John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale | Mad River Brewing Company

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John Barleycorn Barleywine AleJohn Barleycorn Barleywine Ale
521 Ratings
John Barleycorn Barleywine AleJohn Barleycorn Barleywine Ale

Brewed by:
Mad River Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.40%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Same recipe each year. ABV varies slightly 9.5-11.0%

Added by DOCALYN on 09-23-2001

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 521 |  Reviews: 365
Photo of Jodio
4.87/5  rDev +30.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of Gregg_Kawakami
4.75/5  rDev +27%

Photo of RexF
4.72/5  rDev +26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Barleywine is normally not my thing, but I found myself drinking a Barleycorn and I have to say it was totally delightful.

A friend ordered two after dinner and it was a perfect end to a big meal of steak and grease.

I've never ordered after dinner beers for the purpose of being a stomach settler, but John Barleycorn was exactly that and now I want to have one again.

Are all barley wines this good? I don't think so,

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Photo of sitarist
4.72/5  rDev +26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Harvest.

A-. Poured a deep, dark, brown. Almost looks like a cup of coffee. Poured hard and got about half an inch of a tan head; nice ring and lacing though.

S- Brown sugar, rum and cola, ripe fruits, dates, and figs. Its very inviting.

T- Wow, I cant even explain it. A caramel, nutmeg, pecan, walnut, maple sticky bun. Dates. Blueberry waffles with syrup.

M- This is just right, everything is so well balanced. The hops and carbonation work together to make all the malty sweetness dance on your tongue.

D- Its heavy, and full flavored but I could down 2 or 3 in a night, but not every-night. It warms you but the alcohol doesn't overwhelm.

F.T.- I cant believe this beer doesn't rate higher. Im not sure how this beer tasted fresh, but it sure ages well IMO.

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Photo of TastyTaste
4.67/5  rDev +24.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Clear maroon body, although very dark, doesn't let a whole lot of light through. Big off-white slow fading head.

Smell: Maple syrup and oak, sugary sweet with nice fruity hops, nice and 'bright' smelling barleywine.

Taste: Rich and malty, strong hops, very west-coast, hops and malt are balanced, and both are very strong. Cereal-grainy flavor smooths things out, alcohol lingers and tinkgles on the way. Finely crafted, has a nice unique flavor.

Drinkability: Enjoyable, another treat from Zorro.

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Photo of BbyDigital
4.67/5  rDev +24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I couldn't believe it when I saw how low this beer scored from the Bros and the community in general. the only thing I can reason out is that its not a traditional style of barleywine. I understand that angle but I have to disagree on rating this beer and just 'good'. Tons of flavor start to finish from ripe fruit to citrusy piney hops. This beer at 10% abv is absolutely delicious and trusted sources tell me it gets even better with age which, if true, would make this a good candidate for a medal in a "Best West Coast style Barleywine"

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Photo of mithrascruor
4.62/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a drinking horn (after a bit in a glass to check the color).

Appearance: Pours a clear reddish-copper color with a minimal off-white head.

Smell: Has a spicy caramel aroma, slightly salty. Some grainy malt aroma is there too. Nice, and not as intimidating as some barleywines.

Taste: Great spicy malt grain flavor. A bit of salt, some spicy hops, and some other spices as well. Very little alcohol in the taste, just a bit of warmness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with some light, soft carbonation. Mostly smooth, but with a slight bit of grainyness.

Drinkability: Strong in the alcohol department, but quite drinkable - the flavor isn't over the top and works well.

Pretty sure this is the best barleywine that I've had. There's something rustic to it, and it doesn't try to be too extreme. I think it is really tasty, and definitely would like to get it again.

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Photo of Ahoney67
4.59/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured in to a pint glass with a nice deep copper color with a carmel head. Very smooth drink even with a 9.5% ABV. Nice lite fruity smell with a little hint of prune flavor with each drink. Though the malt flavor is very present. It was my first barley wine and I have to say I was very pleased.

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Photo of coldmeat23
4.54/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

GLASS: Snifter
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 50 degrees
Celebrating the Harvest 2007 (It says on label)

Pours a deep copper color with a beautiful, deep ruby tint. Looks very nice, when held in front of a light source. About one-finger of loose foam forms on top, then leaves, just almost as quickly. Lacing is thin and light, but still present.

