Grand Illumination
Alewerks Brewing Company

Grand IlluminationGrand Illumination
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American Barleywine
Ranked #214
Ranked #12,913
3.92 | pDev: 9.44%
Alewerks Brewing Company
Virginia, United States
Very Good
Grand IlluminationGrand Illumination
Reviews: 109 | Ratings: 253 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of yesterdayfaraway
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

L: pours dark amber color with a film of head that fades. In a the glass it looks like it poured and maybe leaning towards a light rust color.
S: sugar coated raisin purée.
T: the sweetness reminds me of caramel coated raisins.
F: a syrupy feel, medium to light thickness

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Photo of HattedClassic
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2015 Vintage

The beer pours very little head but it seems to be a slightly reddish color with a creamy texture. The beer itself is a very dark brown color that is opaque. The looks is good and is clearly a barleywine. The beer has a nice purple hue to it that contrasts the brown well.

The smell is interesting. While it has a nice deep caramel note, there are also dark fruit notes that come out. The dark fruit notes are closer to fig than anything else. Interestingly enough, it is also a bit hoppy with more of a grapefruit note. The malts are strong but the hop seems to hold its own fairly well. Other that, the beer has some nice barrel notes. There are bits of vanilla, noticeable but not overpowering bourbon, and a bit of the barrel. Those notes are certainly present but they don't overwhelm the other notes.

The taste is also pretty good. Like the smell, the malt is heavy and comes with some nice dark fruit notes such as fig with caramel notes. The taste also has a fairly strong hop note, which is more of a citrus note, to it but it's a bit weaker than in the smell. On the other hand, the barrel notes, especially the bourbon, are a bit stronger and mix even better with the malt notes.

The feel is heavy bodied but a bit thinner than you would expect a barleywine to be. It's smooth and the biting carbonation makes it feel even lighter. Not bad and close to guidelines even if it's a bit lighter than expected.

Overall, as a W&M grad, I love this beer solely on the nostalgia factor. As a beer lover, it a pretty good barleywine and the reviews seem pretty consist for a beer whose recipe is changed is each year. Go for it.

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Photo of Treyliff
4.04/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2014 vintage, bottle 1541/2014
22oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- pours a murky deep copper color with a one-finger foamy off-white head that reduces to a ring around the edge

S- aroma is loaded with dark fruit, notes of fig, raisin & date. Notes of caramel/toffee

T- sweet and fruity up front with lots of dark fruit; notes of fig & raisin. Sweet caramel/toffee, earthy finish

M- medium body with moderate carbonation leads to a foamy mouthfeel and a creamy finish

O- nice and sweet Barleywine that's loaded

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Treyliff from West Virginia, Feb 25, 2016
Photo of obywan59
4.09/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a murky grapey brown with a 1 finger light tan head that recedes fairly quickly to t ring around the glass and a bit of film on the surface.

Very fruity in aroma. Grapey again with figs, raisins and alcohol.

Taste is even better than the aroma. It mirrors the aroma with the addition of a tart/sweet aspect, a very light bitterness, and bourbon with a hint of oak and huge caramel at times.

Medium full in body. Rather syrupy with good retention.Warming.

This is the best beer yet from Alewerks. In my experience anyway. Approaching a fine port in appearance, aroma, taste and feel. I'll be buying another to age.

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obywan59 from Virginia, Feb 09, 2016
Photo of Stolenface1
3.62/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark reddish brown with quickly falling, off white head. Aroma of molasses, caramel, hops, bisquit, fig, brown sugar, oak, slight vanilla. fruity esters.. flavor is identical with slight booze (a touch hot would be better after a year or two in the cellar), dark fruit, pretty hoppy, and a slightly thin, but slightly creamy finish (for my tastes). The feel is medium, with higher carbonation than expected. Overall a middle of the road Barleywine. It fits the style, but is not as complex as what many other breweries are putting out these days. As I said, a little thin and overcarbed for me.

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Stolenface1 from Virginia, Jan 24, 2016
Photo of GarthDanielson
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a snifter, the beer is a dark, auburn-brown coloring with a solid, off-white head. Nose of caramel, cream, molasses, all heavily roasted. Very rich aromas., with some boozy notes, too. Flavors are rich, with a solid bolt of heavy molasses forward, with highlights of brown sugar, vanilla, wood spice, and a solid hops bitterness. The body is heavy and rich throughout. Aftertaste of rich and sweet flavors, heavy on molasses, with a solid booze character that continues to add warmth as you go. The finish is rich and layered, and continues to warm.

