John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale | Mad River Brewing Company

363 Reviews
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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

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Reviews: 363 | Ratings: 515
Photo of oberon
4.26/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2005 bottle,poured a deep burgundy with a fluffy,sticky off white head that sticks to the glass as it settled,big orange and caramel aromas and as it warmed a herbal hop presence really showed thru quite nice.complex and flavorful raisin and deep orange with a light spiciness almost like gingerbread finishing quite dry.Iam not sure if this years vintage is better than pasts but this beer is vastly underated,flavorful and complex a top notch American Barley Wine.

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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 NeroFiddled
4.03/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

When I reviewed this beer 3 years ago (the 2000 bottling) it was nice, but a bit aggressive; and I noted that I felt it would take a few years of aging. It was 2 years old then, it's 5 now, and I'm happy to say that I was correct in my analysis. It still looks like mud from all of the yeast, but it has mellowed a bit, and it still retains almost of the nice fruitiness, hops, and maltiness that it started with. Still, I'm not sure the results are worth the wait... maybe I should have given it 10 years!

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Photo of NoLiberty
3.73/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Nice full caramely head that retains some surrounding lacing. Pours a clody rich amber.
Aroma: Strong malty sweetness with hints of raisin. Almost Belgian?
Taste: Also full malty front with initial sweet fruit. A clean low-alcohol middle with hints of nuts. Mild finish with lingering wild , sour afterntaste.
Mouth: Not completely full but very smooth.

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Photo of sulldaddy
3.59/5  rDev -4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Wow I get to review this oldy and give it the 5th review to be official.I am sampling a cold 12 oz bottle in a snifter. Picked it up @ Kclingers pub. Pop the cap and there is some oxidation on the underside of cap. uhoh.
The beer pours a slighty cloudy deep mahogany color with zero head even with some aggressiveness on the pour. The aroma is fruity with pears and red grapes. Also some sour cherries and funky musty vinegarness that reminds me of a flanders red.
That is exciting for me!
I swear I get some cinnamon in there too, which strikes me as odd and makes me sniff twice to be sure.
First sip reveals a liter body than expected and mild yet tingly carbonation. The beer is a little syrupy in texture but thin, almost like if maple syrup was heated up and poured.
The beer is tart and fruity up front and through middle with a bit of funky bite on the finish. The finish is also a little hot and the alcohol comes through on swallow.
While I am a fan of trying old beers, I am not sure how well this one held up. It seems a little funky but not way off, just not expected barleywine qualities.
It is a good experience, so if you see a bottle give it a shot, who knows what you will think.

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Photo of Fish113d
3.59/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a rich, thick, dark brown color with 1/4" of fizzy, tan head that dissipates very quickly like a soft drink leaving a defined edge layer around my glass. Pretty hazy to peer through.

Aroma is of some serious caramel and piney hops tones. Alcohol tingles the nose as well. Maybe a slight biscuity smell comes through as well.

Taking a sip, I gets lots of caramel and rasberries, as well as lots and lots of bitter hops. On the finish I also get a shot of nutmeg as well as a decent alcohol presence that tingles my tounge just a bit, leaving a dry oak flavor.

Rather dry and full-bodied. Carbonation is present but the alcohol quickly burns that off as well. Nothing too spectacular, but decent overall.

Very drinkable, however, not one of the best I've ever had. I had fun drinking it as I always do, and I'd suggest trying it out.

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Photo of WesWes
3.68/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a dark ruby red color with a thick offwhite head that fades to lacing. The aroma is decent. It has a warm, malty scent that boasts of crystal and roasted malts. It has a mild hop aroma; nothing over the top. It has a nice scent, but nothing too incredible. The taste is decent also. It has a run of the mill malt bill. It showcases crystal and roasted malts. It's slightly sweet with a bitter hop finish. It warms you up a bit, but it doesn't really impress me. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a good brew, but nothing I would go out of the way to find. I like the flavor and aroma, but it lacks originality.

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Photo of ppoitras
4/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle obtained as part of BIF XMas from wezil. Thanks for the opportunity.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed 1" light tan head over the slightly cloudy reddish brown brew. Head fades is reasonably resilient, with average to good lacing for the style. Aroma is sweet malts, dark fruit, and alcohol. Taste is a quick shot of sweetness upfront, quickly giving way to a hoppiness, and then a warming presence dominates the departure. Mouthfeel and drinkability are both good. A stereotypical american barleywine, which is what it is advertised as. We have sweet malts, alcohol and hoppiness, nice to see a brew fit the style...

