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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: 317
rAvg: 3.98
pDev: 11.56%
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: 317
Photo of caskstrength
3.9/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Another bourbon barleywine, a style I generally like. . 2010 bottle. 2000 something out of 3000.

Holy carbonation! Too much, but an aggressive pour and lots of swirling gets it normalized. Bottle conditioned, not sure if that ultimately helps this beer or not.

Nice dark orange appearance. Head all over the place. Smells boozy, spicy, fruity. Hops if you're looking. Young, I think.

Tastes fruity (apricots, yellow raisins) and boozy. Hops at the end. Some oak. More "in your face" booze, less of the vanilla/wood complexity that's in the best barrel aged brews. But it's still there, a little.

This beer needs some time alone. (635 characters)

Photo of oberon
3.87/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

2010 bottle number #1976 of 3000.
10.5% ABV.
Poured a fizzy brass tinged medium brown,again a rather fizzy one finger off white head atop.Toasty oak and vanilla aromas with a bit of caramel,mainly all barrel aged aromas here,flavors are toasty with heavy vanilla and caramel,just a slight drying earthiness in the finish.As the beer warmed more malt nuances came into play like dark fruit and some cakiness.Its a bit sharp in the mouth but not to annoying,its pretty good but a little one dimensional with the barrel aging really taking over the beer.I dont think its worth the big price paid. (593 characters)

Photo of zhanson88
4.39/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Note: 2010 version is 10.5% ABV.

Appearance: Olde Bluehair pours out a dark ruby color with a full 3 fingers of beige colored head. I can see a lot of carbonation rising to the top. Retention is pretty good, though the head seems to give way very easily. Resulting lacing is more of a film.

Smell: Caramel, malts, oak, vanilla, and some dark fruits (fig, raisin, maybe apricot). There is a lot going on in here, very nice.

Taste: Caramel maltiness right off the bat, with barrel flavor in the middle -- oak and vanilla. Finish is fig and apricot, with just a hint of booziness from the bourbon barrels. This really is a phenomenal example of the barleywine style.

Mouthfeel: Body is right on medium, with quite a bit of carbonation. As it warms the carbonation mellows out a little and it gets smoother drinking. It is very easy drinking for the style, even though ABV is 10.5% it seems like less. This is hands down my favorite example of a barleywine that I've had to date. I definitely want to have a couple of these on hand for a while to see what age does. (1,065 characters)

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.1/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 1497/1800. Dark caramel brown with apple red and Sunkist accents when the glass is backlit with the rising October sun. The khaki colored crown is more a loose collection of unsticky bubbles than a creamy slice of foam, which is a fairly common occurence when it comes to higher-ABV, barrel-aged beer. In all fairness, the head becomes melty-creamy in the end and stays at the thick disk stage for a prolonged period of time.

The nose is classic caramel malt barleywine (pale, crystal, and chocolate), with wonderful whiskey notes from the American oak bourbon barrels. More hoppiness would be nice, but this Limited Edition ale has been chilling out my cellar for the past year or so. Maybe the hops will make an appearance on the palate.

Barrel Aged Olde Bluehair Barley Wine tastes exactly like it smells... which is a very good thing. It's on the gentle side for the style, thanks to the original 75 IBUs being countered by mucho malt, and the ABV being 8.75% rather than double digits. That doesn't mean that this little old lady lacks punch. On the contrary.

Pale malt offsets chocolate malt, and caramel-crystal emerges as the winner. Having said that, pleasant hints of cocoa nibness are easily identified, more so than in most American barleywines. There's a ton of medium-dark fruitiness and the bourbon influence is right on the money. Caramelized sugar, oak and vanilla bean tantalize the buds with each sip. Thankfully, the beer isn't the least bit boozy.

The next highest taste score is tempting, but Bluehair doesn't have that extra gear, that extra certain something to get it over the hump. No qualms, though, about bumping the drinkability score. This stuff is disappearing more quickly than is advisable if I want to remain coherent enough to finish this review and still make sense.

With respect to mouthfeel, think aged English barleywine or old ale. In other words, it isn't thick and chewy and it isn't as creamily carbonated as your typical Belgian ale. No matter, because the beer's size and laid back bubbles work fine in combination, which increases (ease of) drinkability even more.

In my humble opinion, Big Sky is one of America's most underappreciated breweries. They have gotten more of my money (thanks to their outstanding IPA) than anyone else in this country over the past several years. Barrel Aged Olde Bluehair Barley Wine may not be transcent beer, but it's a delicous and drinkable effort that is well worth the purchase price. (2,481 characters)

Photo of tpd975
4.35/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a nice amber with a small tan head. No retention or lace.

S: Aromas of light bourbon, vanilla, caramel, toffee, and rich sweet fruit.

