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Old Backus Barleywine - Free State Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Old Backus Barleywine
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BA SCORE
95
world-class

129 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 129
Reviews: 70
rAvg: 4.34
pDev: 9.91%
Wants: 163
Gots: 6 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Free State Brewing Co. visit their website
Kansas, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  10.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
Bronze Medal Winner, 1997 World Beer Championships - Barleywines.

Old Backus contains just over 2,000 pounds of malt and 55 pounds of hops. The original gravity is 25.6 P/1092 which contributes to an alcohol content of 10.5% by volume. This is a tremendously complex beer that should be savoured slowly and in moderation. It will continue to change with age as it is served unfiltered.

This barleywine is named after Richard Backus, an old friend to the Brewery.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 10-29-2001)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 129 | Reviews: 70 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Rhettroactive
3.95/5  rDev -9%

From 64oz growler to Portsmouth glass on 3/29/12
*From notes

-- Thanks, Siege --

Growler filled around Christmas 2011

A: Muddy cider in color. A standard pour yields a creamy one finger off-white head. It lingers for a minute and leaves a thick collar and moderate lacing.

S: Stodgy pine oil. Hints of sliced green apple and a touch of toasted malt.

T: Creamy malt up front. The mid is nothing if not a bit sweet. The hops then jump right in and bite the palate. It's more of a biting pine resin then fruity.

M: Decent. We're talking about a growler that was filled and driven all the way back from Kansas a few months ago, so it's not gonna be crisp. A bit oily and thin as well.

O: A nice take on an American Barleywine. Being as this is non-barrel aged, this instantly is put at a disadvantage, though having said that, this is still a solid beer. I'd recommend drinking it fresh, or waiting quite a while to get into it, as the hops here were a bit stale in my opinion.

Not quite up to the rDev or lofty status, and certainly not worth dumping your cellar for.

Rhettroactive, Apr 03, 2012
Photo of stakem
4.53/5  rDev +4.4%

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 billab914
4.35/5  rDev +0.2%

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.

billab914, Mar 30, 2012
Photo of dtx00
4/5  rDev -7.8%

dtx00, Mar 24, 2012
Photo of FosterJM
4.33/5  rDev -0.2%

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.

FosterJM, Mar 20, 2012
Photo of BdubleEdubleRUN
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

BdubleEdubleRUN, Mar 19, 2012
Photo of beerwolf77
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

beerwolf77, Feb 20, 2012
Photo of RSchaeffer
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

RSchaeffer, Feb 17, 2012
Photo of KickInTheChalice
3.4/5  rDev -21.7%

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.

KickInTheChalice, Feb 10, 2012
Photo of Sean9689
3.15/5  rDev -27.4%

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.

Sean9689, Feb 01, 2012
Photo of ygtbsm94
4/5  rDev -7.8%

ygtbsm94, Jan 31, 2012
Photo of AgentZero
3.35/5  rDev -22.8%

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.

AgentZero, Jan 28, 2012
Photo of TheDudeRules
2.8/5  rDev -35.5%

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.

TheDudeRules, Jan 24, 2012
Photo of dlello2
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

dlello2, Jan 22, 2012
Photo of seeswo
4/5  rDev -7.8%

seeswo, Jan 21, 2012
Photo of kansascitytrader
5/5  rDev +15.2%

kansascitytrader, Jan 13, 2012
Photo of callmemickey
4.05/5  rDev -6.7%

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.

callmemickey, Jan 02, 2012
Photo of ratedz
4.7/5  rDev +8.3%

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.

ratedz, Dec 31, 2011
Photo of Bobbydigi
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

Bobbydigi, Dec 27, 2011
Photo of RWNewhouse
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

RWNewhouse, Dec 27, 2011
Photo of drabmuh
4.78/5  rDev +10.1%

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 Huhzubendah
4.8/5  rDev +10.6%

Growler shared by drabmuh. Thanks Matt.

2006 vintage

Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

Huhzubendah, Dec 25, 2011
Photo of jophish17
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

jophish17, Dec 24, 2011
Photo of zhanson88
4.7/5  rDev +8.3%

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.

zhanson88, Dec 22, 2011
Photo of siege06nd
4.65/5  rDev +7.1%

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.

siege06nd, Dec 20, 2011
Old Backus Barleywine from Free State Brewing Co.
95 out of 100 based on 129 ratings.