Barrel Noir | Almanac Beer Co.

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Barrel NoirBarrel Noir

Brewed by:
Almanac Beer Co.
California, United States | website

Style: American Double / Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
This oak-aged ale is our love letter to bourbon barrels. Barrel Noir is a sumptuous, inky ale that celebrates the velvety texture and subtle heat that only Kentucky charred oak can impart. Born from a blend of American imperial stout and Belgian-inspired dark ale aged in bourbon barrels, this rich brew can be paired with braised beef dishes and dark chocolates. Enjoyed best in front of a warm fireplace.

Added by Trilogy31 on 02-14-2013

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 76 | Ratings: 428
Photo of BierJager89
4.5/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Black with a mocha head.

S: Lots of sweet chocolate, bourbony vanilla, oak and caramel.

T: Caramel, chocolate, vanilla, lots of oak, dark fruit and some coffee. Almost a dry hoppy bitterness on the finish. Very tasty.

M: Full bodied and fairly smooth.

O: An excellent beer. The bourbon character really shines, and the big of dark fruit imparted by the belgian ale blended into the mix really meshes well with the other flavors.

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Photo of BMMillsy
3.78/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Bottle from George. Thanks! Pours dark brown to black with just a ring of light brown head. Big oaky aroma with plenty of bourbon, roast, some smoke, big caramel and toffee, anise, and just a hint of vanilla. The caramel toffee continues onto the flavor making this much more a barleywine or strong ale than imperial stout. Big caramel notes, vanilla, bourbon, roast, toffee, oak, drying at the end on the palate. The mouthfeel is way thin on this one, with medium carbonation that prickles just a bit in the throat. The barrel is integrated nicely here with interesting flavors, but the carbonation level and thin mouthfeel for a big beer really detract from what could otherwise be a rich treat. Still a good beer, but I'm not sure why they mixed the stout back with some obviously lighter bodied dark beer. Just stick the stout in barrels--I guess uniqueness is valued to some extent.

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Photo of CuriousMonk
4.21/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours dark brown with a thin off-white head leaving very nice lacing throughout. Aromas of charred oak, vanilla, chocolate, cocoa beans, and light notes of bourbon. The flavor profile suggests some caramel, light brown sugar, plums, oak, and silky chocolate bourbon goodness. Velvety texture in the mouthfeel with a polished, yet subtle heat finish that only Kentucky charred oak can only seem to pull off. Overall, a very nice beer and I want to keep trying those Farm to Barrel series from the brewery!

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Photo of dirtylou
3.72/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

on-tap, brouwers

I've really liked some of the farmers reserve beers, but this one didn't do it for me. Not much of a RIS, though I'm not really sure that was the intent. Cocoa powder, strong sweetness, trace bourbon, vanilla, chocolate covered cherry, a bit of oak. Just average.

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Photo of thebigredone
3.94/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My first Almanac beer, I've really been looking forward to trying this brewery.

Taste is of dusty cocoa, sweet dark fruit, and mild oak. There's virtually no noticeable bourbon on the palate, I would have liked to taste a bit more.

Overall, this is a nice belgian dark ale/stout from Almanac. A little more roast and a fair bit more bourbon would have increased my enjoyment of this, but on the whole it is a solid beer.
And kudos to Almanac for their sweet bottle design, very well done.

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Photo of maximum12
3.9/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to kyle2k10 for this bottle during our second go-round. 375ML bottle with some pretty cool art tattooed right onto the bottle, poured in to my big old Terrapin chalice, which I don't use nearly enough.

Pour is black, showing faint signs of life. Nose is light barrel, vanilla mostly, with a bite of chocolate & significant roast.

Barrel Noir is smoother than Will Smith's smile. The whole beer has rolled in smooth, there's virtually no friction at all as it slides past the molars. After that distraction, the tastes takes a back seat. Plenty of slow roast, followed by the warming chest cavity by the booze; drinks a lot higher than it's labelled. Vanilla knocks only after the beer warms & fills the mid-palate to the brim. Bitter chocolate rounds out the lineup. I find myself drinking this far too quickly for a big-beer on a school night.

