Benchmark Old Ale | Portland Brewing Company

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Benchmark Old AleBenchmark Old Ale
35 Ratings
Benchmark Old AleBenchmark Old Ale

Brewed by:
Portland Brewing Company
Oregon, United States

Style: Old Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.90%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 07-25-2003

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 35 |  Reviews: 32
Reviews by MrNuggets:
Photo of MrNuggets
4.29/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Holy smokin' hops! Big hops on the nose lend to a grapefruit like character. More malt comes through in the taste which makes me appreciate those hops even more. Yes this could use alot more depth in the malt department and all these hops do seem a little odd for an old ale. But this beer tastes great and thats what matters.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of RoyalT
4.05/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance – Gorgeous head that settled into a stagnant pool of foam. The body is a beautiful orange shaded with brown and super-cloudy.

Smell – Big, old-style malt in there. I can pick up some molasses and light fruit. This is a malty aroma.

Taste – This is a classic. The malt base is very mellow and is mixed with a very smooth sweet orange flavor. There’s some good oak in there along with a touch of hops for balance. It finishes with a gin-ish type of reminder that alcohol is present.

Mouthfeel – This is very soft and smooth, medium to full-bodied, and slightly tangy. I feel that the mouthfeel is this ale’s strong point.

Drinkability – This is different from the norm for this style but a class act nevertheless.

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Photo of merlin48
3.9/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2003 vintage here. Attractive, screened, bottle as pictured. This old ale pours a clear, bright copper body with a sticky, one finger head that retains for several minutes before falling to cap and patchy ring lace.
Aroma begins with a huge caramel maltiness, but quickly grows more complex. Butterscotch, citrus hops, and oranges add an interesting balance to the nose. No ethanol in the aroma.
Mouthfeel is very good, with tingling carbonation and a medium to full body.
Taste has a malty dominance with lots of caramel and toffee. Hops presence is adequate for balance and wavers between peppery herbs and citrusy orange. I keep picking up orange flavors in the taste, as well as through retro-olfaction. Interesting, and pleasant, though unusual for style. Enough hops bittering to even out the prevalent malt dominance. Alcohol warming creeps into the scene toward the finish, a prodding reminder that this is almost 10%.
This one is interesting for an old ale, and I enjoyed the orange accents which compliment the heavy malt profile quite well. Dangerously drinkable.

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

Benchmark is a limited-edition, annual release that's brewed just once a year. Half of the batch is fermented with ale yeast, and the other with lager yeast. The two batches are then combined; finished with a Champagne yeast; and lagered for several months.

It's crystal clear, deep amber body reveals golden highlights beneath a creamy cap of ivory foam. The head retention is fairly good for a beer of 9.9% abv, and it slowly drops from its initial inch or so to just a thin surface covering; and leaves no lace. The nose is distinctly malty with a note of vanilla, some light tropical fruit and a delicate waft of alcohol. The body is medium with a very fine, moderate carbonation that gently caresses the tongue but leaves it smooth, and allows the flavors of the malt to come through unhindered. The flavor mimics the aroma with a tropical fruit laced malt that warms across the palate to release its vanilla character, some subtle hops, and a splash of alcohol before finishing dry with some lingering malt.

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Photo of DESTRO
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

this bad boy glugs out a deep sunset with a loose sticky head that leaves some nice lacing. big aromas of sweet thick gnarly malt, some hops tossed in, green apple skins, apricots, some alcohol comes through. smells intense. i expected to get my tastebuds blown, but to my was smooth as hell. malty and sweet but not overly so, balanced with a nice but not over powering does of hops and undertones of oranges, caramels and light spice. finishes with a slight alcohol note. theres some other things going on but i have more beer to drink so you can figure that out on your own. full bodied yet not to filling, smooth carbonation, pleasing. way more drinkable than i had imagined. a very good beer that i was happy i picked up. one of the most welcoming big brews ive had.

