St-Ambroise 20th Anniversary Vintage Ale (2009) | McAuslan Brewing

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St-Ambroise 20th Anniversary Vintage Ale (2009)St-Ambroise 20th Anniversary Vintage Ale (2009)

Brewed by:
McAuslan Brewing
Quebec, Canada

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.80%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Viggo on 03-20-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 96 | Ratings: 133
Photo of Sammy
3.44/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 Edition initially did not smell great, some malt came through as it settled. Substantially Above average mouthfeel. Golden yellow with some white head. Taste is like a young old ale, a mild barleywine.Decent though moderate hops.Siginificant though not onerous carbonation.

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

McAuslan Brewing rings in their twentieth year with their vintage ale that celebrates the milestone with dessert-like confection, brandyish gentlemanship and tawny port succulence. Although I'm three years behind the celebration, the beer makes celebration worthwhile in retrospect.

Russet and garnet in color, the viscous ale carries a hearty cloudiness that amounts to a terse white head that's somewhat short-lived. But her lack of withstanding foam yields the brandy legging with a glossy swirl of the glass.

Brown sugar, maple syrup- all from the malty tones that rise to the nose allow an intoxicating aroma to exude complementary notes of grape, cola, cherry, pecan, apple, and dates. Sweet port wines and advances sherries come to mind as much as beer as that twirling of the glass seduces the nose as much as it does the eye.

Flavors are even more succulent with the full intensity of malty sweetness hitting the tongue. Maple syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla come alive with flavor in much the way that french toast does but with the backing of port wine and brandy complexity. Rummy alcohol, burrowed wine-like acidity, and bitter cider complement the fold with a pruny and figgy wave that carries the beer throughout its nutty masculine finish.

Of course the full bodied beer does that full-bodied thing that Barleywines do, but there's a finesse to the beer that makes my impressions pull back. Restrained sweetness, oiliness, and viscocity makes the think of younger English olde ales more so than that of English Barleywines. Regardless, the strong alcohol warmth, semi-sweet, and supply bittered ale lingers indefinately with a calm and satisfaction that evokes retrospect and seduction.

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Photo of biboergosum
3.58/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Nice packaging, suitable for the big 2-0.

This beer pours a hazy copper-orange colour, with a finger or so of creamy light beige head, which leaves solid lace around the glass as it recedes. It smells mildly of candy caramel, molasses, raisins, and alcohol. The taste is edgy alcohol, and then more of the candied dark fruits evident in the nose, and some mild noble hops. The carbonation is moderate, the body a bit lightweight for the style, and it finishes dry and fruity, the warmth and the malt coating the palate.

The booze in this anniversary ale is pretty prominent, but not off-putting or overwhelming, it just seems young, and makes it seem like I'm drinking it too soon, which is likely the case. However, there is still enough sweet malt and some balancing dry earthy hops, to make it enjoyable at this juncture, once I've grown accustomed to the heat.

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Photo of brentk56
3.93/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a clear amber color with a bountiful head that persists atop the liquid and streaks the glass

Smell: Caramel malt and a range of fruit liqueur essence - pear and fig, perhaps, maybe others, too

Taste: After a strong blast of caramel, a lot of complexity develops both of the fruity and bitter kinds - pear, apricot and figs, but bitter, herbal pith, too; after the swallow, the fruity flavors dominate along with some pithy pine and citrus, while the herbal elements take a back seat; boozy aspects develop in mid-palate and linger through the aftertaste

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with moderate, but prickly carbonation; lots of warmth in the gullet

Drinkability: Quite a bit unbalanced right now, but I suspect this will improve with some age

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Photo of oberon
4.22/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a snifter a lighter amber shade with a very well defined tight one finger white head atop.Aromas are floral, and of dark fruit, a noticeable nutty port like note as well,they really seem to jump out at ya.Lighter on the palate than expected,light to medium mouthfeel for a beer with such heft.Flavors have the deep malt upfront with the dark fruit and caramel base,slightly leathery,but there is a spiciness in the finish that makes everything come together really well.I really liked this anniversary ale from a great long standing brewery in Quebec.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.98/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

"A man who is not a communist at the age of twenty is a fool. Any man who is still communist at the age of thirty is an even bigger one."