T: The barrel is there in a mild way. Light vanilla with hints of coconut. Sweet fruit with loads of caramel and toffee. Rich sweet and good.

M: Full bodied, rich, sweet, smooth.

D: Awesome, Love this one. (352 characters)

Photo of kaseydad
4.05/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 Vintage

Great beer name. Snifter pour and an amber colored ale with burgundy streaks is produced with a small off-white foamy head. Aroma consists of hoppy goodness with some candy and malt in the mix. Very hoppy taste for a 2008 and though it lists the IBU's at 75 this tastes much more hoppy than that. Maybe the age intensifies it. Hmmmm. Malty backbone blends the two tastes perfectly. Full bodied, chewy mouthfeel. 11.8%? Couldn't even tell it was this high. Smooth drink and highly recommended. Wish it was distributed nation-wide. If you find it, let it age some to really get the most out of it. (609 characters)

Photo of neorunner
4.15/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2004 Vintage 750ml bottle poured into 4oz tasting glass.

This was the second bottle opened at a recent charity tasting put on by the NoVA Homebrew club and Jeff's amazing cellar. This charity event was to raise funds for the Boyscouts.

The beer poured a clear copper with nice fine carbonation bubbles. Aroma was typical of a barley wine but very muted and mellow. Time has done wonderful things to this beer, it is very nicely balanced bitterness and malt wise. The malt is not forward at all and tapers off towards the end. There is also a dark fruit / plum flavor present. Reasonable carbonation with small bubbles cleanses your palate as you drink it. I definitely went back for seconds on this one. (705 characters)

Photo of barleywinefiend
3.5/5  rDev -12.1%
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. (412 characters)

Photo of gford217
4.3/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750mL bottle poured into a tulip.

Pours a deep mahogany that shows clear copper when held up to light. There is a small creamy beige head that recedes to a small collar leaving little in the way of lacing.

The aroma is sweet with caramel malts and vanilla leading the way. There are some dark fruits, raisins especially. and a little bit of sherry coming out as well. The bourbon is very muted in the nose.

The taste is even better for me with all the same caramel malts, vanilla and dark fruits as in the aroma. But it almost tastes like a bit of chocolate sweetness in the there as well. The finish is sweet but the bourbon is extremely subtle.

The mouthfeel is slick with good carbonation and maybe on the lighter side of medium for overall mouthfeel.

This is an excellent barleywine with an understated bourbon presence which really leads to a very drinkable barrel-aged brew. (885 characters)

Photo of Deuane
4.52/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Bottle 1349 of 1800. Thanks to Kegatron for sharing this one!

A-Deep copper with a thin light tan head that hung on strong and left decent lace.

S-Sweet caramel, bourbon, vanilla and toasted coconut meld together into a sniff inducing intoxicating aroma.

T-Initial sweetness with nice bourbon notes a touch of earthy hop and a nice spicy bite in the finish. This one is very tasty. Notes of apricot and honey emerge with warming.

M-Medium bodied, super smooth and luscious. Good lingering flavours.

D-At 8.75% could this be deemed "light" for a barleywine? Well, no matter it is packed full of tasty flavours and an outstanding smoothness. I could enjoy this one all night long beside the fire! (699 characters)

Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.28/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Picked this gem up in Albuquerque at Jubilation. $15 for a 750ml bottle. Bottle #270 of 1800.

A: Brown with lots of red highlights, enormous cream colored head with incredible retention. Dense and rocky with amazing lacing. Slightly cloudy. Really an attractive beer.

S: Huge malty caramel profile, some notes of oatmeal, bourbon, slightly vanilla and oaky as well. Very strong smells, but surprisingly just a hint of booze. Smells delicious. A little more of a hop profile would be nice though.

T: Caramel malts, bourbon, vanilla, and wood. Has a surprisingly strong hop profile that is absent in the nose. Very malty and sweet. Slight alcohol astringency as well as a clean slightly citrus hop profile. The whiskey notes aren't overpowering but just enough to let the drinker know that there was some definite barrel aging. Incredibly balanced and tasty.

M: Creamy body, light carbonation, alcohol warmth is nice and warming, very dry alcohol and oak from the barrel aging. Excellent here.

D: Entirely too easy to drink, this goes down dangerously easy. Excellent flavors and a nice balance of oak, whiskey, and malt. This is a very well made beer and I'm glad I got the chance to try it. If I get the chance to try this again I definitely will. Highly recommended. (1,276 characters)

Photo of brian23456
2.84/5  rDev -28.6%
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. (639 characters)

Photo of Viggo
3.82/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Foiled 750ml bottle, #1575/1800. Big thanks to ritzkiss for bringing this rare one to the epic barleywine tasting.

