Steel Toe Brewing

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British Barleywine
Ranked #25
Ranked #1,321
4.28 | pDev: 8.18%
Steel Toe Brewing
Minnesota, United States
Notes: An English-style barleywine aged in Rye Whiskey barrels. Rye whiskey aromas followed by caramel, toffee, vanilla, oak char, and toasted bread notes. The rich full bodied character and sweetness of Lunker is tempered by the moderate bitterness. Comforting and warming, a perfect accompaniment to a fire and cool evening.
Reviews: 51 | Ratings: 235 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of MonDak_Joe1953
4.35/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750ml bottle. 2016 vintage. Waxed and capped bottle.
Ruby brown colored body. Slight off white fizzy head, quickly fizzes away and leaves a partial bubble fed ring. No lacing.
Aroma of caramel and toffee, with oak barrel and vanilla.
Big whiskey barrel taste, with a malt base of caramel and toffee. Has a hint of chocolate and dark fruit, along with vanilla. Malt and whiskey trail off in the aftertaste. Has the punch of alcohol but no bitterness.
Medium, kind of a syrupy mouthfeel. Good carbonation.
High ABV% expresses more in the taste than in the vapors going to the nose. Solidly made barleywine that has aged quite well. This is a sipper because of the alcohol, but this allows for full savoring of the entire taste profile. The brewer's notes say this beer is aged in rye whiskey barrels, although the label just says "Whiskey Barrels". There is a sharp note in the taste that may signify the presence of rye. It is a very enjoyable experience to stick the nose into the glass while taking a sip; this more fully fills the senses.

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Photo of LloydDobler
4.18/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

750ml bottle poured into large snifter - bottled on MAY 2015

I believe this is aged in Jack Daniels barrels for this batch. Thick and brittle wax falls away as I pry off the cap. The pour yeilds a tiny film of head. Garnet/Amber in color, almost like a cranberry juice and iced tea mix. Nose is straight boozy raisin. Taste is creamy vanilla and tons of sweet toffee with a mild nut flavor. Lighter mouthfeel. Not as syrupy and sticky as I remember. I feel the alcohol is a bit too hot here. This has broken down substantially from what I’ve tasted with more recent batches. Still good.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.9/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours two shades shy of black with no head. Nose expresses dark fruits, toffee notes and a light, oxidized quality. Taste follows nose with the addition of a coffee character. Mouthfeel is light-medium in body with a mild, even carbonation and a slightly oily texture. Overall, solid but a bit past its prime.

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Photo of pat61
4.74/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

L: brilliant brown pour permeated by leisurely rising bubbles under a 1/2" beige cap that quickly dissipates. Has thick legs.

S: smells like whiskey, alcohol, brown sugar, toffee, caramel, dark dried fruit, malt, toast, oak, and a hint of vanilla. Alcohol dominates

T: dark bread, port, dark sugars, whiskey, alcohol, vanilla, anise, toffee, and hints of cinnamon. Alcohol is the big flavor and tannins from the oak joined by a big bitter hop accent provide some balance to the beer's rich malty sweetness

F: Low levels of carbonation help accent the beer's chewiness. The alcohol is borderline hot.

O: a big boozy beer with a mixed drink intensity that calls out for a cold winter evening by the fire

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.21/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

this is about as big as beer gets, i mean, just a huge sticky barleywine pushing 15% abv, its titanic, but its also delicious, didnt know steel toe did this kind of thing until i visited their brewery finally. this pours a rich caramel color, not overly lively form the tap, and with some haze to it, perhaps merely from the density. the aroma is very sweet, toffee and butterscotch abound, with suggestions of honey and maple, and a very rich caramelized barley malt. the barrel is awesome in the nose, quite obviously rye over bourbon, which is a wonderful feature in a beer like this, subtle spice, oak tannins, and mild vanilla. the flavor is huge too, more of the butterscotch sweetness, with a hint of dried apricot and golden raisin in the center, more of the rye whiskey and oak, and a lingering palate coating sweetness that slows me right down. the booze is there, but for how strong it really is, its not absurd, even though it is. a little bit of doughy yeast, english, seems tired from still trying to work through some of the sugar in an atmosphere this alcohol, but it remains a needed grounding element. in the end, this is much too heavy and sweet to ever have more than a glass of, even for the enthusiasts, but the beer is a fine example of the style, and the rye whiskey barrel is a nice touch. be prepared to not drive a car after this one...

