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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User Reviews
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Reviews: 96 | Ratings: 133
Photo of juju7
4/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Good, solid barleywine. Samll head, copper port body and good sticky lacing.

Aroma of dried fruits and maraschino cherries with a whiff of alcohol.
Sticky and sweet with a mild carbonation. Alcohol sits nicely with those dried, brambly fruit flavours.

Really pleasant on this coolish evening.

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Photo of megahurts4
4.42/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

St. Ambroise Vintage 2009

Appearance: dark red-orange, small head, and some good lacing.

Smell: caramel and yeast.

Taste: hops, caramel, toffee, and a sweetness.

Mouthfeel: medium and smooth.

This is a very nice brew. The flavors mesh very well.

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Photo of Brenden
4.08/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The only problem is that I had this beer fresh (knowing that it would be better aged) and then had it just recently (aged 2 years). I chose to review the more recent tasting because the consumer is informed on the packaging that this beer is better aged and is advised to let it sit for some years for best results.

With age, it doesn't bubble quite as nicely and have a big, tall, sticky head that left lacing everywhere like it did fresh; that said, the whitish head on this beer still forms over a finger tall and is still plenty sticky. Fresh, the appearance is this beer's best aspect; now, it's good and the rest is better.
Alcohol is tamed on the nose, and what comes through is a less sweet, more balanced blend of fruits, spiciness and malty breadiness with floral and a bit herbal hops notes. It could use a bit more, and this may be the aspect most affected by time, but it's pretty good otherwise.
The flavor is excellent, mostly because of a balance rarely seen in a barleywine. Hops make a show here while taking nothing away from a big, strong malt backbone. Alcohol and dark fruits are here but tamed to a tolerable heat and sweetness, blending sweetness, earthiness, yeast, spiciness, floral and herbal aspects all together without clashing. Let this age and enjoy.
Carbonation is a bit heavy when this beer is younger, but aged properly it drops without flattening out and reaches good levels. Crispness is still here, but the medium body with its malts makes for smooth sipping.
Fresh, I'd have given this a B: a little too hot, a little too sweet, and slightly overcarbonated; but, given the brewery's expectation that the consumer will age this and thus brewing this beer to be aged, it's definitely improved.

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Photo of craytonic
1.72/5  rDev -55.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

Appearace: Cloudy amber pour with an enormous head, good amounts of lacing.

Smell: toffee, hops, grain alcohol, robitussen

Taste: Essence of cough syrup mixed with grain alcohol. I actually almost gagged.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, decent carbonation

Overall: Rarely do I actually spit a beer out. In causing me to do so, this beer achieved its sole notoriety.

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Photo of jampics2
4.1/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into a pint glass. Easily the best tasting "new-to-me" beer I’ve had this year on the Winking Lizard World Tour. Purchased for around $7.

This beer doesn’t start off well. Yes, it has a caramel color with touches of amber and gold around the edges. The color isn’t brilliant and bright. Instead, it’s dingy and subdued. Clearly, there are some yeast in suspension, giving this a slightly dirty look overall. I swear I poured carefully. Little head and lace are observed, even when egged on.

Then, things get way better. The nose is to die for, full of notes of caramel, toffee, brown sugar and dark fruit. This is so expressive and awesome, it’s like the perfect Barleywine base. There’s even a hint of chocolate lurking in the nose. Notes of sherry and earthy hops round out an excellent sensory experience.

So, the appearance turned me off, but the smell won me back Thank god, as this is simply an amazing beer. Oranges from the hops sit submerged in toffee and caramel. Some raisin and fig join the party, grooving with some brown sugar. Sure, there’s some booze, but this is a party, right? For what it’s worth, I think the booze is well hidden in that it’s not distracting. I wish all beers I rolled the dice on turned out this wonderful.

The mouthfeel was a bit lacking in terms of carbonation, which made the viscous, hefty body seem a bit syrupy. That being said, the beer was still an overall success and a pleasure to consume. It really is too bad it looked so bad, this was great!

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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 MeisterBurger
3.32/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a slightly turbid golden brown topped by a thick film of head that retains wonderfully, a sort of signature of St-Ambroise's beers in my experience.

Some nice English hops and fruitiness, honeydew, and sweet caramel on the nose.

Slightly boozy brandy like oak, very fruity and raisiny, like a boozed up spicy Fuller's ESB. Boozy booze booze booze. Orange pith. Grassiness. Chalky bitterness in the finish. More booze.

The alcohol is hot but this was made for cellaring and I assume will mellow out with age. Right now it's not quite a hot mess. It's drinkable. But it lacks finesse. Really wish I'd cellared this.

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Photo of Brent
4.3/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

One of the smoothest barleywines I've sampled. The cellaring smoothed all the rough edges off, leaving the brew almost silky. Predominant flavor is a moderately-sweet caramel, just a bit woody. Overall, there is not a ton of depth of the flavor, but the well-rounded drinkability makes up for lost ground in that respect.

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Photo of ksmi116
4.67/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a St. Bernardus chalice

A - Hazy amber with a large off white head. Looks very good in a chalice.

S - Dark fruits and some spice are the main flavors here. Plums and raisins mainly.

T - Dark cherries, plums, sweet raisins, and alcohol. Wonderful flavor profile on this one! I really didn't expect the creaminess of this beer to come through, but I am impressed!

M - Creamy and not very carbonated. It works very well with the flavoring.

D - (overall) I am not a massive barleywine fan, but this could definitely turn me! The dark fruits work wonderfully with the mouthfeel and it makes for an overall fantastic sip! Very impressed!

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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 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 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 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 AgentZero
2.63/5  rDev -32.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Copper colored beer with a white head that had minimal retention and no real stick.

