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Olde Bluehair Barley Wine - Big Sky Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Olde Bluehair Barley WineOlde Bluehair Barley Wine

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

121 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 121
Hads: 325
Avg: 3.99
pDev: 18.3%
Wants: 61
Gots: 90 | FT: 9
Brewed by:
Big Sky Brewing Company visit their website
Montana, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  12.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

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

75 IBU
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 121 | Hads: 325
Photo of ktrillionaire
2.38/5  rDev -40.4%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Thanks to AgentZero for sharing this unusual brew.

A - It pours a sappy golden hue, and has a big foamy tan head that looks like pancake batter.

S - The nose is strange; it initially led me to suspect that the brew is possibly infected, but as I taste it, and smell it some more, I am convinced that it is just strange. Apricots, dark corn syrup, citric hops and vanilla come together in Olde Bluehair for an unholy communion of unfortunate proportions. Well, its not quite on the 'unholy' level, I just wanted to use the phrase, really.

T - The taste is more bizarre than the aroma; there is something 'off' here, though I cannot exactly put my finger on it. The taste is generally comprised of dried medium fruit, especially apricot and papaya, dry grassiness and rotten oak, grainy corn syrup notes, some weird chalky note and general disagreement between the incongruous elements of the flavor.

M - The feel is unspecial. It is sticky and soft, not tremendously enhancing.

O - Ha! This beer was on my 'wants' for a long time, along with Ivan; glad I didn't trade for this one in particular.

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Photo of snaotheus
2.59/5  rDev -35.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

750ml bottle poured into an oversized snifter

I'm a little concerned about this bottle, there was almost no hiss when I popped the top. Don't know if it's normally pretty still, or if something happened.

Basically no head. Basically no carbonation. This detracts from the appearance. I know that barleywines are not usually that active, but there's nothing going on here. Color is a nice rich deep bronzey brown, maybe slightly cloudy. Smell is alcohol with a background of smoke and wood.

Taste is sweet and sour and smokey, alcohol comes out quite a bit. A little astringent.

Mouthfeel is flat, a little watery. Due to too much alcohol in the flavor and unpleasant flatness, I have not enjoyed this much.

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Photo of matttttYCE
2.68/5  rDev -32.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

2010 Vintage, #2618 of 3000

Appearance - Poured into my Stone IRS balloon/snifter glass. Head is very frothy and luscious, about 1 1/2 finger high and off-white colored. Head fades very slowly. Moderate sticky lacing. Color of the brew is a root beer color with red highlights when held to the light.

Smell - Smell is...interesting to say the least. I get lots of sweet caramel malts, caramel, butterscotch, sweet fruit, apricot, a bit of plum possibly, honey, interesting slight tart notes and slight smell of apple juice or apple cider, along with some light notes of Bourbon and vanilla in the background. Really not at all what I was expecting from the aroma. Seems a bit disjointed as a whole. There's a slight chance this bottle is infected but more so I think it's just the odd way the brew smells.

Taste - Taste is pretty similar to the nose. Lots of sweet caramel malts, caramel and molasses, butterscotch, sweet fruit, apricot, fig, honey, toffee, slight Bourbon and vanilla notes, and again those slight hints of tartness and apple juice or apple cider. It's an off taste to me, but I think that may just be how the brewer intended it to be and not an infected bottle.

Mouthfeel - Consistency is silky smooth, carbonation is higher than I would have liked for a barrel aged Barleywine, round would probably describe it. Body is medium, slightly chewy, finish is medium. Leaves a taste of sweetness, caramel malt, toffee, and fruit/tart/green apple tastes in my mouth.

Overall - If this isn't infected, it's really not to my liking. There's the possibility that I got an infected bottle or that there is a good deal of bottle variation. Whatever I had, I didn't really care for it. I'll try the next vintage I can get my hands on to compare to this one (especially to see if there may have just been an infection in this bottle, but I don't think that's the case).

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Photo of waltonc
2.7/5  rDev -32.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Had a bottle of this with JoeySchlitz a couple nights ago. Pours completely flat and looks like juice. Smells almost good, but there's a slight hint of cheese that is off-putting. If it weren't for that, this would smell good. Tastes rich and buttery, sweet butterscotch notes. Not hoppy at all (no complaints about that). Not a very refined or polished taste, but pretty unique. Mouthfeel is where this is really lacking. Absolutely no carbonation makes this a bit disgusting after only a few sips. Big Sky should do something to fix the carbonation. Perhaps force carbonate it? Why in the world is this sold in 750 ml bottles? 6 oz would be better.