Pours a lightly hazed reddish brown, some orange, thin off white head forms, settles down to a thin ring, a few lace spots stick.

Smell is nice, caramel and brown sugar, big sweetness, buttery, oak, vanilla, bourbon, some citrus, very fruity, raisin and alcohol, barrel character is quite nice.

Taste is nice too, vanilla and wood jump out, bourbon, caramel/toffee, brown sugar, raisin, lots of dark fruit, lots of alcohol, a bit of a rough wood character, but nice stuff.

Mouthfeel is medium to light bodied with low carbonation, some warmth going down. A pretty enjoyable BA barleywine. Thanks Preric! (722 characters)

Photo of bobsy
4.17/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

One of only 1800 bottles made, and a damn good one at that, so big thanks to Eric for bringing this over.

Pours a rich ruby with an off-white head that soon dropped to a collar. Not much in the way of lace or retention. Woody nose, with evident oak character. Vanilla and caramel make for a pleasant combination, though its lighter than I thought it would be. Great oak character to this beauty, and a good example of how aging should be done. Wood and vanilla are present throughout as well as some light bourbon picked up along the way. Brown sugar, raisins and lightly floral hops round things out before a mildly warming finish. Body is lighter than expected, which makes it more drinkable, but less true to style.

I liked it - a rare treat! (747 characters)

Photo of ritzkiss
4.15/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle 1575/1800, 750ml with golden foil, picked up in Spokane and brought to Rob's great barleywine tasting!

Pours a dark ruby, lots of sediment in the glass on the first pour (might have gotten a little shaken up on the way over that night), a few big bubbles around the collar but not much carbonation.

Nose is light caramel malts, hints of vanilla and wood, pretty light and smooth.

This is a well balanced, more-ish barleywine. Nice woodiness and vanilla from the barrels, very faint hints of bourbon, still a faint hop bite in the finish, raisins, plums, candied sugar, caramel, light alcohol burn in the finish as well. The only downfall on this one is the body which is a little light, almost watery, for a barleywine. Makes it more drinkable perhaps but you might want a little more bulk to brink out some of the flavors. As is, pretty drinkable - don't worry about opening the bottle by yourself! (909 characters)

Photo of Derek
3.59/5  rDev -9.8%
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. (296 characters)

Photo of MasterSki
3.96/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to joe1510 for sharing this bottle. #886 of 1800, served in a snifter.

A - Pours with a ridiculous amount of tan foam that takes forever to dissipate and leaves a good amount of lacing. Transparent fuschia color with tons of bubbles. Really unique and impressive for a barleywine.

S - Burnt brown sugar, roasted caramel malts, some faded hops, and some light bourbon and oaky barrel notes as well. It's nice, but nothing unusual for a bourbon barrel barleywine.

T - The taste is a lot sweeter, with a lot of the burnt sugar character and tannins in the finish. Caramel, brown sugar, light vanilla and oak notes. Not much of the hop presence that I initially smelled.

M - Surprisingly well carbonated - medium body, fairly sticky, a little heat at the back end.

D - The alcohol isn't all that well hidden - I thought this was more than 8.75%. The tannic bite in the finish also makes it a little hard to drink a lot. (927 characters)

Photo of BigMcLargeHuge
3.53/5  rDev -11.3%
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. (433 characters)

Photo of brownbeer
4.05/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Deep amber with a lot of rushing bubbles and a huge white head.

S- Vanilla, bourbon, fruity hops.

T- Sweet oak character balanced by subtle, fruity hops.

M- Soft, but with a bit too much carbonation.

D- Not as good as the Schlafly Oak Aged BW but well worth drinking, especially if you can find it. (305 characters)

Photo of Wasatch
4.83/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Silver Foil/Capped
Bottle 864 of 1800

Poured into a chalice a very nice amber color, very nice carbonation, this brew has probably the nicest head from a BWSA to date for me, huge two-finger plus creamy, thick light tan head, with tons of thick/creamy sticky lacing left behind. The nose is malty, slight hop, slightly fruity (figs, plums, raisins), oaky. The taste is awesome, malty, with some hop notes, very nice touch of dark fruits and oak/bourbon. Medium body, goes down pretty smooth, ABV hidden very well (which is not high), but easy drinking. Very drinkable, really enjoying this one today, highly recommended. (627 characters)

Photo of HopHead84
4.15/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to snojerk321 for opening this. The beer appears dark chestnut with a monstrous head. I watched the head shoot up when Checkii poured it so I poured mine as gently as possible and the head was still outlandish. The beer has a reddish hue when held to the light.

The aroma is of dark fruits with lots of toffee and caramel. The bourbon isn't overpowering but it's pretty great and definitely noticeable along with some oak. The alcohol is apparent. The hops are hard to distinguish but they impart a low level of earthiness.

