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Old Saguaro Barley Wine | Sonoran Brewing Company

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Old Saguaro Barley WineOld Saguaro Barley Wine
37 Ratings
Old Saguaro Barley WineOld Saguaro Barley Wine

Brewed by:
Sonoran Brewing Company
Arizona, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.20%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Bierman9 on 09-22-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 37 |  Reviews: 37
Photo of Gusler
4.42/5  rDev +21.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 1998 - First Batch/Bottling”
What a treat to get an “Original” first batch/bottling of this quite astounding “Barley Wine, a favorite “Beer Style”, and I have at least one bottle of all the years brewed, and it does age nicely.

The Pour is a dark rusty brown color, the head is modest, frothy, but disbands quite quickly leaving a very fine sheet of lace. Lots of suspended goodies floating between the top and bottom, the aroma of fusel alcohol quite conspicuous, brandy like, candy apple sweet, and a touch of malt and yeast underlying it all, “WOW” what a treat for the senses. Ambrosial start, thick malt top, and the finish is spectacular in its hop spicy bite, the carbonation indifferent with the aftertaste dry, long lasting and most certainly alcohol bitter. What a warmer, quite decent barley wine to start with, now I must go out and find some to lay down for a few years

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Photo of xymyl
4.27/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just opened this 2003 1 litre Ltd. Edition bottle with some friends.

Color: Copper/brown hazy off white head that settles to a ring pretty quickly. Good carbonation.

Aroma: Hops are very muted gigantic malt, caramel, raisins, sweet and sour, spicy, a little hint of bourbon.

Taste: Surprisingly balanced for how malt forward the nose is. Everything shows up but the hoppy bitterness combined with the sourness tame the malt.

Other notes: Full bodied. Great, I don't believe that the recipe was any different for this bbottle vs. others I've had, but this has really matured well. I liked it much better than the fresh ones I had back then. And everybody who tried it loved it. But now I don't have anymore. I don't remember much if any sourness in this in the past, but I haven't tried it since 2003.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.2/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Old Saguaro '99 - roughly 3 years old at this point. Carefully poured it delivers a fairly clear, orange-ish/honey colored body topped by a thin and foamy white head. The retention is poor and the head drops readily, but it does leave some tiny specks of spotty lace. The nose delivers a good burst of sweet caramel, some vanilla, a mild fruitiness, and alcohol. The body is firm with a gently creamy carbonation, and it's smooth across the palate. The flavor is rich, malty, and caramel-tinged with some light vanilla, mild fruit (cherries) and a clear presence of alcohol that's highly noteable but not overly intrusive - although it does linger in the aftertaste with some malt and bitterness. Overall, it's a nice barleywine that seems to age fairly well. I wouldn't buy it for the purpose of putting it away... but whatever's left at the end of the season will probably be just as good or better come next year. Enjoyable.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
4.18/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

1999 Compliments of brewandbbq

Pours a cloudy orange hued brown with no head. Nose is a mild caramel, apples, and brandy tones. Flavor is very smooth with levels of caramel, dark fruits, wood, brown sugar. This is extremely smooth after all these years. Slick and quite smooth feel on the liquid. Low carbonation. Quite good.

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Photo of murrayswine
4.18/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Retired MY ASS!
Scott Yarosh, the Sonoran Brewmaster gave me a bottle of this, corked like fine wine.
It pours a beautiful ruby red/amber with a true barley wine head, as in, it has none. the smell is huge ripped hops backed by oak and more oak. then comes the sweet malts, it's heavy like molassis.
On the taste, it's very big, but, a lot like Kentucky breakfast, astonishingly smooth. Lots of hops, but more like british hops. I know he uses the same style malt for everything he makes, but it sure as hell doesnt taste that way. This stuff is the devil, like a great port wine! This beer is far from dead, and based on previous reviews, a hell of a lot better!
Call the brewer and get yourself some.

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Photo of mattcrill
4.17/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Beerski for the chance to sample this fine brew.

