Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Chaotic Chemistry - Magic Hat Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Chaotic ChemistryChaotic Chemistry

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

73 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 73
Hads: 84
Avg: 4.01
pDev: 12.47%
Wants: 41
Gots: 3 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Magic Hat Brewing Company visit their website
Vermont, United States

Style | ABV
American Barleywine |  9.90% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: paceyourself on 12-29-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Infused with the copper glow of more than 1,000 setting suns. This exceptional offering had infinite body ... a big, sweet malty tumult followed by a long, balanced, hop symphony.

50 IBU
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 73 | Hads: 84
Photo of woosterbill
2.88/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

750ml bottle of Batch 2, poured into a 25cl Duvel tulip. Really glad I finally got to try this after hearing Hopstoopid120 and Knifestyles go on and on about it for so long. Too bad this bottle as a dud.

A: Hazy deep amber body under a wispy off-white head. Ok.

S: Old, over-aged, and disappointing. Toffee, plastic, must, and boringness.

T: Follows the nose. Toffee, caramel, must, and cracker. At least the plastic doesn't come through.

M: A little thin, a little watery. Not great.

O: This one didn't hold up at all. Pity.


 540 characters

Photo of mikesgroove
4.03/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

reviewed from notes, bottle sent by bill that I aged gracefully for over a year and poured into a snifter.

dark brown color with some light highlights of orange and red around the edges. Small off white head rises up and settles quickly with only minimal lacing and a bare top is left after only a few minutes. Aroma is rich, caramel, toffee, light hops and hints of oak all coming through fairly easily. Nice balance here but not getting that overwhelming barrel aged aroma I was hoping for. Warming does not do much now either as it just seems to bring in more of the hop and hints of boozy alcohol. Light carbonation masks the medium body and leaves the flavor to work its magic now. Smooth, even malts are stealing the show. Rich caramel and earthy tones round out a lightly hot flavor. Almost a popcorn like flavor coming through for me mid palate, buttery and creamy with a boozy finish

 893 characters

Photo of Kshock
4.14/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Awesome deep red/ brown color. no carb at all, completely flat.

S- Great aroma of caramel sweetness and bourbon.

T- Super sweet up front but subsides quickly. Great finish on the palate. Lots of bourbon qualities to it, but not nearly as hot as the nose leads on.

M- Light bodied, with a little syrupy quality but not in a bad way, gives it some body to it.

O- Really good beer, lucky to try it. this beer was brewed the year i was in my sophomore year of high school and released the year i graduated (2004). Im now 25 and drinking this. kickass!

 554 characters

Photo of far333
3.53/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Batch 1
Bottle 385
Bottled 11/12/02
Aged 36 months in bourbon casks
Bottle conditioned

Purchased at the brewery many years ago from the inaugural batch. Approached this with some trepidation as I've never aged anything this long. Cork is in great shape, pronounced pop as the cork releases, and a wisp of steam rises up.

Golden orange, brassy color with a firm head of orangey-beige foam that settles out to soapy bubbles. Low aroma of citrus and honey.

Flavors of honey and orange rind, boozey bourbon/brandy notes, some Grand Marnier mixed with vanilla and woody flavors, some low mint and grassy nuances. More like a sipping liqueur than a beer.

Low carbonation, slightly watery mouthfeel, but finishes tannic. Slight warming feeling and vapors rising up the back of the nose. Interesting beer, not high drinkability because it's really a sipper and not for everyday, but a nice after dinner drink with friends.

 918 characters

Photo of JohnGalt1
3.79/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Ditmier I think has been saving this one for a while... Thanks Eric!! Never thought I would get a chance to try this one... especially an old bottle.

This is the cool shaped bottle.... bottled on 11/1/04... Bottle #386.

Pours with a thin white head atop a hazed brown.. not much in the way of retention or lacing.

