a strong alcohol presence are right upfront, finishing surprisingly dry. I think the finish is one of the most amazing things about it, considering how sweet and strong it is.

It is way too strong to drink very fast or very much.

Update 12/2009: This year's version is better than last. There is more of the actual complexity I expect from a barlywine on a fresh on this year. The sweetness comes through, and dances back and forth with the bitterness and warming alcohol heat. It is starting out good and will age better, I'm sure of it.

Photo of tigg924
4.2/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: light redish brown, medium carbonation, clear, smallish head

Smell: sweet fruit, malt, pineapple, raisin, bubblegum and sugarcane--a lot going on here

Taste: hops, especially in the finish, malt, pineapple, raisin, and sugarcane

Mouthfeel: very sweet, light bodied, smooth, with a semi-bitter finish

Drinkability: Another winner from Dogfish Head. One of my favorite brews in the style and by them. Super high ABV, but I can barely taste the alcohol.

Photo of amneziak
3.43/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Pours a medium dark umber orange color with medium cloudiness. Because of the extremely high alcohol content (15% ABV), only a small amount of head actually poured out into my tulip glass. It soon disappeared into nowhere leaving behind a very small ring of white head around the circumference of the glass. Lacing is moderate but not enough to get excited about and there is a pretty good amount of carbonation after twirling the beer around.

Smell: There is definitely a lot of caramel and fruits (golden raisins, dates, and dried apricots) in the nose which seem to overpower even any bit of hops that should be in the beer. I'm also getting a bit of a burning sensation from the alcohol presence. I can tell this is going to be a huge beer. Guess I better go put my big boy pants on right quick.

Taste: The flavor is a lot nicer than I had expected. There is a lot of caramel but also some very nice floral components that even stand up to the strong alcohol presence. In some ways I'd say this beer is approaching some of the same characteristics of a nice rum. It's sweet, heavy, and just loaded with intensity.

Mouthfeel: The alcohol presence really rules the roost here. The tongue just can't get past the burn and the sweetness isn't too far behind. As the beer begins to get close to room temperature the bitterness from the hops (which really can't be tasted) begin to peak through. Overall, though, caramel and heat.

Overall: One thing is for sure - Mr. Calagione does not skimp on alcohol. I currently have three DFH beers in the cellar that are all over 15% ABV. The 120-Minute is 20%!!! What's the deal? Anyway, I'm just about done with this small 12 ounce beer and I'm feeling very warm and sleepy. This is not the best Barleywine I've had and I will definitely put a post-it note on my other bottle of this so I can remember to let it sit at least a year or two before busting it open.

Photo of srandycarter
3.7/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours nice dark copper, some nice head, leaves fast. Clingy lacing apparent.

S - Tropical, banana, and BOOZE. Carribean cocktail. Astringent too.

T - Taste follows smell exactly. Good stuff, though.

M - Medium body, good carb, balance a little off.

D - Not so much, man , nice, but enough is enough.

Photo of Proteus93
3.7/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Poured with a remarkably large head, considering the ABV. I would have thought it would have been a short little thing, but it's a good finger and some of off-white cream over a hazy brownish pour. It's got an appearance like powdered iced-tea brewed way too strong.

S: Some boozy fumes with a surprisingly fruity scent. Pear and some ripe apple, all smelling quite sugary and candy-like.

T + M: Big flavour... much of it is dominated by alcohol, which isn't surprising. Sweet, almost sticky, and the fruitiness is noted on the palate, like the nose. Plenty of alcohol warming over the tongue and all the way down.

D: Intense and big, I'd be curious to leave it for a year as suggested. It has plenty of potential, for certain. I think a year would do it well.

Photo of schroederm
4.24/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

In a tulip:

Poured with no head really, maybe it was too cold? Attractive hazy golden brown body. The smell is impressive: alcohol jumps out first, backed by figs, banana, and maraschino cherry. HUGE flavor. Tons of alcohol, fruitiness, and general sweetness. Tart. Green apple, cherry, and raisin in there. It's quite thick, but carbonation is a bit biting. To be honest, this brew would be tough to drink a lot of, but just because of its in your face flavor.

Photo of nrbw23
3.98/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours a clear amber with a thin offwhite head. Head recedes quickly to nothing and leaves no lacing.

S- Smells very sweet. Caramel, maple syrup, brown sugar and fruits. Hops are hiding in the background. Alcohol is ever present with this 15%.