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Photo of CRJMellor
3.83/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours copper with a dash of a little extra red. Big dull-white, puffy head forms and recedes rather quickly but leaves lots of large clumps of sticky lace on the snifter.
Aroma has a highly sweetened caramel note with a touch of hop spiciness and some light resin and pine tars. Some darker citrus fruit notes are in the background waiting to be released as it warms.
Flavor of caramel dominates with a touch of green apple and a measured citrus and resin hop tone. Just a hint of grainy alcohol on the finish.
Mouthfeel is very sweet through front and mid-palate but then abruptly is cut by a tongue numbing and palate coating dry, spciy bittering and some medicinal alcohol. Given it a slightly above medium on the fullness spectrum.
Drinkability is solidly good. Maybe a tad to light to be prototypical to style but a smooth and pleasurable drinking experience.

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Photo of Boilermaker88
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I bought this 22oz bottle almost six months ago and let it sit until last night. Poured into an imperial pint glass, Benchmark had a dark ochre color topped with a firm, resilient vanilla-hued head.
The nose had a real sweet caramel malt aroma underscored by a variety of fruity scents - red delicious apples, hints of cherries and nectarines - and an even deeper herbal spiciness. Some modest alcohol fumes were present but nothing that indicated a 9.9%ABV or were unpleasant.
The taste was pretty sweet up front with a lot of candy sugar notes over more fruit. The grains came through briefly mid-palate before morphing to a fairly assertive herbal hoppiness. This bittering became more pronounced and longer-lasting with each taste, especially as the brew warmed. A slight alcohol burn was noted in the throat. The feel was medium in body, smooth and leaving a slight sizzle on the tongue.
Benchmark Old Ale was quite drinkable. For a nearly-10.0% beer, it doesn't jump right up an punch you in the face with the alcohol, a refreshing, if dangerous, departure from a number of recent high-ABV brews I've had. Benchmark would rather sneak up and ambush you. Worth giving a try if you spot it.

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Photo of Gusler
4.3/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A limpid copper color on the pour with a creamy and winsome light tan head that is planetary in size, as it so very slowly dissintagrates the lace forms a thick and glutinous curtain to shade the glass from the light. Nose is sweet caramel, lots of malt, and a bit of spice, cinnamon maybe, quite pleasing to both the olfactory and ocular senses, just a teaser for what’s to happen next, the start which is quite sweet but not to its detriment, rich in malt, top is middling in its feel upon the palate. The finish is masterfully hopped, the acidity stern with the aftertaste droughty and long lasting, one damn fine beer, it’s a shame I must special order this beer, not that I don’t like doing business with the fine people at Liquid Solutions, but the local Portland Distributor leaves me lacking.

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

Pours a clear bronze colored ale.

Smell is sweet, lots of malt and fruity with a fainter cracker scent of wheat.

Taste is very sweet but the other flavors balance it out. The alcohol in this prickles your tongue. Lots of extra flavors here. Smoky, apple, black pepper, apple skin, cherry and pollen.

Mouthfeel is good.

Nice brew didn't recognize how powerful it is when I bought it. A fine sipping brew.

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Photo of marc77
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

Pellucid tawny copper hue. Lofty, dense ivory white head leaves frothy, loose lace. Underripe apricot and dark toffee dominates the aroma. Secondary are herbal, slightly grassy hop tones along with mellow vanilla bean. Well rounded and appetizing aromawise. In flavor, incipient is a brief savory biscuit note which yields to sapid fruitiness of a fig like nature. Tuneful buttery oak tones arise mid palate and complement the static medium lovibond caramel malt presence. Understated woody, slightly earthy hop flavor with a sweet tangerine twang. A touch over attenuated to support the malt profile. Only lightly viscous in mouthfeel, but this facilitates formidable drinkabilty. Hop bitterness is fleeting, and is eventually supplanted by lightly sugary, dried date like tones late. Finishes clean and soft, with mild cookie dough notes fading and yielding to mellow ethanol warmth. A fine, immaculately crafted, albeit simple old ale. Subtle, gentle on the palate and superb in drinkability. Nary a trace of alcohol harshness. Would be interesting to cellar to see what (if any) nuances augment. 2003 release.

