Hellbender Barleywine
Pisgah Brewing Co.

Hellbender BarleywineHellbender Barleywine
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British Barleywine
Ranked #93
Ranked #8,223
4.01 | pDev: 7.48%
Pisgah Brewing Co.
North Carolina, United States
Very Good
Hellbender BarleywineHellbender Barleywine
Reviews: 62 | Ratings: 107 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of darktronica
4.36/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Winter 2016 bottling, pours a murky brown with little head or lacing. Sweet but fruity on the aroma, with black plums, brown sugar, candied orange, green tobacco, and floral hops. The flavors introduce a bit of assam tea, more prominent brown sugar, and vanilla. Velvety texture that makes this disappear dangerously quickly.

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Photo of Smakawhat
3.97/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a large snifter glass.

Dark burnt chestnut brown, slightly red for the body color as well. Milky out of the bottle from the pour, hitting with minimal head creation. Faint tan, small collar, and a little pit of a sheen and tanned top.

Solid aroma. Muted and small brown sugar and sense of dates. Slightly fig fruit flavored with far less sweetness than say raisins. Solid dark fruit angle on the nose.

Palate doesn't bring too many new surprises to the table. Light brown sugars, and slight molasses in flavor on the first sip. Definitely more molasses in the mid palate with a nice sticky coating. Finishes slightly warm, but also with little flavor left to ponder, leaving all the exploring in the front and middle of the palate. Hints a little bit at creamy mouthfeel but washes quickly down the throat.

A decent barleywine.

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Photo of stakem
3.78/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bomber poured into a teku. The brew appears a clear mahogany color with really no head formation, just a couple large bubbles hang on the surface. A swirl produces of legs of alcohol clinging to the glass.

The aroma is malty sweet with caramel/molasses before getting fruity in nature from a combination of hops and alcohol. A bit of herbal and earthy feel towards the back of the nose.

The taste is sweet with a grainy aspect like biscuit malt. Contrasting that sweetness is an earthy herbal hop inclusion. It is fruity almost like apple and raison mixing with a mild oxidation aspect towards the finish.

This is a medium bodied brew with a low level of carbonation. It has a creeping alcohol warmth and overall is well made. Not the best nor worst barleywine ive had. Worth trying if you get the chance.

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Photo of GeezLynn
4.24/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2009 bottle (22oz) purchased from City Beverage (Raleigh) .

A: Body is light brown and shows a pretty strawberry hue under the light. Produces a scant white head with decent retention.
S: Caramel, brown sugar, toffee. Also a bit buttery and likely to be very sweet – not expecting much in the way of hops or alcohol at this age.
T: Has become quite fruity at this point – dates, marmalade, lots of brown sugar and a bit of stale bread. Surprisingly, still enough bitterness to cut the sweetness. Finishes with raisin bread, vanilla, pine needle bitterness and has hung onto a slight ethanol bite.
M: Medium body – a bit tannic and dry, and surprisingly, a decent amount of carbonation.

Figured it was getting risky to ignore this any longer, but if you enjoy smooth/sweet aged barleywines, this could have gone longer. Didn’t notice much in the way of oxidation and the carbonation was still adequate. Nice beer.

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Photo of mntlover
3.83/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Been holding on to this on advice from the store. Been a year or so and can't wait any longer. So into my snifter it goes.

Pours a deep dark reddish walnut color, almost the shade of my bedroom suite. Decent thumb sized tan head falls fairly fast to ringed scum with some lace here and there.

Aroma is nice sweet brown sugar coated plums, light currants rich sweet sugary caramel malts with toffee hints. Some nice hops to balance out the sweetness mostly herbal/earthy like for me.

Taste is pretty much like the nose sweet malts, not as sweet as the nose brown sugars seem on the low side. Some good dark fruit notes earthy hints toffee notes and some spicy alcohol notes that linger into the finish. Good earthy finish enough hops left to make it not cloying. But to tell the truth for an English Barleywine I could use some more free sugars floating around in this one to make it a little better.

