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Olde Bluehair Barley Wine - Big Sky Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Olde Bluehair Barley WineOlde Bluehair Barley Wine

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BA SCORE
89
very good

309 Ratings
THE BROS
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no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 309
Reviews: 121
rAvg: 3.99
pDev: 11.28%
Wants: 62
Gots: 90 | FT: 10
Brewed by:
Big Sky Brewing Company visit their website
Montana, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  10.50% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: JohnGalt1 on 01-24-2009

75 IBU
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 309 | Reviews: 121
Photo of StonedTrippin
3.96/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

very cool mix of english and american barleywine styles in this rarity from big sky. its well hoppy, more than just bitter too, but leafy green and fresh on the hop side of things, more so than most other examples of the style i can think of. its also still primarily grain flavored, as it should be, with rich caramels, butterscotches, toffees, and nuttiness all the way through, and its still quite sweet with a floral honey vibe lightening it up a bit in the middle. cool that it can be both, and i guess its more american because it lacks the english yeast profile, but this yeast is not without flavor, its biscuity like a pancake batter, and it works super well with the sweet grain in here. medium bodied is all, which i suppose lends drinkability to a huge beer, but the booze is well hidden even though its not thick, and it kind of sneaks up on me pretty fast. i have never seen bottles of this for sale, was lucky enough to have it on tap at backcountry pizza in boulder, who seems to always be able to assemble a tap list of scarce beers. one of the better big sky beers out there, and one of the better barleywines i have had in the early going here in 2015. love the hoppiness to it, a great and enormous balance. clever brew.

Photo of Lucnifter
4.25/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2010 vintage. Mellow, rich and tasty.

Photo of Hopheadjeffery
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2012. Tasted from draft at Firkin on February 13, 2014.

Photo of stortore
4.21/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2013 bottle 1104/3750. Seeing a lot of negative reviews for 2013, my bottle seemed like what you should expect when you pop the cork.

Big head for the style, lots of carbonation. Aroma is complex, bready at the opening, malty, getting some black pepper. Taste is oaky, malty, a little boozy. Some hop bitterness on the back end. Good body.

Might not be the best BBA Barleywine you'll ever have, but it had a kind of unique flavor, very tasty. A very enjoyable effort.

Photo of infinitebruner
3.94/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

November 13, 2014

750 ml bottle, snifter

A – Dark amber, copper, very high clarity. An inch-plus of off-white, slightly tannish foam head, very high retention.

S – Dark sweet raisin bread, caramel sauce, melted warm toffee. Perhaps some fruity hop aroma far in the background, but malt and sugar are prominent. Vanilla flan, mild oak, sherry, and some warm alcohol round out the nose.

T – Golden raisins and light toffee, and warm, thick, dense honey bread. Vanilla is high, some mild oaky character. Hops are fruity and herbal but mostly show as bitterness. The bitterness becomes a bit strong as the beer warms, to the point that it overwhelms the all of the amazing malt character.

M – Very juicy up front, some sudsy carbonation, and a relatively dry finish. A nice level of bitterness at provides a counter to the prominent malty sweetness, before completely taking over the beer. A very mild alcohol burn.

O – Barrel aging seems to be coming off a bit harsh, and the hops stay way too prominent. Good beer but needs some maturing.

Photo of archyquaffer
3.25/5  rDev -18.5%

Poured from a corked 750 ml bottle into a schooner glass. A moderate pour produces a big, billowing sticky head of about 2 inches. I'm forced to sip the foam for awhile. The beer is a hazy, fairly pale brown, with a swirling gusher of carbonation.

I perceive a nuttiness and vanilla in the aroma, but also a rather rank smell that detracts a bit. The beer is quite bitter, even astringent, with loads of earthy hops and tannins. A boozy warming sets in almost immediately. I'm not getting a lot of estery flavors- it could use some. In particular, a desired dark fruit quality seems mostly absent. Very little caramel qualities either. The flavors simply don't mesh well, and the alcohol is harsh.

