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Woolly Bugger | Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company

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Woolly BuggerWoolly Bugger

Brewed by:
Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company
British Columbia, Canada

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BDTyre on 01-03-2012

For Trade:
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Reviews: 37 | Ratings: 98
Photo of Derek
4.63/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at the brewpub. Awesome.

Deep amber with a very light tan head, ring of retention, great lace.

Caramelized raisins, figs, field berries and some alcohol in the nose.

Raisins, figs, blackberry, toffee & caramel with a solid bitterness and a hint of orange rind.

Slight residual sweetness with a slightly drying alcohol finish. A divine sipper.

Very well-crafted. Plenty of depth and not the least bit over-bearing. It doesn't seem boozy at all.

Probably the best English barley wine I've had. Very impressed.

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Photo of Impfan
4.43/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Very attractive (and refractive) deep amber brown color with off-white head that really lasts.

Nose of figs, persimmons, caramel, toffee, gingerbread, and allspice.

Taste is all of the above plus plum, raisin, baker's chocolate, and cedar shavings.

Very nicely integrated hops and alcohol create a very warming and pleasing orchestra of flavor that just hits the spot.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
4.27/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Poured a clear camber-copperish color with cr8imson like hghlights, nice dirty white cap tops it off, good amoutn of bubbles and lacing. Pretty good looking beer for a style that is typically lower in carbonation and head yield

S: Toffee, caramel, some dark fruits, nice sweetness, light booze breezes the nose, sordove Earthy

T: Taste is very similar to the nose. Some fruits, caramel, toffee, Earthy notes upfront with some manageable heat. Underlying is a nice breadiness with some cocoa, hazlenut and residual sugary sweetness

M: Full bodied, a nice syrpuy like slickness to this beauty which rolls over the tongue, clinging to the palate releasing sugary sweetness, and bookoo flavor

O: Solid! I wuld love to find some more of these.

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Photo of leaddog
4.24/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage, 10.5%

Appearance - Pours a dark chestnut brown with red highlights and two fingers of foamy cream-coloured head.

Smell - Sweet malt aroma, dark fruit (plum, raisin, date), brown sugar.

Taste - Sweet caramel-like malts and an array of dark fruits (as noted in the aroma). A hint of brown sugar ups the sweetness just a tad and nicely complements the light bitter hop flavour.

Mouthfeel - Medium-to-full body with light carbonation. Just a little bit of stickiness to make it extra pleasant on the palate.

Overfall - This has been on my want list for quite some time! I'm glad I finally have a chance to try it. Howe Sound delivers a harmoniously flavourful barleywine that does not disappoint.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.23/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

375ml bottle, with some particularly difficult to read script below the label title, which describes what the hell a 'Woolly Bugger' is, at least in fishing terms.

This beer pours a somewhat murky, dark red-brick amber hue, with a teeming tower of puffy, loosely foamy, and generally bubbly beige head, which leaves some decent cobwebbed lace around the glass as it slowly sinks away.

It smells of bready, and kind of biscuity caramel malt, a hard water minerality, muddled black fruit, a touch of crystalline brown sugar, and earthy, leafy, and perfumed hops. The taste is more bready caramel malt, this time with a touch of savoury, leafy spice that points me towards gingerbread or zucchini loaf, peppy dark fruit - in the vein of musty figs and dried cherries - edgy grassy and earthy hops, with a growing alcohol insurgency.

The carbonation is pretty low-key, just a heady frothiness throughout, the body medium-full in weight, and mostly smooth, just a mild alcohol tightness slowly evolving as things get on. It finishes on the sweet side, but in a tempered manner, the lingering caramel/toffee malt notes still facing enough musty, earthy hops, weak black fruit, and bristling alcohol to keep things just this side of sane.

Truly bang-on for the style, no truck or apology given for being veritably British, rather than the admittedly more sexy Yankee version - so, whatevs. Speaking of all things anglophile, I likes me my ESBs, and this seems very much like the imperialized, boozed up, doubled, however you choose to term it, example of such an imaginary beast. Glad I finally got to try it, without having to sacrifice suitcase/bar stool space on my imminent BC beer pilgrimage.

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Photo of DenisKolkin
4.23/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2013 Vintage. 375 ml bottle purchased from LCBO for $5.55CDN. Advertised as 10.5% ABV. Served chilled into a pint glass.

Appearance - Murky light cola brown color. Dense 2 finger head is poured with great retention. A few bubbles to the surface. Dense and heavy looking. Head is off white with yellowish hues.