Mouthfeel is nice smooth but adequate amount of carbonation. Body is almost full just seems a touch light for a monster of a brew like this.

Overall not bad just seems to lack a touch of oomph for a big ass malty barleywine.

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Photo of SLeffler27
3.98/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Fills an Offero glass with a crystal clear, reddish copper (SRM 17-19). A thin, creamy ochre head immediately dissipates while thin legs rise beneath a ring of fine lacing.

Strong caramel counters faint alcohol amidst toasted malt and light candy sugar.

Hellbender is more bitter than expected from an English Barleywine. Black tea is sweet against a background of faint, toasted malt. Caramelized sugar, white bread and raisins fill out the middle before a long mild finish.

This one has a full body and velvety texture with prickly carbonation. Light alcohol warmth is less than expected in this very dry beer.

Good for sipping on a cold winter day, this one warms well while reading. This was my first taste from Pisgah after years of curiosity. I look forward to exploring more beer from this brewery.

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Photo of thehooksman
3.84/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Beautifully red and clear, no head to speak of though.

Aroma: For me, this was the best part. Lots of aromas of dark fruit and molasses.

Flavor: Begins with lots of sweet malt up front (very sweet), but a surprising bitter hop presence quickly follows that is not at all detected in the nose. Upon reading this seems to be expected of an English Barleywine. Also contributing to the finishing bitterness is the alcohol content.

Mouthfeel: Full body, but not too thick. Smooth. Some alcohol heat.

I've had barleywines in the past and decided they weren't really my thing. I chose this one to give the style another go and it's definitely a winner. Good for sipping and savoring.

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Photo of dirtylou
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

on-tap at the brewery

I've had this before, but not yet reviewed. This is kind of the prototypical english barleywine - not too flashy - its moderately hoppy with notes of sticky pine resin. Supported by a big caramel malt profile, hellbender remains in balance and hits the style pretty square. It's just not overly exciting in the world of extreme and barrel aged barleywines - this seems like a dying style to me.

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Photo of SportsandJorts
3.9/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Appearance: a deep reddish brown. Decent clarity. A finger of a stubborn tannish head.

Smell: super resiny hops. Herbal and earthy notes. Malty sweetness is there but hidden under the hops strength

Taste: again a huge hop resin is there and powerful. And the sweet caramels and some toasty flavors break through a little more.

Mouthfeel: lots of lingering bitterness and a nice heavy brew

Overall: a huge hop bomb now. Great malt character that just wants to be age out to the front.

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Photo of BlackBelt5112203
4.28/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle poured into a pint glass at fridge-cellar temperature.

L – Deep amber color with a 2-finger creamy, dense, cream-colored head. Really nice retention and great lacing. Clear with a decent amount of bubbles.

S – Loaded with lots of rich malty aromas including caramel, toffee, molasses, and brown sugar. There may be some hints of dark fruits like figs along with a touch of citrus hops.

T – Once again, loaded with malts. It starts off sweet with caramel, toffee, and molasses and eventually picks up a spicy, vinous dark fruit character. Toward the finish, some bitter citrus hops come in and continue to build until the very finish. Very tasty.

F – Full-bodied, decent carbonation, a very chewy and creamy mouthfeel, and a mildly bitter, spicy, and dry finish. There’s some throat-warmth from the alcohol but not as much as I was expecting. This mouthfeel is fantastic.

O – This is a good English barleywine. It is loaded with sweet and rich malts and has enough hop character to add complexity. The mouthfeel is out of this world. If there was ever a beer that could be described as “chewy,” this is it. It is a thick, thick beer. This is definitely worth seeking out if you’re a fan of big beers.

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Photo of chinchill
4.01/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12 oz serving at the brewery. This is a fine barleywine that feels and tastes like it has a bit of aging. Not much head to cover the clear copper body. High ABV fairly well hidden.