Did I mention this brew is smooth? This grew on me as it warmed; really unimpressive at lower temps, this one needs a warm fire or cupped hands to shine. This isn't Men in Black of I Am Legend, but it might be I, Robot. Very good beer.

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Photo of GJ40
3.89/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Sampled from a 500ml? bottle purchased at K&L in Redwood City.

A - Beautiful bottle. And I love the farm to barrel concept. More brown than black on the initial pour but looks black once the glass is full. A small tan head.

S - Bourbon, vanilla, oak, chocolate and brown sugar. Complex and balanced.

T - Bourbon, vanilla and roasted barley. It starts better than it finishes. There's an out of place bitterness toward the end.

M - A little thin for the style. Low to moderate carbonation.

O - Solid from appearance to aroma to it hitting the palate. But it goes down hill in the finish.

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Photo of cbutova
4.14/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Consumed on-tap at Stone in Escondido. Reviewed from notes.

A- Poured from the tap to an 8oz taster glass. Black as night with a small light tan head. Bubbly ring leaves spotty lace after the head falls fairly quickly.

S- Light barrel whiskey with oak and vanilla, smoothed out and not abrasive. Dark roast malts, strong dark red fruity yeast notes, spiced raisins and some cocoa.

T- Barrel comes to life a bit more in the taste. Rounded out Bourbon, vanilla and oak wood peek through a roasty, Belgian base beer. Aged caramel, intensely dark burnt grains, raisins, dark fruits, cocoa, fig candi sugar and Belgian yeast spice. The fruitiness reminds me of an Old Ale, perhaps a tiny bit of oxidation.

MF- Creamy and silky texture to a medium thick body. Alcohol provides a nice warming at 10% and carbonation is at a medium-high level. Goes down smoothly.

Grows on me with each sip. The Belgian yeast feel works with the Bourbon barrels and dark roasty malts, not an easy thing to do.

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Photo of PsilohsaiBiN
3.79/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottle has no date, though I'm assuming this is a '13.

Appearance: Pours black, as a stout should, with one finger of fluffy beige head. There's lots of carbonation sticking to side of glass if you check for legs, which it has.

Smell: Dark fruit, dark chocolate, coffee, caramel and slight coconut(from the barrel). There's definitely a detectable booze element.

Taste: Talk about barrel character...Beginning is dark chocolate with a touch of coconut that thereafter gets overpowered by a Bourbon punch with some tobacco-like spiciness. After the bourbon/tobacco subsides, you're left with some nice malty roast that fades out into a dry finish. Man, the Bourbon element in this is strong and boozy.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied for the style with good carbonation.

Overall: Blind, I'd've pegged this at least 10% and 100% barrel aged. Though it was drinkable now, I'd personally lay this down for 1+ years. This is a bit boozy and could definitely benefit from some time in the cellar. Kind of reminds me of Parabola, which isn't a bad thing.

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Photo of emerge077
3.86/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to WST for this one! BBQ victory winnings finale, shared with Aaron.

Pitch black, some tobacco-stained chestnut highlights when held to the light. Thin vein of tan foam, spotty flecks of lace around the edges.

Anise in the aroma big time, licorice and roasted malt comprise the main elements, with some barrel heat as well.

Roasty char, malt sweetness, chocolate syrup, sweet pipe tobacco. Full bodied with a bite from the bourbon barrel, finish is a bit thin though. Werthers butterscotch candy and milk chocolate. Dry finish, fairly smooth. Overall it's pretty good, but is lacking a certain something to make it unique.

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Photo of MaximusPrime
4.94/5  rDev +22.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Suuuper rich tones of dark chocolate and espresso with a calming spicy bourbon tinge and light charred oaky aroma with a light tannin profile. Perfect mid viscosity and light hop presence to compliment, finishing off with a light black cherry tone.

Overall deep complexity, definitely in my top 5 bourbon barrel aged.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle shared with my wife.

