Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale
Mendocino Brewing Company

Imperial Barley Wine Style AleImperial Barley Wine Style Ale
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American Barleywine
Ranked #352
Ranked #36,541
3.69 | pDev: 13.01%
Mendocino Brewing Company
United States
Imperial Barley Wine Style AleImperial Barley Wine Style Ale
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Reviews: 95 | Ratings: 217 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of vikinggary28
3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from 12 oz bottle into a glass mug. Deep red colour with a beige thick head. Smells of syrup and malts. I'm not a big fan of Barley Wines but this one tastes on the mild side compared to others I've had. Toasty caramel and decent mouthfeel. Not bad at all. Prost!

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Photo of stakem
3.53/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle pulled from the cellar that is at least 5 years old at the time of this review. Poured into a tulip appears clear mahogany color with yellowish tan khaki cap 3 fingers strong that fades leaving a full wall of lace.

It smells of burnt sugars - caramel and toffee primarily with a slight mineral edge in the back. This tastes toasty and sweet with grain like caramel, toffee and solvent booze with some minerals like the aroma suggests. A little bit of wet dog character to the finish (i know, thats a weird descriptor but I had to write it since thats exactly what it reminds me of.)

This is medium in body with modest carbonation. An interesting brew that isnt really showing its age. Not sure if I aged this long enough to hit the sweet spot in its potential, regardless not bad.

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Photo of Jjski
4.24/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Vintage 3/2013

Fresh it was average

At 2 years this inexpensive BW is way good

caramel, figs, English BW flavor profile, smooth attenuated hops that are omnipresent, but balanced by sweetness from malts. No heat, just wide flavor. Very satisfying, not cloying.

I've got some expensive BW in the cellar: barreled bigfoot, arctic devil, Scucaba.

I'm not ashamed of drinking this: it's damn good. I will pick up another 4. Too bad I won't try it for 2 years.

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Photo of Cyberkedi
2.97/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Strong aroma is fruity and syrupy, notes of caramel and cloves, a bit cloying. Pours a clear mahogany with a thick and rather fine-bubbled tan head. Flavor has a strong alcohol bite and a woody note, just a hint of fruit. Smooth texture has plenty of life, but finish is unpleasant. Well, a good effort.

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Photo of travolta
3.1/5  rDev -16%
look: 4.25 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Beautiful clear redwood in color. Mild head retention and some decent lacing. The color is quite nice.

Nose: Sweet biscuit, syrupy liquor, cat pee, dark candied fruits.

Taste: Syrupy sweet throughout, little bit of malt and hops coming through,

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Photo of samtrillo
4/5  rDev +8.4%


Looks a bit like Dr. Better with a tannish half inch head that mostly dissipates.

Smells of a barleywine, fruity sweet caramel malt and maybe some citrus.

Taste is similar but I do get a little smokey tobacco which is nice with the fruity sweet malt. Some bitterness at the end is expected and a pleasant warm feeling from the .

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and a little sticky but not viscous. Crisp but light carbonation.

Overall this is actually one of my favorite barleywines so far, but maybe the style is just growing on me. Can't wait to go back to the ones I tried last year.

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Photo of Shroud0fdoom
3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

I haven't seen this brew before so I went on the look for it. Hey I want to try all beers once. One thing noticed, the bottle label is a bit dated, but hey! That's fine! Some of the best beers don't need fancy labels. I didn't find a bottled on date nor an enjoy by date, so that looses points for me. Well let's get down to the contents inside the bottle. This beer is pretty. It pours a nice shade of Ruby Red with a tinge of Dark Amber. There was a nice 1 finger soapy head that shriveled down to a nice lacing around my glass. Alcohol legs are present, very nice! The aroma on this Barley Wine is the usual for the style. Huge caramel notes with subtleties of vine fruits. Nice toasted malts. A slap of alcohol fumes with just hints of earth. Not too bad. Well, by the smell alone, I know this is going to be rough on the palate. Sweet caramel with hints of anise. Then some toasted bread that has been soaked in rum. This finishes dry with bitter leafy hops and booze. Actually, it's not too rough on the palate. The mouthfeel on this brew is pretty nice, Medium body with nice carbonation.