T- The sweetness was very surprising for me. Didn't quite expect that at all. Pretty much just like the nose but stronger. Malts follow while I pick up some darker fruits, and the hops well not quite sure where they are. The alcohol is nice.

M- Body is probably on the thinner side of medium and the carbonation is right on.

D- I had no problems drinking this one and enjoyed very much. I got one in the cellar and went against the bottles instructions of burying it in the back yard. Looking forward to this one in a year.

Photo of jdhilt
4.72/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours with a two-finger, bubbly cream head that fades quickly and leaves some lace. Pale, cloudy amber color, ton of yeast left in bottle. Good carbonation and medium bodied. Nose is sweet malt and alcohol. Flavor is raisins and alcohol, finishes smooth and sweet NOT a session beer . . . savor this beer. This is one of the best barley wines brewed in the States. $16.49 for a 4-pak of 12oz bottles from Colonial Spirits Acton, MA

Photo of Shumista
3.91/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Another high abv brew from DFH, these are always interesting. Poured half of a 12 oz. bottle into a scotch glass (I figured I'd be sipping it, and my snifter is dirty).

A- Olde School Barleywine pours a deep amber/copper, with an off white head that is fizzier than I expected that dissipates quickly.
S- A little bit too boozy to be pleasant, definitely interesting though. Huge aroma, I smelled this one the minute I popped the top off. Fruity, malty sweet smell along with the alcohol mentioned above.
T- Fruity, malty, sweet, boozy, hot, bitter...boozy, hot. I am looking forward to aging a few of these to see how the taste mellows over time. I would dig a hole like the label instructs, but I think the back of my closet will work just as well.
M- Thick, medium carbonation, mouth-coating.
D- I think I'll polish off the rest of the four-pack...and then succumb to alcohol poisoning and die.

my bottom line: A bit hot and boozy without any age on it, and 15%...are you kidding me? Probably best to try a single before dropping $15 plus on a 4 pack.

Photo of aquatonex
4.83/5  rDev +21.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I have had quite a few barleywines but this one is one of the best ones I have had!

Pours dark mahogany with a little bit of swirly head, not much lacing, not overly carbonated. Smells like a liqueur with malts. Taste is also more like a carbonated liqueur than a beer, but considering the 15% there is no burn, it is all very balanced, sweet, and heady. As my girlfriend described, who hates other barleywines, this is what barleywines should taste like. It's everything you ever wanted in one, with exception of the roughness (which is nice change).

Photo of 88blkiroc
4.63/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Smell: The smell is faint when cold but develops as it warms. Currants, golden raisins, green apple, apricot with a background of alcohol are the main flavors but this one is complex.

Appearance: Pours a thick amber color like dark honey. Slight head that fades quickly. Very nice looking.

Mouth feel: Holy cow this is thick, its coats your mouth in flavor. Decent carbonation.

Taste: There are so many flavors going here its tough to catch them all with only one glass. Strong flavors of dried fruit and a thick caramel taste. As it warms it developed a fig flavor to it. A slight bitter hoppy taste at the finish and the alcohol gets you on the back of the tongue.

I just cant get enough from the guys at Dogfish Head. This is another one of their fun to drink rockers of a beer. Still the best brewery in America in my humble opinion. This one is another complex triumph of American brewing ingenuity and experimentation. Keep it coming.

Photo of jwhawkins81
2.98/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Aroma - Sweet alcohol with hints of malt and fruit

Appearance - Cloudy golden red with decent carbonation and no real head to speak of.

Taste - Wow, way strong flavor. First fruity but then a ton of alcohol burn. I've never tasted a beer with this much burn to it. Obviously I should have followed the directions instructing me to dig a hole and place the bottle in for three years. Age will really help this beer out.

Mouthfeel - Is tastes like burning

Drinkability - At 15% ABV what do you think?

I got get a hold of another one of these to age.

Photo of Hojaminbag
3.54/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This sample of DFH Olde School was bottled in 06' and I'm tasting it in March of 09'. I tend to prefer barleywines aged, especially when they are 15% ABV. Are they ever 15%ABV besides this one? Maybe sometimes, I guess.

A light orange-yellow body, probably close to apricot. Pours with hardly any head at all.

Smell? It smells boozy and fruity with more booze and fruit after that. Maybe some more booze too.

The taste is the same as the smell. Some figs and sugary sweetness with a bunch of booze. Warming and biting alcohol.