Nose shows pretty strong woody components melded with a fair amount of bourbon and a little caramel... a bit of sherry shows its age, but it isn't too distracting.

mouthfeel seems a tad thin given the bigger body and the EBW category.. again, some caramel and lite toffee combine with the bourbon vanilla notes and a bit of background lite cherry essence... plenty of wood (maybe too much) ... a little oxidation seems appropriate, but gains with room temperature. I personally think this bottle was on the downslope, but Sam and Eric seemed to really like it... and I am damn appreciative for the opportunity to try it... Thanks again Eric!!


 975 characters

Photo of McKibben25
3.75/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

For such a high ABV brew, I think they have done a great job. I really enjoyed the strong smell of whiskey in the beer. The color was rich and full. Like a nice coffee. It wasn't terribly heavy or filling to drink. It was actually rather light. Kind of like a strong dark Belgian ale. The carbonation and head were what I expected from a barley wine. It was a little hard to drink. The alcohol taste was definitely prominent and could have been masked a little better. But overall a good beer that I hope they brew again.

 521 characters

Photo of BigMcLargeHuge
3.95/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Batch#3, bottled in 2004, bottle #884. Pours amber with tiny tan head. The aroma is rich barrel notes of bourbon, vanilla and smooth even oak. I also get a thin layer of caramel in the background. The taste is sweet up front with sweet bourbon, vanilla and cameral to start. By midway smooth oak notes enhance the other flavors. Into the finish some dark fruity esters are noticed along with persistent vanilla, caramel, bourbon and smooth oak running deep into the after taste. This beer is a bit out of balance with the barrel notes smothering the beer. It could easily age much longer too. Good stuff.

 604 characters

Photo of tpd975
4.37/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2004 bottle brought by the Barleywine king ibrew2or3!

A: Pours a beautiful amber hue with a very small whispy head. No retention or lace.

S: Beautiful aroma. Tons of wood, real vanilla bean, dark fruit, brown sugar, and booze. The aromas are so bold but are really married to one another. Don't know how this is fresh, but when laid down for years it is a REAL gem.

T: Shit its good. To call this complex is an understatement. Tons of barrel goodness. Mild oak with nice french vanilla. A nice roasted sweet malt component hangs around with notes of brown sugar and gooey toffee. Molasses soaked Dark fruit notes dance in your mouth, and in the finish despite the age there is still a nice dose of quality bourbon.

M: Full in body, Rich, Bold, Smooth.

D: One that is a joy to sip. No doubt the best beer I have ever seen Magic Hat produce. That being said this Vintage will hold its own against most any Barleywine.

 920 characters

Photo of shanem
3.27/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A: dark amber with no head really at all

S: All hot bourbon heat. Rich alcohol sting with small bits of oak

T: sweet malty flavor with a touch of the oak and maybe some vanilla in the distance but all quickly consumed by very strong bourbon flavor

M: Medium bodied with a slight lingering sweet flavor and more alcohol

D: I've tried this many times, really wanting to enjoy it, but it just seems to alcohol rich even for a barleywine to me. an interesting brew, worth a check, but not really the greatest thing they do

 522 characters

Photo of thekevlarkid
2.72/5  rDev -32.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Off the tap at The Scuffer in Burlington this English style barleywine was a deep, mahogany color with a thin, tan head that quickly fizzed out to a skim. It did leave fine bands of lacing however. The aroma was sweet and full of figs, dates and alcohol heat. The flavors were huge and aggressive. The bourbon barrel aging was clear though the alcohol punch was such a boot to the head one could almost mistake it for a bourbon! Notes of wood and lots of malt with not enough hop balance though they do show up at the end. The mouthfeel was smooth, the carbonation moderate and the body medium. This one really lacked finesse and I just kept thinking 'if a critic like myself doesn't appreciate it how could the layman?'

 720 characters

Photo of Damian
3.84/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Drank from a 32 fl. oz. growler purchased at the Magic Hat Brewery, Burlington, Vermont
Served in a snifter

The beer poured a cloudy and dark, amber-mahogany color with no real head but an off white, bubbly layer of froth.