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Photo of KarlHungus
4.09/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Arrives a bright brown color. There is no head which is alright for a barrel aged beer. The aroma is of oak, caramel, toffee, alchohol. The taste is similar with the alchohol is bit more hidden. It is still, however, not well integrated into the beer. There is enough good things going on around the alchohol that the beer is still interesting, but I think it needs some considerable time in the cellar. The mouthfeel is full bodied, chewy, and has appropriately low carbonation. Overall, this is a nice beer fresh, but I suspect its true potential lies in the cellar.

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Photo of Cfred371
4.65/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Look: Pours a brown, completely opaque, with little to no head. The head that is there is the on the very edge, and is a khaki color

Smell: Bourbon big time, but in a mild manner. Brown sugar, vanilla, a hunt of anise, maybe leather, and caramel.

Taste: Holy guacamole. Vanilla big time, caramel, that bourbon is there throughout. Super super good.

Feel: syrupy, and medium full bodied. As the beer warms, some heat from the bourbon shines through a bit more.

Overall: This is an excellent barrel aged barleywine, with excellent flavor and aroma.

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Photo of pagriley
3.67/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750 into snifter. Unsure of vintage (has plain brown label, not the one pictured here)

Pours murky mahogony with minimal head - no lacing
oxidation, sherry and a touch of sour - this one hasn't held up great
More of the same with a bitter edge - harsh hops perhaps? Not smooth
Thick and rich mouthfeel - lightly carbed befitting the style

Overall an okay barrel aged barleywine, but on the extreme end of the oxidized sherry flavor profile (like omega point). definitely drink fresh if you have one

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Photo of bugzy3188
4.59/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

To be frank...I have never been a fan of barleywines..that being said, I have tried very few and have been open to trying more. I think that the few barleywines that I have tried in the past have been American barleywines which tend to have a sweeter taste. I have also found that barleywines tend to be on the boozy side, given the high alcohol content this should be obvious but when I last had a barleywine I wasn't keen on hiding such things, but I digress.

Drinking out of a bottle, 2015 vintage bought from a local liquor store having a cellar sale:

A: Very dark amber with minimal to no head. Alcohol lacing is surprisingly low given the high ABV.

S: This brew has an amazing whiskey forward aroma, heavy vanilla with figs, a hint of leather all smothered in caramel, a truly fantastic smell.

T: I get caramel and vanilla right off the bat, the dark fruits definitely shine through. Middle of the mouth the oakiness from the barrels comes through carrying the whiskey with it. Going down the beer lets you know that it isn't a small beer, this one treads the line of being boozy but it pulls it off well.

F: Even after a year there is a decent amount of carbonation, very chewy mouthfeel.

O: honestly I feel that 92 is a bit low considering some of the beers that have scored much higher, this one is a sipper for sure and is a beer that is meant to be shared, overall though it is a truly amazing brew.

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Photo of JohnnyHopps
4.49/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance - The beer poured a deep brown color with a white head.

Smell - Thee boozy notes come to mind. Sweet caramel
Is also present.

Taste - My initial impression is sweet booze with caramel notes. I detect cardamom, dark fruits, raisins, and a sweet booziness. The sweetness extends into the booze in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - The dark fruits cling like a thick syrup.

Overall - This is my first outing with Steel Toe. I am impressed.

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Photo of Umdrunner
4.34/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured very dark brown with slight amber hue. Small off-white head that didn't stick long or lace. Immediate, though not overpowering scent of whiskey, toffee, and brown sugar. Flavor followed most of the scent notes, oddly the flavor started with whiskey but didn't linger. My bottle was 8 months old so maybe it had begun to mellow. Nice, balanced beer. I look forward to trying fresh next year!

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Photo of Jeffo
4.19/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Got this one from Masterski this past summer. Cheers for the beers man!

From corked and caged 750 into a snifter
Batch #1
Barleywine aged in Templeton rye whisky barrels

APPEARANCE: Pours a 1+ finger, looser, fizzy, light brown head with lousy retention. Head fizzes down to a dotty wisp and ring. Opaque maroon red in color with next to no carbonation evident. No real ring or lacing are around at the end and it starts to look flat half way through.

SMELL: Lots of whisky, oak, vanilla, coconut, toffee, caramel and butterscotch no the nose. Lots of barrel on this one and very forthcoming. The sweet malt of the barleywine comes through nicely as well.

TASTE: Lots of red fruits, toffee and barrel flavors up front. Whisky, oak and vanilla as well. Boozy too. More whisky and alcohol at the swallow with a big and lingering finish of whisky, oak, toffee, butterscotch sweetness, vanilla and coconut. Lots of alcohol and whisky throughout but definitely a lovely character to this one.

PALATE: Medium body and slightly higher levels of carbonation for the style. A little prickly on the palate, goes down fine with a bit of a burn at the swallow and finishes quite sticky. Lots of heat lingers.