This bottle is vintage 2013, imbibed at the end of September 2014. Perhaps it could use some additional aging. As it is, this beer is pretty tough to drink- it 's extremely bitter, with some rather unsavory off-flavors and aromas.

Edit: the above review was perhaps too dependent on initial impressions. The weird flavors do mellow some as the beer progresses. I increased the score by a quarter point.

Photo of leaddog
3.37/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

2013 vintage 10.2%. Bottle # 1665 of 3750.

Appearance - Pours a deep amber hue with three fingers of fluffy cream-coloured head.

Smell - Dark fruit (plum), earthy hops, oak/woodiness, alcohol, caramel.

Taste - Flavours of dark fruit, oak and alcohol. Touch of sweetness from caramel. A little bit of earthy hops, but not as much as I was expecting.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied with moderate carbonation.

Overall - A so-so American barleywine. There is a good malt presence along with the woodiness from the oak barrels, but I was hoping for more assertive bitterness from the hops. This one is a definitely a sipper as the ABV is quite noticeable.

Photo of biboergosum
3.34/5  rDev -16.3%

750ml caged and corked bottle, 10.2% ABV. 2014 is already getting long in the tooth, so I guess it's OK to pop this 2013 vintage edition of Olde Bluehair.

This beer pours a slightly hazy, medium copper amber colour, with a teeming, barely contained tower of puffy, thinly foamy, and bubbly tan head, which leaves some patchy and sudsy layered cloud formation lace around the glass as it lazily recedes. Not your daddy's barleywine, so far.

It smells of acrid Bourbon barrels - more musty staves and over-proof booze than caramel, vanilla, or spice - reduced brown sugar, edgy molasses, black pepper, gritty pale and toffee-accent malt, dead yeast, wet leather, chewing tobacco, gritty earthy hops, and a swirling, barely restrained booziness. The taste is a lot more rounded, and yet plain - understated grainy caramel malt, still rather woody barrel essences - raw wood (natch), metallic vanilla, muted spice - powdered chalk, weird, fairly unattractive phenols, and herbal, weedy hops - the kind that seem beholden to the not so well masked alcohol.

The bubbles are pretty heady and pervasive throughout in their overwrought frothiness, the body a bit on the lee side of actual medium weight, and smooth, sure, but assailed from unseen vectors on all sides. It finishes mostly dry, the woodiness finally laying waste and claim to victory, all others merely book-ended by the lingering, as ever was, alcohol.

Ok, so, what we have here, is a seemingly and strangely bottle-reconditioned (the froth, she don't lie) barleywine, of English-style extraction (the hops apparently just incapable of speaking for themselves), with some of the titular old-lady's, um, blue-haired musty crustiness resplendent everywhere. Nah, not for me, not for me at all.

Photo of DucksFanLV
4.02/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle # 1634 of 3240
purchased at total wine.

drank from a chilled goblet rogue barley wine glass.

sound: the fun pop of a cork that we so rarely hear as beer drinkers

sight: this beer has a cloudy brownish red look with an off white head. other reviewers complained of an abundance of head which i didnt experience, maybe because of the specialized glass? beautiful cascade lacing on my glass

mouth feel: light feel, not thick at all, if anything, a little too thin.

smell: bourbon with a hint of something i couldnt detect, but it was magical.

taste: this tastes, to me, like what a barley wine should taste like. i tasted vanilla and oak along with the brisk crisp flavor or fruit.

review: this barley wine is pretty legit. as with most barley wines, by the time i get thru half the bottle i've got angels dancing behind my eyeballs, which is very pleasing. this beer, as with most good beers, reminds me of times in my past which were fun and memorable. if anyone is on the fence about trying it, i would say go for it, you;ve got nothing to lose. if they have more at total wine, i will probably buy teo bottles. one to drink, and one to stick way back in the back of the pantry for about a year to see how it goes later on. enjoy!

Photo of Rifugium
2.76/5  rDev -30.8%
look: 1.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottle shared at a recent tasting, not sure who brought it. Also not sure of the vintage or number, etc.