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Photo of Eamonn-Cummings3
4.02/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a tulip glass from a 22oz bottle.

Look is very hazy rusty red/ Amber with no head.

Aroma is very malty sweet. Lots of molasses like a molasses cookie and s toasted biscuit malt.

The taste is almost stinky sweet with a full rich mouth feel again molasses is brought to mind. Hops offer a prickly balance but quickly disappear.

Great beer to start the year!

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Photo of Smaxy
4.1/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very traditional, but very good, barleywine aged in bourbon barrels. Had it on tap. A hazy, rusty pour. Dark fruits up front, with a warm bourbon finish.

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Smaxy from Massachusetts, Nov 28, 2015
Photo of oldn00b
4.21/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2014 poured on tap.

Dark copper color, fizzy head forms and retains. Some definite lacing.

The bitter aspects of this really come through, like overly burned caramel. This is not on the sweet side of the barleywine scale.

Bourbon was softer than expected, perhaps from the age. This is one of my favorite styles for barrel aging and it doesn't disappoint, but it is not the best I've had.

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oldn00b from Virginia, Nov 13, 2015
Photo of ERAUPike2005
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1014-2014 - poured into snifter. Pours a deep Carmel color with a slightly tan head that dissipated quickly. Nice lacing on the glass.

Nice notes of fig and maybe banana on the nose. Booze is well hidden.

Taste is very nice and a bit on the sweet side. More dark fruit notes, carmel, with a bit of heat on the back back end from the alcohol. Nice reminder that it's there but not to forward or in your face.

Medium mouthfeel- seems just right. Not syrupy and not thin.

Enjoyable beer overall. I haven't had many Barelywines but I enjoyed this a bit more than the offering from SN. I would purchase again. Cheers.

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ERAUPike2005 from Virginia, Jun 01, 2015
Photo of Sludgeman
3.64/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

2/23/19 - 2018 vintage at the 2019 Mad Fox Barleywine Festival. A better barleywine this time. I upgraded my taste rating.
Tasted the 2013 version at the 2015 Mad Fox Barleywine Festival. 3.75, 3.5, 3.25, 3.75, 3.5

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Sludgeman from District of Columbia, Feb 22, 2015
Photo of DavoleBomb
4.4/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Had this at the brewery from a snifter.

4.0 A: Hazy amber plum color. Two fingers of creamy beige head. Good retention and plenty of lacing.

4.5 S: Sweet sugary plums, red currants, figs, gingerbread, brown sugar, caramel, molasses.

4.25 T: Tastes like it smells. Sweet without being cloying.

4.75 M: Lighter heavy body. Good moderate carbonation. Super creamy and smooth.

4.5 D: No flaws and super drinkable.

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DavoleBomb from Pennsylvania, Jan 18, 2015
Photo of Gregaroo
3.31/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

2014 vintage. So so. Bought from the source. I was hoping for better this year. Shared with my bro at Mom and Dad's just before the new year. Will open my 2013s in a few weeks to compare. Fingers crossed.

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Gregaroo from Pennsylvania, Dec 31, 2014
Photo of cjgiant
3.7/5  rDev -5.6%

Had on tap day before, plus did bottles from 2013 and 2014:
First off, the beer didn't age well. It wasn't bad and was able to drink it, but oxidation was obvious enough to throw out for this review.

The beer pours a hazy to cloudy amber brown. The head if foamy white, some larger bubbles, but lasts well into the pour and provides lacing. The nose is caramel, raisin, banana, copper. Note the tap version the day before had a tart note to it that the bottle did not. There is also a hint if alcohol.

Taste is a bit of raisin and plum. Hops is quite subdued. Spice is also present, cinnamon and cloves, perhaps. It appears that a Belgian yeast was used, but I can't be sure (nor did I check). The feel (warmed) is medium light, a little flat feeling, although there is carbonation.

A decent offering, but not a must have. Fair amount of flavors, but they don't work together to produce a really nice beer, just a defeat one.