This smells like a glass of delicious malty goodness, with a touch of a boozy hint. The maltiness smells like a brewery. You know, when you're on a tour, and you come to the room where they add the malted grains, and they just added them an hour to two ago. You know that huge, powerful, delicious smell? This beer smells like that.
There is also some layers of caramel and toffee, in there. Nice hints of dark fruits.
This could be my favorite smelling barleywine, ever.

Oh, god, that's pretty damn tasty stuff. Such a plain looking bottle, hiding something this wonderful inside. Yumm!
Just a nice, big-sized, malt-bomb. Not over-the-top, either. Thoroughly smooth.
Light notes of dark fruits mingle with notes of caramel and toffee. Slight hints of vanilla. Very mild kiss of hops, right at the end. You almost miss it. All over it, lies a nice, smooth, butterey sweetness, with a hint of spice.

Solid medium body. I wish it was a tad bit more full, and this one would be damn near perfect, for me. Nice, smooth and creamy.

This is so highly drinkable, to me. I could drink this in place of water, for an extended time, I think. Granted, I might not get much done in that time period, but I'd be happy. And I'd enjoy every drop of it.

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Photo of BitterBrian
4.54/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is one of those beers that I think is very under-rated. I just don't get it. This might be top five material.

Poured a nice mahogany brown into my delerium snifter. Not much head there - I even let it warm up a bit after taking it from the fridge. What head was there left some light lacing.

But, the smell? . . . Mmmmm mmm. Raisins, red grape, cake, blueberry muffins. . . It sounds like I'm pulling this stuff out of my ass, but really, it smells like a tastycake truck met head on with Sara Lee. - Which is pretty damn close to the taste too. Throw in a little fig and some alcohol and there you have it. Really a nice complex, yet mild barley wine - despite it's 9.5% content. The finish is very fruit like and not too alcoholic. It's more like I just ate a grape a few miniutes ago instead.

This gives the same impression as a nice quad, but not as filling. If I'd find this again, I'd definitely pick some up.

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Photo of mobyviacheslov
4.52/5  rDev +20.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

07 Vintage, drank at cellar temp.

A - Thick, dark caramel color, but not opaque. Lots of visible yeast and bits floating around. Creamy head.
S - Aromas of salty caramel, candy sugars, Belgian ale yeast, vanilla, and orange. Quite a myriad of aromas with something new on each smell.
T - Creamsicle and chocolate icecream strike first, but are immediately challenged by a strong bitterness and an earthy, vegetable presence. Every sip yields new "oooh, I think I taste....", but overall, it is a fight between candy and earthiness, and it works incredibly well. Very complex, and expertly balanced.
M - Velvety, and creamy, much more so than it looked like it would be. Just enough of a bubbly aspect to lighten the beer and accentuate flavors.
D - 1 or 2 will do it on these. While there are no strong alcohol flavors, this beer is 10.8% and should be respected. At the end of the day, I could probably put down 4 or 5 of these, but the fun of this beer lies in identifying all the new aromas and flavors each time you bring it up to your mouth...after 2 of these, I think you would lose that ability...time to switch to a macro and keep that party going.

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Photo of Nage37
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%

Photo of Goldndomer
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%

Photo of scottoale
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2007 Vintage - 10.8% ABV

Pours from the 12oz. brown twist-cap bottle a viscous deep copper with a dense ivory foam cap of less than 1/2". The head resides to a nice lace, the carbonation is perfect for this brew.

Smells semi-sweet with a nice earthy malt aroma...big malty nose in fact.

Doughy, chewy malt with just enough hops to keep things in check. Great malty flavor that disguises the rather high ABV very well.

Fat body that is quite chewy and very easy to drink for the average Barleywiner.

A solid BW that is a pleasure too consume and worth twelve-bucks a sixer.

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Photo of BeerlyLegal
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had a 2011 12oz bottle poured into a tulip.

In my opinion this is a damn good barley wine and a bit surprised by BA's ratings. Maybe a little bit too sweet for some, but overall a beautiful brew with an 11.1% ABV that sneaks up on you nicely.

I scented a cheese plate with grapes and apples.

I tasted a caramel syrupy flavor mixed with hints of dark fruit, molasses and malt. With that said, you would think this is a sticky beer however it has a very smooth finish that allows you down it quite easily. I would love to get my hands on this again.

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Photo of rubydot
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%

Photo of BeerManDan
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The color is a medium amber with not a medium head that will cling to the glass sides. The aroma is of malts and spices. The taste was malty, with a hint of spices and caramel. The after taste was creamy smooth with a good balance of sweetness and a hint of bitterness. This is my first time tasting this beer and I like it. Not the best but very passable!