This was a very weird barleywine, and I don't really know what was going on with this bottle. Possibly infected. The cap came off with a massive *hiss* and after everyone poured out their share of tan foam, even more foam filled half the bottle as it sat there on the table. I can't say I've ever seen a "barleywine" that carbonated.

Once the massive head settled to a reasonable level, the liquid below it was a dull chestnut brown color, with a gooey murkiness to it. In the nose, phenols and some herbal bitterness, lesser notes of caramel and yeast. The taste was definitely weird and off, but I actually didn't think it was completely undrinkable. There were flavors of caramel and bready (bretty?) yeast, cooking sherry, and actually lots of herbal hops. Not very good, and possibly infected, but as I said, I didn't find it undrinkable, surprisingly. Did I go back for more after my little sampler? Nope. Light-medium body and pretty thinned out in the mouthfeel. Overall, this beer was a huge mess, and not at all what I like in my barleywines.

Photo of jesseejames
4/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had a sample glass at the brewery and was impressed enough to take home a growler. It has a wonderful reddish brown color with a two to three finger off white head. The aroma of fine barley malt is immediately apparent. It tastes better than it smells too and has a nice balance of malt to hops. All in all a great barley wine. Well Done!!

Photo of arizcards
4.42/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a 750ml caged and cork 2012 bottle # 554 of 3240 from Total Wine in early February for $12.99.

Beer poured brown with a nice off white head that is leaving lacing behind.

Nose is bourbon, oak, and vanilla.

Taste is light bourbon, vanilla, light fruits, balance nicely by northwest hops.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and fairly smooth. Despite the high ABV the booze burn is non-existent lending a nice smooth feel.

Overall this brew is awesome. Big Sky IMHO has nailed down the length of time to barrel age their brews...not to overly boozy but enough barrel flavor to blend nicely with the base beer. This rates right up there with Firestone Walker's Sucaba.

Photo of SHODriver
3.52/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

bottle from 2011

A: poured into a snifter to a deep brown that shows a red hue when held up to the light with a three finger off white head that is slow to fade.
S: smells of bourbon, caramel, vanilla, and a faint aroma of bitter hops
T: I shook a ton of carbonation out of this beer to get it drinking right so the flavors are bourbon, caramel, vanilla, and faint hop oils in the background, some oaky tannins, and the swallow brings more bourbon and caramel with a bit of wood
M: smooth and silky on the mouth with light but adequate carbonation after shaking and there is some alcohol heat on the finish
O: Overall, not bad but compared to beers like Sucaba it leaves a lot to be desired. It has good flavors and complexity but the flavors are not very well rounded and there is a bit too much alcohol heat for the ABV. It could be hidden better.

Photo of cosmicevan
4.25/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2010 vintage shared with the mrs in 2 hunahpu snifters.

#1239 of 3000

a - brew poured an almost reddish orange with a finger or so of frothy off white typical barley colored head. The head stuck around for a while and lacing was solid sheets that coated the glass.

s - nose is big toffee. All toffee in fact. Some alc heat, but only glazed over the toffee dominating nose.

t - the oak cuts through the flavor imparting some soft bourbon notes and vanilla married to the toffee. Soft and non offensive, very smoothed over and the barrel is there but not in a big way so it still compliments the beer without taking over ,ike some barrel aged brews.

m - easy drinker, a bit hot. Toffee caramel coats the mouth. Fairly full bodied and a bit chewy.

o - a nice enjoyable BA barley worth hunting down for the fans of the style. Smooth and easy drinking with a great toffee caramel flavor with vanilla-ing oak glazed over the top. Would have again!

Photo of mattsander
3.03/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This was a 2012 vintage.

A: Medium brown, decent clarity, thin/large bubbles and a gusher.

S: Brettanomyces infected w/o a doubt, medicinal/cottony, damn and earthy. I cant really detect a lot of the base beer but it smells alright.

T: The brett funk dominated this for me, just ruined by infection. I'm sure the clean bottles are much better.

M: Super thin/overcarbonated.