--George Bernard Shaw

Darkest persimmon with a blizzard of yeast that adds tremendous visual character. The upper third of the sniffer is filled with a creamy crown of ecru hued foam that is pebbly (not quite rocky) as it descends. A smattering of bubble bath lace looks good too.

The nose is modestly caramel-like, earthy, apricot fruity and hides its alcohol pretty well. More power and more definition would have earned it the next highest score. Warming helps, just not enough.

McAuslan St-Ambroise 20th Anniversary Vintage Ale is tasty stuff that appears to have aged well. It still has a fair amount of countering bitterness and the alcohol delivers the light punch to the palate that is the reason why many of us love higher ABV beer. No heat or harshness whatsoever.

The barley tastes mostly pale with an assist from English toffee and a sugared nuttiness that adds yet another dimension. The fruitiness is akin to apricots and peaches, nothing darker than that. Again, earthy-herbal-citric hops keep the malt sugars in line and do a little tongue scrubbing too, which is amazing given more than one year in the bottle.

The mouthfeel isn't big and burly, nor does it have the laid back carbonation that I usually prefer. No matter. The medium weight silky creaminess and lightly stinging bubbles work beautifully from a sensory standpoint.

Last year's edition of St-Ambroise Vintage Ale is more than worthy. It was disappointing to see a 341 ml bottle exit the cylindrical box rather than a 500 ml bottle. It's even more disappointing now that I've tasted it. Thanks to biegaman for the opportunity.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.95/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

From 09/01/15 notes. Shared by BeerLawyer85; thanks Ross. 2009 vintage.

Pours a reddish-brown color with one inch of off white head and low carbonation evident. Caramel malts, toffee, dark fruity malts, raisins, plums, figs, leather, oak, and toasted malts. Medium body and low carbonation, no heat.

Overall a decent barleywine; wasn't oxidized which is nice. Worth checking out but wouldn't trade too much for it.

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Photo of stakem
3.92/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to Kegatron for splitting this 12oz bottle with me. Poured into a snifter, the brew appears a clear copper color with a scant head. A thin off-white cap rests atop with spotty lace sticking to the glass.

The aroma contains notes of raisons; fruity to floral with alcohol. Some bready grain character rests underneath with a mild hint of oxidation.

The tastes includes some raison-like fruity booze that blends into something more floral. A bit bready with malt and light cardboard oxidation is noticed across the bak like the aroma simuggeated. The booze character is slightly solvent but integrated well.

This is a medium to fuller bodied brew with a light level of carbonation. It is a and boozy sipper that shows a little bit of it's age but it is still quite enjoyable. Thanks for sharing Heath.

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Photo of johnnnniee
4.05/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2009 Vintage
Saw the cardboard holder at a shop I don't normally patronize and couldn't resist pulling the trigger on the purchase. Pours a deep dark copper color with a big fluffy beige head that recedes slowly but leaves lots of sticky lace in its wake. Smell is sweet with aromas of caramel, dark fruit, sweet brown sugar, and slight earthy tones in there as well. Taste is sweet, filled with caramel and hints of dark fruits. The alcohol bite is there to keep the sweetness in check. Smooth silky creamy mouthfeel, medium level of carbonation, medium to heavy body. Not a bad barleywine, but seems like it could have been a bit more complex. It has aged well, I wish I had bought two.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.47/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in an Ommegang flute. Pours a dark somewhat cloudy orange amber. One finger fine light tan head and lacing. Very interesting aroma of fruit esters; light fruit, caramel malt. Very nice, well integrated flavor of caramel malt, dark fruit, plum and cherry. A very pleasant fruit finish dominated by dark cherry. Very well integrated. Nice creamy medium to heavy body. Very well done and distinctive English barlywine. I hope I can find some more of these on the store shelves. I will certainly put some of these in the cellar.

