Sawyer's Swap Barley Wine Ale | Cape May Brewing Company

very good
16 Reviews
Sawyer's Swap Barley Wine AleSawyer's Swap Barley Wine Ale

Brewed by:
Cape May Brewing Company
New Jersey, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.60%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
An American style barley wine, very hoppy but with an ultra rich malty flavor. Use of the word" wine" is due to its similar alcoholic strength as a wine; but since it is made from grain rather than fruit, it is, in fact, a beer. This is a big beer with big flavor!

Added by touchmeimsac on 06-06-2013

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Reviews: 16 | Ratings: 47
Photo of Eamonn-Cummings3
3.73/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass.

Look is a lot darker than a regular barleywine more like an extra dark brown ale with little to no head.

Aroma is sweet molasses with a little dark fruits (candied cherry) at the end.

Taste is very sweet giving way to a medicinal bitterness.

It's too bad the taste really ruins this one. I had such expectations with the look and aroma.

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Photo of MacMalt
3.92/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

I had this on draught at the brewery. It pours cola brown with cherry hues, and a foamy khaki-colored head and lacing. It smells and caramel, raisin, brown sugar, and floral hops. The taste opens with a dose of sweet caramel, plum, and raisin, and finishes with a refined hoppy bitterness. The flavors compliment each other and blend well. It has a fairly thick, creamy mouth feel, with mild carbonation, and a noticeable ABV of 9.6% Overall, it is a very nice interpretation of the American Barleywine style. It would pair nicely with a meal but it is great for casual drinking, as well. I think this is one of Cape May Brewing's finest offerings.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
3.99/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

(12 oz bottle, no date, unfiltered... poured into a wine glass)

L: finger+ high foam stand, loose/open on the edges, satiny/rocky toward the middle... deep black cherry burgundy hue to the liquid, fair-good clarity... a couple splashy streaks of lace, no lasting head retention, only a thin collar

S: artifacts of some piney and citrus hops linger at the top, slightly roasty and mid-dark caramel malt aromas lumber beneath... overall, reminds me of a shade-darker Bigfoot... a booze dawn is just poking out over the horizon... the overall blend is appealing

T: bold fruity hops, no doubt in concert with some high fruity esters, with a slowly unfolding woodsy bitterness clinging to the tastebuds... the malt base is rich, again, leaning roast-forward, which leaves a nice balance against what is thankfully not a vibrant malt sweetness

F: medium-full bodied, on the medium side, but with a subtle, sumptuous slick slide of sugar in the finish... mild bit of warmth, but its essence seems to hover slightly under the dull stinging bitterness of the hops helped by the alcohol... pretty consistently (and borderline too) dry in the back end each time I've tried it... drinks more like a dry stout than an RIS

O: one of a small few of their beers I feel like they do pretty well, and I love that one of their winners is a high-powered malt vehicle, though they could get away with eking out as much as a 1/2% more abv... I've sampled this at the brewery a couple times and always enjoyed it and, now having finally had a full glass, I can certainly anticipate grabbing a full 4-pack fairly soon, a few packs of which I've seen sitting in some stores down here for a long while and have hopefully aged well

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Photo of tzieser
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. Dark brown/tawny color with a thick off-white head that slowly subsides into a modest sized lace. Toasted malted barley aroma with undertones of herbal, earthy (grassy/hay) hop aromas. Sweet toasted malts again with more flavors of burnt sugar as well as a bit of spicy rye/tobacco. Finishes with some earthy hop bitterness.

Overall it's a good American barleywine. I love the history behind the name. Recommended

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Photo of justintcoons
3.77/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter.

Deep chestnut (near black) with ruby highlights. 1/2 finger of tan head dissipates quickly.

Molasses, toffee, prune, raisin, caramel, cocoa, and light pine.

Molasses, toffee, and caramel. Prune juice and raisin. Hints of cocoa. Light earthy hop flavors with slight pine and grapefruit zest.

Medium-plus bodied, smooth, oily, and balanced.

Molasses, toffee, and dark fruit. A well balanced Barleywine that hides the abv well.

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Photo of gr0g
3.53/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, served in a snifter. Deep brown with reddish highlights, encroaching on porter/stout levels of darkness. Short head, little lace formation. Floral and citric aroma with just a hint of alcohol. Hop notes overshadow malt contributions to a degree.