Photo of superspak
4.1/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle into snifter, 2012 vintage bottle 2843/3240. Pours moderately hazy deep ruby red color with a 1 finger dense light khaki head with awesome retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lingers. Nice soapy lacing clings around the glass. Aromas of caramel, pear, apple, tangerine, orange zest, floral, toast, toffee, vanilla, oak, bourbon, light clove, brown sugar, and toasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with good complexity and balance of malt and barrel notes with a fair amount of hop presence; and good strength. Taste of caramel, pear, apple, tangerine, orange zest, floral, toast, toffee, vanilla, oak, bourbon, clove, light pine, brown sugar, and toasted earthiness. Light floral/pine bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, pear, apple, orange zest, toast, toffee, vanilla, oak, bourbon, clove, brown sugar, and light pine on the finish for a while. Damn nice balance and complexity of malt and barrel flavors with a moderate amount of hops; with a great malt/hop/barrel flavor balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a moderately creamy, slick, and lightly crisp/sticky mouthfeel that is good. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a small warming present after the finish. Overall this is an excellent barleywine style. All around great balance and complexity of malt, barrel, and hop flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the big ABV. A very enjoyable offering.

Photo of KFBR392
3.56/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A fresh 2013 vintage. I just couldn't keep my hands off of it.

Appearance: Could get a very large head, about 2 or 3 fingers with a heavy pour. I preferred a slow pour which produced a thin but present head. A medium dark brown deep amber color for this brew. Average carbonation active in the glass.

Smell: The front is filled with caramel, molasses, and vanilla. The body is a slightly sweet malt presence with some doughy accents. Light bourbon on the back end. Everything comes together very well here, brighter overall with carbonation and barely really are vibrant.

Taste: The front is an active crisp carbonation that is almost like a hurdle the drinker has to get past. Chewy, sweet barley makes itself known in the body. Definitely getting the hop bitterness toward the back end of this brew. Finishes with some mildly dry bourbon that has an almost chalky feeling. I want a darker bourbon character with some more mild barley.

Mouthfeel: Active carbonation and very sweet barley definitely are the main players here.

Overall: A pretty solid BA barleywine. I got too anxious to try it, and unfortunately this one was a little too fresh. Still a lot of good things going on, but this one just felt like 8 to 12 months would help it out an awful lot.

Photo of yamar68
4.29/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle 2900 of 3240

2012 vintage:

Tobacco brown body capped with a frothy finger of sticky lace. Plenty of alcohol is apparent in the appearance.

Semisweet toffee and caramel dominate the nose. Vanilla and oak suggest some kind of bourbon characteristic. The alcohol is apparent but appropriate. Not too hot but also not too tame. Some mushy cherry or cranberry surfaces as the beer warms.

Vanilla, mellow bourbon, tobacco leaf, papery dessert sweetness. It's a bit hollow on the palate but it goes down smooth. The beer warms and evolves in a big way - cherry cobbler, root beer float, red wine... really interesting.

Photo of jimmah120
3.86/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4.5

750ml corked and caged bottle. 2012 bottle marked 2856 of 3240. also says it's 12.0% ABV.

Great cloudy ruby look, silky off-white head. Smell is very wooden and reeks of rubbing alcohol. Also lots of dark fruits; raisins, prunes, fermented grapes. Taste is much better thankfully: sweet woody malts, the dark fruit, hint of cheap bourbon. High amount of carbonation for the style, and the bourbon sticks around on the tongue.

I'd love to have another for aging.

Photo of CommanderOfAwesome
4.52/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2012 bottle, #3101 of 3240. Poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a wonderful copper caramel color. with a nice 2.5 finger head. Head dissipates pretty quickly with minimal lacking on the glass. Very slight alcoholic legs present.

S: WOW, huge smack of the barrel right away. Smells like "fresh wood" (I'll leave that one alone). Huge barrel on the aroma though. Caramel malts, slight toffee coming in the backdrop.

T: Creamy toffee/caramel, some dark red cherries, with a nice sweet malt build.

M: Slight over carbonation, red cherry sweetness tingles and lingers on the tongue. Caramel candy sweetness coats the mouth with the spicy-ness (that right?) staying on the palate.