Appearance: Pours a crystal clear auburn with an off-white, chunky head.

Smell: Smell is alcohol first with a nice malty backbone. Picked up hints of dried cherries along the way.

Taste: A nice malt sweetness shines through, dried fruits (apricots or peaches maybe), and then a nice dry alcohol finish. Really complex tasting. Not sure my palate is developed enough to pick up all the nuances of this beer.

Mouthfeel: Big and bad! Chewy with lost of character.

Drinkability and overall: This is my kind of beer! Stout-like in it's character. Drinkability suffers a little just because I can't imagine making this a session. But this is a fine after dinner treat. All characteristics of a good beer are there yet no one quality dominates. Nicely balanced.

Thanks again to Beerski for this great barley wine!

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Photo of tavernjef
4.12/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Color is a solid cloud of cherrywood with a waffer thin head of yellow fizzy foam and leaves very thin strings and spots of lace.

Heavenly strong aroma of toffee, plums, raisins, and spicey candy like peppermint sticks and honey sugared nuts and a load of warming alcohol. Whoa, what a sniffer!

Taste is toffeeish sweet caramel candy, roasty soft malts and quite a bit of them, a little bit chewy and bread dough, light turn towards a small grab of citrusy sweet bittering hop thinness. Lacks a bit of complexity and balance. The finish ends with a bit of a textured warmth from alcohol and slight bitterness.

Solid medium body, smooth start, lightly creamy leading into a textured swallow and finishing with a warming slight bitterness and light crisp dryness mellowing.

This barleywine has its qualities, mostly good, but isn't quite hefty enough and favors a more mellow malty version. Still a pretty good offering, a great late night sipper. This probably ages pretty well. Of course you've got to keep it out of that Arizona heat.

Thanks to Gusler for the bottle.

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Photo of GreenCard
4/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Aroma: strong pineapple ester with slight malt backbone, a little floral hop aroma but not much, prevailing tropical fruitiness, but very enticing.

Appearance: copper with decent clarity, slight haze perhaps from chilling, tan head rises and depletes quickly but that's to be expected from the 10% abv

Flavor: malty sweetness is highly dominated by the tropical fruit esters which also come through heavily in the flavor, pretty mellow hop flavor but a good hop bitterness finish, a nice flavor progression, well-balanced despite the esters, pleasant lingering malt after-taste

Mouthfeel: warming but not overly so, full bodied, nice creamy texture, fine-beaded carbonation that lasts to the end

Overall Impression: though I'm generally not a big barleywine fan or hop-head, I really like this one. Not too aggressive and pretty easy to drink, sneaks up on you though.

*I believe this was from the 2002 stock, though I'm not sure. Bought it at the Sonoran Brew-out on Feb. 8th, 2003.

Update [7.9.2009]: I am drinking a bottle of this same stock (2002) that I have aged since then. How does it measure up with 6 years on it? Brilliantly! There are still a lot of tropical fruitiness, but the hop bitterness has receded quite a bit, allowing the malt to come to the fore. Also hints of brown sugar and port wine. Very tasty!

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Photo of beerguy101
4/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Light red color, small nearly no head. Very malty nearly syrupy, caramelized malt flavor. Sweet yet hopped to balance sweetness. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is very smooth. Aftertaste is sweet yet subdued. Very complex flavor is this beer. Nice barley wine. Need to hide some away for a year or so.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bright, beautiful , crimson color, firm, solid, cream-colored head.
Aroma: sweet, fruity, hoppy, vibrant, airy, delicious, bright,...nice...
Taste: sweet, bright, tasty, a magnificent meeting of malt and hops, happy and fruity, not a world-class barleywine, but a decent addition to the set. Just what I need in the throes of a Minnesota winter, very enjoyable, though the ABV is deceptive, doesn't stick out in the palate, then slowly kicks in!
Muchos gracias to gusler for this bottle! Only the second Sonora brew I've had, and both were beauts!

