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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

129 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 129
Reviews: 70
rAvg: 4.34
pDev: 9.91%
Wants: 163
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: 129 | Reviews: 70 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Photekut
5/5  rDev +15.2%

Photekut, Nov 15, 2011
Photo of Adidasakh
5/5  rDev +15.2%

Adidasakh, Aug 15, 2012
Photo of tisthesaisson
5/5  rDev +15.2%

tisthesaisson, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of daisychain
5/5  rDev +15.2%

daisychain, Nov 07, 2013
Photo of sideshowe
5/5  rDev +15.2%

sideshowe, Dec 05, 2011
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 kansascitytrader
5/5  rDev +15.2%

kansascitytrader, Jan 13, 2012
Photo of RichH55
5/5  rDev +15.2%

RichH55, Jan 22, 2014
Photo of jtrockchalk
5/5  rDev +15.2%

jtrockchalk, Nov 18, 2011
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 COBeerBuff
4.97/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured from a growler filled prior to New Year's Eve...

Appearance: Pours a nearly opaque reddish-brown with an inch of a nice tan colored head. The lacing around the edges of the glass is amazing. The color is slightly darker than I was expecting, but taken in combination with the head and lacing, this is one of the prettier BW's I've seen in a while.

Smell: Caramel, toffee, and vanilla, oh my! This beer smells so rich and creamy. Definitely can pick up a bit of booze as well. Candied sugar, chocolate, molasses, as well as some cherry and plum notes also make their presence known.

Taste: This beer's taste follows the nose closely. The sweet malts of toffee, plums, cherry, caramel, and vanilla are all present and accounted for in my mouth. Initially, I was expecting a much more hop forward beer like most American BW's, but this beer's balance and overall sweet maltiness definitely push it towards the English BW's in my mind.

Mouthfeel: This is a smooth and delicious brew. Very full-bodied; this beer almost takes over your mouth and throat. The stickiness is amazing, and the combination of flavors work so well that your tongue doesn't know where to go next.

Drinkability: This is a ridiculously drinkable barleywine. The booze is not understated though so drinkers beware. However, the flavors are combined together in such a way that this beer has quickly become my favorite BW!

COBeerBuff, Jan 10, 2010
Photo of mmthompson33
4.95/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This sweet caramel barleywine has the rare ability to finish just as good as it started. Very crisp - dessert in a glass.

mmthompson33, Oct 29, 2001
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 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 mikesgroove
4.9/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer simply put might be one of the best, if not the best BA barleywine I have ever had. I am soo gracious to the kind BA who sent this one my way. Served chilled and pourd into a pint glass, this one was consumed on 04/24/2009.

The pour was fantastic. Deep, dark caramel brown with no light making its way through except a small amount on the sides and the bottom. A really nice head of tan rose up to a height of two inches before it settled down to a nice inch layer and huges amounts of clumpy and sticky side glass lacing. The aroma was unreal, rich vanilla, tobacco, loads of caramel malts and a bourbon like smell that was just too good to believe. As it warms lots of oak notes start to come through. I go in for a taste and this is like heaven. Smooth, subtle flavors all wrapped up perfectly. Lots of vanilla, tobacco, and oak flavors. Big malt bill here left a nice sweetness underneath of everything. Creamy rich, beautiful. Really hard to put into words just how good this beer really is.

Overall I am blown away by this one. I did not even see it coming but this was elixer of the gods material here. easily one of the best beers i have ever had.

mikesgroove, Apr 25, 2009
Photo of HardTarget
4.85/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Aroma: Raisins, rum, and an earthy tobacco. All in all, perfumed, sedate with west coast hops adding a crisp note. Late in the glass I got some soft chocolate notes.

Appearance: Brown snifter that glows blood red in the candlelight. A thin tan collar lasts, but fails to lace.

Flavor: Maple syrup and sweet dark malt is firmly balanced by fresh tasting citric hops and an alcoholic soothing quality. All flavors fit together nicely to give a complete and complex character.

Mouthfeel: Luscious. Soft and full with a short lived finish that quickly dries.

Overall Impression: Masterful! One of the best barley wines I’ve wrapped a tongue around. Almost worth the drive up, if you’re in Kansas, you owe yourself a trip out to Free State if just for this brew. One of the best beers I’ve ever had.

