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Old Backus Barleywine - Free State Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Old Backus Barleywine
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BA SCORE
95
world-class

131 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 131
Reviews: 70
rAvg: 4.34
pDev: 9.91%
Wants: 164
Gots: 6 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Free State Brewing Co. visit their website
Kansas, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  10.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
Bronze Medal Winner, 1997 World Beer Championships - Barleywines.

Old Backus contains just over 2,000 pounds of malt and 55 pounds of hops. The original gravity is 25.6 P/1092 which contributes to an alcohol content of 10.5% by volume. This is a tremendously complex beer that should be savoured slowly and in moderation. It will continue to change with age as it is served unfiltered.

This barleywine is named after Richard Backus, an old friend to the Brewery.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 10-29-2001)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 131 | Reviews: 70 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of nuggetnectar01
4.97/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had this on tap and taken from notes

Served in a snifter

Pours a dark amber color with an eggshell color head. Good head retention and lacing. Aroma is dominating of dark fruit and malts. Plums, figs, toffe, caramel, vanilla, dates, and cherries. Taste is of caranel and toffee, dark fruits with cherries, plums, dates. Bit of bitterness pursues with a sweet finish and aftertaste. Full bodied with good carbonation. Excellent beer and definitely the best barleywine I have tasted.

nuggetnectar01, Mar 01, 2011
Photo of Kegatron
4.9/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

64 oz growler into a couple of snifters. Vintage 2009. Huge thanks go to JeepCop for helping hook me up with this long time want. Dale is a relatively new trader but I would wholeheartedly recommend doing business with him. Stand up guy.

This pours a deep and murky ruddy brown at first but letting this clear up and holding it up to the light actually reveals more of a dark ruby body on this. There isn't a ton of head upon first pour but this is one of those ones that takes it's time and just slowly releases carbonation until it ends up thin and creamy mocha colored head. This retains with mostly a thin foamy ring around the edges of the glass, leaving back just some light spotty lacing. The aroma really sets the stage for this beer and upon first whiff; I knew that I was in for something special. This is just so dense and full with flavor in the nose, including notes of brown sugars, molasses, cocoa, and toffee, while fading hop character puts off some earthy ripe fruit character and a bit of an oxidized sherry feel. There is no alcohol to this per se but it does sit in the nostrils with a beefy heft. Lush, sticky, and rich, this is about as good as it gets for the bouquet on an American Barleywine. I love it!

The taste brings it very strong as well, with caramelized burnt sugars, softer notes of sweet butterscotch and toffee, and a light creamy, almost vanilla like character. This is overall coming off to me as sweet, sticky, and malty in the mouth but the roasted undertones make sure that things don't get out of hand. Hops have more of a presence here (and controls things a bit more to) than they did in the nose, adding an almost herbal earthiness to the profile, as well as some overripe juicy citric fruit flavors. The finish is memorable, with lingering residual sugars, herbal and resinous hops and an almost dry tannic feel on the very tale end. The mouthfeel is full bodied and chewy with a moderate carbonation at first but subsequent pours yield much more of the thick and creamier feel that I would have expected. One thing that was consistent the whole way through my experience with this beer though is the RIDICULOUS smoothness of this for a 10-11% beer. Hell, there is barely much of a warming nature or hint of the ABV, except for the general fullness of the body and the boozy fog that slowly crept its way over my brain as I worked through multiple glasses of this. This just has a fantastic feel and drinkibility here for such a large beer.

Wow, this was just one of those beers that was a flat out experience and makes me glad that I'm in this hobby. The complexity, depth, and integration of the flavors (especially the hops) in this were something that I don't think that I've ever come across to such a degree in a Barleywine, especially one that was still this relatively young and not barrel-aged in any way. This is just a tremendous overall beer that definitely sits at the top of the style for me.

Kegatron, Feb 03, 2011
Photo of MasterSki
4.53/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Randy (rlcnmeyer) for bringing my a growler of this brew. Served in me Surly pint glass. 2006 Vintage?

A - Two fingers of dark tan foam with ridiculous retention and glass-coating lacing. It finally settles into a thick cap that doesn't really go away. The liquid is a dark cherry-red wood color that's slightly lighter at the fringes. I generally expect very little from high-gravity barley wines, so this was a shocker.

S - Dark fruits, berries, caramel, toffee, raisins, brown sugar, sherry, a touch of chocolate, roastiness, tobacco - this is possibly the maltiest thing I've ever smelled. There's little trace of the 10.5% at all. Intensely potent - it can be smelled from quite a ways.

T - The taste is more caramel & bread, but the other flavors are all still in the mix, and there's also a nice residual roasty bitterness to it. Again there's nary a trace of the high gravity.

M - Moderate carbonation, full-bodied, thick and chewy, with nice residual stickiness. It's what a barleywine should feel like.

D - The buzz creeps up pretty quick, but you can't taste the high ABV. The carbonation is moderate and the taste is delicious. Two pints is actually doable with this one.

If you like barleywines, this stuff is a must-try.