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

22oz bottle (2003 vintage) purchased as a single from Wine & Beer - Westpark, Richmond, VA.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed a 1 1/2" light tan head over a dark copper brew. Laces well, with thick, foamy bits here and there. Aroma is sweetly malty, with an apparent alcohol component. Taste is mainly sweet malts, an the alcohol is there, but not as apparent as the nose would indicate. More of a "sneak up and grab you" type of feel, not a "bash you over the head, I am the Beast!" feel. Mouthfeel and drinkability both good, especially for an old ale. The smoothness and lack of alcohol burning is much appreciated.

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Photo of Reidrover
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

OK had some extra cash in pocket so at last i can splash out on this( its $.5.99 a bottle).
Classy screen printed bottle witha roman coin and the Latin year date "MMIII" 2003
A very classy looking ale it is,nice warm chesnut brown colour with a nice sized semi-frothy off white head..that sinks fast but leaves a good amount of lacing.
the aroma is quite malty and reminds me of some Scotch Ales ( Skullsplitter comes to mind).Some dark fruitiness in the aroma also.
mm nice taste too again the malts are very nice in this ,but there is no lack of hops also..they strike the tongue half way through the mouthful.then are gone, alcohol is warming in the belly but is not very noticable in the mouth.
Nice smooth mouthfeel with a nice creamy finish.
I liked this beer and found it very drinkable for almost 10% alcohol.
Its good though probably not worth $6.

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Photo of WynnO
5/5  rDev +24.4%

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

22 oz. bottle served lightly chilled in a Rapscallion goblet.

Appearance: Dark reddish copper topped by a fluffy offwhite heat that receded to a small layer of foam. Thick sheets of lacing left on the glass.

Smell: Wonderfully balanced boquest of caramel malts, fruity esters and citric/piny hop aromas.

Taste: Brash peppery hops on the start (and pretty much throughout) giving way to toasted biscuit malts. Pine sap and breads on the finish. Not overtly alcoholic in taste, but it's there.

Mouthfeel: Solid medium body with longlasting aftertastes.

Drinkability: Lives up to its name and then some. Maybe a bit lacking in complexity maltwise to be truly awesome, but the other components make up for it.

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Photo of Hellpop65
4/5  rDev -0.5%

Photo of mzwolinski
3.43/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Impressive, very serious looking bottle. (With an impressive, serious looking price tag!) I had high hopes (and expectations) for this beer!

Somehow it wasn't as dark as I imagined it would be. Copper in color, and crystal clear, with a modest little waif of a white head.

The aroma, too, is rather meek. Hints of malt, and a faint trace of alcohol spice -- but not much.

Flavor is very sweet, though with a good bit of bitterness in the end. And then it's done. Huh? Where'd it go? The flavor, alas, is a bit one-dimensional, and passes over one's palate fairly quickly. It's a nice dimension, and all, but one expects a bit more from a beer like this. [To be fair, it develops a bit more as the beer warms, gathering some fruity flavors from the malt and alcohol esters, but it's still very thin. And actually, it starts to get a bit cloying as it warms too. Something of a trade-off, I suppose...]

Not a terrific beer, and certainly not something I'd drink much of given its price. Too bad!

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Photo of mcallister
4.07/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Anxious too try this brew. Not sure about it's storage but being 4 years old hopefully it was in a cool dark place.

An opaque crimson, with hints of ruby and mahagony. Picture perfect white fluffy retentative head. Thin film of lace.

According to the nose this beer is alive and well. Thick with toffee, brown sugar, maple, wood, and a bit of milk chocolate. Dried fig, with a nutty aspect and a bit of floral hopping also.

Drinking quite well although not as complex as the nose would suggest. Sweet, malty mid palate with a medium body and a bit of alcohol on the finish. Finish is long and full of burnt toffee, and bits of caramel. Brown sugar resides on the mid palate with an dried fig quality over the entire palate. Lacking depth too take it too the next step. However very nice and drinkable. I'm very happy too have a chance to try this brew.