Quite a bit of hop bitterness on the palate. Again, a bit too heavy on the hops, as the rich flavors of ripe fruit and caramelized sugar that I'd like to taste in a barleywine are muted. A little bit of booziness on the finish that's not out of character for the style. Mouthfeel is fine but suffers from too much fizziness. Flavor improves as it warms. Maybe some age would show this in a better light.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
3.84/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

From BeerAdvocate Magazine #90 (July 2014):

Malty, Heavy, Bitter, Boozy

A bit of a malt bomb to start with layers of caramel and dried plums, some yeast kicks around a quite noticeable alcohol. Bread but then soon bitter from a heavy dose of hops, mild tobacco and citrus rind flavors come to mind. A few sips in and this beaut really starts to grow on us. We’d opt to drink it fresh.

STYLE: American Barleywine | ABV: 9.6% | AVAILABILITY: Rotating

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Photo of farrago
4.23/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Gives less than a half finger head, tan foam but no retention, leaves a thin dusting dusting across the surface, can’t call it powerful but there’s actually more lacing than expected. Noticeably clear brown-orange hued liquid, actually a beautiful color, close to zero visible bubbles. Caramel, honey, scones and caramelized brown sugar make the first impression in the nose, dried cherries and golden raisins, old school country style bread, the kind of rip off in chunks, light wood smoke, remarkable for its freshness and ease in flowing forward through your nostrils. Full-bodied, here it has enough density that just maybe it loses that effortless grace. Peat, smoke, spent yeast, cola bean, caraway, by now the herbal qualities may have seen their best days. Tar, graphite, campfire embers, as it warms the inner mouth pungency grows. The carbonation could stand to have more kick but this is a minor quibble. Cherry, golden raisin, date and fig, this all manages to step lively. Booziness held in check throughout, tingly finish without any well intentioned lurching forward. This could prove versatile at the dinner table.

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.01/5  rDev +4.4%

I am sampling this 12 ozbottle cold and poured into a snifter. The beer is a gift from my brother Curt. Thanks!
The beer exhibits slightly hazy chestnut hue with minimal head that is only an edge layer almost immediately after the pour.
Aroma is lots of malt with molasses and brown sugar dominating and some rich bakers chocolate. I do get a little bit of citrus hop, like orange peel or maybe grapefruit. the description here on the site says this is a hoppy, but this is a maltforwad beer for certain, almost more strong ale than barleywine.
First sip gives me a slightly chewy body and very fine yet tingly carbonation. Flavor is similar to nose with malt strength. No real booze hits which is impressive at 9.6%. Hops are subdued on the flavor too. Maybe a little citrus again, but generally a malty brew here. I find it very easy to drink and wish I had another bottle.
Go grab this if you see it and like robust beers with a hefty malt base. Worthy brew.

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Photo of fourstringer
3.96/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Stone old-fashioned glass. Moderate hand. No identifiable date. Dig the Civil War themed label.

A: Dark amber body with orange tint when held up to the light. 1/2 finger light tan head. Average retention. Light lacing.

S: Sweet caramel, brown sugar, lighter cherry/raisin/berry notes. I'm picking up the distinct essence of Terry's chocolate orange - you know, the kind you get at Xmas. Hops are present, with a dark, subtle character. A hint of smokiness.

T: A flash of bitterness leads into a strong chocolate, coffee presence and roasted malt nuttiness. Well balanced hops return for a mostly dry finish. Alcohol is light for almost 10% ABV. Lingering bitter chocolate in the aftertaste.

M: Moderate carbonation with a moderate-to-light body for the style. Could be a bit fuller, a bit silkier, but overall not bad at all.

O: Picked this one up randomly on vacation, trying to sample some local brews. I was not disappointed - this one was quite enjoyable. Think barley wine cum porter with some well-integrated fruit/citrus character and you have the idea. Glad I have another in the cellar.


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Photo of DIM
3.56/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

a: Dark for a barleywine, this was a clear chestnut brown. It poured with a firm off-white cap.

s: Different, but pretty appealing. Lots of roastiness and a fair amount of astringent heat dominate. I also found molasses, raisin, charred molasses, and faint citrus.

t: I probably wouldn't have called this a barleywine had I tasted it blind. I did like it though. Strong roast and charred caramel all but overwhelm traces of dark fruit and molasses. The is hot hoppy, the roast lingers along with biting, bitter heat.

m: A bit sticky but kind of light.

o: Interesting take. I liked this but I bet some time would improve it. Maybe I'll find out.

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Photo of JCarey
2.69/5  rDev -29.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.75

Pours in a snifter clear, deep red/brown, minimal head with a bit of lacing and small cap.

Aroma is dark roasted malts, fresh pumpernickel bread, raisins and plums, some underlying earthy hops and fruity yeast.