Smell - Maple syrup and caramel with some floral hop presence. Maple syrup aroma gets stronger as beer warms. Very smooth and soothing aroma especially in the dead of winter. Also some light grain (barley ) smell.

Taste - Starts with maple syrup and caramel sweetness transitioning to a dry hop near rye like flavor. Some roasted grains in the full flavor. Slight booziness and heat on the back end.

Mouthfeel - Smooth and refreshing, and slightly syrupy in the way the the mouth is coated, but since it doesn't linger its doesn't have any unpleasant sticky component to it. Medium carbonation too.

Overall - Given that this is my first foray into barleywines it was an excellent and enjoyable beer with good balance, rich flavors, a nice variance in aromas and perfect for a Canadian winter. Given how much I enjoyed this one, i'm looking forward to other Howe Sound products to see if they make it to Ontario,

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Photo of ludachris
4.21/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 Bottle. I can't remember the last time I had a barleywine. Sheesh.

The body is a deep and toasty reddish brown hue. It has clarity but it's still hard to see through because of how deep its colour is. The fingers worth of cream coloured head has some great retention to it. Thin legs of lace spot the glass.

This starts very soft and rounded. There's a deep dark fruit center; gooey figs and plums. Golden raisins and fresh strawberry jam have almost an equal presence. Toffee and brown sugar are at its edges. I'm in love its sticky strawberry jam character. Its ABV only asserts itself by amplifying everything that's going on. What a treat.

The taste is a bit surprising with boozy dry chocolate and rye bread making the first impression. Gooey figs and raisins are an undercurrent. Burnt sugar, almost like marshmallow, meshes with its dryness. The alcohol stays alive at the back of the palate long past the finish. Once the taste is gone, its warmth in your chest kicks in. For the most part, it's soft and unobtrusive with a subtle bite in the end.

Heavy and slick. It's carbonation level is perfect. There's a tender creaminess to it. The flavour comes quick and its body leaves fast. On top of its well hidden ABV, this is another characteristic that makes it easy to drink.

This has to be the most enjoyable English barleywine I've had that I can remember. Smooth, rounded, and well balanced. There's plenty of flavour and avoids being too boozy and too sweet. I drank the last drop.

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

Thanks to Rutager for this one. December 2011 release. Poured in to Bruery tulip.

A - Medium murky brown with a big amber glow around the edges. Half a finger of light brown head that receded to a think layer.

S - Big sweet caramel aroma up front, some toffee, raisins and hints of dark fruit.

T - Big sweetness up front with massive toffee, caramel and burnt sugar flavours. A good hop bitterness throughout. Some light floral and raisin flavours are present in the background. ABV is dangerously well hidden.

M - Medium body. Light to moderate carbonation.

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

Poured into an Elysian snifter. Pours a slightly hazy medium caramel amber. Classic barleywine aroma of caramel malt, dark and dried fruit, slightly nutty and a hint of toasted malt. Flavor is a nice dry caramel, dried dark fruit, molasses, caramel and bready malt, light vanilla. Finishes with dry biscuit malt and grassy hops. Medium bodied with light creaminess. A very nice classic English barleywine. I hope to get another one to cellar.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.2/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

thanks to ArchEnemyBrew for this beer!

Vintage December 2012.

poured into Tulip glass.

Appearance: murky brown almost black bodied beer with red around the edges when held up to light. Two fingers of light brown head resulting from an aggressive pour. Drops to thick, but uneven cap.

Smell: Dark fruits, brown sugar, caramel, and toffee. Oatmeal note along with the malts as well. I could smell this all day!

Taste: The beer starts off like a scotch ale. Dark fruits and just a hint of smoke. Caramel and toffee notes that are not overly sweet. Its bready. Hint of molasses and leather. A nice dose of earthy hops that add a moderately bitter finish.

Mouthfeel: medium bodied beer with moderate carbonation. Little bit of warming and "fruity" booze. Really nice drinking English Barleywine.

Overall: This beer has alot of elements of several big beer styles including, but not limited to Scotch Ale, Barleywine, and an Old Ale. Nice drinking EBW; I think the nose is my favorite part of the beer. The hops on the back end was a nice little surprise...the nose is al malt and I didnt think that any hop flavors would be found in the taste of the beer. This also has some serious cellar potential, I think it would hold up well with age. If I had another bottle I would probably stash it away for a while to let those hops fade away.

