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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

128 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 128
Reviews: 70
rAvg: 4.34
pDev: 9.91%
Wants: 158
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: 128 | Reviews: 70 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of stakem
stakem

Pennsylvania

4.53/5  rDev +4.4%
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!

Serving type: growler

04-03-2012 00:38:36 | More by stakem
Photo of billab914
billab914

Virginia

4.35/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Growler shared by Siege06nd last night. Poured from a growler into my CBS snifter. It poured a dark caramel color and somewhat murky. A thin, sticky head formed after the pour. Nice color and nice lacing to it overall.

The aroma shows a lot of dark fruits to it with raisin, fig and a little cherry to it. It also has a little more of a crisp, almost apple like fruitiness mixing with some yeasty spices. I get some nice caramel and toffee sweetness to the malts as well as just a hint of chocolate. A good amount of hoppiness is also present contributing an herbal bitterness with a touch of citrus. The aroma had a lot going on, but I really think they brought it together pretty well.

The taste also has a pretty bold dark fruit component with cherry and fig both playing a decent role. The caramel and toffee maltiness is really good in it. Crisp fruits and some earthy spice are there as well. Some bitter hoppiness comes through in the finish with a slight citrus. It's a little leathery in the finish as well. Very balanced and well integrated for the style. So many American versions the hops seem to clash for me, but they really worked pretty well in this one.

The mouthfeel is somewhat creamy but also feels a little thin for the style. The low carbonation works pretty well for it though.

Overall, I thought it was a really good beer of the style. It was surprisingly balanced which helped it be pretty smooth and drinkable. I don't think it compares to some of the best barrel aged beers of the style, but for a regular American Barleywine I think it's a very good beer.

Serving type: growler

03-30-2012 15:53:47 | More by billab914
Photo of dtx00
dtx00

Pennsylvania

4/5  rDev -7.8%

03-24-2012 19:52:34 | More by dtx00
Photo of FosterJM
FosterJM

California

4.33/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1170th Review on BA
Growler to snifter
64oz

Thanks to my mom for sending this from KS

Shared with GuruDel, Jazzpatel, MrHirschybar & BdubleEdubleRUN

App- Rich deep ruby red with light more vibrant garnt edges. More of a liquer look with zero head but a ring of bubbles. Creamy and silky looking.

Smell- Loads of citrus open this up with a lot of sweet and malty thick. Really smells to me like red licorice.

Taste- For only a non BA BW things drinks alot bigger. The malts open on this with a large rich citrus flavor and then move to a more dark fruit, raisiny, plum and dark brown sugar flavor.

Mouth- Its more of a creamy low medium body with a lighter medium carbonation. A lot of creamy malts and deeper citrus and dark fruits.

Drink- Its been four years since I have had this and this version is better than I remember. More rich vs sweet and savory vs harsh. Glad some of the growler is left.

Serving type: growler

03-20-2012 02:18:20 | More by FosterJM
Photo of BdubleEdubleRUN
BdubleEdubleRUN

California

4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

03-19-2012 20:26:53 | More by BdubleEdubleRUN
Photo of beerwolf77
beerwolf77

Wisconsin

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

02-20-2012 02:17:57 | More by beerwolf77
Photo of RSchaeffer
RSchaeffer

New Hampshire

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

02-17-2012 20:34:49 | More by RSchaeffer
Photo of KickInTheChalice
KickInTheChalice

Illinois

3.4/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 64 oz. growler courtesy of kansascitytrader through AgentZero. Thanks for sharing guys!

The beer pours a fairly murky, flat brown color with a ruby miniscus and a small wisp of a tan head.

The aroma is harsh and boozy. The smell is heavy on the dark fruits and lighter on the caramel and brown sugar malt notes. Rum-soaked raisins, plums, and figs, with additional sugar and alcohol presence.

The flavor is not quite so severe. The flavor starts and stays very sweet, with a little bit more balance than I was led to believe existed from the nose. Brown sugar and toffee coat the figs, raisins, and plums, but the bready malt gets lost behind a still-intense booze and oak character. The finish is fairly boozy. It has a harsh flavor, but there could be a good beer hiding behind the rough edges.

Old Backus is very light on the carbonation and the grainy nature of the beer contributes to a fairly rough feel on the palate overall.

I have definitely smelled and tasted barleywines with very rough aromas at first that have mellowed out into beautiful beers. Unfortunately, with only the opportunity to try this one fresh, it has not had any time to develop.

Serving type: growler

02-10-2012 23:56:27 | More by KickInTheChalice
Photo of Sean9689
Sean9689

Illinois

3.15/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Thanks, Mike. 64oz growler into snifter.

A - Pours a reddish/brown color, cream-colored head, thin ring.

S - Dark fruits, lots of booze, light caramel, no real sweetness. The heavy booze and lack of sweetness is a turn-off for me with this beer. I think this needs quite some time before loosing the booze.

T - Similar to the nose, harsh booze/alcohol, dark fruits, and overly oak'd. The booze is too much and actually turns this into a harsh beer to drink. The lack of sweetness and burnt sugars is terribly disappointing, as I was expecting so much from this beer.

