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Old Backus Barleywine - Free State Brewing Co.

Old Backus Barleywine
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BA SCORE
96
world-class

120 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 120
Reviews: 67
rAvg: 4.35
pDev: 10.11%


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)
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Ratings: 120 | Reviews: 67 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of zhanson88
zhanson88

California

4.7/5  rDev +8%
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 JEdmund
JEdmund

Kansas

4.5/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance
Deep burgundy, almost as dark as a stout, with a fantastic quarter inch head that was extremely creamy and whipped-like. It was served in a mini snifter, probably eight ounces or so.

Aroma
Really nice fruity, sweet smell coming off it. Not a lot of hops, but certainly a sweet maltiness.

Taste & Mouth Feel
There’s an upfront sweetness, followed by a very tasty and hearty maltiness, followed by a good hop presence. Nothing over the top hop-wise here, but the balance is really nice. I would say there’s not a strong aftertaste, but what is left is very enjoyable, so no fault there. Another strong point is the alcohol, and lack thereof presence-wise; I never got an inclination it was a high ABV beer.

Overall
This is one of the more striking and tasty Free State beers I’ve had. Definitely worth tasting each time they offer it.

Serving type: on-tap

01-12-2007 00:06:19 | More by JEdmund
Photo of Quaffer
Quaffer

Nevada

4.2/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This was a lovely barleywine, served in a proper snifter and at the proper temperature at the brewery in Lawrence.

Smell: The aroma was perfect and made my mouth water from the second I raised the glass to my nose. Strong malt, a nice hop kick, and all the complexity that one expects from a beer of this style were all present.

Taste: Whether it had been aged or not, I don't know, but this barleywine came across like one that has been around for awhile. Heavy malt and a strong (but not too strong) raisin component dominated the flavor. There was no heavy hop bite that accompanies many young BWs. There was just enough present to balance out all the malt and add a little "umph" to the character.

This beer came across as big and complex, but was very drinkable. While I only had one, I could have easily drank this beer throughout the entire evening. I wasn't expecting much when I ordered it, but ended up being very inmpressed. Keep in mind that I am very hard on barleywines when it comes to reviewing. A 4.15 is high on the list in my book for this style of brew.

Serving type: on-tap

10-25-2004 23:00:33 | More by Quaffer
Photo of Beertracker
Beertracker

Oklahoma

4.43/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Old Backus Barleywine is a rare treat when it's pouring from the FSBC taps in Lawrence. OBB pours up with a modest carbonation that creates a moderate creamish-tan head that nicely rings the snifter above the slightly murky, dark brown body. The strongish-sweet grainy aroma shows some grassy, herbal hops laced with a tinge of fruity esters (dried orange, grape seed, oroblanco) that barely escapes the huge toasty, burnt caramel maltiness. Lots of oaky goodness from the barrel with hints of dry sack sherry, cherry-vanilla, tobacco leaf, etc... as it warms in hand. Alcohol strength is noteable, but certainly not ditracting. The flavor is very multi-layered with the caramel sweetness upfront followed by a firm toastiness (crackers, flatbread) with a hint of chocolate. The hop bitterness is firm creating a balanced, but slightly astringent, cheek warming finish. This chewy, full-bodied barleywine drinks more English than American with an unsurpassed (almost scary!) drinkability for its strength. Lots & lots of goodness going on here. Here's to Old (Richard) Backus an his namesake barleywine from Steve Brandt & crew.

CHEERS! Beertracker

*Thanks to amateurbeerguy for sharing some of this magical elixir.

Serving type: growler

03-11-2009 20:12:27 | More by Beertracker
Photo of siege06nd
siege06nd

Virginia

4.65/5  rDev +6.9%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

12-20-2011 19:10:07 | More by siege06nd
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BigMcLargeHuge

Arizona

4.28/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

According to eboats rating this appears to be a 1999 Vintage. Pours murky brackish brown with thin off white head that fades to nothing in about a minute. This beer has a huge aroma of dark fruitiness with sweet caramel around the back of the smell. Very nice. The beer has a nice thick syrupy mouth feel that's seems just right. The dark fruity taste is composed of smooth silky cherry compote to apricot to dates. There's also sweet malt and caramel that go very well with the fruitiness. Very enjoyable barleywine.

Serving type: growler

11-17-2008 02:45:02 | More by BigMcLargeHuge
Photo of dreadnatty08
dreadnatty08

District of Columbia

4.35/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to the Free State and their anniversary celebration, I was able to taste the 2000 bottling. The hoppiness is gone and this beer goes down incredibly smooth, sweet and amazing. Served in a snifter at proper temperature. Bartender was excited to pour and seems as though many others were getting a taste at this one. Really would like to see how a fresh one is, but impressed to see how well it ages.