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Photo of thagr81us
4.27/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had during an afternoon ticking session at Pisgah! Served from tap into a shaker pint. Poured red-orange with a one finger bone white head that subsided to a minimal amount slowly. Maintained excellent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, citrus, and citrus hop. The flavor was of sweet malt, caramel, citrus, and citrus hop. It had a medium feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a pretty good Barleywine. Very nice aroma and flavor going on here. The citrus aspect I got in this one really made the beer for me. Even at 9.8% there was no sign of the alcohol in this one at for me. This one is definitely worth trying without a doubt!

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Photo of corby112
4.38/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bomber, 2009 vintage(?)

Pours a dark ruby/copper color with golden amber edges when held to a light and a one finger frothy yellowish beige head that quickly fades into a thick lasting ring. Sporadic spots of lacing left behind.

I was expecting the aroma to be very leathery/boozy but it's surprisingly sweet with dark malt notes and zesty spice. There is a touch of earthy/leathery malt and alcohol sweetness but the nose is dominated by hints of caramel, toffee and rye as well as some cinnamon, brown sugar and dark fruit. Hints of fig, raisin and plum.

Fuller bodied than expected with a beautiful balance of sweet and earthy/leathery malt as well as some autumnal spice, dark fruit, booze and faint hops. Lots of luscious sweet malt flavor with a lot caramel, toffee, chocolate, rye and hazelnut. This is countered by some zesty spice with notes of pepper, brown sugar and cinnamon. I'm also picking up some sweet dark fruit, notably raisin, plum and fig. There is some faint hop bitterness balancing things out as well as some subtle alcohol sweetness but there is little to no heat. The ABV is excellently masked with only subtle warmth in the finish, making this beer dangerously drinkable.

Overall, this beer has developed very nicely. The alcohol heat has mellowed very gracefully, allowing the sweet malt and dark fruit notes to shine. Incredibly complex, well balanced and extremely quaffable. I had to slow myself down from drinking down the whole bomber to fast. Another excellent beer from Pisgah that I highly recommend.

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

Thanks to ncvbc for this bottle. Opened in the wee hours of the morning at Tröegs during the Splinter Black release. This cork was a bear to get out.

A: The barleywine is a copper color, brown and orange in tandem, that is opaque. The only thing visible in the glass is the swirl of yeast particles. A small head sat atop the ale, a white color. The cork removal issues caused a slight ding here.

S: The nose has all the key ingredients of a rich barleywine, toffee and caramel and rich breads. Hops, surprisingly, aren't a factor (at the time I didn't think that it was English).

T: The spicy warmth is a nice touch on this cold day. By spices, I primarily mean brown sugar and caramel. This is by no means a quad or spiced ale. Rich caramel and toffee, aided by several years in the cellar, are chewy and sweet. Hoppiness is minor, an afterthought amongst the malts. A decent barleywine, maybe with a little too much time under its belt.

M: The mouthfeel is malt sweet, plenty of rich syrups that sit heavily on the palate.

D: A tad heavy, all the better for sharing in a sub-freezing temperature. A visually appealing bottle.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.57/5  rDev -11%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to a generous BA for sharing some of this at the Splinter Black release. Served in my Savor snifter.

Pour brings forth a somewhat-light copper-colored brew with a thin white cap and not too much lacing. A few bubbles around the edges. The nose is fairly complex, though all the notes are pretty related. I got a strong dose of caramel along with toffee, light brown sugar, and perhaps a bit of molasses. Some light tropical fruits in the background, but mostly just the caramel.

The taste brings forth more of the same, though the brown sugar becomes a bit more apparent. Caramel fits in strong behind it with a bit of fruit coming through in the finish. The body is medium with good enough carbonation. The problem here is that it gets to be a bit too cloying. Overall, glad I got to try this but won't be seeking it out again.

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Photo of atsprings
3.88/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle into a Hopus glass pours a crisp dark brown with a nice frothy khaki head that lasts as a thin layer and leaves nice lacing on the glass. Aroma is burnt caramel and mild cocoa. The taste is a nice blend of dried fruits, burnt caramel, molasses and pine hops. I'll say this much for sure, this is a heavy beer. Syrupy alcohol is very prevalent on the tongue, this one is going to take me a while. I chose this one tonight because it is a VERY cold North Carolina night, but turns out it's more than I bargained for, I'll want to age this one more than 6 months next time.