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Photo of mntlover
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark red with brown tints cloudy lots of yeasty goodness floating in suspension always makes a persons day.
Aroma is deep caramel malt, molasses with some fruit hidding underneath. Nice hop aroma more herbal then citrus also toffee hints mixed in.
Taste is good, malt caramel some fruity flavors also with hints of toffee towards the finish. Nice hop flavors mix with fruit and end with a light bitterness. Good barley wine flavors, but seems more English style to me then American. Not enough hops for American version.
Mouthfeels is a little light in the finish.
Drinkability is good not good enough to become a regular in my frig but definitely good enough for you to try.

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Photo of filabrazilia
3.8/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a semi-cola brown with a touch of amber hue when held to the light. There is little to no head, but no matter, this is still a nice looking beer.

There is a pronounced malt aroma that is joined by a strong but pleasant alcohol presence. The sweetness and alcohol beckon you to take a sip.

The taste is not as balanced as other BW's but is still awfully good. The malt and alcohol blewnd together to create a remarkably easy drinking beer.

This is a nice and chewy beer. The finish is slightly bitter with a dry grab of the tongue as you swallow it. The beer linger on the pallate well after the last sip.

All in all a nice offering. Not the best BW I have ever had, but very easy to drink and infinitely enjoyable.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.17/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Hazy burgundy hue, a cloudy crimson, with a slim helping of whitish foam.
Nose is rich, bold, and fruity, giving alcohol notes from the start, ripe berries and cherries, grape and plum, lush and leathery...perfect fit for a barleywine, very, very nice...
Taste is full and flush with flavor, tangy and the slightest bit tart, ultimately well-rounded...mighty mellow,...this is an exemplary old ale, by anyone's reckoning, and by mine, it's a winner. The 9% is there, but doesn't intrude, and slips through slyly...a restive nightcap this, and very tasty, highly rewarding.
John Barleycorn must live!
(had to do that...forgive me...)

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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 meathookjones
1.73/5  rDev -53.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

This was a 1997 harvest bottle tasted 10/7/04. This poured a murky brown with no head and no lace. Smell is sweet with a strong alcohol and vinegar scent coming from it. At this point I was pretty sure this would taste like crap. Sour, strong alcohol and vinous is about all I can say to describe the taste. A bit of sweetness some where but not enough to keep this one from puckering me up with every sip. Mouthfeel was okay and drinkability was non-existent. Maybe the years didn’t take kindly to this one, but this is the first beer that made me involuntarily twitch with almost every sip. Hopefully I can come across a much younger bottle next time.

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Photo of canucklehead
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

This poured a reddish dark brown with a minimal head. What got me about this BW was the smoothness of the main body. This is not a huge beer but rather almost an Old Ale. Don't age this too long as the flavours are blended well now. Very food friendly.

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Photo of RenoZymurgist
1.91/5  rDev -48.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Poured a dark red with a small white head that subsided quickly. The aromewas of fruity esters and s touch of alcohol. The taste was not very good at all. It was sweet but in the finish there was a strange lingering bitterness that was unpleasent. The body was light for an ale of this gravity. This barleywine needs to be aged at least two more years.

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Photo of Bighuge
4.05/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Burgandy tone. Thin beige head. Aromas of caramel and tropical fruits like pineapple and mango. Flavor follows suit. Sturdy caramel malt flavor balanced nicely with bright hop flavors or citrus and resin. Bitterness is even keeled and nice. Alcohol held in check. This is flavorful, drinkable, good...

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Photo of merlin48
4.2/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clean, dark chestnut brown body with a small, but lasting, beige head. No lace.

Aroma is heavy with apples, pears, and plums, all soaked in molasses and rum.

Mouthfeel is full bodied, and awash with flavors.

Taste is nicely complex, even at this young age. Dark fruits and molasses, warming alcohol, and some rough, pine hoppiness. Nice notes of figs and caramel jump out of the snifter near the finish.

An excellent barleywine. The hops are still a bit rough around the edges at this early age, but this one should age with grace.

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Photo of ADR
4.1/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Heavy sedimented brown appearance, dull yellow 1/4 inch head. Thick opaque ring laces. Nice aroma, plums and caramel, that sense of hop prickliness to come that mark so many American Barleywines. Starts molasses sweet, dark with raisins but the hops don't wait until the end -- they're there out of the gate. Finishes rummy with a balsamic bitter you can emphasize by licking your lips. Thick and alcoholic, compares to Old Horizontal in texture, maybe less grainy than Bigfoot. Could use some aging for me to say that there's a lot of drinkability here.

