1. Rating beers by attributes (look, smell, taste, feel, overall) is back! Read the latest update ...
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Olde School Barleywine - Dogfish Head Brewery

Not Rated.
Olde School BarleywineOlde School Barleywine

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
89
very good

2,070 Ratings
THE BROS
86
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2,070
Reviews: 970
rAvg: 3.97
pDev: 13.1%
Wants: 192
Gots: 496 | FT: 24
Brewed by:
Dogfish Head Brewery visit their website
Delaware, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  15.04% ABV

Availability: Fall

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

85 IBU
ABV varies from 13-16%.

(Beer added by: UnionMade on 10-10-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Olde School Barleywine Alström Bros
Ratings: 2,070 | Reviews: 970 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Shiredave
4.47/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance is perfect. It poured with a tall, creamy pale tan head which slumped slowly to a firm, dense sheet accross the beer, frothy at the edges. Lace drippped all around and surprisingly steady carbonation rose thru the crystal clear, deep golden beer.

Aromas are floral and sweet - sharply contrasted by a sharp alcohol side bar. The alcohol detracts a bit from the wonderful crushed flowers and marmelade aromatics, but it works nicely and doesnt really overpower or imply the hugeness of this BW.

Flavors are remarkably soft and balanced with rich, chewy malt sweetness up front. There is a great oaty / grainy flavor mid way through that segways perfectly with the firm hop bittering at the end. Just amazing in its complexity - you only need the tiniest sip to fill your mouth with expertly balanced mix of lush caramel and fruit with piney hop. Juicy malt coats the mouth while strong, but not over done hop bittering jabs the tongue and back of the throat. The flavors flat-out dance in your mouth!

Mouth feel is full - but not really. Even as it warms it never feels cloying or too heavy. Very easy to swallow but you dont want to - you want to savor every sip - new flavors come forward w/ each tip of the glass. Finish is long and warm - even cold this beer "feels" warm, the alcohol is so well folded in the mix. Mild alcohol and moderate bitterness linger in the afterglow - strong and lasting but in no way "nasty".
Absolutely an Outstading barleywine, the 15% making all the more remarkable. It reminds me of my fave BW, JW Lee's ( pick a year -still my fave) Harvest Ale. Maybe not quite as mellow and refined but close.

Shiredave, May 15, 2005
Photo of walleye
4.2/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I cannot not believe I haven’t rated this before I have been drinking this for at least 8 months but I am glad I waited because it as gotten better as it aged in the old basement cellar. poured a nice honey with a nice white head with good lacing. aroma, hops, sugar, malts, grassey. alcohol, musty, citrus ( lemon ). flavor, hops, mats, semi sweet grapefruit and the alcohol comes out nicely. going to have to buy more of this just to have it age for a while

walleye, May 15, 2005
Photo of SupaCelt
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Hazy and caramel coloured. Sticky white head, obliterated into the abysmal alcoholic atmosphere. Nice dense ring formation distributes lacing into the far reaches of the glass.

Smell: This olde muffga smells like dark fruits. Nearly Belgian strong dark in the nose by my estimation. I can almost detect a spicy character as well. Strange. Intrigueing. Winey and vine grown with an alcohol essence that foreshadows the strength within.

Taste: Tart fruitiness. Grapes, apple. Nicely bittered. Dark fruit sweet characters. Winey indeed. Alcohol mingles inconspicuously with the flavour components, only revealing itself in the warmth left in its wake. A pleasant level of sourness contributes to the wine feel.

Mouthfeel: Full with the density of spent fermentables. Sugary textures coat my teeth as though I have just pulverized some sugar baby candies with them.

Drinkability: Good for the style. It would be most unwise to persue this olde brew at length, but it is certainly tempting. A nice primer for things to follow, or a night cap to warm the spirit.

SupaCelt, May 07, 2005
Photo of feloniousmonk
3.2/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Clear, pale apricot color, slim-to-none head.

Aroma: fiery fruit, not terribly forward, either, just rather naked with the alcohol, accompanied by hints of peach, orange, cherry...and booze.

taste: boom! A blitz of boozalicious rough fruity flavor, ...very warming, and a bit punishing, as well...this is not a delicate affair, in the least. Over the top and out of the stratosphere. Not sure why it's called "Olde School", this a newfangled Sturm Und Drang. Stings quite a bit on the palate, too, with an unfavorable flavor.
Rather thin in body for all the boom-shak-a-lacka it brings in the mouth. Something this bold with the booze should really have a beefier body to match the lashing liquor. As it is, way too hot.