4/24/09 Update: Had this on tap at Monk's Kettle, and it was much better than the bottled version. None of the cheese, and it was well-carbonated. I'd give it a 4.3 overall on tap.

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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.

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Photo of brian23456
2.84/5  rDev -28.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle #1183/1800, poured into a couple large snifters.

A- Starts with a big head as far as BW's go, dies down to a thin ring. Reddish brown color, not much for lacing.

S- Caramel, brown sugar, raisins, alcohol and a very tiny amount of bourbon. All the smells are very faint though, actually not much smell at all.

T- Hmmm.. I may be tasting everything I smelled. But its hard to tell because the flavor is just as muted as the smell.

M- Light body, low carbonation and some warmth.

D- Goes down easy, very unoffensive and well-balanced.

A little dissapointing overall but definatley not bad. Just really plain and forgetable.

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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.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.15/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Foamy as hell. Murky red. Looks light and overcarbonated.

Smell - Light malt notes. A ton of bourbon and a little oak.

Taste - Oaky and astringent. Overcarbonated. Caramel comes through more here as the bourbon is lighter. Nothing special in the flavor. Maybe a little fruity.

Mouthfeel - Way overcarbonated. Astringent and dry. Kinda ruins the experience.

Overall - The flavors are ok, but it's mouthfeel is a tremendous let down. Thin, kinda they way I felt about Ivan the Terrible.

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Photo of Spider889
3.18/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Review from notes.

Pours with a super tall head of an off-white linen color. Decent lace.

Smells very sweet for a barleywine. Brown sugar and sweet oaky tannins.

The taste has a mild char flavor to it, oak, cherry and vanilla flavors.

Overall this is just a little 'off' for a typical barleywine.

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Photo of kbutler1
3.19/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottle. #2062 of 3000. Poured into a tulip glass a murky orange, apricot color with a light tan head. Sweet aroma in the nose of fruit and slight citrus hops. Very subtle aroma for a Barley Wine. Sweet start wtih some latent hops. Pretty smooth but not extremely flavorful. Nice head retention though.

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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.

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Photo of biboergosum
3.32/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

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.

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Photo of harrymel
3.35/5  rDev -16%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2010
Nice dark cherry color with a solid thick sheet of light caramel foam. Smells of toffee, caramel, nougat, vanilla, oak, some hints of alcohol and a touch of graham. Nice nose. Tastes of sweet malts, toffee, a bit of toasted sugar, some grassy hops(?), a little bit of alcohol. Medium on thin actually with low carb and a semi dry finish. A decent beer, not $15 decent, but worth a taste in the right situation.

Vintage 2010
Original review (Jan, 2011): 4/3.5/3.5/4.5/3.5 - 3.63
A: Ale pours a beautiful deep cinnamon building a two fingers maple creamy head. This dissipates over the next few minutes to thick blanket of the same. The beer is like maple syrup, with caramel hues, this is a looker. Laces stick to the sides with little effort.
S: I poured this several times, and each time, the nose is dominated by green apple skins. After several minutes, the beer really opens up and toffee, caramel, malts come through beautifully. Slight tea aromas come through and balance out the sweetness. Vanilla oak low to slight in the nose.
T: A bit warm. No, quite warm. The ABV is not well concealed here. The malts come through and dance among the oak notes which stand out much further than in the nose. Lower bittering on this one, can't say I like this, but not very disappointed either. Can see this one really shining through in another year.
M: Sticky, thick, viscous beer. Wow, super sticky. Heavy with medium carbonation. I'm impressed with the velvety feel with which this presents.
D: I think the beer is good, but not quite as good as maybe say Mirror Mirror or some others. More malt forward than many popular Barley wines, which I like. This is a good beer, but not a great one. Worth a try, but I would split the cost if I could.

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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.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.5/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a deep amber color with a small dirty white head, not much carbonation going on. Nose is faint but I did find some dried fruits, brown sugar, oak, bourbon and caramel.Taste is dried fruits, vanilla, oak, bourbon, dried fruits, brown sugar. There was an off, astringent like taste, ABV is very tolerable keeping iot very drinkable and not masking the flavors. Mouthfeel is nice creamy, coating and sugary.