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cjgiant from District of Columbia, Dec 01, 2014
Photo of StonedTrippin
3.53/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

a well made but disappointingly generic american style barleywine. i have loved everything I've had from alewerks so far, so this was a bit of a reality check. gorgeous glazed bronze color with an inch or so of spiderweb lace head. it smells like a ton of cascade hops, high gravity ale yeast, and some sweeter medium toast malted barley. hops are heavy all throughout this beer, bitter up front and in the finish, with a slightly floral middle ground that meshes well with the malts. touch of brown sugar and a little caramel, in the taste too, but i find this to be lacking a few key components. the first is balance, this is a hop bomb, and works better as an american strong ale than a barleywine. second is the body. its just not big or round enough, maybe a little overcarbonated for the style, which makes the whole thing seems thin to me. it also gets less appealing as it warms because of the hops. somewhere in the mid to low B range.

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Photo of MacQ32
3.93/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

2011 Vintage

A - pours a deep muddied ruby muddy dark brown with a finger of great chocolatish colored head, OK retention and lacing.

S - sweet sugary malts mix with alcohol and dark fruit sweetness.

T - sweet slightly mediciny/boozy but no burn. Cherries

M - super smooth medium bodied. Minimal carbonation

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MacQ32 from South Carolina, Apr 23, 2014
Photo of Smakawhat
3.69/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Vintage 2013, poured into a large snifter glass.

A little bit lifeless on the pour. Deep orange apricot with a bit of hazy and filmy appearance. One finger of light tan head is made and disappears pretty quickly to quite a thin but stable collar. There's a little bit of hint of orange glow towards the edges.

Nice little nose. Juicy fruit qualities, and tropical sweetness. Sort of a juiced papaya and passion fruit richness. Not overly sugary or sweet either, quite impressive but not too complex or diverse either.

Palate comes with a little bit of hop richness. Sharp bitterness and hints of oily zesty lime and lemon. Juiced tropics finish, but with large bitterness and bite. Slightly sour aftertaste, which feels quite a bit odd. Quite a good amount of sharp fizz on first sip, but slowly dissolves to a thin coating in the palate. Just a bit wet too in feel.

Overall it's not bad, quite unique, but probably not one I would want to gravitate to or have again in the realm.

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Smakawhat from Maryland, Apr 04, 2014
Photo of Alieniloquium
3.03/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

650 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Deep orange. Small off-white head. Thin collar.

Smell - Grapefruit hops. Fruity, otherwise. Pale caramel malt.

Taste - Grapefruit hops. Less fruity. Caramel malt. Bitter. A bit of nutty specialty malts.

Mouthfeel - Medium heavy body. Moderate bitterness.

Overall - Not very exciting.

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Photo of cosmicevan
3.79/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

Bottle 0968 from 2010 courtesy of hanzo. Shared with the mrs out of 2 alewerks snifters.

a - brew had a bit of a sludgy look. Mahogany in color with a generous khaki head that dissolved rather quick leaving sparse lacing slicks on the sides of the glass. Really muddy, rusty looking. Not all that attractive.

s - sharp crisp boozy toffee wafers.

t - surprisingly in a good place right now (not that i have anything to compare to, but 2010 is tasting nice right now). As the nose suggested boozy piny toffee with a sharp caramel tinge.

m - thick and chewy.

o - overall seems like a once hopped out american barley where the hops have fully faded and now pushes caramel booze. Reminiscent of bigfoot right after the awkward phase.

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cosmicevan from New York, Feb 23, 2014
Photo of ThickNStout
3.31/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

22oz bottle from ThatCracker (thanks Andrew!). Bottle 571, 2013. Served in a Bruery snifter.

Pours opaque orange brown with a finger and a half ecrue head. A healthy layer of retention leaves plenty of lace.

Scents of orange, pine, earthy herbal notes and some caramel malts.

Lots of flavor here. Orange peel, caramel, pine, earthy mineral, floral bitterness, leather, toffee, hints of prune, something akin to sweet cough syrup and a significant booze kick. Overall bitter and boozey.

Oily, fairly heavy body with mild carbonation. Boozey, earthy, floral finish.

A relatively straight forward American barleywine. Good enough to drink when presented but I won't be hunting any more.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
4.16/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

22 oz bottle (2013 vintage) into a tulip.

A: Pours a clear copper color. The head is a one finger pale yellow shade. Not only is the retention good, but it leaves behind some nice rings of lacing.