Typical imperial stout appearance. Dark brown, almost black. Thin, beige collar. The aroma is chocolaty with just a hint of bourbon. Lots of chocolate in the flavor with a touch of bourbon, vanilla, oak. Smooth and velvety on the palate with moderately low carbonation. Mild alcohol heat in the finish. Overall, a decent brew but middle of the pack in a highly competitive style.

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Photo of Seanniek91
4.21/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served from a 375ml capped bottle into a Crooked Stave Tulip. Poured relatively vigorously because I wasn't expecting too much head, but had to calm down. Head came right to the tip of the glass.

Appearance- Black. A two finger bubbly off-white head came and lasted a minute or so. More head than expected, but not so much retention. Some fine lacing remains.

Smell- Light caramel bourbon, bitter chocolate, smooth roasty coffee, some light vanilla, and light pipe tobacco. Bourbony, but not excessively, and full of rich/roasty imperial stout aroma.

Taste- Bourbon up front. Caramel and vanilla mingle with milk chocolate. Coffee comes in slowly. Finish is bourbon. Bourbon is there obviously, but for only 50% of this beer being aged in Bourbon Barrels, it's surprisingly strong, but not overwhelming. No taste of booze. Light stone fruits finish this beer.

Mouthfeel- Moderate carbonation with a smooth and luscious mouthfeel. Hints of booze heat at the end.

Overall- A fine bourbon blended stout from a brewery I've never had before. Booze heat is a little high, but overall, the flavor and smell alone are very nice.

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Photo of RuckusDu
3.82/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Been digging on Almanac and have luckily received a few as extras. This was one of them. 375ml bottle into Duvel tulip. Winter 2012.

More of an effervescent head than the thick and creamy you normally find on a stout. About a finger of light mocha colored head. Body is black but a fair amount of light shone through on the pour. Aroma is very sweet. Candied sugar, a hint of cinnamon, chocolate, and a little dark fruit. Flavor is a little bitter for me. Alcohol comes through. I don't know how to describe it. Exactly as you would expect - dark ale, stout, bourbon barrel. Still getting a little cinnamon. Good carbonation and a thinner body.

Overall there is a lot of the dark ale coming through and I don't know how well it blends with the bourbon. It is something different from the typical barrel aged stout, but just a small bit off.

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Photo of alaimoa
4.38/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle from California back in April.
Appearance black with a surprising brown head with both big and small bubbles and one of the stickiest lacing/legs I've had. 1-2 inch legs on the glass.
Smell strong vanilla, coconut, roasted coffee, bitter chocolate
Taste has an upfront sweetness, bourbon forward, boozy heat
Mouthfeel very nice mouthful of carbonation, decent thickness

Overall I'm really impressed and back and forth as a comparison to the allagash Curieux which I love. They are different brews but the bourbon barrels come through strong on both. I almost like the consistency a big more on this one but smell and complexity lack a bit

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.11/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz stubby bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Shared with Rich in Sydney.

Pours a surprisingly light cloudy brown, certainly still stout-worthy, but perhaps less than Impy-level. Head forms a big, burgeoning froth when first poured, settling to a mocha crater of large bubbles. Body is surprisingly light, although the carbonation that forms is still quite fine. Overall it looks good, but with a few quirks to it.

Nose is wonderful. Big American oak flavours balanced with a rich sweetness from the beer itself. Plenty of toasted coconut, vanilla and mild milky chocolate. It's balanced or perhaps shot through with a slight acidity which adds a point of difference from other bourbon barrel aged Imperial stouts. But mostly, it's just sweet, rich and gorgeous. Lovely stuff.

Taste has that slight acidity on the front, but it's quickly packed away by the sweetness giving chocolate and vanilla smoothness. The acidity however maintains a lightness to the palate throughout, making it feel slightly frothy and ephemeral from start to finish. There's a slightly metallic note on the back as well which again countermands the big, sweet vanillin oak characters. On the finish lingers a dry, sweet character of toasted coconut.