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Photo of liamt07
3.77/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle shared by Steve, 341ml into a tulip.

Brown body with orange highlights. Beige head, with modest legs, good lacing and retention. Quite a bit of sediment here too. Nose has toffee, caramel apple, almond liqeur and bit of alcohol. Somewhat oxidized, twist-off caps certainly don't help this beers case. More sweet maltiness on the palate, clearly more oxidization evident, dark breads, brown sugar and caramel. Alcohol has yet to subside, still quite a bit of heat. Full and sticky feel, oxidation notes are most evident at the end of the mouthfeel. Good on the nose, a bit of a let down on the palate. Still OK though.

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Photo of biegaman
3.71/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A beautiful swatch of persimmon that ignites like a flare when held into the light. Clarity is unimpeded however transparency is unattainable due to a thorough shading in. Constantly peppered with a fresh onslaught of bubbles, its head remains thick and creamy, its white tone pure as innocence. This orange-red colour is among the most luscious I recall witnessing in some time - this brewer must also be a painter.

Millésimée 2009 doesn't smell quite as divine as the best examples out there but it does smell pretty darn nice. Sweet, floral, vinous and fruity notes abound. Candied figs and brandy-soaked cherries contribute foremost and a little shot of alcohol is noted with almost every breath. But it's the potency of this potpourri like bouquet of rose hips and hibiscus that really makes this pleasant to the senses.

To my delight, much of those flavours carry over into the taste. The flavours of rose hip and hibiscus are still extremely prevalent, imparting tremendous herbal and floral qualities to the beer. In fact, it seems these elements substitute in for the more customary sticky, pine syrupy hoppiness. Toasty and caramelized malts also come to the fore offering notes of plum, cherry, figs, citrus peel and toffee-laced biscuits.

English style barleywines don't depend on the aggressive hoppiness like the American renditions because they use overly forward, strongly caramelized malts as the focal point of flavour. Although St. Ambroise has presented a decent bill of flavour, they leave much to be desired as far as mouthfeel and texture go. This doesn't really have either the resiny bitterness nor the heavy, sticky-sweet maltiness.

Unlike the first few Millésimée offerings of the early 2000's, I wouldn't think this is likely to age well; it simply doesn't seem to have the depth in body nor the complexity in flavour to stand the test of time. It's doubtful this 20th anniversary vintage will see the 25th, and highly unlikely that it could survive long enough to experience the brewery's 30th. But so what? It's tasting pretty good right now.

A 20th anniversary is a special milestone and as much as the beer is worth celebrating something with, I'm not sure it quite lives up to this occasion. Granted, this is far improved from those of more recent anniversaries, although it still pales in comparison to the original batches of earlier years'. Still, I think I'm convinced on a re-purchase, this is something I wouldn't mind having again and next year is a long wait.

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Photo of Derek
3.97/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Original review:

This could really use some more age... the alcohol is quite 'hot'.

A4: Copper-bronze with a tarnished head, very thin ring of retention, leaves a hint of leg.

S3.5: Plenty of alcohol (almost like rubbing alcohol). Tropical fruit, phenolic spicing, raisins, figs & sponge toffee.

T3.5: Phenolic spicing, figs, raisins, candied pineapple, orange-rind, wood, mango, vanilla, hint of earthy mineral, balanced bitterness, plenty of alcohol warmth.

M3.5: Well-attenuated, moderate body has a drying alcohol finish.

D3: A bit of a brute.

After some age... Nov 30, 2011...

Less carbonated (too bad it's a twist off bottle), with very little head. Aroma is much nicer, sherry & christmas cake, without the burn & spice. Taste echos the aroma, light residual sweetness with a good bitterness. This has become a divine sipper.

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

Cheers to my bro @laituegonflable for the sample.