I'm going to chase this with a Bell's Third Coast Old Ale to reassociate my tongue with a real barleywine.

feloniousmonk, May 06, 2005
Photo of clvand0
3.95/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours an amber color with a small head that falls quickly and leaves very little lacing on the glass. The aroma had a lot of caramel and dark fruits with some alcohol. The alcohol is very upfront in the flavor, but this is very new - it needs some age. Has a nice hop character and caramel malt sweetness. The drinkability is a little harsh because of the high alcohol, but still not too bad. Mouthfeel is right on.

clvand0, Apr 18, 2005
Photo of ypsifly
3.85/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz with no dates into a pint glass.

Light copper with a small head of white that falls quickly to a veiled ring.

Smells of plums and figs, but there's also this weird soap like aroma in the background, but it doesn't ruin it.

Tastes like malted grape fruit juice. Hoppy in the finish with the abv well hidden. Light mouthfeel for the style. Drinkable if it wasn't for the high abv, and equally high price ($4.99+ a bottle).

ypsifly, Apr 12, 2005
Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a light brown color ale with a medium head with medium retention. Carbonation is above average for a barley wine and body is a bit thin for the style. Aroma consisted of dates and figs with strong malt. Taste is quite enjoyable with some sweetness (but not too much) balance well against the malt and hops. Finish is slightly dry with some subtle water, which did disappoint me. Alcohol is not really discernable. Overall, I guess this is a good barley wine but I had some better one.

Phyl21ca, Apr 04, 2005
Photo of NextOfKin
3.38/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Unfiltered, medium gold color. Very minimal nose- surprising. The slight aroma that is apparent is not that appealing. Neither a strong smell or taste. It tastes like a barleywine certainly, but you'd never guess that it was 15%. Usually this is accomplished by balancing the sweetness with significant hops, but this is not the case here. For Dogfish this is a surprisingly standard, by the book barleywine, which is not a bad thing really. Then again, it doesn't really taste like a normal barleywine. Certainly, it doesn't have that cloying, syrupy character. I don't know how they hid the alcohol flavor. It's not especially sweet or hoppy, almost bland really. Ridiculously drinkable for a barleywine.
Like most high alcohol beers, it has only a very slight head to it (why is that, by the way?), but unlike most, it left an appreciable amount of foam lace on the glass. Glancing at my glass, I could just as easily guess that I was drinking a hopdevil. It doesn't seem as viscous as most barleywines. Not an especially distinctive beer (hey, they do call it Olde School), especially coming from Dogfish, but very enjoyable.

NextOfKin, Apr 02, 2005
Photo of kmcnair
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a light copper to golden, rather light for a barley wine. Creates thousands of bubbles that cling to the sides of my snifter as I give it a swirl. Looks quite thick. Smells of sweet, sweet apricots. Flavor is also sweet and the alcohol is very present here. There are some citrus notes and apricot is found again. This is thick and sticky, leaves a coat on the palate as it goes down, pleasantly warming. Wow, this beer is freaking huge, I can drink one and its enjoyable... but thats about as far as I'd go.

kmcnair, Mar 28, 2005
Photo of ken3c
3.75/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours light and clear but quite viscous. Close to apple juice in color and just as clear. Thin wispy white head leaves large patches of lacing.

Very fruity and floral aroma. Reminds me of a good produce market.

Tasting: Intense fruitiness. The hoppy bitterness is almost overwhelmed.

Light carbonation makes a smooth feel with a drying astringent sense.

I must say that I've had better barleywines but this one is unique and still quite good. It could afford to be a little darker and a little less fruity.

ken3c, Mar 23, 2005
Photo of MrSeth
4.38/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Olde School in a 12oz. bottle.

When it pours, a mistiness rapidly surfaces to become a quater inch foamy head, which then subsides to a white ring around the glass. It hangs from the original mark to the bottom of the glass as you drink.

The nose is huge... reaches across the table. Winey-malty smell in the air. On closer inspection, the smell is more like sweet tangerines.