The aroma was very boozy and bourbon-like. Sweet, rich and creamy with strong notes of caramel, oak, vanilla and maple syrup. As the beer warmed, the maple syrup became very apparent.

The taste was outrageously bourbony and alcohol-rich. Holy oak aging! Very sweet overall, almost cloyingly so. Notes of vanilla, maple syrup and brown sugar came through strong. Somewhat spicy. Caramel malts were also noticeable. Hops were practically nonexistent. Alcohol dominated from mid-palate into the oaky, uber-bourbony finish. The finish had a far greater bourbon presence than I have ever experienced in a beer. This bourbony sweetness carried long into the sugary, lingering aftertaste. As the liquid warmed, the beer took on fruity, winey, almost port-like characteristics. Overall, very complex and interesting.

The mouthfeel was medium bodied, creamy and smooth with a super fine and mild carbonation. I was expecting this to be a bit more syrupy and viscous. A sticky, sugary film coated my lips with every sip.

Even for an English-style barleywine, this beer was a touch overly sweet and boozy. I would love to taste this brew again with a bit of age on it.

This was a very interesting beer. For those of you who enjoy super sweet, super bourbony beers, this would totally be your bag. Too bad it is not available anywhere except from the brewery.

 1,576 characters

Photo of hopdog
4.22/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Tasted from Growler.

Poured a medium and slightly hazy amber-orange color with smaller sized white head. Aromas of caramel, dark fruits, vanilla, some woodiness, bourgon, and some nuttiness. Tastes of vanilla, caramel, and some dark fruits. Bourbon came out a little more in the tastes. Some alcohol in the finish.

 316 characters

Photo of Vancer
4.67/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Darn! "Had' to crack a very cool 32oz mini-growler of Magic Hat Chaotic Chemistry - sent courtesy of dmeadows as my SS.

Thanks again Denis!

She poured a sexy hazy mahogany brown, small cap of lazy tan head.

Now to the good stuff - aroma is pure bourbon malt (Jim Beam, I believe). No barleywine here, this is malted bourbon beer with a hint of cherry and vanilla - and I'm luving it! If bourbon beer was a style, it would be my favorite.

A sweet malty finish, the glow in the cheeks showcases the high power alcohol, but it's not over done in the taste.

Superb brew.

 573 characters

Photo of weeare138
4.34/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Much thanks to Capones for sharing this from a growler brought from the brewery...
Appears a semi-transparent dark orange toned amber with a small white cap that quickly fades out. A mild collar is left in the glass with mild spots of lacing left around the glass.
Smell is of bourbon, vanilla, caramel, maple, toffee, and some ripe fruit.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with brown sugar, and flavorful bourbon that makes for an addicting brew.
Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, with some sticky, sugary, maltiness, and a warming alcohol burn in the finish. This beer has such fine bourbon qualities much like Maker's Mark, or Wild Turkey. Great job!

 651 characters

Photo of pershan
4.24/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this on-tap at Frisco Grille in Columbia, MD.

The beer poured a cloudy dark brown with a thin, tan head into a chalice. The aroma had a very strong bourbon component - almost like you were taking a whiff of a shot of JB - blindfolded it would have been hard to know you were sniffing a beer. The taste had more of the bourbon flavor, with oak, burnt malt, and hop bitterness in the background. Definitely a sipping beer for a cold winter's day.

 449 characters

Photo of forceten
4.65/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Wow! I normally shy away from beers described as "barleywine" because what does that really tell you other than it's strong? But, I was at Magic Hat, and they had it on draught, so what the heck, yeah?

This one's fab - it's got a lot of flavors - a dark barleywine, for sure - and like others have said it has a great bourbon influence.. rich, malty, and complex.. something to sip, sure, but has a good sweetness too.

Haven't had it in bottle, so can't compare - but I hope to soon.