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

Hellbender Barleywine, on tap at Pisgah's tasting room during my last visit to the area. Served in a full pint glass (mm!).

Appearance: Arrives a transparent copper amber, nicely colored, and capped by half a finger of sticky white head (surprisingly white, actually, given the style, expected high hopping, etc.), replenished by slow, sparse, and large effervescence and that showcases admirable retention. As it fades, the head leaves a great amount of side lacing and surface dust.

Aroma: Sweet sticky caramel is the predominant note here, though on the whole the aroma here is fairly mild, showcasing roasted, bready malt notes along with some green, dried fruits, one part fruit malt notes and one part sticky, juicy citrusy hop overtones.

Taste: A miraculously pungent and strongly flavored beer. Tons of crystalline, glassy caramel, sweet toffee, and light brown sugar, melding with a slew of hops to suggest candied white grapefruit, dried pineapple, caramel orange, and fantastic amounts of minty tobacco melded with herbal, spicy notes. The bitterness is moderate to high, but compliments all of the aforementioned nicely.

Mouthfeel: Sticky, viscous, chewy, and oily, there is one big mouth on this brew. Plentiful carbonation makes for a bigger, bolder mouth still.

Drinkability: A fantastic barleywine, flavorful, biting, and intense. Another huge winner from Pisgah. At 9.8%, this one isn't too terribly high for a barleywine, though, of course, relative to other styles it certainly is. A cautious sipper that begs to be sipped further, Hellbender proves again that Pisgah knows big beers. If you see bombers of this, do yourself a favor and pick 'em up - I'd love to see how this one ages.

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Photo of Metalmonk
4.32/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dirty-white head, not huge but lasts a good while. Color of the liquid is reddish copper, hazy and almost opaque, although a shadowy hand can be seen through it when held to light.

Huge candy-like syrupy malts dominate the aroma. A little black tea, a lot of toffee and caramel, dabs of vanilla and sherry. Wowza.

Flavor brings all of that in, minus the black tea and adding brown sugar (and wouldn't you know: this is actually brewed with brown sugar). Citrus fruits come in, although they're polite and well-integrated. Toffee and caramel are big here, and the vanilla twists around something that reminds of sweet cherries, sour cherries and strawberry Twizzlers (hmm). Something like cinnamon-flavored ice cream comes in, emphasis on the "cream," and that leads me to thinking "deep fried ice cream." Would be an amazing thing to pair Hellbender with, anyway. Candy-like presence remains on the tongue, but never gets too sweet. Likewise, alcohol remains tempered and merely one component of the flavor (the label states both 9.8% and 10.2% as the ABV...either way, it's big). Seems this is one of few barleywines that is not only complex, but subtle...doesn't hammer you over the head with its bigness. Just catches up with you, if you're not careful.

Smooth feel, although a tinglier ride than expected thanks to ample carbonation. It's not bothersome or even unlikable, and it keeps the round, sticky, syrupy body in check.

Interesting, very drinkable, a little different from the norm. And this beer is a total win-win...Pisgah donates a portion of sales to Wild South, a non-profit that works to save fragile/endangered ecosystems (win), and it tastes freaking fantastic (the other win).

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

Appearance: Pour is a mahogany-ruby brown with an enormous off-white head.

Smell: sweet Brown sugar-caramel with some sweet brown bread and malts

Taste: Brown bread and malts, brown sugar, caramel, faint toffee, lemon and orange peel; seems as if the tastes could be a bit more bold

Mouthfeel: medium bodied, carbonation is a bit aggressive

Drinkability: Good, but average for the style

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Photo of McDiddyPop
4.48/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Shared generously by Bobby8405 at our Willard's Tap House throwdown.

This was honestly one of the beers I was least excited to try out of the more-than-stellar lineup that was laid out on the table that day. Alas, I was blown away by it. The dark horse of the day for sure.