HardTarget, Apr 15, 2006
Photo of Huhzubendah
4.8/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Growler shared by drabmuh. Thanks Matt.

2006 vintage

Merry Christmas!

The beer is a beautiful copper ruby hue. Crystal clear appearance with a thick, whipped merengue head. The head displays excellent retention and coats the pint glass with lacing. A superb appearance.

The aroma brings an array of scents, including toffee, caramel, oak, malt, booze, fruit.

The flavor Is phenomenal. Ridiculously smooth and easy to drink. This beer hides the alcohol about as well as any beer I have had. Toffee, caramel, vanilla, oak. A slight leaning toward an English style barleywine, with some candy sweetness, though never cloying. The beer is so soft and mellow, surely aided by the hands of time, yet tastes so fresh and clean. Fantastic stuff.

Perfect carbonation level. The feel is so fresh and clean on the palate. A dangerous beer, it would be easy to get ahead of myself and consume this too rapidly. Perhaps the most quaffable barleywine I have ever had.

Overall, a world class example of the style. Two pints was perfect. This is the only American barleywine that tempts me for a second serving. Highly recommended.

Huhzubendah, Dec 25, 2011
Photo of drabmuh
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

At the time of this review, this beer is the #3 beer on the beeradvocate.com "Top Beers - American Barleywine" list. A great honor for sure and a well deserved position. Finally opened this growler over Christmas with Huhzubendah, a huge want for me for a while, thanks to Mizzouguy for hooking me up.

Beer is brown, ruby at the corners. Nice tan head, small bubbles, tan, some lacing, low carbonation but definitely carbonated. Looks good.

Aroma is complex, sweet, malts, figs, prunes, nice overall, I really like it, very enticing.

Beer is medium in body, smooth, smooth, smooth, seriously this is the biggest beer without a single trace of alcohol in the palate, the finish is a little roasty, a little tobacco, but it is awesome throughout. I really enjoyed htis beer. I had half a growler of it (probably a bit more since I drank 15 more ounces when I got home) and I would do it again, anytime.

drabmuh, Dec 27, 2011
Photo of tr4nc3d
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

09 Vintage 64oz Growler- Used a snifter

Appearance is a dark amber color with just the slightest bit of light passing through. Pour produces a two inch creamy off-white head. Great head retention with magnifecent lacing. Siimply superb appearance as this is coming from a growler and its an 09 vintage. Shows how great this beer ages without losing carbonation.

Overload of aromas coming up my sinuses. Huge dark fruit aromas of dark cherriesk dates, and plums. Dark licorice, oak, toffee, vanilla, and caramel. Tobacco, leather, and some alcohol heat finish. Man oh man what an aroma.

Flavor starts off sweet with a cola like taste with some brown sugar. Midway flavor pursues into dark cherries, dates, and plums. Finish is toffee, caramel, oak, vanilla, and tobacco. Flavor wise this was more than I expected, simply great.

Mouthfeel is full bodied, very smooth and with adequate carbonation, alcohol well hidden. Very balanced and well done unlike many other barleywines that are overly sweet.

Overall I was skeptical if I should try it or trade it, as I'm not the biggest fan of barleywines, and I prefer Englis to American. Let me just say I'm GLAD I did not trade it as this beer is fan-fucking unbelievable. Its a rare treat as its hardly ever on tap, and a bitch to try and get a growler, so I'm glad I got the chance to try it and hopefully I will again. If you like Barleywines then this beer should be on the top of your list to try. Imagine if this beer was in bourbon barrels, now thats something to dream about!!!

tr4nc3d, Apr 13, 2011
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 SafeAtFirst
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%

SafeAtFirst, Aug 01, 2013
Photo of IMSPEAKNOENGLISH
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%

IMSPEAKNOENGLISH, Jan 20, 2014
Photo of FreeKansas
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%

FreeKansas, Apr 16, 2014
Photo of Thirstygoat
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%

Thirstygoat, Nov 23, 2012
Photo of DrLaFollette
4.75/5  rDev +9.4%

DrLaFollette, Nov 30, 2012
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Old Backus Barleywine from Free State Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 129 ratings.