Pours a burnished copper colour, almost turning pink at the edges, with a filmy but very fine head of creamy white. Lacing is very good, and there's some static carbonation in the glass, which is excellent. The colour is very bright and very appealing. Looks good.

Crisp and sharp, slightly tannic notes on the nose, with residual sweetness, like cranberries and cinnamon. Even a hint of vanilla and marzipan coming in. It's not huge, but the notes are unusual and quite pleasant. Spice is noticeable, and apart from the lack of strength, so is a slightly boozy note. Overall, a very pleasantly different nose.

Smooth on the palate, with some sharp phenols on the front, with a long, languous unravelling of vanilla sweetness as it continues. Very sweet finish, nothing dry or sharp. All the booze notes are saved for the fore. Comes across as rich, languous and engulfing, almost sensuous as it rolls across the tongue. Mouthfeel helps, with a rich creamy thickness accentuated by a slight alcohol tingle.

A very smooth and very drinkable brew, quite rich and with a lot of caressing complexity. It's perhaps a tad too heavy to drink easily, but to sip, relax, and enjoy, this is a winner.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.81/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A : Poured a amber with good carbonation leaving a mild white cap, some good lacing

S: The nose is some blend of dark and light fruits covered in toffee and butterscotch

T : Initial dark fruits with some toffee, caramel and slight Worthers original type taste(candy, not as a bad byproduct). A little bit of heat and some light fruits in the background.

M: Medium-full bodied, well carbonated, plenty of flavor on the palate. No bigtime flaws or off notes.

O: Pretty nice English bwine.

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Photo of sweemzander
3.95/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz. bottle poured into a snifter.

(A)- Pours a cloudy mahogany brown color. Some minimal white froth.

(S)- A rich leathery caramel aroma. Slight hints at oxidation meets toffee and fig. Ever so slight fruity esters.

(T)- Plenty more oxidation than the smell led on. It is met with plenty of sweet caramel and leathery dryness at the same time.

(M)- A smooth yet mellow carbonation level meets a leathery rich sweetness overall. Might be a bit too oxidized at the stage, but still quite enjoyable.

(O)- Definitely a solid english style barleywine that might be a bit too old at this point, though an important note is why use twist off caps for a beer like this? It might also explain the bigger levels of oxidation in this. Either way it is still enjoyable but not getting any better age-wise at this point.

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Photo of wordemupg
3.63/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

341ml bottle poured into corsendonk chalice oct14 2009

A clear amber with lots of carbonation, rough pour gives me a massive head that hangs around for a little while before falling into a 1/4in film leaving some nice patches of lace along the way

S caramel, booze and fruit cherry maybe

T a little to much booze but nice burnt sugar flavors and some dark fruit

M good and thick, nice and creamy, best part of the beer for me

D needs some time under the stairs, a little rough still. this should be a great beer in a few years

love the little tube this beer comes in, worth a try for sure but better off in a cellar for a while
cheers to wittaker for this one

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Photo of barczar
4.01/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy amber brown with floaties and a tiny beige head that dissipates fairly quickly into a thin layer of foam.

Figs, dates, prunes, raisins, bruised cherry, booze, and caramelized brown sugar form the aroma. There's a now of oxidation, cardboard and a vinous note present.

Cherry, cardboard, dates, brown sugar, figs, raisins, and bready malt, lightly toasted, start the flavor, which finishes surprisingly dry and bitter. More cardboard oxidation surfaces as it warms, along with tea-like herbal hops.

Body is fairly thick, with somewhat low carbonation and significant alcohol warmth.

Might be on the edge of too old. Good esters, but the stale flavors are starting to take charge.

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Photo of bluejacket74
3.97/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11.5 ounce bottle. Served in a snifter, the beer pours a murky copper/orange color with about a half inch off-white head. Head retention is OK, and there's a good amount of lacing left on the glass. Aroma is nice and malty, the brew smells like caramel malt, dark fruit, brown sugar, toffee and honey. Taste is pretty much just like the aroma, but there's a bit of booze that I can taste along with some earthy hops noticable in the finish. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's a bit creamy and coating and is well carbonated. Drinkability is good, I think it's smooth and easy enough to drink. Not a bad overall brew, although I probably could have aged this another year or 2.