Update: They recently brought out the 2004, with a dramatic change from the 6 yr old brew. Hops are in the forefront, and I believe I like it more this way. Sweetness isn't as dominant as in the older, and it's more balanced. Have to give it up to Free State for doing something like this!

Serving type: on-tap

02-23-2006 23:16:31 | More by dreadnatty08
Photo of tr4nc3d
tr4nc3d

Kansas

4.78/5  rDev +9.9%
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!!!

Serving type: growler

04-13-2011 01:54:44 | More by tr4nc3d
Photo of jokelahoma
jokelahoma

Missouri

4.15/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This one was served in a small snifter.

Came out a deep, deep garnet red, almost purple. There's hardly any head whatsoever.

The nose is very vinous, very much full of dark fruits. You really don't pick up much hop, but it would be hard to discern hop aromas in the face of this malt wallop. Nice and appealing!

They didn't advertise this as being on cask, but I'm starting to wonder now. The little tiny bit of head, and now, when I take the first drink, I notice it's at cellar temp. Nice! The taste is surprisingly subdued and understated, if one can truly say that about anything having to do with a barleywine. It doesn't give you that heady sensation with the aroma wafting up the back of your nose that way many highly aromatic brews are wont to do. This is a sweetish barleywine, with the hops staying well in the background. They serve only to keep this one from tasting like syrup, with just enough bitterness to make it palatable. One can detect plums, prunes, raisins, apricots, and tropical fruits in this at various stages of the drink.The aftertaste provides the first real clue this is a strong beer, as the tiny bit of alcohol burn is felt. It stays more in the roof of the mouth than the back of the throat, though, which makes it far less invasive than other strong beers I've had. The oily malt sweetness lingers in the aftertaste, going on and on and on, coating your mouth with a very nice taste.

Mouthfeel here is pretty viscous, heavy and chewy. That seems to be expected from a beer this big, and really adds to the perception that you're drinking something formidable.

This barleywine is sweeter than I usually prefer, but it's very good and well made. If you happen to be fortunate enough to stop in when it's on tap, definitely give it a shot. You'll be glad you did.

Serving type: on-tap

05-20-2007 03:09:00 | More by jokelahoma
Photo of TheDudeRules
TheDudeRules

Minnesota

2.8/5  rDev -35.6%
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 Zadok
Zadok

Kansas

4.65/5  rDev +6.9%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

10-21-2008 03:06:48 | More by Zadok
Photo of d0ggnate
d0ggnate

California

4.38/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had the opportunity to try this fabled beer at Free State tonight.

Poured to a small snifter and settles a rich black/brown with a single finger off-white head. Heavy malt on the nose, but rounded off and not overwhelming. Board reads that this is from 2003. Toffee and candied sugar notes. Hints of coffee, molases and subtle smoke, too. Taste continues with rich malts and red smashes grapes. Also hints of molases and dark chocolate.

Extremely clean mouthfeel. Rich and complex. Very well balanced and a treat. Glad to log the chance to drink this one. If the bottled it, it would stand along side great, classic barlewine examples.

Serving type: on-tap

12-31-2009 03:30:53 | More by d0ggnate
Photo of ratedz
ratedz

Kansas

4.7/5  rDev +8%
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 COBeerBuff
COBeerBuff

Kansas

4.97/5  rDev +14.3%
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!

Serving type: growler

01-10-2010 22:54:31 | More by COBeerBuff
Photo of amatuerbeerguy
amatuerbeerguy

Oklahoma

4.08/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reddish brown color, although hazy. Some head dissipated quickly no lacing, or other indication of head. Aroma of malt, some sweetness, fruity, with alcohol warming the nostrils. Flavor of chocolate, fruit, malt sweetness, caramel toffee. Slight hops appear for a delicate bite in the back of the throat. Alcohol is apparent but not overwhelming. Definite winter by the fire drink. Full-bodied although quick dissipation of head ( I believe do to the improper seal of growler, cap was not on tight, leaked a little). Very nice beer, Free State hats off. Can not wait to go back to the brewery.

Serving type: growler

11-13-2005 04:22:58 | More by amatuerbeerguy
Photo of mmthompson33
mmthompson33

Kansas

4.95/5  rDev +13.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

10-29-2001 23:42:47 | More by mmthompson33
Photo of nuggetnectar01
nuggetnectar01

California

4.97/5  rDev +14.3%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

03-01-2011 01:36:12 | More by nuggetnectar01
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Old Backus Barleywine from Free State Brewing Co.
96 out of 100 based on 120 ratings.