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

Presentation: A nice looking screen printed Bomber. An old coin forms the centerpiece of the label with the word ‘Benchmark’ above, and ‘MMIII Portland Brewing Company Old Ale’ below. Listed as 9.9% Alcohol by Volume.

Appearance: Darkish orange copper, super clear with a red sunset hue when held to artificial light. Off white cream colored head that covers the beer but always looks like it will give up the fight at any point soon, yet it never does. A uniform but thin cap covering remains at all times. Smooth carbonation aids the beers appearance. Looks good in a large Mug.

Nose: A definitive malty nose that has a sour aged aspect, vanilla with some aged single whisky tones. Whiffs of old, once appealing, alcohol soaked fruits bring up the back end. Dark and aged in nature. Brusque.

Taste: Powerful start, big malty entrance with a light sweet kick that reminds you, politely, that this beer is nearly in double figures. Another lick of dark fruits and a toffee sweetness on the tongue, which is balanced by some hop bitterness in they finish. The hops are overtly fresh and acidic at times, especially after the swallow. A strange but, nevertheless, appealing flavor profile.

Mouthfeel: Lots of body, character and a smooth feel. The ending has a warming culmination, never a ‘searing heat’, but more of an overall warming glow.

Drinkability: One 22 ounce, 1 Pint 6 fluid ounce, 650ml, Bomber was enough, but I far from struggled with this one. It was the last of the night and it sat next to me like an attentive and obedient Dog. Served in a large Pint Glass Mug, it was not so much swigged, as sipped. Finished off a block of Sharp Aged English Cheddar extremely well.

Overall: Not a bad offering, and a damn good nightcap beer.

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Photo of TheLiterati
3.6/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Enjoyed a vintage 2003 bottle of this beautiful, coppery amber ale, with a smallish, cream-colored head…gives way to a nice lace.

Aroma and taste hints of barley wine. Has a spicy, fruity scent, with sweet, almost syrupy undertones, and a flowery finish. Smooth and malty, with a tangy taste that lingers on the palate long after the last effervescent swallow.

Has a little after burn like a well aged scotch whiskey.

Drinkability is OK, but the overall the taste is reminiscent of "hard liquor" as my grandma would say.

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Photo of beerguy101
4.26/5  rDev +6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Medium orange color. Large head. Aroma is fruity, bubblegum and malts. A big bodied barleywine. Malts are fruity, apples, pears, orange peel, a touch of bubble gum and cloves. Hops are slightly spicy. The yeasts are very bright, like in a Belgian Ale. Well balanced. Hides the 9.9% alcohol very well. Tasty beer. Smooth flavor. Etched beer bottle. Mouthfeel is full and round. Finish is clean and smooth. Aftertaste is slightly bitter.

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Photo of Rumrunner
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz. bottle. A coin is printed on the bottle. Under the coin are the Roman numerals MMIII. 2003 version.

I found this to be a very unique ale.

The appearance is a clear lighly colored amber. Carbonation bubbles contiunually rise to the top. A very weak head that dissipates quickly and leaves no lacing. The smell is mostly malt. A musty wheat is also present. Do not forget the aclohol. There is a slight crispness on the nose as well.

There are some complex flavors here. This ale is pretty much all malt. A molassass style sweetness with butterscotch blends with alcohol and a chewy wet hay flavor. At first the alcohol has a bite but this mellows as the ale sits. No hop bite or bitterness. In fact the hop flavors are pretty much masked. It finishes with a bourbon sour mash taste, turns to aftertaste and quietly sneaks away.

A full bodied malty ale. A slow sipper. It is very smooth and has a crisp feel at the end. This is an ale to be sipped when a person has some time. It is not an everyday ale. A good choice when you are in for the evening and watching movies at home or reading a book.