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Photo of Mustard
3.95/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 12oz. brown bottle; "brewed in year" warning -- in this case 2003 -- notched on the label's left edge; $4.99/4 from Trader Joe's.

Appearance: Pours a fairy clear, amberish copper; not much in the way of a head, even with a rough pour.

Aroma: Thickly of caramel, toffee and tropical fruits; faint floral traces; somewhat phenolic.

Taste: Primary notes are of toffee, figs, cherries and tropical fruits; sweet, as per the style, but not abusively so; a light to moderate hop bitterness pokes its head out in the finish; slightly soapy hop character; phenolic, but not heavily so; medium to heavy in body; smooth mouthfeel.

Notes: Can't honestly say I've had enough barley wines to describe this as good, bad or simply par for the style; eminently drinkable vis-a-vis several other bw's I've had; for $1.25 a bottle, I personally consider this a very good deal.

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Photo of Padron4KM
3.93/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1 ltr swingtop bottle. 2001 release, bottle #86 of 180.

pours a beautiful reddish amber, with a short lived copper colored head. head does come back with agitation.

Aroma is prune,cooked banana, a touch of caramel and alcohol vapor.

Flavor is of cooked dark fruits, caramel, and a little syrupy sweetness. mild alcohol warming.

Finish is long with some dry yeasty notes. Tasty.

Too bad Sonora is going away, this and Inebriator IMHO are two of the better AZ beers.

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Photo of Bierman9
3.91/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This barley has a luscious mahogany-ruby color!! Gorgeous!! It is mostly clear, and has a slightly tan, fine, creamy head. Lacing is fairly nice, as well! Nose has the requisite malty notes combined with some hops, yet there is also a slightly fruity aspect to it as well. I find it detracts a bit from the aroma, as it was somewhat unexpected. Body just barely makes the grade in the medium category, and it does pass fairly smoothly on the tongue. The flavor has a sharp, yet quick, initial hit of malt which disappears as soon as it hits you. After that, there is an abundance of hops, with a good share of piney, citrusy notes, yet there is also a fruity, tart characteristic. A fairly good, middle of the pack barley. Not in the Bigfoot realm, yet nicely quaffable! Mucho thnx to Gusler for the bier! Danke, Herr G! Skol!!!!

overall: 4
appearance: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | mouthfeel: 4 | drinkability: 4


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Photo of TheLongBeachBum
3.85/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2002 "Limited Release", labelled @ 9.2% ABV.
I had only tried the IPA from this Brewery and was not impressed at all. A 4-Pack of this Barley Wine in Trader Joes attracted me though for some reason, I picked it up and put it back on the shelf a few times, as the memory of the IPA was still prevalent. In the end I went with it.
The bottle has “limited release” stated on it, and the label also indicates that this was bottled in '02.
Pours a deep brown, ruddy red color. Looks like a piece of dusty unpolished dark cherrywood furniture. It is not clear, there are no “floaties”, but it does have a mild haze.
Head is quite restrained at first, a light tan color that settles to ½” depth and it laces well, but eventually settles to a quite thin vicars collar.
Aromas are very fruity and quite strong. The dark fruit nose has a strong alcoholic smell that has a pervasive sweetness linked to it. Not offensive, but not too appealing, at first it did smell like a “young” sweet Barleywine. As the beer warmed, this did not seem as harsh.
Tastes are of malt drenched in a sweet alcoholic stew, other ingredients include a syrup-toffee caramel middle that helps the high strength beer linger without offending. The caramel sweetness stays around in the finish, longer than that annoying uninvited neighbour who always drops by. It does help though. Has some dryness in the finish but not much bitterness.
A quick tilt and flick of the glass reveals a very high inherent carbonation and a freshness that contributes to the vivacity of this offering. This I believe also aids the softness of the fluids embarkation onto your palate and protects you somewhat from the harsh alcoholic strength of this beer, which is quite considerable at the stated 9.2% ABV. The 6 months pre-aging of the beer before bottling probably also helps this as well.
Overall I grew to like this beer in time, but it is only just working I think. It is a little too sweet and I would prefer a little more hop-bitterness bite in the finish. Will this come with time I wonder? I will pick up another couple of 4-Pack’s and keep them – because I believe that it may well improve over time. Maybe not the 5 years that the label states, probably more like a peak at 2 or 3 – but who knows?
Worth a try! If you can get older bottlings from 99, 00 or 01, I would pick them up.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
3.85/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer had a bit of age on it, so I don't know what it was like originally and especially what the hop level might have been, but overall this has held up very nicely as it should for the abv and style. This had a particularly nice, pancake head for the age. Definitely smells malty, sweet and honeyed. Pleasant. The taste was very sweet with a very slight grainy sourness in the background that overall made it seem just a tad vinous. No oxidation, though. Smooth and winey, the real limitation on drinking this is the sweetness rather than any heat from the alcohol. Not bad at all.