Overall: This a nice Barley Wine. Not hopped to hell and back and not infected. There is a lot of alcohol in this brew, not going to lie. But I sometimes like some booze in a sweet Barley Wine Ale. I so happen to be in a boozy mood tonight. If I were to drink this back in 1983, it would be a goto. This has the making of being fantastic! Right now it's just in the "good" territory. This brew is worthy.

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Photo of metter98
3.54/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Cask at Mugs Alehouse, Brooklyn, NY

A: The beer is very hazy amber in color—some yellow hues are visible near the edge of the glass when it is held up to the light. It poured with a dense quarter finger high beige head that died down and left a collar around the edge of the glass and some lacing down the sides.
S: Light to moderate aromas of dark fruits are present in the nose along with notes of caramel malts.
T: The taste is similar to the smell and has underlying notes of grainy malts along with some alcohol flavors that strengthen and linger through the finish.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied and a little edgy on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer isn't nearly as rich and malty compared to other beers in the style. There was too much alcohol in the taste for my palate.

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Photo of Aaron_Ramson
4.73/5  rDev +28.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Less murky than other barleywines I've seen, but still that soft, brackish-brown without highlights or clarity. A soft head that quickly dissipates. The nose is amazing; candy-like fruitiness, caramel, molasses, citrus hop aromas. Taste is even better; raisins, figs, candied fruit, sweet caramel sugars, molasses, lemon hop flavors with just enough bitterness to balance all the sugar. Thick, heavy mouthfeel with ample carbonation. Pretty fresh bottle judging from the taste. Fantastic barleywine that is my new favorite.

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Photo of facundoCNB
3.09/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

had this in the cellar for over a year.. poured a murky amber with a finger of head which quickly dissipated. smells of faint barley sweetness, raisins, getting a hint of strong alcohol. flavor is all sweet up front and then a burning alcohol that completely takes over everything.. a little harsh on the palate. full bodied, low carbonation.. the feel is harsh, the alcohol hits you in the lips, gums, palate, and chest.

i'll have to taste a fresh one, but man - either this is just a poor example of a barleywine or this just did not age well at all (find it hard to believe a barley wine could get worse with aging but hey, it's a tough game to play)

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Photo of chugalug06
4.03/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Purchased January 2011

Nice lasting (for an 11% brew) straw colored head. Brew looks like the color of raisins.

Lots of grape skin, relaxed pine, tons of malty caramel,

Dry, slight funk, WAY fizzy, strong sweetness without being over done. Not a sugar bomb. Crisp, tons of thick grape peal. Yeasty and smooth. Slight bite from unsmoothed abv. Carbonation is highly distracting, sweetness is nearly spot on, bitterness is almost non-existent.

Recommended, but I think it may have been better fresh...

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Photo of Fatehunter
3.5/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a finger of head on a dark red colored body.
The aroma is a mashed up of grapes, barley and apple juice.
The taste is nice. A little boozy, ripe apple, sweet malt with a moderate bitter finish.
The texture is crisper with moderate carbonation.
It's aroma was lacking, but the rest was fine.

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Photo of IchLiebeBier
3/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: chestnut; slightly cloudy; small head, dissipates quickly; slight lacing

Aroma: malty; dried fruit; light hops; strong alcohol

Taste: Slightly creamy, sweet start that rides along with a sharp alcohol bite and hops; dried fruit and warming alcohol in the mid; finishes semi-sweet, but dry hoppiness in the aftertaste

Remarks: good and strong, but kind of one dimensional throughout the entire profile.

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Photo of BrausBeforeHaus
3.78/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Overall a fine brew.
Picked this 4-pack up for $8.99 at Total Wine. Good deal to say the least.
Appearance can be intimidating, a dark amber with smells that evoke more complex type of drink than you expect for the price.
Taste is satisfying, with your typical English barley wine assortment of dark fruits and malts.
Mouthfeel is complex but not overly heavy. Good finish with a bit of alcohol burn to remind you that you aren't in the kiddie pool anymore.
Overall a good complex barley wine which is both satisfying and drinkable, especially at the price.

