Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale | Mendocino Brewing Company

Imperial Barley Wine Style AleImperial Barley Wine Style Ale
Liked This Beer
3.67 w/ 215 ratings
Imperial Barley Wine Style AleImperial Barley Wine Style Ale

Brewed by:
Mendocino Brewing Company
United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by ThreeWiseMen on 05-29-2010

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Ratings: 215 |  Reviews: 94
Photo of grahamboudreaux
5/5  rDev +36.2%

Photo of Daveychu
5/5  rDev +36.2%

Photo of gabe1k
5/5  rDev +36.2%

Photo of BeerManDan
4.8/5  rDev +30.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured a thick dark, dark, reddish brown with no foam. The first impression when smelled was of roasted brown sugar, with chocolate over tones. The aroma was so pleasant and i couldn't pick-up the alcohol, even at 11%, it just smelt so inviting. The taste of roated malts, brown sugar or molasses, whatever it was and caramel, not choclate. This is so, so smooth and tasty, without that strong bitter or high alcohol feel on the palate. This, for me, is one great tasting American Barleywine. I, myself, have not tasted such a well blended and balanced ale in a long, long time. I'm out to buy a case or two!

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Photo of Aaron_Ramson
4.73/5  rDev +28.9%
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 Jonbw
4.6/5  rDev +25.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The bottle we are drinking is six years old and it's damn good!

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Photo of bespin15
4.5/5  rDev +22.6%

Photo of mychalg9
4.5/5  rDev +22.6%

Photo of AGoodStout
4.5/5  rDev +22.6%

Photo of mitch3114
4.5/5  rDev +22.6%

Photo of ThreeWiseMen
4.37/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Reviewed by Wiseman Justin.

Appearance: Poured a dark amber with a nice looking head. After letting warm up for a while the head dissipates a lot but normal for its style. I've seen better Barleywines although there is absolutely nothing wrong here (except some room for improvement).

Smell: Strong smell of Dough. Some spice, some alcohol. It's a nice smell that reminds me of cooking bread.

Taste: Earthy, I love it. Seriously, was not expecting this random beer to taste so good. This beer reminds me heavily of Firestone 13. Let me restate this. It does not taste like Firestone 13, it reminds me of it. Which is entirely a good thing. For one this is not a syrupy sweet barleywine. It's robust like many of Firestone's barelywines. It's got coffee and chocolate flying in there. It's really a delicious 11% beer.

Mouthfeel: On par with other barleywines. Not nearly as syrupy as some of them though. Which I like but I'm not sure how it matches up with the style. (Well I am sure but I wish more barleywine's would drop the syrup bit).

Drinkability: This is a very drinkable 11% beer. I was poured a 1/3 of a bottle because I didn't want much. When I drank this my body was awakened from it's dogmatic slumber. If you're stumbling around for a barelwine and Old Gnarleywine is out of season get this beer. Get it even if Gnarleywine is in season.

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Photo of Masticon
4.33/5  rDev +18%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - 4.5 : Deep and dark red with a dark tan foam forming a perfect head. Crystal clear. Color makes me think of a really rich Irish Red.

Smell - 4.0 : Smell points to the definite sweetness of the beer. Very malty with no clear sign of hops. Brings preparation for a very strong brew with toasted toffee and caramel in the mind.

Taste - 4.5 : Very rich and sweet. For those hoping for a dryer beer flavor stay away. Initial flavor contains no hop bitterness, very smooth. Brings to mind a vast array of dried fruit flavors, plum, prune, date, fig, and cherry all come to mind. Sweetness points towards a sherry or port flavor. Slight earthy hop flavor at the finish. Very sweet throughout without any noticeable alcohol hotness.

Feel - 4.0 : Thick and chewy without being overwhelming. Very smooth throughout in spite of it's high gravity.

Overall - 4.5 : This is definitely the best barleywine we tasted tonight. Very fitting to expectations. As a port lover, the sweetness it brought with it was very welcome though I can see how others would be less fond of such a sugary beer. My only big confusion here is what Imperial is doing in the name. There wasn't really anything I found Imperial about it.

You can read a comparison of this and a couple other barleywines on my blog at

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Photo of peacebone116
4.33/5  rDev +18%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: I poured this barley wine from the bottle into a tulip glass and it initially formed a caramel colored 0.5-cm to 1-cm thick head. This head dissipates quickly leaving a fair amount of Brussels lace along the leg of the glass. The body is a consistent deep reddish brown.

N: Sweet over-ripe stone fruit and fig with a light butter scent mixed with a passing touch of pepper as sweetness fades (presumably from the alcohol).