A big, heavy body that is pretty full and very low on the carbonation. Very warming.

Maybe this is considered drinkable for a 15%abv beer, but even a whole 12oz bottle might be a challenge. Interesting and pretty good beer overall though I would say.

Photo of Rainne
3.7/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I'm in general a fan of dogfish head. SN's is better, but this is quite good.

A- Hazy copper with active carbonation and some murky sediment. Nice head that leaves good lacing.

S- Alcohol is hard in this one. Orange and other fruits with strong hops and a little zest to it. Odd tinge there as well.

T- Tasty. Lots of different fruits coming out and some malt-like caramel or toffee followed by hops. Pretty spicy too and really complex. Alcohol sting hits on the finish.

M- Thick, really thick but smooth. Average carbonation.

D- Try it. You could hit enjoy one slowly but the ABV prevents having many.

Photo of TheMistler
3.72/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a hazy copper orange. Off white, creamy head dissipates quickly, with the thin wispiness indicative of many high-ABV brews. Large bubbles comprise the ample ring.

As noted by many others, a nose that combines sweet malt notes with alcohol. Cherries. Slightly burnt caramel. Spices - currant. Dark bread, dough, which seems linked the Belgian characteristics others have mentioned. A strong whiff of alcohol comes through.

Lots of alcohol to the taste, finishing dry, with a slight singeing feel, as if I'd just taken a shot of... rum, I'd say. Cherries, licorice. Toffee.

Surprisingly strong carbonation, with some noticeable prickliness. Medium bodied, a tad chewy.

A nice sipper, but take a sip too big and its not the most enjoyable of alcohol kicks.

Photo of allergictomacros
3.82/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear copper in the glass, with a hefty sediment left in the bottle. Head is weak to unremarkable. Intense malty aroma with lots of alcohol, dried dark fruit, and molassesy sugariness. Hints of grape. Straight-up barleywine flavours - tons of malt and alcohol, assertively bitter finish, and a touch of apple in the middle. A sipper for sure. In my mind, the bitterness might be a bit too strong relative to the rest of the flavours. Somewhat sweet and acidic, but very astringent as well.

Photo of Strix
3.48/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a cloudy amber with a decent head.

Smells of alcohol and sweetness.

Lots of sweetness and alcohol in the taste too. I get brown sugar, pepper, honey, and alcohol. Lots of alcohol.

Mouthfeel slick.

If you're in the mood for a strong nightcap, this might be nice. Fresh, it was a little hot for me, maybe it will settle down in a few years.

Photo of soupermirl
3.71/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

O.K. Good color, almost foggy looking, unfiltered like. Pretty light amber color. Head was lacking a little but ringer stuck around for a while. Smelled strong, a bit yeastie, malt and hops balanced great. Nice Barley Wine... Taste a bit strong, but no more than other Barley wines, pretty much like it should be. Clean aftertaste. Mouthfeel is great, with clean after... For a barley wine, pretty easy to sip, but not a full force drinker.

Photo of webmanspidey
4.28/5  rDev +7.8%

Dark golden color in a snifter. Sweet cider/vinegar smell. Very very sweet overwhelming caramel flavor dominates the taste. Hop profile hides in the background.

This definitely goes to the extreme in terms of strength and sweetness. I can't point out a lot of complex flavors as the sweet alcohol kind of overrides everything. This is not to say I don't enjoy it, however. It is delicious.. but a slow sipper. Another great beer from Dogfish Head.

Photo of RockerD
3.08/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Yeah dog it's a little pitchy.

Beer looks beautiful in glass. Has a nice Orange Burgundy appearance. Short head on this beer. As the head dissipated I got this great aura borealis effect in the beer with the bottles dancing on top of the extreme fermented beverage.

Great alcohol lacing, almost to the point of burning your nostrils. Smells of currant, cherries, licorice, sweet-floral scents and grass. I'm sensing some sort of Belgian characteristic???

As the beer tears my tongue apart I cannot believe how sweet it is! This beer taste like candied licorice (and I don't mean candy licorice). Amazing alcohol burn is evident in the after-taste.

I love Dogfish Head... I'm not in love with this beer. When you hear Dogfish Head and Barleywine your ears might perk up a little. However my senses didn't perk up too well to this one. On the bright side; I'm half in the bag after one. Cheers!

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Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head Brewery
89 out of 100 based on 2,386 ratings.