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Old Backus Barleywine - Free State Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Old Backus BarleywineOld Backus Barleywine

Educational use only; do not reuse.

86 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 86
Hads: 206
Avg: 4.25
pDev: 10.59%
Wants: 187
Gots: 33 | FT: 5
Brewed by:
Free State Brewing Co. visit their website
Kansas, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  10.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 10-29-2001

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.
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Reviews: 86 | Hads: 206
Photo of DemoniChris
4.98/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | 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 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!

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Photo of nuggetnectar01
4.97/5  rDev +16.9%
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.

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Photo of COBeerBuff
4.97/5  rDev +16.9%
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!

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Photo of bditty187
4.92/5  rDev +15.8%
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

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Photo of Kegatron
4.89/5  rDev +15.1%
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.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.88/5  rDev +14.8%
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.

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Photo of HardTarget
4.84/5  rDev +13.9%
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.

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Photo of tr4nc3d
4.8/5  rDev +12.9%
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!!!

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.78/5  rDev +12.5%
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.

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Photo of AmyfaceNYC
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
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!

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Photo of drabmuh
4.75/5  rDev +11.8%
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.

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Photo of Reaper16
4.67/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

served on-tap into a snifter at Free State Brewery

Pours a garnet-flecked creamy brown. The tan head was pretty substantial, especially for a beer of its ABV%. It was two fingers maybe and plenty thick. The lacing gripped the sides of the glass for dear life. The beer appears to get lighter and lighter as you drink. It looks damn nice.

This needs to be a candle. DAMN. Vanilla, caramel, cinnamon roll dough, cookie dough, sourdough bread crusts, and a splash of prune make up this ultra-malty aroma. Its like MaltSlam! There is so much here, but it isn't overpowering. Everything has its place.

MaltSlam, indeed. The flavors here are so rich. There is a lot of vanilla; it reminds me of a barrel-aged beer though Old Backus isn't as far as I know. All of the flavors mentioned in the aroma are present on the tongue, with the dark fruits taking a bit of a stronger place. In addition there is plenty of earthy hop flavors going on. Everything is balanced; no flavors stands apart from the rest. The balance has to be tasted to be believed. What an accomplishment.

The body was plenty thick enough to accommodate the maltiness. The malt character never becomes too sweet. Even better, it is able to hide the 10.05 % ABV extremely well. I could have had another glass of this because I never really tasted alcohol.

This was my first trip to Free State Brewery and I came away pretty impressed. This beer is easily the crown jewel of Free State's lineup as far as I can tell. More that that, this beer is absolutely one of the very best barleywines made in America. If you're passing through Kansas City you owe it to yourself to stop by Lawrence, KS and have a glass (or a growler) of this treat. It is world-class.

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Photo of siege06nd
4.67/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a snifter at FSB....

A. Pours a ruddy copper orange color. About a quarter finger cream colored head. Pretty good lacing on the sides. Very good retention through the session. Great looking bw here.

S. Leather, toffee, a little burnt tobacco, dark fruit, caramel, vanilla. One hell of a complex nose here. It would take me an hour to discern all the notes in this. Spectacular.

T. Dark fruit, cherry, tobacco, charred leather, raisin, plum, caramel, and a subtle hop presence. Wow. The complexity here is great. I like how the dark fruits really carry it. Nice.

M. Home run. Amazingly complex and full flavored but retains a fruity, light mouthfeel. Drinks like a wine, which I suppose is the point. Minimal carbonation lets the flavors shine. Nice hoppy and fruity finish. The flavors are perfectly balanced. Wow.

O. At first blush, I was bored by this one. The glut of barrel aged bw's has made the standard version seem boring. But after giving this time to warm up, it surprised me. A great barleywine and well deserving of its status as one of the best American versions.

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Photo of zhanson88
4.67/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had this beer from the source in Lawrence. 2010 vintage, served in a snifter.

Appearance: Pours a hazy ruby-caramel color, with 1/2" of light caramel head. Lacing is great, and retention is very good for something of that ABV.

Smell: Very malty overall, with lots of caramel, toffee, and toasted coconut. A smaller amount of dark fruits are present as well. There is some hop character present, as this is a fairly new vintage. Mostly piney, but some citrus components in there too.

Taste: The malts continue in the taste. Toffee, caramel, toasted coconut, and dark fruit flavors are apparent immediately. Citrus and pine hop character forms on the back end, but is light all in all. Lingering bitterness and caramel on the finish. This is extremely nuanced and flavorful. Super.

Mouthfeel: Just under full bodied, with a moderate amount of very fine carbonation. Just the right amount of carbonation for a brew this big. Very creamy. Overall, this is a really great barleywine. Very impressed.