M - Medium, good carbonation, creamy oak finish.

O - Not a top-notch barleywine for me. The booze is way too overpowering and the lack of sweetness makes this one too harsh to enjoy a decent pour. Would revisit with some age, but this is a growler, so no-can-do. Average, at best.

Serving type: growler

02-01-2012 16:01:54 | More by Sean9689
Photo of ygtbsm94
ygtbsm94

Virginia

4/5  rDev -7.8%

01-31-2012 08:43:03 | More by ygtbsm94
Photo of AgentZero
AgentZero

Illinois

3.35/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

64 oz growler from kansascitytrader. Cheers! Shared with the rest of the Rejects.

A - Hazy brown beer. Very brown, looks like a bit of a purple in there. It's a very dark and big looking barleywine. Decent sized brown head.

S - Smells is not the greatest. It's quite boozy, needs some time to cool down. Very heavy on the dark fruits, particularly figs and maybe prunes. Lots of caramel malt.

T - Taste is better than the smell, with a little bit more burnt sugar. Still loads of dark fruits, figs, etc. Quite sweet, with a bit of toffee and some caramel. Quite heavy on the malts for a barleywine, in my opinion. It's not bad, but I was really expecting more.

M - Pretty close to full bodied with moderate carbonation.

O - I was expecting good things, particularly as MasterSki was glowingly speaking of it. I guess his batch was from a few years ago, maybe that made a difference. It's above average, but nothing that is worthy of the top 100, at least not fresh.

Serving type: growler

01-28-2012 16:33:46 | More by AgentZero
Photo of TheDudeRules
TheDudeRules

Minnesota

2.8/5  rDev -35.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

09 pour from a growler to my Hangar 24 snifter.

Minimal head. Like a fingernail's width. Dark dirty dishwater color liquid.

Smell is sweet dark fruit. Fig, plum,raisin. Toffee and caramel elbowing in. Semi intoxicating. Smell is awful sweet.

Low carbonation. Almost nill. Heavy alcohol bite. Strong resin like aftertaste. Raisin like sweetness is there, but the sucker punch from the alcohol takes over. I'm going to let this warm a touch and come back to it. And I'm back. Well this is exactly the same. Bleh.

Not what I was hoping for. Flat bunk. At least I have 30 more ounces to go. Oh joy.

Serving type: growler

01-24-2012 02:47:44 | More by TheDudeRules
Photo of dlello2
dlello2

Illinois

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

01-22-2012 04:22:01 | More by dlello2
Photo of seeswo
seeswo

Ohio

4/5  rDev -7.8%

01-21-2012 18:12:54 | More by seeswo
Photo of kansascitytrader
kansascitytrader

Kansas

5/5  rDev +15.2%

01-13-2012 03:40:30 | More by kansascitytrader
Photo of callmemickey
callmemickey

Pennsylvania

4.05/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage

A: Brackish orange-brown body, thin pale khaki head, a few stray wisps of lacing.

S: Rich caramel malts are accented by earthy notes of tobacco and leather. Some dark fruits and citric hops in the background.

T: Like the nose, caramel dominates. Toffee, lightly roasted malts, leather, tobacco, raisins, orange-hop bitterness, and residual booze notes.

M: Medium-full bodied. Moderate carbonation, creamy texture, with a clean, slightly bitter finish and some residual heat a few seconds later. Nice.

O: Overall I could see why this beer gets high marks, the nose and flavor are complex... ultimately, however, I thought the creamy caramel complexion was a little out of balance and perhaps tiring. M, Wooden Hell, King Henry, CWBBBW, and Alpine Great are superior beers in this category.

Serving type: growler

01-02-2012 02:50:01 | More by callmemickey
Photo of ratedz
ratedz

Kansas

4.7/5  rDev +8.3%
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.

Serving type: growler

12-31-2011 00:28:54 | More by ratedz
Photo of Bobbydigi
Bobbydigi

Kansas

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

12-27-2011 22:56:56 | More by Bobbydigi
Photo of RWNewhouse
RWNewhouse

Montana

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

12-27-2011 22:47:34 | More by RWNewhouse
Photo of drabmuh
drabmuh

Maryland

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.

Serving type: growler

12-27-2011 15:04:13 | More by drabmuh
Photo of Huhzubendah
Huhzubendah

District of Columbia

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.

Serving type: growler

12-25-2011 21:38:00 | More by Huhzubendah
Photo of jophish17
jophish17

Georgia

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

12-24-2011 00:39:19 | More by jophish17
Photo of zhanson88
zhanson88

California

4.7/5  rDev +8.3%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

12-22-2011 18:00:27 | More by zhanson88
Photo of siege06nd
siege06nd

Virginia

4.65/5  rDev +7.1%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

12-20-2011 19:10:07 | More by siege06nd
Photo of theminutemen
theminutemen

Missouri

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

12-20-2011 15:38:06 | More by theminutemen
Old Backus Barleywine from Free State Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 128 ratings.