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Photo of JasonLovesBeer
4.19/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2013 bottle. This batch is pretty different from last year's I think.

A: Dark, dark crimson brown. Almost black. Huge head, light brown and nice and thick.

S: Far and away my favourite thing about this beer. Sweetness of caramel and vanilla, sweet red fruits like plum, raisin, cherry, and some orange-zest like citrus notes. Also an earthy side to it as well.

T: Heavy duty malts up front but not a lot to report taste-wise at first, then eases into plum, fig, and powerful hops. Hops are earthy and moderately bitter. Alcohol heat is quite prominent, as this is a pretty fresh bottle. Not harsh though, just leaves you warmed.

M: Thick and grainy

O: I think this year's batch is a step up from last year and I look forward to seeing how it develops. Not mind blowing for me but quite tasty and amazing nose!

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Photo of mick303
4.18/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 Release.
In a broad tulip glass this throws a nice rich creamy tan head. Colour is a maple syrup brown that in the glass takes on a thick dark mahogany, quite a strong clarity, with nice lacing.
S – robust caramel-like malts, butterscotch, a bit of a herbal foresty quality. Minty, and leafy, ontop of brown sugar and rich fruit cake. Intense and rich, a bit boozy.
T – rich syrupy brandy cake, maraschino cherries, maple syrup, cigar smoke, super rich thick profile, more bright woodiness on the finish, some spice, and then dry buttery finish. Good transition with a strong malt base, some strong caramels, a bit of a flat bitterness. A fairly typical profile of rich caramel malt and slight booze, warming as hell afterward. Good forward pushing flavor profile that keeps the balance mostly in check. Pleasing sipper with some caramelized dry fruits and berries.
M – syrupy, very rich and full mouthful, mouth coating sweet malty caramel character, bit of a spice prickle, some gentle carbonation at the back, give it a bit of balance out but a big robust forward beer. With a long drying aftertaste.
A tasty and interesting Barleywine, very rich, a big caramel profile but some interesting complexity backing this up. I think the heat off this is a bit high but the bitterness is very appropriate and overall it is quite a flavourful example that would be worth checking out, may grab another to age. Fresh it had a rich caramelly tobacco, brandy fruitcake richness, with some earthy spicy bitterness, some apparent alcohol but a fair bit of complexity and rich fruitiness character also. Could be improved though, would like the caramel flavour to be so dominant and bit more of a supporting range of flavours.

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Photo of wordemupg
4.15/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

341ml bottle poured into tulip 22/4/12

A clear dark amber leaning towards a maroon glow, nice dense beige head's only a pinky's width but it stick around for a while leaving a few partial rings of lace

S nutty caramel is quite strong, a little candied cherry, molasses, herbal hops, and I don't know where the 11% is hiding

T tastes similar to the smell with some sweet bread and a slight earthy taste and hazelnut on the finish, still no booze at all, some hops but a malt bomb without doubt and that's working well for it

M thick syrupy goodness, sticky on the lips with mellow carbonation that gives it some life, zero heat is impressive for a fresh 11% BW

O another example of .25 being used if available, pretty solid stuff for a BW this young with a great feel, no booze detected and solid in all areas

thanks EskimoDave and chickenm as they both ended up sending me a bottle, a nice English BW and I'm stoked I have another bottle to age

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Photo of mikeyv35
4.14/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Date: 03/15/2013
Type: 11.2oz. Bottle
Vintage: 2012
Glass: East End Tulip

Pours a brown mahogany in color w/ a 1/3 finger off-white head w/ medium amounts of lacing. Aromas of brown sugar, caramel, dark fruits, and a touch of cotton candy mixed w/ basement mustiness. The flavor was of brown sugar/caramel sweetness and dark fruits up front, followed by hop bite and basement mustiness, finishing w/ lingering tobacco. Medium bodied and lush w/ a bit more carbonation than I would like in an English Barley Wine. Pretty easy to drink at 11% as the ABV is very well hidden amongst the intense flavors.

Overall, I was very excited to sample this long-time want! In the end, due to the higher levels of carbonation this brew really blurs the lines between English Strong Ale and English Barley Wine, but the brew has great depth of flavor and did not disappoint. This brew should age nicely and hopefully the carbonation will die down a bit making it more true to the style.

