1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  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!

Old Backus Barleywine - Free State Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Old Backus Barleywine
No picture uploaded.
Have one? Upload it now.
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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Ratings: 131 | Reviews: 70 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of t0rin0
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

t0rin0, Oct 01, 2012
Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.05/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to DrAwkward82 for sharing this one at drewone's place.

Pours a murky brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to an oily film on top of the beer. Small dots and streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, brown sugar, caramel, toffee, and citrus zest. Taste is much the same with a semi-sweet finish. There is a mild amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with a great smell and a tasty flavor.

UCLABrewN84, Jan 07, 2013
Photo of zestar
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

zestar, Aug 13, 2014
Photo of spycow
3.25/5  rDev -25.1%

spycow, Jan 13, 2013
Photo of Thorpe429
4.47/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to rbald42 for sharing a growler of this at the Sexual Chocolate release.

Poured a dark amber with a pretty good head (especially out of a growler) with good lacing. The smell was pretty intense and complex, including caramel malt, toffee sweetness, hints of vanilla, some dark fruits, and a bit of alcohol. The taste is quite similar, with a beautiful malt sweetness coming through in addition to the characteristics of the nose. Very nice mid-to-full-bodied mouthfeel with good carbonation and outstanding drinkability for a beer of this size and complexity.

Thorpe429, Feb 10, 2010
Photo of Texasfan549
4/5  rDev -7.8%

Texasfan549, Nov 06, 2012
Photo of brentk56
4.43/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2003 Vintage

Appearance: Pours a cloudy dark amber color with a modest head; legs but no lace

Smell: Dark fruit dominates, with raisins, figs and dates most prominent; plenty of caramel, as well

Taste: Opens with rich caramel and dark fruit flavors, with a developing bitter balance to counter the raisins, figs and dates; after the swallow, the flavors meld together to provide a balanced, but layered finish

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with low carbonation

Drinkability: Amazing that a seven year old barleywine has retained some hop balance that blends to a complex flavor marriage with the malts; worth seeking out

Thanks, mreusch (from the other site) for the opportunity

brentk56, Jan 10, 2010
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 ygtbsm94
4/5  rDev -7.8%

ygtbsm94, Jan 31, 2012
Photo of jaydoc
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

jaydoc, Nov 16, 2013
Photo of womencantsail
4.43/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A huge thanks to Dale for helping me out and sending me a growler of this! It's a fill of the 2009 vintage.

A: The pour is a dark amber color with a pretty decent sized tan head (considering the time spent in the growler).

S: Smells like a good barleywine. Lots of caramel, toffee, and perhaps a touch of butterscotch. There's some nice dark fruit aromas to it as well, and some earthy hop notes.

T: There's a good hop flavor, but not really all that bitter. Toffee, molasses, and caramel provide plenty of sweetness to the beer. Some dark fruits like figs, plums, and dates are present too.

M: The body is medium to full with a relatively good amount of carbonation.

D: A very solid barleywine, and amazingly easy to drink for a beer that's over 10% alcohol. Very glad to have tried this.

womencantsail, Dec 26, 2010
Photo of largadeer
4.38/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks to Andrew for sharing this long-time want.

Murky, turbid amber topped by a thin crust. Barely translucent, lightly carbonated.

Fantastic caramel malt aroma. Brown sugar, dark ripe fruit, molasses. Quite a bit of hoppiness too, floral and earthy in character.

Fruity on the palate, jammy, like blackberry preserves. Heavy on the caramel and toffee. Full-bodied with low carbonation. This has a lot of hop flavor, too; fruity and floral, more earthy in the finish, though there's little bitterness, no perceptible alcohol. This beer impressed the hell out of me, it's brilliantly balanced and surprisingly drinkable for an American barleywine.

largadeer, Jan 07, 2011
Photo of JAHMUR
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

JAHMUR, Nov 15, 2011
Photo of emerge077
4.4/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Alex for sharing the growler, this was a highlight of the evening.
Review is from written notes.