It poured a cloudy brown color into my wine glass, with a dense tan head that left incredible sticky lacing down the sides of the glass. A nice thick collar of foam left its mark while I was drinking.

Aromas of brown sugar, dark malt and a nice spicy, earthy hop. Nice and well-rounded. Not overtly sweet like many barleywines. I knew this one was a winner for sure.

The caramel and brown sugar hit me at first, with some balance from roasty malt characteristics and the dry earthy hops. Also some toffee. Beautifully balanced flavor. Everything works together perfectly.

Nice mouthfeel. Drying effects from the hops enhance the drinkability. A nice boozy warmth in the throat as I enjoy every last drop. Perhaps my most favorite barleywine to daye.

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Photo of zeff80
3.97/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, caramel color with a small, white head of foam. There was some nice retention that left thin rings of lace.

S - It smelled of sweet caramel. It had some boozy notes, too.

T - It tasted very, very sweet. Lots of caramel and some toffee flavors. Very mild bitter hops.

M - It was soft and smooth. A medium bodied beer with a somewhat sticky mouthfeel.

D - This is a pretty good barleywine. A sweet one but I expect that in a English-style Barleywine.

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Photo of ktrillionaire
4.49/5  rDev +12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Big thanks to Bobby8405 for sharing this. Very surprised at how great it tastes, despite the less-than-stellar score.

A - Caramel-brown hue, wispy head.

S - Caramel, toffee, hop, and biscuit are all rip-roaring fantastic. This is what a Barleywine is supposed to be.

T - Damn. The awesomeness continues. Great taste, it takes the elements of the nose and adds a creamy vanilla element that is sublimely balancing like the proverbial icing on the cake.

M - Silky and luxurious. Perhaps could use some balancing vigor.

D - Glad I have another one of these tucked away.

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Photo of CosmoHopHead
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: pours a murky copper/brown with a slight red tint and a thin off white head that faded quickly. lacing is minimal

S: smells sweet, lots of brown sugar and some bitter hops. caramel malts and toffee also come through

T: again, sweet. burnt sugar malts with strong hints of brown sugar. some hops are noticeable but are secondary to the sweetness. very much a english style barleywine

M: pretty thick and a little syrupy. carbonation is mild and smooth

D: pretty smooth for the high abv. bottle says 10.3% abv. was a nice sipper for sure. alcohol was noticeable and warmed the throat on the way down but didn't overpower

Overall, I prefer american style barleywines but this was a very solid english style. A tad sweet but that was to be expected. Would recommend to barleywine fans

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Photo of John_M
4.18/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at the brewery the other day.

The beer pours a copper amber color with good head retention and considerable sticky lacing all around. The beer is very sweet and malty on the nose, with cherry, light brown sugar and underlying spice. Flavors generally replicate the nose, though I also got something of an aged ale, sherry component that was impressive. Yumm! On the palate, this beer was very long and smooth, with a viscuous, slightly creamy finish. The alcohol was a bit more noticeable then I like, and in combination with the sweetness, I thought that detracted just a bit from this beer's drinkability. However, I guessing that some additional bottle age might round out some of the rough edges. This is still a very impressive beer.

Picked up a few bottles of this at Bruisin Ales, so will see what a bit of bottle age does for this impressive young barleywine.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.56/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22 picked up back in March from Izecold88... Thanks Manny for a great trade!! Shared it with the Boise peeps a weekend or two ago.

Pours a clear deep orange.... good 1" foamy white head.. nice lacing..

smell is dominated by a pretty sweet smelling maltiness.... caramel essence... flowery hoppiness... could use more hops for sure.

Flavor has a good bitterness that is quickly enveloped by thick almost syrupy malts.. hops are more grassy than the nose, but a bit of pithy citrus shows with alot of warmth.

I would have preferred more hops... and more carbonation.. the body seems too thick given the carbonation.

Good.. better than okay... glad I got to this one before letting it age any longer. Thanks again Manny.. any time brother, let me know.


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Hellbender Barleywine from Pisgah Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 107 ratings