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Photo of peensteen
4.13/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Deep ruby red-brown colour, one finger of tan head, some lace. Smell is of rich caramel, toffee, lots of malty bread like notes, raisin, fruity with lots of red apple, fairly big flowery hops, finishes with berry. Taste is rich and malty, lots of toffee and caramel flavour, fruity, getting the apple from the nose, moderate bitterness, lightly sweet and only a trace of any alcohol, fruity hop aftertaste, understated citrus. Lightly carbonated, medium-full body. No complaints here, a satisfying barleywine that I will grab a couple more of to enjoy down the road.

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Photo of JohnnyBarman
4.11/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

375 mL bottle from the LCBO. First beer from Howe Sound that wasn't a massive bottle. -25 outside, so a barleywine is just the ticket.

Poured into a tulip. Chocolate caramel, with a good sized head of off-white head that survives as a pretty impressive layer with loads of lacing. Great looking brew.

Nose is malt-forward, with notes of candied peach and cherry, brown sugar, toffee and red wine. Faint citrus hops.

Tasty barleywine indeed, with loads of malt, candied fruit and caramel sweetness, and a hoppy red-wine finish.

Lighter bodied than I'd expected. Tannin-like puckery quality, and mild carbonation.

Solid barleywine where the hops get some play towards the finish.

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Photo of Agent1
4.11/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I have always been impressed with Howe Sound. Simply put: they are easily one of my favorite breweries in Canada due to their experimental nature and quality brews.

Appearance - Impressive. Super shiny, creamy head. Almost a lemon meringue appearance. Glossy and sticky. Great head retention for a barley wine. Nice orange ruby brown color. Overall, quite nice.

Smell - Lots of northern hops on the nose. This is a slight turn off. Not bad, just spells a bit too much like an IPA versus a barley wine. A nice spicy toffee aroma, very typical of an English barley wine. Butterscotch, slight nuttiness, tropical fruit and brown sugar. Very rich. Alcohol cuts nicely.

Taste - Toffee, roasted marshmallow, caramel, butter, mango, almonds, wood (most likely from the barrel aging), bitter chocolate and northern hops (it lists nugget and I feel it may have been used a bit excessively). Slightly citrusy. More citrus than most barley wines (more along the lines of an IPA as far as hops go). Tangy. Lots of special B malt is noticeable. Chocolate malt, too. Very sweet and jammy, like red wine. Alcohol is nicely hidden given it's at 11% abv. Does not offend.

Mouthfeel - Full and thick. This is not the heaviest barley wine I've had, but it's still rather chewy and thick. You can feel this all over the mouth. Dark and rich. Syrupy and smooth. Nice carbonation and may be one of the standout features.

Overall - A nicely balanced, traditional Barley Wine done well. This may not be the best I've had in this style, but it is tasty and delicious, nonetheless. Personally, I would like to see one of two things:

1) Less boil time of hops, or less nugget hops added as a whole, or
2) A different variety of hops (maybe German or English hops instead of nugget)

I look forward to aging my other bottle and seeing how this develops over time. I most likely will wait at least another 6 years to try this again. Very solid attempt.

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Photo of BDTyre
4.1/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2011 release. This pours a mahogany-copper with a thick, creamy head. The head leaves definite rings around the glass.

Initial scent is rich malts, a bit of wine, light spice. But then there is this weird hoppy blast. It lasts briefly, and is then replaced by an almost nutty, brown ale scent.

Good, well balanced flavour. There is certainly some hoppiness, but it is quite light. The malts don't ruin this, and I can pick up chestnuts, wine, raisins, molasses, bread, yeast, light bitterness. This is 11% ABV and I can't even tell. The alcohol is extremely well hidden - a very, very faint suggestion on the back of a tongue.

Nice, smooth mouthfeel. Rich, but not overly thick. The alcohol is dangerously hidden. The small bottle size is a pleasant surprise (most BWs I've had are bombers), and I almost want a second one....

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Photo of Rutager
4.05/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2012 bottle.

Appearance. Pours a fairly clear, deep red-brown with half a finger of pale orangey-tan head.

Smell. Sweet caramel and butterscotch, a little bit of light fruits and berries and a drop of molasses.

Taste. Lots of toasted caramel malts, some dark berries, just a little herby hop bitterness and a hint of coffee. High alcohol is very well hidden.

Mouthfeel. Medium-full body with medium-low carbonation.

Overall. A very nice and mellow english barleywine. Great balance of subtle flavours. Will look forward to trying a vertical in a year or two.