OVERALL: Good stuff for sure. Really tasty and complex, with lots of barrel character and a strong, sweet base barleywine playing an important role as well. Not quite as smooth and probably more boozy than I remember batch 2 being, but still a wonderful treat. Thanks again for the beers Masterski! Always a pleasure.

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Photo of mrn1ceguy
3.96/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A murky amber color, kind of ugly. The smell is all barleywine, hearty with good rustic notes. The taste has more of the barrel come through, but mainly barleywine. The finish is a little harsh, but still quite enjoyable. An overall solid beer.

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Photo of Bosoxfan20
3.86/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Aroma is molasses, dark fruit, and toffee. Some leathery notes come through. Flavor starts out intense and delightful. Sweet, whiskey, toffee goodness. But unfortunately, the finish is a bit harsh. It ends all booze and some astringency. Body is impeccable though. Full, chewy and warming.
Overall, solid but maybe expected too much.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.62/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Poured from a 750 ml bottle into a chalice.

Appearance: Pours a very dark brown with a hint of amber. Moderate amount of bubbles and about one finger of off white head that quickly fades away.

Smell: A toasty and sweet malt forward aroma with big hints of whiskey, caramel, and toffee. Upfront barrel presence with a scent of whiskey, vanilla, oak, and wood. Toasted malt with hints of biscuit, grains, caramel, toffee, nuts, and yeast. Sweet hints of molasses and brown sugar. Subtle dark fruit hints of raisin, fig, and prune. Also some hints of tobacco and leather along with some earthy hops. A really good aroma.

Taste: Like it smells, a sweet and toasty malt driven taste with good notes of whiskey, caramel, and toffee. Big barrel presence with good notes of whiskey, vanilla, oak, and wood. Toasted barley malt with notes of biscuit, caramel, toffee, grains, nuts, and yeast. Dark fruit undertones of fig, raisin, and prune. Sweet notes of molasses and brown sugar. Subtle notes of leather and tobacco. Light earthy hop presence. A really great complex taste.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Creamy, slick, and fairly syurpy. Alcohol heat is light considering the 14% abv.

Overall: A really great take on a Barleywine. Big toasty caramel malt flavors with a big presence of whiskey and some nice subtle dark fruit.

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
4.02/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to Jeff for this one. Waxed and capped 750ml bottle into a Cigar City snifter. Shared with schen9303.

Pours a slight whisper of a head that collapses quickly. Beer is a dark, almost opaque brown. No lace and thin legs. Average.

Nose is brown sugar, molasses and lactose. A bit of woodiness and nuttiness make this a very unique and pleasant nose.

Opens molasses, brown sugar and sweet dried plum. Caramel, logan, sweet soy sauce and a bit of nutmeg and hazelnut. Ends sweet booze and more caramel and brown sugar. Same sweet aftertaste. Pretty one dimensional but the barrel aging has added a nice, chewy, tobacco presence.

Full bodied with low carbonation. Rich and buoyant in the mouth and goes down warm and thick. Finishes messy with a lingering, sweet aftertaste. Very nice.

A really good brew from a relatively under-the-radar brewery. Great balance and flavor with a nice, chewy body that carries the different notes nicely. Worth trying!

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Photo of rlee1390
4.3/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Mild oak and bourbon, great bourbon, some dark fruits. A really good BA Barleywines. The balance was very good, the alcohol head is hidden, however it does sneak up on you.

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Photo of cbutova
4.09/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to a certain WI friend that hooked me up with this and some other BA Barleywines that I would not normally have access to. I am pretty sure this is the 2014 vintage.

A- Deep brown body like molasses into a few pint glasses at a tasting. A small sheet rises but really isn't a head. Quiet cork pop. No lacing from the small ring.

S- For the style and ABV it is very laid back at this point. Balanced aroma of musty caramelized sugars, brownie desserts, almonds, cocoa powder and raisins. Slight barrel rye whiskey but just a hint.

T- A true Barleywine up front with the barrel being secondary. For the size and ABV it is insanely smooth. A heaping load of caramelized flavors but only a tad sweet. Dusty caramel, spiced raisin, chocolate, almonds, toffee, maple, leather, figs, a hint of phenol spice and slight esters of fruits. Barrel in the backdrop again with vanilla bean sweetness and smooth rye whiskey notes.

MF- Huge and gargantuanly thick body that is super slick and oily. Low end carbonation but it is not a big deal at all because the flavors are decadent. Not even warm, impressively tame alcohol.

Does not skimp in the Barleywine department stylistically. Massive caramelized sugar flavors and some dark fruits as well. Complex malt flavors with what I would call a light-moderate influence from the rye whiskey barrel.