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Photo of Jarod
3.85/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer stated that is was a limited release and bottled in 2002.
Served cold and allowed to warm.

This beer poured into the glass a dark gold/red/brown color that was slightly cloudy. This beer, when poured semi-vigorously, produced a thick, foamy, creamy tan/beige head. It lasted for a few moments then shrunk into a thin rim. When in its foamy head state, there was lace produced, not great, but more sparse then full, also semi-decent carbonation was noticed. The aromas that came from the glass were sweet in nature. I nosed malts, fruits, caramel, yeast and some slight wood. The taste was slightly bitter when it was first poured (cold), flavors of hops, flowers, fruit, malt, caramel, yeast, and alcohol. I also noticed that it was slightly plastic/astringent in nature. I let it warm and noticed that the aforementioned totally disappeared. It became sweeter in nature and much, much better. The flavors seemed much more solid, more pronounced and very good. The label states that it is better warm, and I totally agree. The finish when cold was dry in nature. The finish was creamy and sweet malty in nature when warmer. This beer is far, far better when served at a warmer temperature. My suggestion to anyone who gets this beer is to follow the label, and remember one phrase – warmer is better.
My review points reflect the differences in temperature and how I tried to rate it. Taking it into consideration

Thanks Gusler for the experience.

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Photo of beerluvr
3.83/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2002 Version.

Pours out with a micro-bubbled creamy ivory colored head that falls calm upon a finely carbonated wee hazy amber-reddish brew. Very nice lacing in the glass as the head subsides. I swera I can smell some apple pie/cinnamon spices as I take a whiff of the nose, followed by a light maltiness. First rate mouthfeel...smooth and rolling with complex flavors of malt, fruitiness and a refreshingly restrained yet fully palpable hoppiness, Barleywines are often hop monsters so this is a nice change! A warming alcohol sensation follows to bring things to a close, then it dries slightly, becoming a tad more bitter than sweet. A very commendable effort from Sonora Brewing!

Thanks to Gusler for the bottle!

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Photo of Jables
3.83/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks go out to Gusler for this regional delicacy.

Pours a hazy orange, brown, red composite.

Aroma is sweet caramel malt with estery hops and alcohol.

Taste is exactly what I'd expect based on the aroma but with strong fruity notes. Buttery toffee with fruit candy all over it about sums it up.

The mouthfeel is actually thinner than expected as I thought this would be mighty heavy but it's not thin by any means either.

Overall, a superwarming brew yet the alcohol isn't obvious. That helps the drinkability.

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Photo of francisweizen
3.8/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2003 Edition: This is a dark reddish brew with a small white head of foam that does not last too long. The aromas are of booze, deep sweet malts, and some nice floral hops. The taste is a lovely blend of alcohol, hops, and sweet, sugary malts. The taste of booze is a bit heavy in this BW, and I think that this would be a much better brew in a year or two. The mouthfeel is a bit thick, but not cloying and the drinkability is above average. A mellow BW, but with a bit of an alcoholic flare to it. Nice.