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Photo of SebD
4.05/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Appearance: It has a nice murky reddish/brown color to it. It has a nice creamy beige head that dies down moderately slow and leaves light lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of sweet caramel, toffee, brown sugar, sweet dark fruit (Raisins and plums), buiscuity malts and grassy hops.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has a some sweet caramel/toffee, brown sugar, dark fruit, a slight nuttiness, some bready/buiscuity malts and a light grassiness.

Mouthfeel: It has a low carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel. The body is just a touch thin.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied by good flavors and aromas.

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Photo of DaftCaskBC
4.03/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: 1/2" tan coloured head that dissipated quickly over cloudy brown liquid.

S: Yeast, sweet toffee malt and an alcohol smell reminiscent of white wine.

T: Slightly bitter pine and citrus hop presence upfront with flavours of toffee, caramel and vanilla in the middle and an almost sweet children's cereal finish similar tasting to Captain Crunch.

M: Medium viscosity and a medium level of fine carbonation.

O: Those who dislike their barleywines sweet should steer clear of this one. However, for the rest of us this is actually quite drinkable.

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Photo of spinrsx
4.02/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

350ml Bottle from the Ottawa LCBO for $5.55 - 2013 edition

Appearance - Brown colour with a decent size frothy beige coloured head. There is a low amount of carbonation showing and there is some nice lacing on the sides of the glass. The head lasted for close to 3-4 minutes before it began to dissipate.

Smell - Malts, caramel, dark fruits, chocolate

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste caramel and malts mixed with quite a bit of hops. There is also some dark fruits, chocolate, and some roasted/burnt notes.

Overall - I don't drink my barleywines fresh very often so this one has a lot more bitterness than I was expecting. Still very tasty and satisfying. Maybe just a touch too sweet - if I could change 1 thing. Seems like a great beer to tuck away in the cellar. I will pick up a few more bottles.

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Photo of Franck
4/5  rDev -0.7%

Aromas of sugar cane, roasted malt and alcohol.
Taste is strong. Brown sugar and torrefaction. Hops appear in final and bring a smooth exotic taste.
Bitterness is sweeth and bitter. Great bw. Well balanced, great roundness.

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Photo of biegaman
4/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Woolly Bugger - named after an artificial fly fishing lure - isn't the most appealing sounding name for a beer. Indeed, the ale itself is not only racked with sediment but is both lusterless (no shine or highlights) as well as listless (no bubbles or head). This thing won't catch you anything.

I know from already having drunk half of it that Woolly Bugger is a rich, malty, and nuanced beer - but I still don't get any of that from the aroma, even having allowed it to warm to room temperature. There's either not much of a bouquet or else my nose is stuffed up (which it isn't, I feel fine). The only things I sense are small quantities of toffee and dried fruits.

Most people I know prefer American renditions of the Barleywine style. Though brewed in the English tradition, Woolly Bugger is still likely to please most modern, North American palates given how much resiny, herbal flavour (plus 75 IBUs) they've managed to steep from the (somewhat unsexy) hop bill of Nugget, Fuggles, and Goldings. This has enough leafiness and 'raw green pellet' taste to conjure to mind images of rabbit food.

Of course, it also has - in even greater abundance - the maltiness to instill thoughts of nut brittle, rum cake, fruit cake, sticky toffee pudding, and all manner of English confections. All that caramelly grain combines with the esters and 10.5% alcohol to include a cinnamon-driven stewed apple/mulled cider and orange liqueur taste in the backdrop, something easily overlooked by all the sweet treats upfront. There's only moderate depth but absolute quaffability.

Just as Pumpkineater is a great fall-time treat and King Heffy is an ultimate summer quencher, Woolly Bugger is rich, malty, and satiating enough to remedy all the cold and darkness of a harsh winter (still its spiced rum cake notes and toffee-laced maltiness make it sumptuous enough to want to just chug back). While a candidate for no more than short-term cellaring, this is nonetheless something you want on-hand in case the snow starts falling or the power goes out.

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Photo of Bunman3
3.99/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a real winner in my books. First, it's named after one of my "go to" streamer flies. Second, the 2014 release bottle is extremely cool. Minimal head and lacing, but it is oh so rich in many other ways. There is lots of malt, dark fruit and a nice hoppy finish. The boozy afterglow kicks you happily in the cerebral cortex and make you dream of catching large trout from large rivers. It's a beautiful thing.

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Woolly Bugger from Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company
4.03 out of 5 based on 98 ratings.
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