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Photo of CFHMagnet
3.65/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Pour was a little heavier than average. Got just a bit of head that dissipated in seconds. This left a thin ring around the top of a muted, murky brown body. No lacing is noted.

Smell is of dark fruits and roasted malts. A hint of brown sugar shows up and permeates the whole nose after it warms a bit.

Dark fruit and roasted malt starts off the flavor. Searching for more finds hints of caramel and vanilla. Slightly bitter aftertaste.
EDIT: After this beer warms a bit, dark grape flavors are lightly hinted at the end.

The carbonation is just about right, not too heavy on this. Feel is medium bodied. The back of the tongue is lightly coated.

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Photo of streetcommander
4/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured in lager glass. Beer temp is 56F.

Pours a dark mahogany with tan head. Laces and maintains a foam slick throught the session. Very nice.

Smells of malts, caramel and a hint of spice. Hops are present as well, pine in nature.

On the draw, immediately hit with a lurid bitterness and crisp viscosity, not at all slimy or syrupy. Carbonation is on point, not overly carbonated.

Flavor is full bodied. Malts, brown sugar, caramelized roast drippings, and yes booze. Very well balanced, not at all harsh. Very well done. Very smooth and drinkable at 11abv. One could easily drink 4 or 5.

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Photo of zeff80
3.85/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, rich copper color with a one-finger, khaki colored head of short-lived foam. It left little to no lacing.

S - It smelled of sweet maltiness, booziness and floral notes.

T - It was very boozy and sweet. Lots of malt, toffee and caramel.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium to full bodied ale with a dry finish.

O - This is a pretty nice barleywine. Strong and very full flavored.

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Photo of acevenom
3.92/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a goblet. Pours deep toffee brown with a thin off-white head that doesn't last for long. Some light can pass through the beer and I notice some visible tiny bubbles. The aroma is of toffee, malts, dark fruits, and plenty of booziness. The taste follows the nose. There's some grainy maltiness with some hop bitterness in the back end. I get some of the toffee, dark fruits, and plenty of booze. The body is medium to full with moderate carbonation. There's a dry finish. This is a very good beer.

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Photo of TheSixthRing
2.73/5  rDev -26%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Appearance - Pours a hazy ,dark amber with a 2 finger white head. Average retention. Leaves behind small, spotty lacing.

Smell - Sweet, boozy and a berry fruit aroma.

Taste - Follows the nose. Sweet berry notes, raspberry and blackberry. A hint of grassy bitterness. Heat creeps in near the finish, leaving in it's wake a dry, astringent resonance. Becomes cloyingly sweet, sip after sip.

Mouthfeel - Full-bodied and syrupy. Has a moderate, somewhat bubbly carbonation. Finishes dry from the alcohol heat.

Overall - This is, at very best, an average barleywine. Little complexity, met by a lot of boozy character. Greatly unbalanced, and the unforgiving berry sweetness is matched only by the forwardness of the alcohol. I probably could have finished it, but I found myself not wanting to, so it went down the drain. Would not buy again.

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Photo of RochefortChris
3.11/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Not as good as I thought it would be and I can’t really tell it’s "imperial". Aroma is a bit week for such a strong beer. Mouth feel is nice and chewy as a barley wine should be. Definitely noticeable alcohol presence but with no burn in the throat. Not a bad beer, typical barley wine but one I probably won’t have again.

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Photo of Brenden
3.43/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The color is a thick, ruddy medium-dark brown, something of a heavy bronze. A tight medium-brown head develops and displays pretty good retention, fading off to a foam that leaves spotty lacing as the beer drops.
Something is lost in the heavy alcoholic presence of this beer. There's not much nuance in the aroma, and a lot seems to be lost as heavy fusel notes and even something akin to rubbing alcohol sit strongly in the front. That said, it isn't terrible; it doesn't go so far as to remind me of paint thinner or terpentine as some heavily alcoholic macros end up going with. The malts base is still there, and I can still get most of the notes I find in the flavor.
What I get in the flavor is a sturdy backbone of darker malts, a big dark fruits sweetness, some caramel, a sugary sweetness (residual sugars?) strong all the way through and, riding alongside the whole way, that big boozy presence. It comes together a bit better in the flavor here. Hops lie underneath the malts, offering a bit of citrus and, to a lesser extent, grassiness.
The body is on the bigger side of medium, not as thinned out for all the alcohol as it could be; in fact, it's almost a little "chewy," so to speak. There's a gentle crispness and a light carbonation throughout.