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Photo of ratedz
4.67/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2010 vintage, literally the bottom of the barrel. I went in for growlers today and got one filled and another was about half full when the keg kicked. This growler was the half filled one.

A - Pours a thick, hazy brown with a very thin ring of bubbles around the glass.

S - Very complex. Some caramel, toffee, dark fruits such as figs, and piney hops are most noticeable. A slight hint of alcohol is also present.

T - The sweetness of the malts comes out first, but it isn't overly sweet. Toffee, vanilla and a hint of oak dance on the tongue before a slight hop bitterness appears on the finish. A plethora of flavors and the alcohol is well hidden. Very easy to drink.

M - Thick, smooth, and creamy. Light carbonation, which I prefer for the style.

O - Am amazing beer. So complex with it's array of scents and tastes and more of both become noticeable as the beer warms. It reminds me more of an English barleywine than an American barleywine because of it's sweetness, but this is a must try.

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Photo of Zadok
4.62/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a deep brown in a small snifter. Had a light bubbly head. Somewhat of an apple cinnamon appearance.

Deep dark fruity aroma. Cherries, figs, chocolate. Smells very sweet.

Wow, amazing flavor. The balance of flavors is amazing. Figs, cherries and raisins. The hidden alcohol is a thing of beauty.

Very smooth and syrupy, low carbonation. Mouthfeel is of a mellow brandy.

Although I am somewhat of a barlywine newbie, this was without a doubt worth the trip from KC and then some. Amazing blend of flavors and textures, delicious.

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Photo of grub
4.6/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Viggo shared this one. thanks eric!

64oz growler. sampled may 2/09.

pours deep red-brown. there seems to be just a touch of haze to it, but some great garnet and ruby highlights appear when held to the light. a thick, dense light tan head forms, dropping slowly and leaving tons of lace behind.

aroma is great. rich dark caramel. toffee. bit of butterscotch. dark fruit - raisin, date, fig. touch of alcohol, but it hides its strength well. biscuit. lightly toasted whole wheat bread. earthy and slightly woody.

taste is great. holy raisins, batman! there must be a ton of special-b in this thing. lots of raisin, date, and a bit of fig. rich dark caramel. toffee and butterscotch. lightly toasted whole wheat bread. earthy and woody. touch of chocolate. medium-high bitterness level. bit of alcohol, but again it hides its strength well. bit of coffee.

mouthfeel is great. nice big body, yet it still manages to have a fairly drying finish from the bitterness and earthy/woody character. very well integrated super fine medium carbonation. pretty smooth.

drinkability is great. very good balance, drinking more like a 6% beer than one nearing double that. great fruity, malty, and caramel depth. i don't think i'd really call it an american barleywine, and it even tends to lean more toward an old ale than an english barleywine - though the bitterness likely cements it as not being an old ale. great stuff though, and i'm already half way through this pint and looking forward to the next.

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Photo of Boto
4.58/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Draught @ Brewpub: I was quite happy to see a 2005 vintage of this up on the day I visited. It is served in a small snifter. It pours a hazy, ruby tinged, brownish amber color. There is a good sized off-white head on it. It left a bit amount of lacing. There are notes of caramel, toffee, dark fruits and chocolate to the nose. The taste is excellent. Full bodied, a hint of bitterness, very complex. Hints of dark fruits. Very nice!

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Photo of glid02
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Growler shared by Grant - thanks!

Pours a very nice ruby-brown color with a one-finger tan head. The head recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving solid lacing.

Smells of moderately sweet caramel malts with good amounts of earthy and pine hop aromas. Also present are hints of dark toffee and very slight dark fruit aromas. As it warms the malt aromas sweeten a bit but never to the extent of an English barleywine.

Tastes very similar to how it smells. Simple and robust caramel malt flavors kick things off and are joined quickly by pine and leafy hops. Midway through the sip the mildly dry caramel malt flavors are sweetened with the addition of soft toffee flavors. The toffee fades out shortly thereafter, allowing the hops to carry through to a moderately bitter ending.

Mouthfeel is great. It's got a very nice thickness with grainy carbonation.

Drinkability is very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have a few more.

Overall this beer has been on my wants backburner for quite some time and I'm glad I had the opportunity to try it. A nearly flawless American barleywine with no bells and whistles. Well worth a shot.