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Photo of bylerteck
4.12/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a nice amber colour. Medium carbonation. Two finger off white, fluffy head. Lot's of sediment floating around.

S - Lot's of dark fruit with raisins, dates, and prunes coming out. Nice dark malts there too.

T - Most of the dark fruits come through from the aroma with a slight boozy finish.

M - Smooth. Mild carbonation is appropriate for the style.

D - Pretty high considering the abv. I could have a few more. Took a year for this to come around but I like it. I wasn't blown away by any means but I was impressed.

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Photo of DrJay
3.8/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear, burnt orange in colour with a short cap of beige foam. Good head retention with a bit of lacing. Malty aroma, raisins and prunes, honey and biscuits, a bit bready, all pulled together with light alcohol. Low bitterness up front, but showing more in the finish. Caramel sweetness, toffee, raisins and prune juice, alcohol throughout. Hint of grassy hop flavour towards the end. Full bodied, but short of heavy, fine carbonation with alcohol dryness and warmth. Not as hot as I expected based on earlier reviews -- time must have helped this one out a little. Overall, pretty tasty and not overly complex.

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Photo of Brad007
4.2/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy amber color into my glass with a one-finger head. Nice presentation thus far for something brewed in 2009.

Lots of plum/raisin character to greet the nose, followed by just a hint of alcohol. Seems rather muted.

Plum, raisin and a bit of alcohol warmth greet the mouth. It eventually warms up, taking on a caramel essence as well. It also loses some of the sweetness, taking up more of a balance.

Mouthfeel is full of lingering caramel, plum and raisin. Alcohol warmth is dialed down, which makes it more enjoyable.

A simple, interesting version of an english barleywine. It's aged well but I would put another year on it to see what else happens. Otherwise, you can't really go wrong here.

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Photo of Viggo
3.18/5  rDev -18%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

355 ml bottle in an attractive cardboard sleeve.

Pours a clear amber/orange, light golden in the edges, very thick off white head forms, slowly drops to a thin ring, leaves some lace spirals on the glass, good retention as it settles to a thin ring. Smell is nice, very fruity and raisiny, caramel and honey malts, biscuit, alcohol, melons and apricots, slightly musty, some grapes, pretty rich and malty but a little rough. Taste is intense, very malty and alcohol, caramel, honey, corn syrup, fruit, grape juice, raisins and apricots, peach, whole gamut of fruit flavour, very malty though, lots of toast and biscuit, balanced in the finish, but the alcohol is a little rough. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with medium carbonation, pretty hot going down. Not enjoying this one as much as previous vintage ales, but it can only improve from here. Might just be young, so I'd recommend holding onto it for a while

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Photo of jrallen34
2.6/5  rDev -33%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

11.2 oz bottle consumed for our Canadian tasting...The beer pours a watery and clear light brown with only a bit of head...A light aroma of toffe, hops and grain alcohol does not have me excited to taste...The taste is more of the aroma, a super light and watery barleywine that tastes mostly of alcohol. This beer is garbage and should be avoided.

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Photo of drpimento
4.4/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Whoa!! Heavy hitter. Delicious too. Poured with a great, cream colored, foamy, frothy, thick head that lasted a while and lots of lace. Color is a lovely, clear copper amber. Aroma is a fragrant mix of caramel, malt, taffy, fruit. Flavor is the same but with large sweetness tempered with a little bitterness. Full, round, and thick in body and great carbonation to cut the sweet. Finish is like flavor and slowly tapers in good length. Be nice to get some more and lay them by.

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St-Ambroise 20th Anniversary Vintage Ale (2009) from McAuslan Brewing
3.88 out of 5 based on 133 ratings.
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