Taste is all roast, hot alcohol, almost solventy, backed up by an astringent/tannic/acidic bite and some subdued earthiness and a strong bitterness. Not overly sweet, but really sweet. Burnt sugars and caramel overwhelm.

Mouthfeel is a thin medium and extremely drying.

This wasn't the best beer they could have put out, but certainly not their worst.

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Photo of stakem
3.94/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Thanks to Slatetank for saving me a pour of this. Poured into a snifter, the brew appears a clear dark mahogany color with ruby to more orange/yellow around the edges. A finger of tan cap comes out of solution and holds with a thin film across the top. As the brew is swirled and the cap fades, it leaves spotty lace all over the glass.

The aroma is a pleasant mix of fruity alcohol and hops. A little bit of bready malt somewhat toasty with hints of molasses and raisins.

The flavor has some burnt sugary aspect but isnt that sweet. It has some orange rindy bitterness and solvent alcohol. A bready grain feel contrasted by herbal hoppiness.

This is a medium bodied brew with a modest level of carbonation. Overall a hoppy and boozy barleywine. A nice sipper that I enjoyed getting a chance to try. Thanks Matt.

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Photo of Slatetank
4.09/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

enjoyed this bottle chilled with my brother for our thanksgiving get together, bomber into a tulip.

The color is deep brown with translucent clarity with a 2 finger ecru head that settles to a ring with very fine bead, spotty lace sticks. The smell is very woody with a toffee-like malt aroma with mild alcohol in general and light yeast ester and toasted grain presence. the feel is very good with mild sweetness in general a more dry barleywine which I like, but not very hop forward, might be straddling the line between english and American with a moderate toasted texture.

The taste is good with moderately smooth malt flavor with some roasted flavor and mild caramel/toffee taste with a slight molasses element and light woody hop flavor I really enjoy the way the alcohol is subtle and seems to only come forward as it warms with low heat and mild spice. The taste of the yeast plays a secondary role giving a light dried fruit taste with light fig-type depth. Overall I really enjoyed this as it was a beer I picked up on vacation and got to share on one of my favorite holidays. I really like the layered malt and drinkable considering it is a 9% ale and the alcohol is pretty well hidden. I would drink this again if it were available on a recurring basis -well done Cape May.

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Photo of facundoCNB
4.52/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

a clean deep amber/brown in color, finger of off-white head which diminished very slowly - lots of lacing left behind. smells very fruity - strawberries come to mind; lots of sweet malt, caramel, nutty, biscuity. my good ness, this is a DELICIOUS blend of sweet malts, hints of dark fruit, charred barrels, a lingering bitter-sweet profile from the roasty feel/grassy hops and the sweet malts.. lots of caramel malt present in the flavor.. wow - this is phenomenal. one of my favorite barleywines to date.. i wonder what this was like super fresh!? medium in body, low carbonation.. cannot taste nor feel the high abv. a VERY easy to drink barleywine.

honestly - i think this deserves to be on everyone's wants lists. this is fantastic. not sure if there's any left at the brewery, last time i was there i bought 3.. one for me and a few for friends. really wish i went for the 4th to have another on hand for myself.

between the fruity scent and the sweet flavors, this is one of my favorite barleywines by far. this doesn't have the generic "faded ipa" caramel malt flavor you see in a lot of barleywines.. this just tastes super fresh. if i could change anything, and this is me just nitpicking now, i would make it a tad bit hoppier.. personal preference.. but honestly i wouldn't bother touching this masterpiece if i were the brewer.

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Photo of touchmeimsac
4.06/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a deep red moving toward brown. Great color but pours with no head with very little carbonation.

Smell is not overly assertive but shows some toffee, caramel and hop bitterness. Nicely balanced

Taste follows the smell but more assertive and enjoyable. Not overly sweet but certainly not bitter. The modest 9% alcohol and great balance lends to great and easy drinkability for a barley wine. All who tasted, non beer drinkers included actually really liked their sample. This won't hit you over the head. It is not overly hopped like many american barley wine, just enough to balance the sweetness inherent to the style, and not too sweet at all with little of the residual sugar present in many of the high octane models. Easy drinking and very enjoyable.

Mouth is somewhat slick and oily which works for the style. Just a slight bit more carbonation would move this rating even higher.

Overall I really enjoyed this, as I have enjoyed pretty much everything from the up and coming brewery in cape may. The owners are awesome and I wish them best of luck.

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Sawyer's Swap Barley Wine Ale from Cape May Brewing Company
3.84 out of 5 based on 47 ratings.
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