The taste is as rich as the aroma suggested. Notes of toffee, caramel, and bourbon are evident, as well as a little sweet honey. The flavor is very rich and the alcohol is prominent, I would have estimated it at over 10%.

Medium bodied with a high level of carbonation which I liked. The mouthfeel is creamy. (843 characters)

Photo of DIM
4.28/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

bottle number 850 of 1800.

a: This was a deep, dark ruby coppery color. It poured with a thick, sticky, very foamy, light tan colored head.

s: This was pretty mild overall. I got a little oakiness, plus some mild dark fruits, vanilla, and maple syrup. The heat coming off of this got fairly strong as it warmed.

t: The barrel aging here is gentle, and its just what this beer needed. Big Sky found a near perect balance with Olde Bluehair. This was pretty sweet, but not obnoxiously or cloyingly so. I tasted toffee, maple syrup, vanilla, and some sweet cherries up front. The finish brings sweet, oaky tobacco. There was very little bourbon flavor here.

m: This was a very gassy b-wine. Very heavily carbonated and pretty fizzy. I wouldn't have minded if this had been a bit less active.

d: I'm very sorry to see the empty bottle. Thanks to JohnGalt1 for an excellent surprise barleywine. I'd never heard of this until I saw it in the box. Thanks again Toby! (964 characters)

Photo of maximum12
3.97/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up bottle #1137 of 1800 at the fantastic Dennis Brothers a month or two ago. Love me a barleywine & love me barrel-aging, so geez, I like it already. Great flippin' bottle art too, love the "geezer". Show me the walker!

Pretty beer, ruby & amber with a weird little bubbly head on it. The smell is bourbon, with little else coming through. OK by me!

Lots of stuff going on in this bad...thing. The bourbon comes on strong, but doesn't steal the show & pummel all the other players into oblivion. The vanilla is also in the mix & takes the edge of the bourbon. There's a very flat, smooth taste that harkens to hard alcohol more than a beer, even though there is some carbonation (yeah, that doesn't make sense, oh well). One of the rare beers I've had that drinks like it has a higher ABV than it actually has. I'd have guessed in the 11-12% range.

Very good beer. Hopefully Big Sky continues to have some wild adolescent fantasties like this to complement their solid lineup of regular beers. (1,004 characters)

Photo of Kegatron
4.13/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750 ml foil topped bottle. # 1349/1800. Thanks goes to beerbeagle for hooking me up with this in the Secret Bunny '08 BIF. Split this one with some fellow BA members. Poured into a snifter.

Pours a brilliant clear ruby red, with a thin foamy off-white head. This bunches around the edges with a thin wispy covering in the middle. Flare-up is very solid, leaving a rich looking latticework of lace back. Bourbon dominates the aroma, with some backing notes of woody oak and vanilla. Floral hops glide underneath, as does caramel, bread, citrus, and a maybe a touch of dark fruits in the back as well.

The taste is once again straight up Bourbon, that is well integrated with notes of citrus, vanilla, coconut, brown sugar, caramel, and dough standing out most to me. Bourbon and alcohol mix with hops and roast to end the profile with a warm and bitter feel that lingers. The mouthfeel is big feeling, with a full bodied and creamier feel. There is also a more tangible vicous layer that runs underneath, that carries a lot of the alcohol and warmth through the profile. A definite alcohol sting is present as well but it seems to come more from the Bourbon character then it does the ABV.

A pleasant suprise for sure, I liked the integration between the barrel notes and regular Barleywine flavors in this. While still a bit warm and a steady sipper, I'd love to see how this one would mellow and age over a couple of years. (1,430 characters)

Photo of mothman
3.88/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Shared this bottle with ThePeskyDingo and DerrickBerg.

Bottle 1190/1800.

Poured into New Belgium Globe Glass.

Doesn't pour much of a head, but is slightly off-white. Still leaves some lace rings. Color is a deep cloudy burnt copper. Very appealing.

Smell is of booze off the top. Dark dried fruits. Molasses. Dried cherries. Bready malts. Some pine hops, a very complex aroma.

Taste is very malty at first. Bready, boozy, dried fruits (mainly cherries), molasses. I am having a hard time picking out all of the flavors because of the alcohol. Slight licorice flavor. Very complex flavor. I got the vanilla flavor out of it after I read the bottle. This beer also has a wood/bourbon flavor (similar to that in BCS).

Mouthfeel is smooth but way too boozy. Goes down easy but leaves a mouth full of alcohol for an aftertaste. Feels like I just took a shot of vodka. But it is clean.

Overall, this was a very boozy barlywine. Way different from the previous two I had, which were very hoppy. If you can find this, it is worth a shot, but have some good buddies to share it with. (1,081 characters)

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