Reddish copper color with nice head retention: there's a sticky halo of drippy lace all around. Really pleasant confectionary aroma of golden raisins, figs, and dates, some shortbread or sugar cookie also. Fruit leather and subdued flavors of dried apricot and other fruits. Rich and boozy feel (notes say 12%) yet the harshness of any alcohol is absent. Very full bodied with low to medium carbonation. A snifter of this would be my personal limit, as a perfect nightcap. A standout American Barleywine that's very fruit forward. Thanks again Alex for sharing this outstanding beer...

emerge077, Dec 06, 2009
Photo of zeff80
4.33/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured a cloudy, copper/burgundy color with a foamy, thick, long-lasting, off-white head. It left thick, sticky rings of lace.

S - It smelled intensely malty and sweet. Tons of floral aromas increase as the head settles.

T - It tasted very, very sweet. Malty sweet and boozy alcohol flavors dominate with a mild hoppy bitterness.

M - It was very smooth and chewy/bready. A full-bodied beer.

D - This is a great tasting barleywine. Very sweet and delicious however, a single 9 oz serving might be all I can handle at once.

zeff80, Jan 20, 2009
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 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 oline73
3.98/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the growler into a tasting snifter.

Appearance: Pours a cloudy reddish amber with a small amount of off white head that goes away rather quickly.

Smell: This is really sweet and full of caramel and grain. I'm getting a lot of dark fruit along with a mild banana note.

Taste: This is a really sweet barleywine. Lots of caramel like malt. The mild banana shows up here as well. A strong dark fruit note here along with the sweetness. The finish is sweet, but there is a solid hop presence as well.

Mouthfeel: The body is syrupy with a few tingles of carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: I would say that the main story here is the sweetness. I'd have more if it was offered.

oline73, Jan 14, 2013
Photo of drewone
4/5  rDev -7.8%

drewone, Jan 06, 2013
Photo of corby112
4.1/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 vintage.

Pours a cloudy amber/chestnut brown color with a one finger beige head that slowly settles into a lasting ring. Sporadic spots of lace left behind.

Earthy aroma with lots of leathery malt, booze and dark fruit. Hints of caramel, toffee and hazelnut along with hints of sweet fig, plum, raisin and subtle hops.

Medium bodied with a good balance of earthy/leathery malt, dark fruit and boozy sweetness. Hints of caramel, toffee, nut and caramel along with notes of fig, plum, raisin, date and alcohol. There is a slight hop bitterness but at this age it has faded quite a bit into a faint presence. Some nice alcohol sweetness and slight heat but the overall the high ABV is decently masked. I would love to try this fresh for a comparison.

corby112, Dec 06, 2011
Photo of orangesol
4.48/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Kegatron for sharing this one with us all at Stakem's Fish Fry. This growler is over a year old.

A - Pours slightly hazy dark amber with a nice one finger tall light tan head leaving thin strings of lace down parts of the glass.

S - Smells amazing right off the bat. Lots of brown sugar, caramel, toffee, butterscotch, and a bit of dark fruit at the end of each sniff.

T - Starts off with a big dose of sweetness - mostly toffee, caramel, butterscotch and a bit of molasses - slowly giving way to a bit of dark fruits and some dulled hop bitterness. Very little, if any, booze is present but there is definitely a touch of oxidation in this one but, like the booze, it never gets in the way.

M - Big body with a smooth, creamy feel with moderate carbonation. The feel works extremely well with the flavors to create an easy drinking yet potent barleywine.

O - Damn, this is one fine barleywine. I have had some great barleywines in my travels but this one is one of the best. Simply awesome stuff, hope I get to try it again some day.

orangesol, Apr 20, 2012
Photo of weeare138
4.55/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

weeare138, Jun 02, 2008
Photo of stakem
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!

stakem, Apr 03, 2012
Photo of barleywinefiend
3.88/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

So I get to try the infamous. Thanks Joel.

Poured a murky light burgundy color with low carbonation and a small beige head. Nose is lots of dried fruits like raisins, figs and booze. Taste is a bit flat at first, rush of figs, raisins, wood and cherries and even taste oxidized a bit, cardboard. Mouthfeel is big sugar, sticky sweet, caramel, dried fruits and booze.This brew got better and better as it warmed and the dynamic changed alot. At first i was not a fan but it grew on me later on.

barleywinefiend, Dec 11, 2009
« first ‹ prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next › last »
Old Backus Barleywine from Free State Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 131 ratings.