Source: Liquid Solutions

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Photo of ark57
4.34/5  rDev +16%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A murky brown, but an amazing aroma. It is quite fruity with notes of cherry and apricot and a slight hoppiness. Its full body is quite complex and malty. There noticeable alcohol in the finish and just enough bitterness to balance the sweet tastes. I think that this beer would age very well and would like to try it again in a few years.

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Photo of freed
4.1/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Dull brown, but radiating some oranges and yellows. Head is thin and move like giant plates (tectonics). I think I saw Pangea. Foam laces the edges of the glass for the first half, but little is left afterwards.

Aroma isn't bold, but the mixture of earthy malts and slightly fruity yeasts compliment the somewhat alcoholic sensation that accompanies each whiff.

The taste is a sweet, rich kiss of malty goodness. A full, rounded breakfast of grain fills the mouth without having too heavy a body. The sensation of alcohol is apparent, but not quite like a single malt. Also, instead of peat flavors, this beer is complimented by an orchard tart from the yeast. Overall quite nice, and a pleasant surprise for an organic ale.

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Photo of nomad
3.39/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours out a deep and opaque crimson, a very nice color. Had a fluffy, soft head leaving wispy stain with wide and fine lace.

Smelled of grapes, alcohol, and esters that are both musty and fruity. Had some bread-like malt in the background, but altogether not terribly great smelling on account of the dominating alcohol.

Taste is big, sweet, and hoppy, but also softly of alcohol. Each is startling at first but then mixing together quite well. Butterscotch flavor is slim and playful, nicely weaving in and out of the rest. The malt is lean in body but hefty enough in effect, just balancing the citric hops that have calmed greatly and become wrapped around the alcohol. Nascently spicy of an earthy and hearty quality. Thicker mouthfeel complements it all.

On the verge of becoming something highly interesting and drinkable already.

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Photo of genaro
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

John Barleycorn 2003. It starts off with a nice mahagony color with little head and no lace. The subdued aroma was fruity and citrusy at first and more malty as it warmed up. The initial taste was one of pears, apples, and some caramel. This later changed to figs, more caramel, and alcohol. The mouthfeel was a little chewey with not much hop bite. The finish was smooth, dry, and a bit citrusy. A good point is that this beer is brewed from 100% organic barley.
Not a bad winter beer. It does mellow you out.

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Photo of byrd
3.35/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pretty small tan fizzy head that quickly dissipates to a very sparse sprinkling of a lace. Dark brown in color with a slight haze. Aroma is not overly abundant, but is primarily of malt – a little bit caramel, very light hops, and what seems to be a bit of saltiness. Medium mouth feel, but sometimes the flavor seems a touch watered down. Malts are present in the start, but are fairly short lived. Decent hop flavor comes in towards the end with a bit of roastiness. And I’m still picking up a bit of saltiness? The aftertaste lingers for a good while. Okay barley wine, but I’ve certainly had better. Not very heavy, and doesn’t really need to be aged, but it might help this brew. This one came highly recommended to me, but I probably won’t be recommending it to anyone else.

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Photo of Gusler
4.07/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours from the 12 ounce bottle a somewhat hazy orange-amber color with the head pythonic in size, creamy in consistency and a toothsome light tan color, as it slowly dissipates the lace forms a thick veil to obscure the glass from prying eyes. Nose is sweet malt, light hints of fusel alcohol, caramel, quite crisp and fresh; a pleasant beer to sniff, start is ambrosial, rich in malt with the top moderate to full in feel. Finish has a unsparing acidity, the hops quite pronounced in their spicy bite, somewhat bitter and dry aftertaste, a quite nice barleywine, and Mad River a long time favorite Brewery.

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Photo of RoyalT
3.83/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance – Dark brown and cloudy with a decent head that actually left a little lacing.

Smell – The toasted malt base and sharp, offsetting hops are complimented by a strong aroma of sherry or whiskey or something like that. It may even be reminiscent of sweet vermouth.

Taste – Yes, this is a very balanced barley wine. The malt and “sweet vermouth” flavors blend well together and are offset by a sharp but unobtrusive piney hop taste. This one is also loaded with gritty sugars, predominantly white table.

Mouthfeel – The ale was balanced but could have been smoother, IMO. Otherwise, the mouthfeel was terrific. The body was on the heavier side of medium, which contradicts some of the other reviews. Did they beef things up for the ’03?

Drinkability – Very nice. This went down well for a 9.5 ABV. I will certainly buy again if given the opportunity.

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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
3.74 out of 5 based on 515 ratings.
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