Feel is very different to the usual imperial stout: it's light, slightly rounded and a little bit ephemeral. It's an unusual experience, but not an unpleasant one by any means.

Overall, this is very good stuff. Sure, I love imperial stouts, and a big, heavy, boozy, rich example would have suited me fine. But I love that Almanac have done something very different with the same basic construct here. It's a new twist on a big bourbony stout, and that's something that's extremely welcome.

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Photo of portia99
3.99/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

375ml bottle poured into an Idle Hands tulip.

A - Pours an opaque black color with no light coming thru at all around the edges. Two fingers of dense creamy head shows excellent staying power and a beautiful mocha color. Thick lacing is left on the glass completing this very good looking stout.

S - Lots of dark roasted malt with some char and licorice making a first impression. Combination of chocolatey aromas from sweet milk chocolate thru bitter dark chocolate. Smooth bourbon takes a bit of a background position, sweet vanilla and a tiny bit of tartness mixed in too.

T - Very smooth, but not very assertive flavoring. Touch of vanilla up front with slightly warm bourbon. Burnt malt, a bit of char, dark chocolate, touch of coffee. Touch of bitter hops and maybe a bit of caramel on the finish especially as it warms in the glass. I'm surprised how subtle the flavorings are here.

M - Very smooth, warm bourbon that leaves a bit of a burn on the throat after the swallow. Medium bodied with a tingly mid-level carbonation. Quite mild flavors, especially for the style.

O - Absolutely beautiful beer in the glass with an aroma that is really nice and inviting. Nothing wrong with the flavors, just not enough there. If the flavor matched the aroma in intensity and complexity this would be truly outstanding. Still a good beer, but had so much more promise.

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Photo of flayedandskinned
3.29/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Bottled on 1/30/13
Poured into a standard tulip glass.

Appearance: (4)
Pours a midnight black with a nice, 2 fingers tall khaki head that has some nice retention. The head eventually falls to a nice quarter finger cap, leaving no retention behind.

Aroma: (3.75)
Rich aromas of sweet dark fruits waft up to your nose as soon as you pour the beer; mostly plum, cherry and fig. Building right alongside these sweet tones are impressions of coconut and vanilla from the bourbon barrel. As the beer warms, the barrel character begins to fade and more of the sweet fruit undertones, paired with a creamy chocolate presence become apparent. Underneath this sweetness, there is a very subtle astringent coffee tone.

Taste: (3)
Similar to the nose, your palate is struck immediately by waves of sweet fruit; mostly plums, cherries and figs. Underneath these fruits is a light streak of bitter coffee and chocolate. The beer finishes watery with lingering notes of chocolate, sweet fruit and coffee. There are some nice notes of coconut and vanilla from the barrel. There is a sizable alcohol presence.

Mouthfeel: (3)
Thin, a tad watery with moderate carbonation.

Overall: (3.25)
I had hopes for this beer; A Dark Belgian Strong aged in Bourbon barrels and then blended with an Imperial Stout? This should be awesome! I was expecting a very robust, creamy ale and what this turned out to be is a thin beer with some decent barrel character. After trying Almanac's Farmhouse Reserve No. 3, and I had bigger hopes for this.

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Photo of MasterSki
3.92/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle shared by Chris (spycow). Served in a snifter.

A - Tan foam settles to a thick collar, wisps, and minimal lace. Dark brown body with some ruby-brown transparency when held to the light.

S - Lots of bourbon barrel, oak, roasted malts, charred wood, a slightly buttery note, anise, dark chocolate, and well-concealed alcohol.

T - More malt character, with less overt bourbon and oak character. Caramel, roasted malts, vanilla marshmallow, fudge, and again the same buttery note I picked up in the aroma. Still, pretty enjoyable on the whole.

M - Medium body, and a tad thin and watery for the listed 10%. Dry, oaky, and tannic, with light alcohol warmth that is less than one would expect.

D - A solid barrel-aged stout, although it's marred by a mildly buttery note and an overly thin body.