S - I got a lot of burnt sugar on this one as well as caramel malts. A bit of english hops add the "English" to this barley wine, but it kind of stinks actually.

T - I don't really like this one, mostly roasted, and overly burnt sugar, caramel malts, a bit of alcohol. The hops bitter it up a bit, but I can easily never drink this again.

M - Medium bodied and a lot of carbonation.

D - I don't want to drink this again, tastes bad, and that made it merely average in drinkability. It's only average due to the relatively high ABV.

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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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Photo of spointon
4.03/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I snagged this from a local Binnys, with bottle packaged in cardboard tube. Poured from an 11.2 oz brown bottle into a DFH stemmed tulip.

A= This ale poured an amber color that was sort of a balance between dark copper and light orange. Odd to note it that way but this was a real chameleon of a beer. The off-white head poured a full inch and then took a long time to settle into a solid 1/8" cap. A bit of minor lacing down my glass.

S= By my calculations this beer has a bit of age on it. Comparing that to some early reviews and I'd say this has mellowed a bit. I found aromas of sweet caramelly malt, toffee, fruity esters, some pie spice I could not place, and of course a bit of alcohol. I didn't find the aroma to be overly hot or solventy though.

T= Less sweet than I predicted, but the malt threw enough caramel and toffee to keep this balanced. Lots of estery fruit flavors combined with a fleeting spice note to make this fairly complex. I also found a bit of wood and vanilla in there as well. Hop bitterness was mild and added just the right oomph to balance everything. Finish was pretty dry with a long bit of warming alcohol after each sip.

MF= Medium bodied with a fairly high carbonation level for the style.

D= I liked this beer a lot. Its no J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, but it is interesting and certainly well made. The spice note in there was a real curveball (is it nutmeg???) but it is slight enough that it doesn't take anything away from the rest of the flavor profile. All in all a tasty and interesting beer.

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Photo of Walken
3.77/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

McAuslan: St. Ambroise Vintage Ale (2009) (Tasted 07/19/10)
11.5 oz. twist-off, poured into a flute.

Appearance: Hazed medium amber beer with a thin, frothy film over the top, ring of soapy bubbles around the edges.
Odor: Butterscotch, currant, apricot, solvent alcohol, reminiscent of various clear liquors.
Consistency: Medium bodied base with a very inconsistent overall feel. There is a certain level of heft from the alcohol and malt, but it doesn't hold it down, thinning out in spots.
Taste: It is almost like an English barleywine with some influence from a strong Scotch ale. Initially, this beer shows flavors of caramel and ripe red fruit, shifting gears in the middle and diving into a much darker territory, burnt sugar, currant and chocolate.

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Photo of SFLpunk
3.37/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to freud for picking these up for me. Comparative tasting with 2007 & 2009 vintages.

341mL brown glass twist-top bottle in cardboard tube with white tape across cap. 2009 Vintage.

Appearance: Crystal clear with tiny bubbles and some creamy off-white head, but not much of it. Color is a solid medium amber, darker than the 2007.

Nose: Much brighter than the 2007 with lots of zippy hops. Caramel malt and new leather dominate the aromas. Fresh figs, dried dates and autumn leaves round things out. A little more simple, but much more inviting than 07.

Palate: Bright and alive with some herbal hops and prickly alcohol right up front. Flavors are somewhat thin, like the '07, but are not oxidized. Simple caramelized cane sugar, rawhide, lime oil, and toasted macadamia nut flavors. The flavor is cut off by sharp alcohol that makes the finish too "hot" and unpleasant.

Notes: Much better than the 2007, but still not an epic beer experience. The nose is phenomenal, but the palate does not deliver. I think the real problem with both beers is that there is not enough malt body and not enough residual sugar to make these beers pleasurable. The increased alcohol in the 2009 is an improvement, now they just need to up the RS and they should be all set. Don't think this one is going to improve with age past 6 more months.

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

11.5oz bottle in the fancy cardboard tube. Pours a dark caramel-orange, two fingers of super creamy off-white head which has amazing staying power and as I drink, leaves sheets of lace which cover the glass. Very nice.

Nose is rich caramel and burnt brown sugar, a pleasant grassy hop profile yet. Taste follows, plenty of toast and caramel, burnt brown sugar, quite a bitter hop finish yet, alcohol showing in the finish but not dominating, could still be toned down a bit. Slightly thin mouthfeel, carbonation could be toned down a nudge as well.

Surprisingly nice though, glad to have a couple more. Will probably mellow a bit more yet.

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Photo of mntlover
4.15/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a pretty bright hazy amber color with a small cream colored head that falls to a ring. Some light lace left on glass here or there. Color of beer just beautiful.

Aroma is sweet caramel sprinkled with brown sugar some fruit notes blend right in sugar coated figs. Some soft floral notes from hops blends right into the sweetness.

Taste is sweet also caramel with hints of brown sugar, figs show up also. Some alcohol notes showing up in the finish little fossil fuel like but its the only negative going. While sometimes alcohol seems to blend right in on this one it seems to distract.

Mouthfeel is big medium with god mellow carbonation.

Drinkability is good an enjoyable beer would be perfect if little less hot. Thanks to merlin48 for this sample.

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

Sampling this bottle with Stopper. Poured at cellar temp into a snifter. THe beer pours a deep mahogany color with some light passing through. An edge layer of eggshell white head remains and clings to the sides of my glass.
Aroma is rich malt and carameland brown sugar with a bit of fusol alcohol mixed in for good measure.
First sip reveals average body and carbonation with a little sticky texture. Flavor is brown sugar and caramel with a bit of dark fruit. Definitely hits of booze and heat as I drink this beer. Could definitely be laid down for a year or two. Not bad now, just a sipper, will mellow nicely over time in my humble opinion.

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