The taste is, well, malty.. when I seek a hoppiness in the flavor, the bitter elements remind me more of tangerines and oranges, puckering.

The body is medium_smooth. VERY DRINKABLE. Olde School stays well carbonated for as long as you drink it, making the medium body seem alot less heavy than it is.

Dogfish Head should get credit for expanding the definition of an American Barley Wine with this offering. There is a mix of styles here that amount to a well balanced beer.

MrSeth, Mar 20, 2005
Photo of LiamStLiam
4.33/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Drinking at room temperature,


Pours a golden color with a half-inch cream-colored head.

Looks different than the others I have had.

Doesn’t fill the mouth at first, but a long, long finish, warm down the throat. Settles in the back of the mouth.

Gets more complex as you wait, and it hits hard. Finish is 25+ seconds.

This is a lot of beer (15 percent). Two hours later, after drinking no more beer, the heady feeling is still there.

I am unsure on the year.

At $4.99 for 12 ounces, it's a splurge, but it *is* special.

LiamStLiam, Mar 19, 2005
Photo of warriorsoul
4.3/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to IrishMike for this 2003 vintage.
Love the label/artwork on this brew...as most of the Dogfish offerings.
Pours a cloudy orange w/ less than a half finger of tan head...lacing has almost no cling and head disappears very rapidly, leaving a small patch of clouds on top.
Smell is a sweet alcohol, but in such a warming and inviting way...buttery caramel and floral hops inticing the nose.
The taste is so mellow it is unbelievable. This is just my second time drinking a somewhat aged BW and I am real pleased. Makes me able to keep the many others I have downstairs that much longer.
Again, alcohol is apparent (how do you hide 15%), but it is not harsh...sugary sweet w/ a malt explosion. Finishes slightly bitter, but cleans up within seconds...more flavors of raisins, cherries, and vanilla as it warms up.
Mouthfeel is thick...drinkability suffers a bit only due to the fact that I couldn't make it up the stairs if I had more than two of these.
Thanks again to IrishMike for the chance to try this one...surprised I've let this one go for so long.

warriorsoul, Mar 19, 2005
Photo of Hhawk06
4.08/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

It poured with a pure caramel body that was crystal clear. Quite a beauty. The head was nice, big, and creamy. The mouthfeel is very heavy and syrupy. Great complexity to the taste. I first notice a casky flavor with a whiskey-type edge to it. But its also balanced with a smooth and creamy vanilla subtleness. It really accentuates the great balance. The finish is a little more figgy and somewhat vinous. Unexpectedly, there's also some nice hop bitterness going on that is countered nicely with a candy sweetness. A great belly warming offering that you must be sure not to drink to quickly. Complex and divine!

Hhawk06, Mar 09, 2005
Photo of santoslhalper
3.08/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Taken from notes scribbled down last night.

Pours a creamy orange with a thin white head. Doesn't look a thing like a barleywine. The smell is a rich, but oddly hop focused one. The alcohol is mild. In the taste, the alcohol is also hardly present, and only rounds off the beer. What got me about this beer was the fact that it wasn't really a barleywine. It was more like and over-the-top Tripel. And that's not what I want in a barleywine. I'll still give cheers to Dogfish Head for always pushing the envelope.

santoslhalper, Mar 07, 2005
Photo of CortexBomb
3.15/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Pours out subdued Kool-Aid orange with almost no head to speak of. The orange is very light, transparent. Smell is light, caramel with sweet apricot hints, along with some dark fruits as well...

Very casual taste, much less aggressive than I was expecting. Spicy with the dark fruits and apricots thrown in for good measure...and of course, quite a strong bash of alcohol given that this is 15%...not very barley wine like, and rather bleh for a trippel for that matter...a lower alcohol content would probably help this beer out, as the basic idea of the flavour is good, but then it gets lost in a sea of alcohol.

Mouthfeel was also much lighter than I was expecting...while the drinkability manages to make it to good simply based on the ease of drinking given its alcohol content.

Overall, not at all what I was expecting and certainly not what I would call an "old school" barley wine...

CortexBomb, Mar 04, 2005
Photo of longarm
4.03/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured out of a 12 oz. bottle into a tulip shaped glass.

Color is a deep orange and crystal clear...very nice. Head retention is pathetic, but probably due to high abv, so not a major dock in quality.