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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.

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Photo of BigMcLargeHuge
3.53/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled at Toronado 2009 Barleywine Festival.
Pours clear deep copper with thin tan head. The modest aroma has notes of prunes, figs and sweet crystal malts. The taste starts rich and sweet with malt, fig raisin and plum sweetness. Midway and to the finish alcohol chemical notes show up along with a layer of pine hop bitterness. Could use some more age to mellow a bit. It does have a mildly drying malt roastiness into the finish.

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Photo of hopfacebrew
3.53/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Stone, though the abv on the beer menu clearly lists 8.75% ABV. Served in a snifter. Arrives a couldy deep dark amber color with ruby colored edges in the light. One finger beige head with good retention and lacing. The nose is earthy with hints of oak, dark fruit, roasted barley, and a leathery character. A touch of bourbon. The flavor starts with a raisin and fig fruitiness similar to the fruit found on the tongue. Hints of bourbon and vanilla. Mild bitterness. Medium bodied and finishes with a lingering taste of toasted oak. As it warms the vanilla and malt are more prevalent and overcome the strong boozy character. Overall, I found the beer to be a bit...harsh. Very complex though doesn't seem to be mellowed, yet.

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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.

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Photo of Derek
3.59/5  rDev -10%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Chestnut with a touch of tan head, no retention or lace.

S: Plenty of wine/dark-fruit, caramel & raisins with a boozie alcohol aroma.

T: Raisins, caramel, brown sugar, balanced bitterness, fairly boozie for its strengh.

M: Light residual sweetness, modest carbonation.

D: A decent drinker.

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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.

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Photo of corby112
3.63/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

750ml, 2010 vintage, bottle 2126/3000, shared with shadowane.

Pours a cloudy, dark amber color with golden ruby edges and a one finger frothy, yellowish beige head. Very good retention slowly fading into a lasting ring that leaves chunks of lacing behind.

Musty, earthy aroma with lots of dark fruit, leather and wood. Nice barrel in the nose with toasted oak and vanilla notes but only subtle bourbon. Lots of leathery malts as well as some fig and raisin.

Medium body with soft carbonation up front with a strong barrel presence that's a bit harsh with lots of toasted oak and sweet booz. As it warms there is some vanilla and the sweeter malts and dark fruit notes shine. Leathery and musty with some sweet caramel and nut along with hints of fig, plum and apple.  Decent but kind of harsh up front. Finishes nice.

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Photo of GregSVT
3.68/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

750ml bottle into a snifter - 2011 Vintage, bottle #341

A: Pours dark dark red with a huge tan head that fades to a layering and leaves a ton of lacing on the glass. Maybe a bit overcarbed.

S: The nose starts with big notes of dark fruits, citrus, toffee, and an odd rye aroma. Was expecting more bourbon and barrel notes in the nose and didn't get much.

T: The taste is a step up from the nose with flavors of toffee, red dark fruits, vanilla, bread, and malt.

M: The feel is medium with a bit too much carbonation.

O: I was expecting a bit more from this one but it wasn't too bad. It definitely improved as it warmed and I would love to see this with a few more years of age.

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Photo of mikedrinksbeer2
3.73/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed from notes, on-tap into snifter.

A - Deep hazy amber nearing brown in color with a minimal head that leaves some spot cling remains.

S - Toasty malt scent, hint of alcohol.

T - Strong, mirrors the scent, maily malty sweet with an slight alcohol finish.

M - Slightly sticky, un-carbonated, decent.

O - A nice offering, but not my favorite Big Sky brew. Recommended to Barleywine fans.

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Photo of trbergman
3.73/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2010 bottling, poured into a cervoise.

A - Hazy auburn body with a tall, pillowy taupe head.

S - Rich caramel and toffee malts, fig, tobacco, vanilla, bourbon.

T - Sweet and malty, with toffee, fig and raisin, tobacco, and bourbon. Not very intense.

M - Starts off overcarbonated, but a little swirling and waiting take care of that. Slick, smooth, and surprisingly light. In the finish there's a gentle prickle of bourbon heat.

D - Very quaffable, but not terribly exciting.

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Olde Bluehair Barley Wine from Big Sky Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 121 ratings.