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Photo of GCBrewingCo
3.51/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The beer poured into the glass crystal clear medium to almost deep amber with an off-white to tan head that rose tall and lively and fell very slowly to coat the glass.

The aroma was malty with dark caramel most prominent. Behind the dark caramel resided the dark fruit aromas of raisins and a slight sweet fruit presence. Some muted hop was also of note and a slight alcohol spice.

The flavor was malty with dark caramel and dark fruit flavors, namely raisin. The malt comingled with hop bittering which kept the sweetness perfectly in check. The complexity of those flavors also added in a spice component. Despite the flavors complexity was still on the low side. (Perhaps a bit more aging?) Alcohol was really not present in the flavor.

The finish was just dry with lasting spice into the aftertaste. The body was not quite medium full and unfortunately a bit thin. The alcohol was present in the aroma and in the warming after consumption but was well hidden in the flavor.

22 ounce bottle. MMIII on bottle. Not a bad beer at all, but certainly missing something, namely complexity.

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

Vintage 1999

Pours gold with ruby hints, clear, with a fluffy white head.
Lively carbonation release adds an inch of foam before receding to a partial skim-coat.
Moderate stringy and dotted lacework remains.
Vineous and raisiny in the nose. Pretty straightforward with lightish malt, caramel steeped alcohol, and dried fruit.
Nose finishes up warming, with hints of vanilla, cherries, and buiscuits.
Medium bodied, sticky and a bit chewy. A lingering hop bitterness adds some crispness.
Juicy malt up front on the pallet, followed by rum-soaked raisins and caramel drizzled tangerine.
Hop presence is known, with a fairly aggresive bitterness (after 7 years) balancing out some residuals.
Pallet warms as it finishes, with a heavy barley nod.
Tasty, but lacking the needed level of vineousity and complexity of a great old ale.

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Photo of Quaffer
3.95/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz. bottle, vintage 2003.

Appearance: Leaving the sediment behind in the bottle, this beer poured a slightly hazy, amber-red color. The coarse, beige head rose up to a little more than one finger with a rough pour. It sunk down slowly and became thick and dense around the edge of the glass. The remaining foam was sticky and left a lot of nice lace behind.

Smell: Right after the pour, the aroma was thick with sweet malts. After the head had dissipated, this smell continued but lowered a few notches. It also lost some of its sweetness and took on a more roasted quality, which really saved the aroma in my opinion. It was joined by candied fruits, dates and raisins, cherries, and hints of alcohol. A very light layer of vanilla peaked through from time to time.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and buttery smooth. Lightly mouth coating. Overall, a very nice presence in the mouth.

Taste: A very smooth and somewhat subdued beer for how big it is. Sweet malts and vanilla wafers mixed well with tart cherries upfront. These were quickly joined by a balancing hit of hops bitterness, though the overall flavor remained sweet. Raisins and alcohol rose up to mix with the other flavors on the finish. The alcohol was just right at first, but the more I drank, it became a little too strong and started to overpower the other flavors.

A good beer. I'm not usually a big fan of PBC brews so this one really surprised me.

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Photo of fartingdog
3.87/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22 oz. bottle MMIII - I assume this is '03 vintage. It was hiding in the back storage at Ledger's for a few years.

Slightly hazy orange-copper color, thin head. Looked beautiful against the sunlight. Rich, sweet smell- almost like butterscotch. Thin head.

Initial sharp bite, followed by a slightly fruity, buttery sweetness. left a tinge of bitter and mild hop flavor - felt the alcohol warming after a few secs.

Mouthfeel was a bit thin, almost watery. Not as thick as i'd expect (or hope) for the style. Very watery after-feel, mild carb.

An easy drinker, strong. Not the best example of the style. Overall, not a bad beer.

Note to others- since this is retired, the chance of finding it are slim. If you like strong beers, it may be worth it to give it a shot. They aren't your cup of meat, this is not as syrupy or strong (which i personally like) as others in the style.

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Benchmark Old Ale from Portland Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.02 out of 5 with 35 ratings