O: A fantastic BA Barleywine. One that I would put on the same playing field as sucaba. It's that good. Highly underrated brewery/BA program. ITs a highly limited brew, but if you come across it buy it. Its fantastic.

Photo of Jwale73
3.99/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

750ml corked and caged bottle. 2011 vintage served in a tasting glass. Bottle opened with a pop. Pours a hazy amber-mahogany hue with a fluffy, 1/2 inch, cream-colored head that settles into a consistent, frothy skim. Nose expresses citrus, cotton candy and some vanilla notes. Taste consistent with nose with the addition of some toffee flavors as well as some ethanol. Unfortunately, the mouthfeel on this beer kills it for me - way too much carbonation first off; however, once you get past that, it comes off somewhat thin and slightly oily. Overall, a very good example of the style - I have a second bottle, so I'll have to see what 3-5 years does for this beer. Hopefully it will dissipate the carbonation.

Photo of Scotchboy
4.2/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Corked & caged 2011 vintage 750ml poured into chalices.

A: Holy carbonation; not a gusher, but tons of head and bubbles screaming to the top of the glass...murky tawny/brown-colored body...decent lacing....lots of floaties from this old bottle.

S: Big caramel and toffee malts, very inviting barleywine nose...nice oaky backbone with suggestions of vanilla and brown sugar...alcohol heat is pretty subdued...lots of sugary sweetness, hops seem pretty minimal.

T: Tastes how you would think after smelling it; really like the bourbon presence on this one, solid but not overbearing, with more alcohol heat felt than smelled. Bourbon, oak, vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, and sugary malt without being cloying at all. Figs and other dark fruit as well.

MF: A viscous medium body, and surprisingly the carbonation isn't overwhelming or even distracting.

O: I'll be darn, this was tasty! Glad I split the 750 with a mate but this was a really good beer for 11 or so ounces.

One other note: be careful with this vintage at least, over-carbonation seems to be an issue. I sent a bottle in a trade that broke (only bottle break I've EVER had break in transit - assuming it was the pressure on the C&C), and I've seen lots of feedback on over-carbed bottles and semi-gushers.

Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.12/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage. Bottle #1759/3000.
Poured in to snifter.

A - Very dark copper, almost opaque with just a slight ruby glow along the bottom of the glass. A huge amount of light, fluffy dirty-white head formed.

S - Sweet caramel, toffee and raisin aromas are in a great balance with oak, bourbon, vanilla and a touch of caramel form the barrel aging.

T - Barrel flavours come to the forefront in the palate with oak, bourbon and vanilla flavours present. The base beer provides great balance to the barrel flavours, adding dark caramel, raisin, toffee and plum flavours.

M - Medium body, almost full body. Moderate carbonation. A little over-carbonated, which likely detracts from the mouth feel.

Photo of oline73
3.61/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

2011 bottle poured into a tasting snifter.

Pours a murky red amber color. This one looks to be super over carbonated. The smell is sweet. I'm getting dark fruit, caramel, and a hint of vanilla. The carbonation distracts from the taste, which is pretty good otherwise. Lots of caramel malts and some vanilla from the barrel. The bourbon is smooth with just a touch of alcohol burn.

Photo of Gobzilla
4.1/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: poured a burnt coffee brown in color with dark ruby highlights when held to the light with a thin bubbly head that left a little lacing sticking to the glass.

S: plenty of sweetness is noticeable upfront in the aroma consisting of caramel first, brown sugar, a little molasses, toffee with a good amount of booze heat i assume is bourbon and signs of dark fruit;

T: the caramel sweetness was just as intense on the palate alongside more brown sugar toffee sweetness, good bourbon barrel oak character, a little booze, dark fruit accents and a touch of underlying vanilla.

M: the brew was medium in body with a good amount of carbonation which had a bourbon barrel, oaky, boozy, mild dark fruity, sweet and creamy finish.

O: I thought it was a decent barleywine and was worth trying.

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Olde Bluehair Barley Wine from Big Sky Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 309 ratings.