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Photo of francisweizen
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark murky brown with a nice head of foam that lasted for quite a while. The aromas are of alcohol, brown sugar, herbal hops, and more. The taste followed suit with some lovely sweet alcohol flavors up front, a nice brown sugar heat in the middle, and a dry herbal hoppy finish. Mouthfeel was medium bodied and just right and the drinkability was good as well. Maybe i'm alone on this, but I thought this was an excellent barleywine that held up well over the past 7 years!

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Photo of ToddGingerich
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%

Photo of Caterwaul
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%

Photo of RootedFool
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This year's release of Mad River's John Barleycorn Barleywine pours lagubrious mahogany with an aura of crimson radiating along the edges of my Duvel tulip glass, an appropriately regal vessel for this lumbering diva of a brew. The head rises at least an inch tall, dim white (slightly more off than off white) and has the consistency of whipped cream. The nose is softer than I expected, causing me to draw my nose so close to the beer I snorted a little bit of it -- no worries, as I think the high alcohol content (9.5%) cleared my sinuses. The smell opens with some cotton candy sweetness that segues quickly into tangerine rinds, fresh cherries, sour dough bread, a few hard shakes of black pepper; a solid coupling of hops and malts. An upper-cut of hops greets my palate upon the first taste, welling up from beneath my tongue and circling around to the roof if my mouth in a slow arc; strong flavor of grapefruit rinds encrusted with brown sugar. The middle brings out the hop bitterness even further, to a puckering degree, but it quickly recedes into the finish where the malt sweetness -- maraschino cherries, fruit cake, gingerbread -- has more room to move. Alcohol is warmth is evident as a warming factor at the back of my throat, but doesn't intrude into the taste. The mouthfeel is dense and chewy -- sticks to the ribs.

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Photo of Alpha309
4.5/5  rDev +20.3%

Photo of Boppar
4.45/5  rDev +19%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Vintage 2005.

12 oz. bottle pours into a chalice with a very thin head, but nice lacing. A tawny brown orange. Nice color, but I was hoping for better lace and/or head.

Smell is sweet summer squash and dank, resiny pine hops. An alcoholic spiciness turns into a mild burn about half way up my nasal cavity.

A bold malty sweetness is up to bat first. Good, biscuity flavor, with notes of honey and maybe orange rind. Some nice smokiness in the second half and right on through. Some well-balanced mid-palate hop bitterness kicks in, and transitions seamlessly to a ridiculously long dry finish that tastes primarily like oak, but some residual hoppy pine action and faint citrus notes. There is a little alcohol spice, but the 9.5% ABV is remarkably well-hidden.

Mouthfeel is thick, chewy and moderately carboated. it works great for this style.

Barleywines are meant to be sippers with big, robust flavors. They are also supposed to pack a wallop ABV-wise. This brew is definitely a heavy-hitter in the flavor department, and its well-disguised 9.5% ABV is no small-fry either. So when I say that John Barleycorn accomplishes both of the goals, and yet goes down so nice and smooth that I wish I had another 12 oz. for later, I want you to understand how well-crafted this beer is.

This beer has all the balance and complexity I had hoped to find in Bigfoot.

 1,377 characters

Photo of stirgy
4.45/5  rDev +19%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This was 2000 Harvest sample. I let this one warm up a bit before sampling. This beer poured a bright and clear amber/ice tea color. Had a long lasting frothy and dense white head. Heavy sweetness in the aroma. Cordial like caramel and toffee. There’s the smokiness of peated malt in the taste. The alcohol peeks through the sweet malt and other complex flavors, including fermented fruits, caramel. Perfectly carbonated and very flavorful. Also getting nice peppery/spicy notes. I enjoyed this beer. An excellent barleywine and very well made in my opinion.

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Photo of Cylinsier
4.42/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz, 2009 version.

Pours a cloudy reddish brown, minimal white lacing retains indefinitely.

Smells of caramel, pine hops, sweet apple and grape notes, and hints of brown sugar.

Tastes buttery rich and slightly apple fruity with noticeable pine hop bitterness. Has kind of a spice kick in the end.

Feels thick and sticky with tingly sharp carbonation on the back of the tongue.

Delicious but I wish this was English style. The hops hide the great rich flavors underneath. As an American style, it's quite good though, very much like a good quality English but with a healthy punch of hops. Though I prefer my Barleywines sans hops, I would have more of this in a heartbeat.

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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.74 out of 5 with 521 ratings