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Photo of snaotheus
3.65/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a pint glass

Pours coppery with almost no head, and almost no visible carbonation. Smell is musty and sweet. Hay and dust. Dark fruit, like plums.

Taste is sweet and fruity with some alcohol bitterness. More of that plumminess. Maybe some dates and raisins.

Mouthfeel is a little still, and slightly sticky. Somewhat chewy.

Overall, this is a pretty good barleywine.

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Photo of LXIXME
3.64/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Small light brown head quickly dies leaving no lacing above a clear burnt dark reddish amber colored beer.

Rich grains and alcohol aroma overwhelm anything else that might be going on.

Big roasted grains blend well with the alcohol in a full flavored taste on this barley wine.

A very light dry aftertaste that brings with it some of the caramel malts.

A medium bodied barley wine that has more of a beer taste than a lot of barley wines I've have tried, which to me is a big plus.

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Photo of Pintofbrown
3.2/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I had this "imperial" barleywine in a nonic pint.

Appearance- This barley wine has a copper, almost ruby look to it with an insubstantial tan head.

Smell- A little sweet from what seems to be dark fruits. I get no hint of hops. Alcohol comes through, reminds me of a brandy. The malt is bigger as well, more toffee and bread-like.

Taste- I would say the overall impression of the drink has to be unbalanced and a little too warm. The drink starts out sweet with the bread malt and dark fruits mixing a little, but then the heat plays around on the back of the throat.

This produces some flavors that seem "off" in this beer. It also brings down the finish considerably. Even if the drink finished smoother, this one might be a bit too sweet, and really lacking in hop presence.

Mouth feel- It is slick, but unfortunately, not really smooth or full. That would have really helped the beer. It is too oily really.

Overall- This imperial barley wine certainly shows its alcohol demeanor early and often, negatively affecting the smell, taste, and feel of the beer.

Give this barley wine some flavor hops and smooth out all of that alcohol bite and I might consider picking this one up again.

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Photo of teetotaler
3.61/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

aged this bottle in the blair-witch cellar for 2 years. i figured, the dogs in bed and the wifes outside, so why not?

poured into the trusty duvel tulip

3/4" mottled tan and leather head, like crema on an espresso. despite it's attractiveness and seeming thickness, it dissipated within 2 minutes. held up to the light, the bulk was largely opaque with raisin-brown tinting around the edges. though the head had dissipated, carbonation was still very active throughout (this would become a problem later).

the smell was indicative of a barley-wine powerhouse. malt, dark fruits, chocolate and booziness so thick you could cut it with a knife. a bit too boozy at the start, but it Is 11%. age hasn't mellowed the nose one bit (of the beer, not my nose).

the taste followed the nose with a malty tongue bath. no booze burn. dark fruits pound the back of the throat and sinuses like a belgian yeast. the carmel in the nose is lost in the cloying richness.

mouthfeel is appropriate for the style. thick, coating the mouth, lingering, a few steps down from syrupy. the tingle of the carbonation is delightful in this style, keeping it from becoming too heavy, while delivering the alcohol to my brain and limbs much too quickly (yep, it became a problem)

overall, it's not the most complicated selection of the style, i've had quite a few over time. age may have focused the flavor, for the aroma is enticing, but the taste is one-sided. not a bad selection, but this would've been better with a lower ABV (it's crazy saying that. i started with barley wines Because of their high ABV). mendocino should leave the "imperial" designation to stouts and possibly IPAs, but leave barley wines where they are.

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Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale from Mendocino Brewing Company
Beer rating: 84 out of 100 with 217 ratings