S: The hops here seem to be more citrusy than piny. I even want to say they're kind of berry-forward, suggesting this has Mosaic hops. Caramel and toffee malts are present, but thankfully are subdued. Actually, subdued is a good way to describe the general aroma; still decent, though.

T: Holy crap, where did all this blueberry flavor come from? And not the pure Fruity Pebbles you get in, say, Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat, but actual friggen' blueberries. This note hits the palate immediately and I love it. There's no way this isn't brewed with Mosaic - as well as this brew shows off the berry notes, how can't it be? It finishes with some more piny hop flavors, caramel, toffee, and a twinge of alcohol. Just an all-around excellent barleywine.

M: This is relatively light and crisp (for the style), yet still retains well-concealed alcohol. It's not overly dry, either. It does an excellent job of covering up the 10%.

O: I admit, when Bitter Valentine let me down, it made me take pause over this offering. I was dead wrong: this is freaking fantastic. There's just enough 'balance' to display the berry-forward goodness without overpowering the palate. One of my favorite hoppy barleywines to date.

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Photo of jlindros
4.13/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bottle 190 2012 vintage, thanks to HeadyHops81 for this interesting barleywine, often one of my fav styles.

Light fizzy head, candy apple red color, hazy.

Nose lots of candy malts, light toasty reddish malt, sweet candy, red apple candy coating, light booze, some light esters, nice light spicy hops and bitterness, caramel and toffee, light mineral.

Taste is fairly sweet, lots of candy, mild syrupy, lots of sugar, caramel, toffee, red apple candy and genetic candy sugar, mild fruity flavor too, light warming booze with fruity ester kick, little creamy malt character, smooth. Hops are fairly bitter and spicy, little chewy. Finish is long spicy hop, quite bitter as it dries a bit but still sticky, lots of reddish candy lingering.

Mouth is med to fuller bod, little sticky syrupy, decent carb, nice warming booze.

Overall not bad. Nice malt characters, decent hop bitterness and balance, nice overall barleywine, nothing really wrong, but doesn't really go beyond either.

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jlindros from Massachusetts, Oct 11, 2013
Photo of rudzud
3.95/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to JLindros for sharing.

A - Poured into a tulip a nice caramel hue with hardly any head thin halo.

S - Aromas of sweet toffee and caramel, light warm alcohol, faint sweet malts, soft vanilla.

T - Taste is nice citrus notes, faint sweet malts, caramel, toffee, faint booze. Quite nice.

M.- Mouthfeel is solid creamy, lightly carbonated, tasty.

O - Overall I enjoyed this beer, lots of caramel notes, not too sweet, solid

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rudzud from Massachusetts, Oct 09, 2013
Photo of Vonerichs
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Deep reddish brown hue with a finger of tan head. No lacing and the carbonation stays active.

It has an astringent herbal tea aroma and cherry 'tussin. Deeps smell of toffee.

It's boozy as hell and the cherry flavor makes it taste like cough syrup. Toffee, prune, tea.

Mouthfeel is full and with average carbonation. The alcohol stays on the palate.

I like the aroma but the medicinal quality makes it hard to drink much of it. A good, but not great Barleywine.

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Vonerichs from Colorado, Jun 18, 2013
Photo of teromous
4.06/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2108 - 2012

A: Dark brown body with hues of red peeping through. It is dark but noticeably transparent. The head is slightly off-white, starts big, then recedes to a small cap. Leaves some lacing. It is a very beautiful looking barleywine.

S: It has a spiced rum scent to it, some plum, some brown sugar, and some alcohol.

T: Very malty and robust. Loads of caramel sweetness, along with some woody flavors. There's a high presence of roasted barley. Hop character brings out bitterness, but not a whole lot when it comes to flavor.

M: It has a very full and thick mouthfeel. It is very dexterous and robust. The bitterness is more towards the back of the palate.

O: Overall it was a good barleywine. I would have personally liked more hop character, but the bitterness was there. It had a good strong bitterness, but the malt really seemed to be the star of the show here. Lots of caramel sweetness at first, followed up by bitterness.

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teromous from Virginia, Mar 24, 2013
Grand Illumination from Alewerks Brewing Company
Beer rating: 88 out of 100 with 253 ratings