 485 characters

Photo of Brad007
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours from a mini (32oz) growler into my pint glass. Medium-brown color with a very thin head.

Aroma is full of bourbon with only a hint of raisin and sweet malt in the nose. Bourbon seems to overwhelm my senses.

Taste is smooth at first with a nice kick of bourbon that shows up followed by flavors of vanilla, sweet malt and some raisin. Again, bourbon seems to dominate the flavor profile. Quite smooth though.

Mouthfeel is lingering bourbon followed by a bit of alcohol heat that coats the throat. Vanilla seems to stand out here as a lingering flavor.

Drinkability is debatable. On one hand, it's a departure from a traditional English Barleywine. On the other hand, the bourbon seems to overwhelm the actual profile of this barleywine. Perhaps with some age, this could be decent over time. It can't be easy to age in a mini-growler though.

I'd only recommend this if you're looking to try something different from Magic Hat. Otherwise, I would not recommend it due to the overwhelming bourbon flavors.

 1,016 characters

Photo of maximum12
4.28/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to MrRetardedMonkey for sending a small growler of this a long, long way into the Midwest. Coolest growler I've ever seen. Looks like a massive jar of maple syrup.

Holy mother of Wild Turkey. Unscrewing the cap, I take a whiff, & the bourbon comes out & almost brings tears to my eyes. I feel something strange inside, & realize it is my stomach cheering & my kidneys trembling.

Smell is all bourbon, all the time. I poured small samples for the wife & I, figuring it might slow us down a little. Taste's the same. Time to let it warm.

Tick, tick, tick. We take the growler out, too, & set it on the counter. That's better. The bourbon is still sitting in the front row with an orange pinstriped suit on, but now there's a hint of the smooth barleywine base coming in behind. The taste is rather oily, full, flat, & very good.

This is definitely a sipper. Wait, why is my second small glass almost gone? It's only 6:19. Looking into the growler, I see a 9PM bedtime tonight.

Highly recommended. Very unique stuff.

 1,029 characters

Photo of drseamus
3.82/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to dmeadows for providing the growler.

A: Pours a darkish red with pretty much no head. To be expected from a growler.

S: Straight up bourbon. Nice and sweet.

T: Bourbon again. Still nice and sweet. There isn't much besides the overpowering bourbon except for some sweetness from the malt.

M: Medium bodied with a touch of burn from the whiskey.

D: Too much bourbon for mass consumption but a small glass is nice.

 425 characters

Photo of NEhophead
4.12/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Half-growler from the brewery; served in a Humble Patience nonic.
Reportedly clocks in at 14%+ abv by MH employees.

Pours a muddy, red oak in color beneath a creamy white head that quickly clings to the sides of the glass. Traces of patchy lacing with decent strength.

Sharp, tangy whiskey whaffs up front. Vinous and citrus fruit: apple, orange, lemon, raspberry. Undertones of creamy toffee and light vanilla. The intense alcohol presence weaves in and out of the tart fruit and rich malt aromas making for quite an interesting aroma.

Creamy caramel and milk chocolate up front that are quickly overtaken by an intense, almost vinegar-like, tartness. Notes of grapefruit, orange, apple. The bourbon is practically abrasive and impossible to overlook; however, it does make for some interesting flavor combinations with the tart fruit and mellow richness. Following the surge of bourbon is a return to a richer toffee, caramel, and milk chocolate with hints of vanilla that remain in the aftertaste.

Full bodied; pretty smooth for a Barleywine, despite a lot of heat from the alcohol presence.

A ballsy, 14% abv offering from Magic Hat: what a pleasant surprise! Very unique flavors from your typical Barleywine; however, it has been aged in whiskey barrels. A must half-growler fill-up if you live in range of the brewery, as I don't think they are planning on bottling the old Humdingers. Keep the interesting brews coming Magic Hat, we're tired of the flavorless offerings brewed for marketing reasons alone.