Terrific nose is permeated strongly with caramel malts interlaced with hints of strawberries. Nice but very limited hop aroma.

Hot alcohol flavor occasionally reveals hints of butter and either raisins or grapes. Possibly needs to age a little more. It has no off-flavors, but overall it's a little out of balance and dominated by alcohol.

Overall a full-bodied brew, but the mouthfeel has palate cleansing attributes similar to a good vodka or whiskey.

Drinkability is decent given the youth of this beer. If I close my eyes and pretend that I'm drinking brandy, then it's quite smooth. I wish I would have aged it another year or two to bring-out more of the subtle flavors that lurk underneath the alcohol, but it was still good. Not a session beer, but certainly a fine product.

longarm, Mar 01, 2005
Photo of granger10
4.3/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a murky bronze orange color with a thin, small white head. Kind of ugly really but whatever. Aroma is sweet and hoppy. Citrus is there and a belgian candi sugar flavor along with smoke and then lots of alcohol. The taste brings about a whiskey kick almost immediately. This goes with a woody earthiness that brings some oak and vanilla. Was this aged in JD barrels or some kind of whiskey barrel? Dark fruits are there along with lighter fruits. The finish finally brings some brash bitterness and more fusel alcohol. Long lingering finish. Could definitely be a sipper. Could definitely age another year as well. Maybe ten years. But really, its quite good fresh, I like the boldness of this beer!

granger10, Mar 01, 2005
Photo of ABV
5/5  rDev +25.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

beautiful golden orange, smell of dried fruit, citrus, spices....sweet, not overly, amazingly drinkable for 15%abv; tiny pricks of carbonation, thick luscious mouthfeel, zingy peppery finish. complex and delicious. certainly one of a kind, a highly original take on the barleywine. first class!

ABV, Feb 28, 2005
Photo of rajendra82
4.13/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Provided as a house warming gift by generous BA Southernbrew, I could not wait the couple of days it would be before I actually move. Well, he never was specific about which house this was intended to warm up, so here goes. The beer came in a long neck 12 oz. brown bottle that had a packaging date of Jan 2004 pinpricked in on the label. By the looks of it this one had not been sitting in a 2’x2’x3’ hole in the ground as instructed.

When poured into a tulip, the beer looked hazy peachy orange with a short lived and sparse head. Latent carbonation appeared to be quite limited. The aroma was mouth watering grapefruits, dates, and peaches.

The taste was sweet with the flavors of dates, figs, mandarin oranges, and toffee flowing freely. The hops were definitely there, but the malt suppressed them to a peppery zing in the mid palette. The aftertaste was boozy and bitter, and flowed by a slow long burn.

The drinkability suffered a bit due to the high buzz factor and the sugary sweet taste, and I cannot see drinking much more than a single pint of this on any given night.

rajendra82, Feb 28, 2005
Photo of Wonka
3.23/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 fl.oz.
15% alc. by vol.
no date

Appearance – clear orange-amber body; white head is sparse and gone almost instantly and lace is very slim – both of which I expect at this abv

Smell – orange candy; spicy; some dark fruit and alcohol

Taste – more alcoholic tones than the ’03 WWS at less abv; orange candy flavor and a very light toffee move out for a spicy moment that is blended with a strong bump of alcohol and a reasonable dose of bitterness for close and aftertaste

Mouthfeel – medium bodied; stings the tongue and roof of mouth early in the glass; smooths out a bit later; overall the alcohol is brash

Drinkability – the biggest warming effect as I have ever experienced from a beer; the alcohol is too brutish to ease drinkability

This one needs to evolve. My slightly burning chest bellows, “Cellar this beer.” I have had a good amount of better barley wines but this baby needs time.

Wonka, Feb 26, 2005
Photo of LuckySevens82
4.15/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle
Pours an odd color for a barleywine. Amber/orange hues and a very small (one finger) white head. Retention is terrible (as is to be expected with a beer this large), but there is a nice collar that sticks around for a while.
Smell is cherries, caramel, toffee, some breadiness, and and an astringent alcohol character.
Taste is a little bit hoppy, smooth caramel, and quite a bit of fruit (pears, apples, cherries).
This is a very good cold weather beer, even with the high alcohol, it is masked so well that this beer goes down easily and is quite enjoyable in the process.