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Photo of notchucknorris
3.94/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A: Pours a touch thin looking, but turns a good looking deep brown color with a 1/2 finger tan head. Leaves some nice spotty lacing down the glass.

S: Tons of barrel in here. I don't get a lot of bourbon sweetness, just a lot of charred barrel. Bittersweet chocolate, burnt coffee and a touch of toffee with some wet earth and a touch of dark fruit. Grows a little sweeter as it warms.

T: Again, not a lot of sweetness here. Charred wood and heavy roasted malt with a pretty good amount of heat to it. A little bit of cocoa powder lingers in the background. Finish is dry with unsweetened baking chocolate, charred wood and some lingering earthy hops.

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Photo of ehammond1
4.19/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Bottle (2013)

Churchill's Pub & Grille
san Marcos, CA

A delicious, refined, roasty, earthy barrel-aged imperial stout. The aroma comes packed with loads of chocolate and an integrated bourbon barrel character. It actually reminded me a lot of Parabola's aroma. The flavor isn't quite as successful, the but the usual players are all here and are delicious. Everything Almanac puts into barrels turns into gold. Another winner!

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Photo of rlee1390
4.28/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A-Black in the glass, black when pouring as well. One finger off white head.

S-Bourbon, chocolate, darker fruits.

T-Nice balance. Bourbon, dark chocolate, vanilla, good deal of dark fruits and some burnt notes.

M-Medium to heavy, some carbonation, tad creamy with a pleasant alcohol heat.

O-Another great beer from Almanac. Their bigger beers seem to all be must tries.

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Photo of impending
4.11/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4


375ml into a goblet. Pours a deep dark mahogony but not black, minor mocha color head, minor lacing.

The aroma of bourbon reaches from the bottle. Bittersweet sweet, rich in caramel and molasses, vinous qualities throw it plesantly off kilter. shares much with a barrel aged wee heavy

The bittersweet sweet follows through exactly in the taste. Everything is exactly what the nose predicted as did the label. Relatively thin lifeless mouthfeel.
must be difficult starting a barrel program when the biz is young
but competence has been repeatedly delivered
this is just the beginning

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Photo of mxchap
4/5  rDev -1%
look: 5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Bottled in Winter 2012, enjoyed in January 2014.

Appearance: Black, no surprise here. Tall light-tan head with great lacing. Certainly looks inviting and a bit mysterious. [5/5]

Aroma: A lot going on, but it meshes well together. The most notable aromas are of the bourbon/vanilla, but the dark fruit (figs) from the Belgian side of the blend are also quite noticeable. Bitterness in the form of cacao is also detectable. [3.75/5]

Flavor: The Belgian dark ale is most assertive, and the bourbon barrel shines through very nicely. This tastes similar what the label describes: 50% Belgian dark ale aged in bourbon barrels & 50% American imperial stout. I would say it's closer to 60-40 in favor of the Belgian though. There is a stout hiding in there, and it asserts itself in the manner of cacao roastiness and fruity esters. A little metallic on the finish, but it doesn't detract much from the enjoyment.

Feel: A little thin for being 10% ABV, but I'm guessing the BSDA finished rather dry. Carbonation is a little high initially. The stout flavors linger for a bit, but no flavors are cloying or long-lasting. [3.0/5]

Overall: A nice dark ale hybrid. I haven't had too many Belgian style stouts that I really enjoyed (other than black albert), but this blended beer essentially pulls it off. Nicely done Almanac. [4.0/5]

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.52/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

On tap @ Monk's Kettle

A -Deep ink black with a thin layer of light brown head and excellent lacing. Beautiful!

S - Intense bourbon and vanilla aromas accompany a big sweetness. Chocolate, roast and hints of dark fruit.

T - Sweet bourbon and vanilla along with charred oak up front as the barrel notes shine through. Chocolate, roast and light espresso. Gets smoky as it warms.

M - Medium body but a touch watery at times. Light carbonation.

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Barrel Noir from Almanac Beer Co.
90 out of 100 based on 76 ratings.
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