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Photo of erica
3.78/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

We got a 4-pack of this in Palmdale, CA while on vacation; I wanted it because I like barleywines and the label is a cactus. Looked interesting...

So... it poured a very pretty dark reddish colour and smelled strong of alcohol and sweetish. It was nice. It tasted good, there were hops in there definitely, and it was sugary, which was all very tasty. However, there was an overpowering taste of alcohol throughout, which really got to me by the end. I mean, yes, it is 10%, but the alcohol taste was too much in the foreground for me, not quite balanced as well as I would've liked. Mouthfeel was good for a barleywine, but drinkability suffers a bit because of that big alcohol bitter taste.

Overall it was not a bad beer but it also wasn't one of my favourite barleywines. It's a good one with room for improvement. Would I drink it again? Sure. Am I sad that I can't get it where I live (at least i dont think i can)? Not really.

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Photo of Boilermaker88
3.75/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2003 edition, poured from a stubby 12oz bottle. Had a reddish sandstone color and a compact off-white head that wasted no time shrinking down to a skim. The smell had a hefty fruit aroma and some caramel malt backed with a dose of aromatic hops and alcohol. That big ABV doesn't hide very well so you know what you're getting into before your first sip.
The taste had strong and equal elements of caramel malt, alcohol soaked apple and plum flavors, and hops bitterness. The sweetness of this barleywine got right up to the point of being cloying, as it slathered the palate in syrupy sweetness.The fruity, malty, toffee flavor is all alcohol laden. The bitter finish managed to restrain that sweetness to a tolerable level. The feel was full, rich, and chewy.
This was a pretty good barleywine that had been cellared for about six months. I'd be interested in picking up a couple more to stash for a year or two to see how they'd turn out.

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Photo of weeare138
3.75/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Vintage '04 bottle...
Appears an amber haze with a small white head that doesn't die out. Scattered streaks of lacing left around the glass.
Smell is of mild oxidation with caramel, raisins, raspberry, and cherry.
Taste is of the aromas with some vanilla and oak in there.
Mouthfeel is sugary, mellow, and actually quite drinkable.

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Photo of rkhaze
3.68/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2003 Limited release. $4.99 a 4/pak at Trader Joe's.
Poured a slightly hazy, bright reddish brown. Looked great!
The aroma was sweet. Toffee, caramel and malt. The taste pretty much followed the aroma with the addition of some fruitiness and yeast. Almost too sweet. There was a slightly tart sharpness in the aftertaste that I didn't care for. A little out of balance.
The body was medium for the style but the sweetness didn't help the drinkability. Certainly worth a try.
I think this barleywine is just a little young and should improve with age. The potential to mellow and get more complex is there. For the price it's worth laying some down and seeing what develops.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.6/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2003 Vintage, Sampled 12.06.03
A slightly hazy amber color, topped by a tan head. There is a fruity candy type aroma with cherry notes here. The candy notes are in the taste of this beer as well. There is some almost imperceptible phenolic notes, but they are just barely there. The alcohol is quite evident in the finish. It finishes with a bit of bitterness that balances the malty sweetness. There is some hop flavor in here as well. This beer is quite full bodied (just about perfect), but not tot syrupy like some. Quite fruity with notes of cherry, which is an interesting note in a Barley wine.

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Photo of mickeymac
3.56/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

OK, this is the '03 release and I probably have no business drinking it yet. Poured from a 12 oz bottle taken from a 4-back it pours a nice amber with a fairly thick head that leaves a fair amount of lace until the beer is about half gone. The head seems to more or less disappear at that point. The smell is most certainly on the sweet side, with little hop bitterness, and an interesting smell that could most closely be associated with dirty laundry. The taste is fruity sweetness, with notes of toffee, and other candy-like flavors. The mouthfeel is fairly creamy, and the prodigious abv is well-hidden. I'd like to put some of this away for a year or two and reassess it then. It's worth trying now, but it may have some room for improvement.

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Old Saguaro Barley Wine from Sonoran Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.63 out of 5 with 37 ratings
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