LuckySevens82, Feb 25, 2005
Photo of rhoadsrage
3.85/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 fl. oz. bottle served in a large snifter

A- warm copper color with medium carbonation and crystal clear. It has a thin pale white head that was almost nonexistent.

S- pils malt with spicy floral hop aroma with a touch of earthiness. A bit of alcohol on the nose but very subtle

T- very light malt flavor with a lot of alcohol and a bit of hop spiciness mix with the alcohol. Very smooth clean taste with a bit of caramel tones aswell

M- medium mouthfeel that is quickly replaced with alcohol warmth

D- Very clean beer but a bit to hot compared for the hops. It would be nice to see some more depth to the hops or malt in this one.

rhoadsrage, Feb 24, 2005
Photo of IrishMike
3.78/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 2004 and purchased at $14.99 for a four pack at the local liquor store. Not exactly the most price efficient beer out there.

appearance- Downright the most pale of it's style i've ever seen, this appears more akin to Dogfish's Punkin Ale. Light orange with a very small white head to cap it off. Very little lacing.

smell- How odd. The smell seems to take on a more of a tripel's than that off a barleywine. The more i dissect this thing, the more it seems to play on other styles rather than that of what it's defined. Sweet, honey and spicy notes detected. I'm not inclined, however, to take off points sheerly because it's out of style. The smell certainly lends to that of quality, and i'll score it accordingly.

taste- ok, now i'm REALLY starting to doubt the fact that this is, in reality, a barleywine as advertised. Seems to be fused with a tripel if that's at all possible; sugary sweet, spicy with a light and fluffy feel to it. Sweetness eventually gives way to tastes of fig and raisins, but then reappears shortly after. Mild hops, not as much as i'd expect from the style. Nothing extraordinary about it, until you realize one thing that seems to be sheerly impossible;

"wait, this is 15% abv?!"

i've seen beer around the 7% area that couldn't hide it nearly as well as this beer. If there's one thing i've noticed, however, it's that Dogfish is the master at hiding it's alcohol content. How else could World Wide Stout be so palatable despite ranging anywhere from 18-23%? Still, after I was done sipping this one i found myself craving a little more depth of character.

Mouthfeel- clean and crisp on the palate, except for the sugary sweetness that hangs around a bit too long. Fairly light mouthfeel.

drinkability- Light on the mouth, heavy on the booze. A dangerous combination to be sure, as i find this brew to be dangerously drinkable in general.


For once, Dogfish has made a beer and done the exact opposite of what they're infamous for; making crazy interpretations on a classic style. Not to say this brew is bad by any means, but as it stands this beer has no fatal flaws, but nor does it do anything to distinguish itself from the rest. In all honesty, i don't even think this is a true barleywine, but that's just my humble opinion. Good, but not great.

IrishMike, Jan 31, 2005
Photo of FormatKid
4.4/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2004 batch, consumed pretty young.

Temperatures dropped rapidly tonight, when I finally made it in out of the elements I found myself craving a nice solid barleywine to warm me up. I knew Olde School would do the job with it’s whopping 15% ABV. I’ve grown found of drinking Barleywines out of shaker pints (something about the way it warms up, and the feeling of having all that barleywine under your nose at once) so that’s what this one went into. The body of this beer is a bit more translucent and less red than many other barleywines I’ve seen. Still with the tiny bottle-conditioned carbonation bubbles streaming to the top, it is a sight to see. The robust eggshell head from the pour rapidly recedes into a solid ring around the outside of the pint. The nose is heavy with fusel alcohol aromas, doesn’t turn me off though. A closer whiff reveals figs, nuts, berries, grapefruit and pine. This beer is rich with hefty malt flavors across the front of the palate (caramel, grain, toffee). The bitterness level is great, exactly what I look for in a good barleywine and the pine and grapefruit hop flavors are very assertive as well . I also pick up some nuttiness , berries and figs in the flavor, this is right before alcohol crashes on my tongue and hits my nose from the inside out. Warmth rapidly (and welcomely) spreads down my gullet. Personally I think this is a great barleywine. I will say that I love strong beers, but even I feel that the alcohol could be masked a little better here, then again at 15% what should I expect!?

FormatKid, Jan 28, 2005
Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head Brewery
89 out of 100 based on 2,070 ratings.