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Photo of ThickNStout
4.51/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Maroon wax capped 750mL bottle from PowderhornPhil (thanks man!). 2015 vintage, no bottling date. Served in a Wicked Weed snifter.

Pours an extremely dark chestnut hued brown with a little over a finger of pale, almost tan head. The bubbles recede to a thin veneer and halo, leaving almost no lace behind.

Aromas of sweet whiskey, oak, berries, dark fruit and plenty of sweet grains. Pretty nice up front and grows more inviting as it warms.

We have all the flavors of a classic barrel aged English barleywine here. Whiskey, raisins/ dates, toffee, singed caramel, toasted oak, hints of vanilla, leather, earth, marshmallow, cereal grains and mild spicy rye, all under a soft blanket of alcohol. The flavors work well together and the booze is not nearly as hot as might be expected from the abv. Rich and delicious, particularly as this reaches room temperature and those sweet grains, dark fruit, toffee and barrel notes really shine.

Smooth, creamy, full body with subtle carbonation. There is a little cool alcohol in the mouth initially then a boozey warmth in the gut shortly after swallowing. Then whiskey soaked dark fruit, toffee and oak rest on the palate for a sweet, long lasting finish.

Steel Toe has a great barrel aged English barleywine here in Lunker. Without any name-dropping I'll just say that this is quite close to the top tier for the style. There is a delicious harmony of flavors that is oh, so close to the "big boys". I'm very glad that PowderhornPhil recommended this so I've had a chance to try it. In turn, I highly recommend Lunker to any fan of the style and I sure hope to acquire more at some point.

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Photo of Stevedore
4.19/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

750ml bottle of the 2015 release. Served in a stemmed glass.

Pours a darker brown body, slightly murky, opaque, dark. One finger white head, fair retention and minimal lacing. Smells of toffee and caramel, a bit of tobacco, a minimal amount of whiskey, fair bit of oak. Flavour is similarly toffee and caramel-forward, malty, much like an English barleywine should be. Not complicated, but a nice change of pace. Mouthfeel is substantially medium-full; good carbonation, nice toffee forwardness with a minimal tobacco aftertaste. Overall, tasty, not a huge barrel presence but plenty of malt.

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Photo of Frumious_Bandersnatch
4.55/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

The brewer at Steel Toe came from Pelican Pub & Brewery. Guess he learned something about making world class Barleywine... The 2015 lives up to the previous vintages.

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Photo of Taybeh
4.09/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

at the tap room, into a little snifter

a: dirty hazy rusty brown with hardly any head
s: milk chocolate, vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, figs and other dark fruits.
t & m: follows the nose, though brings flavors out in much more compelling detail, and there is also some breadiness and spiciness. Very sweet but not cloying...nice edge to it, with some of the alcohol (rye whisky) showing but not overly much. Neither too heavy nor too light...even a little crisp at the end.

This was a very pleasant surprise. Quite good.

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Photo of Mdog
4.59/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance: Dark brown, small head.

Smell: Deep chocolate/vanilla/bourbon.

Taste: Sweet, rich, tootsie rolls, chocolate. Just beautiful. Nice feel, not too heavy, not too light, alcohol is well hidden.

Overall: Finally got to try Lunker as I had missed the previous releases. This is an awesome beer, just wonderful combination of barrel and barleywine. Tootsie roll chocolate/vanilla flavor for the win.

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Photo of gatornation
4.43/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours a cloudy rusty dark brown color with a thin khaki head stripes of lacing on glass
S-toffee rye whiskey dark fruits vanilla slight dankness
T-superb melding of above smells subtle whiskey with sweet toffe caramel some fruit simply delicious
M-mellow medium carbonation ABV well hidden
O-superb English BW well crafted

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Photo of egrace84
4.78/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

So I don't review beers too often anymore unless they completely blow me away... Just easier to be a typical, lazy American and give hads, but once I had a taste of this baby I realized I had to do right by her.

A: almost looks a lot like prune juice. No head to be found whatsoever, it's definitely the only un-becoming trait that this beer carries.

S: smells of the smoothest rye whiskey, butterscotch, toffee, caramel, etc. it's all there and easy to differentiate.

T: just as the nose promised and then some! This thing is so smooth and packs so much flavor. Rye whiskey, vanilla, caramel, toffee, heaven... (Yeah you can taste that in there too.)

M:low, medium bodied. Smooth, velvety, not much carb, but wouldn't have it any other way w/ this one.

O: this is in the top three Barleywines that I've had the luxury of enjoying. The nose and taste of this one rival, maybe defeat King Henry IMO. I hope to God that I have the chance to drink this again someday.

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Lunker from Steel Toe Brewing
Beer rating: 94 out of 100 with 235 ratings