MasterSki, May 06, 2009
Photo of bditty187
4.93/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Brownish-red in color, great depth to the eye with slight shade differences where the light danced off of it, somewhat murky. It was served with a finger of an off-white head that turned to a soapy cap halfway through consumption. Subsequent lacing was spotty, and as expected, not very prevalent. I must say the presentation in the smallish snifter was quite impressive and very fitting for the grand ale. The nose was simply awesome. Perfect. Lovely, complex with layers of maltiness that allowed sweet candies, figs, yeast induced fruitiness, and toffee to become prevalent. There was a kiss of hops at the far, far back of the bouquet, right next to the alcohol. This is a great smelling Barelywine. The palate was breathtakingly wonderful, I mean simply heavenly… I’ll be dammed if this was brewed in a brewpub in Kansas. The caramel-toffee maltiness, candied sugar, figs, dates, and spicy alcohol all interconnected into a well-rounded palate that had a long lingering aftertaste. It was almost impossible to set my glass down. The hops were noticeable at the finish; they lent just a smidge of bitterness and balance. The alcohol gleefully burned my throat as it slid down, while at the same time, numbed my mind and warmed my belly. This is a force to be reckoned with. Damn near full-bodied. The amount of carbonation was ideal, low and distant, in other words, hardly noticeable. It was also served only slightly chilled, kudos to Free State! Terrifically drinkable for how potent it is, which might be dangerous. No matter how many trains, planes, and automobiles it takes, you must get to Lawrence and quaff this masterpiece. Highly Recommended.

Via Free State Brewing website: 10.5% by volume

bditty187, Dec 15, 2003
Photo of dsalmons
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

dsalmons, Oct 06, 2014
Photo of WILD-THING
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

WILD-THING, Sep 22, 2014
Photo of zestar
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

zestar, Aug 13, 2014
Photo of KAF
4/5  rDev -7.8%

KAF, Jul 07, 2014
Photo of DemoniChris
5/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured on tap into a tulip

A - One of the most beautiful beers I've seen. Dark red-brown color with the ruby tones looking absolutely stunning when held up to the light. About a finger of off white head, moderate lacing.

S - Tobacco, leather, vanilla, butterscotch, chocolate, toffee, dark fruits such as cherries, plums and raisins. Even getting some barrel like bourbon qualities even though this beer has not been barrel aged... Astounding!

T - Big sweetness. All of the aromas are extending through the flavor but in a bigger way. Caramelized burnt sugar, brown sugar, butterscotch, toffee, vanilla, caramel, dark fruits, bourbon, chocolate, tobacco. A slight herbal hop flavor comes through beneath the flavors but it works really nicely. It adds a nice underlying citrus quality that really ups the complexity of this beer. The bitterness is hard to detect, but it does linger a bit. It's also hard to detect any alcohol in this beer. In my eyes this is perfect.

M - This is how a barleywine should feel. Super rich sticky medium to full bodied mouthfeel. So velvety and slick. It finishes quite dry as well, leaving the imbiber wanting more. Carbonation is perfect, and the first sip is just as good as the last.

O - This is far and beyond the best barleywine I've ever had. The only one that would come close is Double DBA and maybe BCBBW, but that was an English style barleywine, although, Old Backus drinks more like an English style barleywine rather than an American one. Mostly because the hops felt more in the background rather than obviously prevalent in the forefront. It is crafted with such impervious balance, it's impossible to believe it's 10.5%. This might be the most delicious and rewarding beer I've ever put my lips around. Go try this if you can!

DemoniChris, May 31, 2014
Photo of 22Blue
4/5  rDev -7.8%

22Blue, May 31, 2014
Photo of acslatersbtb
4/5  rDev -7.8%

acslatersbtb, May 02, 2014
Photo of Bosoxfan20
4/5  rDev -7.8%

Bosoxfan20, Apr 27, 2014
Photo of AmyfaceNYC
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Very strong and malty, delicious barleywine. Pours a dark, rich color. Tastes like smooth and delicious liquor--only the alcohol is not particularly noticeable. I didn't notice much sweetness or hoppiness. Beer was medium- to full-bodied, with moderate carbonation. This not the most complex beer I've had, but there were lots of different flavors going on--lots to enjoy!

AmyfaceNYC, Apr 26, 2014
Photo of csmalley
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

csmalley, Apr 19, 2014
Photo of FreeKansas
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%

FreeKansas, Apr 16, 2014
Photo of BarrytheBear
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

BarrytheBear, Apr 07, 2014
Photo of bismarksays
4/5  rDev -7.8%

bismarksays, Apr 01, 2014
Photo of PeakedInHighSchool
3.75/5  rDev -13.6%

PeakedInHighSchool, Mar 28, 2014
Photo of alienlifeforcecube
3.75/5  rDev -13.6%

alienlifeforcecube, Mar 06, 2014
Photo of jroberts8811
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

jroberts8811, Feb 18, 2014
Photo of RichH55
5/5  rDev +15.2%

RichH55, Jan 22, 2014
Photo of IMSPEAKNOENGLISH
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%

IMSPEAKNOENGLISH, Jan 20, 2014
Photo of CTJman
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

CTJman, Jan 13, 2014
Photo of Theogre83
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

Theogre83, Dec 25, 2013
Photo of Whiskeydeez
3.5/5  rDev -19.4%

Whiskeydeez, Dec 01, 2013
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Old Backus Barleywine from Free State Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 131 ratings.