T/M: The taste is sweet like fruit (same as it smells) but does not feel syrupy; this beer drinks lighter than the 11% abv suggests it should. The pepper scent is not present in the taste, but instead is replaced by a slight burn from the alcohol.
As the beer warms, the fruity sweetness is accompanied by a alcohol warming that becomes slightly more dominant. Overall, the beer maintains its creamy mouthfeel.

An excellent interpretation of a barley wine style ale! Well done and well received!

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Photo of Lynn
4.28/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of ToddGingerich
4.25/5  rDev +15.8%

Photo of Gatordaddy
4.25/5  rDev +15.8%

Photo of Jjski
4.24/5  rDev +15.5%
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 DrDemento456
4.2/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked this single up for 2.39. May go back for more if it's awesome.

A - A nice amber in color nice and dark with an inch of head that turns to a light sticky lace.

S - Smells of slight caramel, toffee, a bit of sweet malts and a touch of alcohol

T - My does this drink smooth. ABV takes a backseat as Sweet caramel and toffee along side an almost cherry tone take the palate over hops. Dark fruits as well are used to cover up any alcohol burn my gawd!

M - Medium to a bit heavy. Couldn't imagine drinking more than a couple of sitting.

Overall I regret buying an entire case of the RIS since this barleywine is more ABV and more taste with less hop presence. Man I hate PA for not having the single but love this beer. A very drinkable BW.

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
4.2/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle served in a snifter.

L - clear cherrywood color with a off-white head that thinned to a ring leaving a few spots of lacing.

S - toffee with a hint of alcohol, it reminds me of a hot buttered rum cocktail.

T - sweet caramel and toffee with very light bittering and a bit of heat.

F - medium bodied, sticky sweet and warming.

O - a good barley wine but as already mentioned it's more like an English BW than an American BW.
The Mendocino website lists the "category" as Imperial Barley Wine

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Photo of Beejay
4.15/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: A brilliant copper color. Beautiful red brown like a strong brewed iced tea. Nice full head on this, thick and fluffy.

S: Big wheat/rye bread smell. Some maple syrup in there as well. Some raisons as well. Quite a nice beer to smell.

T: Interesting. Big caramel flavor up front, followed by raisons and bread. The finish lingers with syrup notes and a very solid bitterness.

M: Heavy with a lot of carbonation to balance it out. It almost ripples across your tongue in the finish, first the carbonation, then the lingering bitterness.

D: This is quite a strange brew. The nose seemed all English style, the flavor seems like it is partial English, but with the lingering bitterness of an American. It is a solid beer that's for sure, but it doesn't have enough hop flavor for me for an American Style BW, but too much bitterness for an English. Over all it is a damn fine brew. Just not sure what the hell to grade it as.

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Photo of claytong
4.15/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

first off i agree very much this is definitely an english barleywine.
drank it decently fresh. i dont recommend drinking more than one fresh even though its not half bad that way. it seems like a great beer to age.
very malty, not any bitterness as is typical with american barleys. nice barley notes. caramel, raisin and molasses are in there but certainly not strong.
a terrific buy for barleys.

a note: just revisited a bottle i put back in the cellar. its about a year old and was tasting fantastic. sit on this one a bit.

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Photo of zotzot
4.14/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of johnnnniee
4.12/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep reddish copper color with a slightly dirty beige head that dissipates slowly to a ring on top. The smell is quite sweet, it reminds me more of an old ale than an American barley wine. Caramel, toffee, prunes, dates, cherries, slight bit of resin and a hint of alcohol in there. There's an almost non existent hop aroma, maybe its an English barleywine? Taste is sweet and fruity. Caramel covered cherries mixed in some toffee, but add a bit of a hop bite. Lingering sweetness in the finish with a little bit of alcohol heat. Sweet almost syrupy mouthfeel, light level of carbonation and a relatively thick body. As an old ale or English barleywine I really enjoyed this, as an American barleywine it misses the mark. Nice sipper, great flavors and aroma, I might have to check out some more brews from Mendocino.

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Photo of TBRich
4.09/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of oberon
4.08/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

First off by saying this is an American style Barleywine you would be wrong,many are reviewing it as such,this is a big malt driven English Barleywine,it pretty much says so on the label!Poured a brilliant auburn color with a creamy off white head that never really leaves completely,its extremely vinious with juicy dark fruitiness,very cakey,a light shot of resiny hop lingers in the nose.Chewey with a big shot of dark fruit and cake on the palate,the hop come into play as it warms giving a resiny undertone.To me this is a great beer,its English in nature,warming and rich,a winter by the fireplace beer,it is really great!

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Imperial Barley Wine Style Ale from Mendocino Brewing Company
Beer rating: 51.6% out of 100 with 215 ratings
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