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Photo of weeare138
4.55/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Much thanks to hopdog for this...
Appears a dark opaque brown with crimson highlights. Small bubbles slowly rise to the top of the glass. A small, light tan cap fades into a mild film and hearty collar of batter-like bubbles. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of heavy malt, raisins, toffee, cocoa, figs, tobacco, brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, sugar cookies, ripened dark fruits, mild hints of black cherries. This is what I've been craving.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with a sugary blend of fruit, raisins, vanilla, and an array of gourmet cocoa, molasses, and toasted nuts. Hot damn! This is a definite winner that I'm proud to say I've had the pleasure of drinking.
Mouthfeel is full bodied, chewy, smooth, mildly fruity, creamy, syrupy, with a touch of heat and rum soaked raisins lingering along the palate.
Steve, Tom, and Eric...thanks a bunch for saving some of this delicious nectar. This was truly a treat! This could possibly be one of the best barleywines that I ever recall having.

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Photo of stakem
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Kegatron for sharing this growler. For being over a year old in a growler, this has held up mighty fine. Poured into a thistle, this brew appears a deep clear amber color with a finger of yellowish stained creamy froth atop. The cap slowly fades leaving a webbing of lacework on the glass. Rising bubbles of carbonation maintain a creamy film across the top. When held to the light, this brew really shows some ruby clarity through the body.

The aroma of this brew is sweet with a scent of caramel malt, toffee, biscuit and some fruity/floral hop accents. There really is a candy-like appeal to the way this brew smells and it covers almost all aspects of the burnt sugar spectrum. The alcohol is very well masked for 10.5% and it really only shows itself in the aroma with a support role to the fruity/floral character.

The taste is everything you would expect based on the aroma. Sweet toffee malt, caramel, biscuit, candy, molasses. There is a faint oxidized touch minorly like cardboard to this that blends into an herbal hop component. The alcohol is more pronounced the flavor than you would imagine based off the scent. The alcohol is a bit solvent but very well tamed for 10.%. It finishes with some sherry-like flavors that just scream barrel aging but from what I understand, this wasn't barrel aged. Fantastic.

This is a thick, heavier than medium bodied brew with a perfect level of light carbonation. It is a rock solid interpretation of the style and something I could myself craving again sometime when in the mood for a barleywine. It contains just enough alcohol presence to keep you in line and have to respect this brew for what it is. I found myself ripping through more than a glass much faster than I should have. Many thanks again Heath!

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Photo of MasterSki
4.53/5  rDev +6.6%
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.

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Photo of augustgarage
4.52/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Many thanks to monsterfat for my first growler - I have forgotten the vintage, I think it is from '02 or so. Opens with a mild hiss, thankfully. Poured into snifter.

Tuscan red body with raspberry highlights, clear with a thin dense cosmic latte head that recedes to a thin collar. Poor lacing, but viscous legs.

Oaky, malt-rich, carmelized brown sugar, light burgandy, dark fruit, and even roasted bacon aromatics.

Figs, smoke, wild honey, maple sugar, and deep carmel malt flavors coat the palate. Mild earthy pine-like hops come through to offset the sweetness and meld with the faint tannic roastiness into the finish. Clean, deep, and well balanced.

Medium-bodied with low but sufficient carbonation. A hint of astringency adds complexity. The alcohol adds depth of flavor and body without excess heat.

Remarkably smooth and drinkable - straight-forward and gimmick-free - among the best examples of the style I've had.

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Photo of --Dom--
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%

A complete home run for Free State. Just an amazing example of the style. A little less heat/carbonation than some other offerings in this category. But jam-packed with character, complexity and flavor. Too many nuances to list. It's sweet that's for sure, but never off-putting. I wish I had the self control to save a few of these for the cellar but there's no chance of that... Don't miss out on this one. I'd even recommend this to folks looking to get into the style... look out though, they might just be ruined afterwards.....

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Photo of Viggo
4.5/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to rlcnmeyer for the growler at DLD.

Pours a hazy dark reddish brown, some ruby, really nice colour, very thick off white head forms, settles down to a thin layer and thick ring around the glass, nice sheets of lacing stuck to the glass, looks real good. Smell is crazy, tons of caramel and rum raisins, prunes, wood and vanilla, cherries, very fruity, touch of alcohol, some floral, earthy, maybe a touch of chocolate, nice stuff. Taste is similar, tons of raisin, caramel, very fruity, alcohol but very smooth, some grapefruit or citrusy acidity, earthy, almost woody, light vanilla and chocolate, very rich, like a toffee date cake I know how to make, solid bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with low carbonation, light warmth from the alcohol but insanely smooth for the ABV. Very nice barleywine, I might call it somewhere in between an American and an English barleywine. Very nice stuff, glad I have half a growler left! Thanks a ton Randy.

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Old Backus Barleywine from Free State Brewing Co.
93 out of 100 based on 86 ratings.