 1,518 characters

Photo of aerozeppl
4.38/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Mini growler thanks to dmeadows for bringing this.

A: Nice brown barley wine appearance. Minimal white head with some lacing.

S: Really powerful bourbon/whiskey nose. Some malt behind everything but the barrel really dominates the nose.

T: Straight bourbon. The malt is sort of there but who cares. This is a great example of a well done one dimensional beer.

M: A full bodied beer. The taste makes it feel heavier than it really is.

D: Very nice. Huge taste. This reminds me that magic hat can make a good beer. Why they do not is a mystery to me.

 553 characters

Photo of scottg
4.12/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from growler into a Magic Hat tulip glass.

This barleywine is aged in Wild Turkey barrels.

Pours a cloudy reddish brown with a one finger off white head of large bubbles that settles to a thin lace. Aromas of cherry, chocolate, raisins, and strong alcohol. Flavors of cherry, chocolate, oak, raisins, figs with alcohol warmth throughout. As it warms up, the sweet malt comes to the front. Medium carbonation, full body, the alcohol bite is noticeable. Solid drinkability for the alcohol level, which according to the people at the brewery is up around 14%. This is definitely a sipper, perfect in front of the fire.

 624 characters

Photo of beckje01
4.1/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Batch 3 #435, bottled on 11 | 1 | 04 opened 10 | 25 | 08 bottle says aged for 36 months in bourbon casks so that would make this the oldest beer I've had to date.

A- Cloudy brown, no head and no activity.

S- Nice bourbon very sweet smelling but inviting.

T- Nice bourbon note, good sweet malt working well with the bourbon and to round every thing out a nice hop flavor in the background. Very tasty not sure what to improve on for taste at all.

M- Great thickness and no activity.

D- A good sipper, very nice. I'm extremely happy with this beer, and hope I can come across it again.

 588 characters

Photo of BeerTruth
3.98/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I talked to Matt, the head brewer at Magic Hat, and he informed me this was brewed back in 2000 and aged in Wild Turkey barrels. Sampled on 11/3 during Syracuse Beer Week at the Blue Tusk and served in a tulip glass.

Pours a deep murky brown with a one finger light tan head that dies down to a thin layer of foam. Spotty webbing left behind on the sides of the glass that remains throughout. Swell is quite strong with wet oak, bourbon, and rich caramel malt. Deep dark fruits such as fig, dates, and plum tickle the nose. A hefty molasses aroma fills the nostrils as well. Taste begins with strong bourbon and a powerful merlot presence. Thick caramel malts midway with a monstrous oak flavor as well. A boozy fig newton bar type flavor in the aftertaste with a slight earthy bite towards the end. Thick full body with a velvety smooth feel. Carbonation is subtle but fits the style and flavor profile very well. The overall mouthfeel of this beer is by far the best characteristic this beer has to offer. The bourbon can be a tad much at times, but is under control for the most part. This is a big beer for sure with lots of complex malty flavors. Now if they'd bring back Heart of Darkness, I'd be a very happy man ;)

 1,223 characters

Photo of barleywinebrewer
4.38/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

always wanted to try this beer as it's practically from my back yard. I had some at the extreme beerfest in 07 but I did not review any beers I had at that awesome event. So, almost a year later, VTs laws have changed and I get the chance to try this via a mini growler.

a - nice reddish brown color with an offwhite head.
S - booze, bourbon and vanilla
T - vanilla, oak, bourbon, caramel, abv warmth.
M - full bodied, smooth, slightly sweet, with a warming effect and a nice residual bourbon note.
D - a sipper to be sure, smooth and mellow.

I remember it being all bourbon at the EBF. I got a growler as I really wanted to see how it faired in a neutral setting. The locals are lucky! This is a tasty brew and one I'd would've gladly bought a few of if bottled.

 765 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Chaotic Chemistry from Magic Hat Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 73 ratings.