John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale | Mad River Brewing Company

BA SCORE
84
good
517 Ratings
THE BROS
77
okay
Read the review
John Barleycorn Barleywine AleJohn Barleycorn Barleywine Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Mad River Brewing Company
California, United States
madriverbrewing.com

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

BEER STATS
Ratings:
517
Reviews:
364
Avg:
3.74
pDev:
12.83%
 
 
Wants:
20
Gots:
30
For Trade:
1
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 517 |  Reviews: 364
Photo of JDV
3.8/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a glowing orange and melted caramel color. No head at all on this beer. Smell is of citrus and caramel with flavors of candied orange peel, and caramel as well with a moderate to light prickly carbonation that made it very drinkable. Some light alcohol to mingle with the orange flavors with a nice moderate hop bitterness in the finish. Pretty solid all around, I thought.

 379 characters

Photo of FleeVT
3.7/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2007 bottling (10.8% ABV) poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a nice amber, copper, red with a minimal white head.

S: Nice fruity nose of plum and apricot, some mild ethers, and finally a pinch of citrus hops. A complex but well balanced nose.

T: Holy alcohol batman. It's strong and warms the body from the back of the throat all the way to the stomach. After you get past that initial shock you pick up the bitter hops and some of the fruit sweetness that was in the nose. The alcohol gives it a dry finish.

M: Medium carbonation with a lighter body.

D: Sip this one slowly and don't stand up to fast. Enjoyable!

 615 characters

Photo of wchesak
3.51/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

From bottle into Chimay chalice

Beer was part of my Beers of the Month selection from my local beer shop

Appearance - an opaque copper color, with some definite hints of mahogany, small creamy tan head

Smell - warm caramel and toffee hit off followed by a slight hop note finishing with the nice booze smell telling you that your dealing with a nice big ABV

Taste - nice and smooth with some good solid malt notes and a bit of hop bitterness towards the back of the mouth; the alcohol is apparent through out but does not detract away from enjoying the beer

Mouthfeel - good carbonation, silky but not chewy like some higher alcohol beers, reminds me somewhat of the after effect of chewing on caramel

Drinkability - don't see myself drinking more than one of these; not to say i didnt enjoy the brew, i just think id rather move onto something else

maybe need to give this one some aging to enjoy it more

 912 characters

Photo of aforbes10
3.32/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bought 3 bottles of the 2007 from a sixer at City Wide. Pours light brown, hazy, with really no head, just a ring of bubbles cicling the glass. a bit lighter in color than i expected. Sweet and clean-smelling. a touch of ethanol on the nose too, with odors of dates, amber malt and grassy hops. smells pretty good. Taste is extremely bitter at first, even for a barleywine, and the rest of the flavors get a bit lost underneath. Some hop flavors, sweet malts, conspicuous absence of fruit flavor. Sticky and medium bodied. trending towards the lighter side of barleywines. Ill have to revisit this one after i age the other two bottles a while. I think it might have just been a little too young for my personal barleywine preferences.

 735 characters

Photo of Shaw
3.38/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The 2007 bottling.

Pours a nice copper in color with a frothy head that reduces to a ring in my glass and good lacing.

It has a good aroma of hops and alcohol.

Wow, this is the second bottle I've had of this beer and it's a lot better than the first. It's got big bitter flavors of hops that mixes with a big, big warming alcohol burn and a decent malt sweetness. There is a different flavor in the swallow that I can't place. It's almost like a bitter biting flavor that isn't from hops, but it comes and goes. Weird.

The body is slick and glassy with a nice bit of chewiness to it.

Overall this is a pretty good barleywine. It's not the best, but it's not the worst. I can't say it's worth seeking out, especially at its price.

 734 characters

Photo of prototypic
3.7/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2007 release--10.8% abv

Appearance: It's clear and reddish amber in color. Head is off white and about two fingers deep. Retention and lacing were somewhat average.

Smell: Caramel malts are strong and sweet smelling. Light citrus and dark fruit aromas blend well. Alcohol is noticeable but not overly strong. Hops are there, but are more faint than I expected.

Taste: Caramel malts are sweet. Very nice malty base. Hops add a bitter kick, but it's not nearly as dramatic as some other barleywines. Citrus and dark fruit flavors add complexity and a bit more sweetness. Alcohol is again noticeable, but not offensive.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: It's medium bodied and a little thin for my taste. Carbonation is good. Drinkability is somewhat limited due to the 10.8% abv. It still goes down smooth enough. Overall, this is a pretty good beer. It's somewhat unique and different than other barleywines on the market. Definitely worth checking out.

 946 characters

Photo of kirok1999
4.03/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Local retailer just got this in so I had to try it. Pours a slightly hazy dark copper with lots of sediment floating around. Very little head.
Smell is pretty weak, mild malt sweetness and some indistinct hop notes.
Taste is much better than the smell. Nice balance toward the malts, rich and sweet yet with a nice citrus hop balance. Very smooth and velvety, very little carbonation. This really improves as it warms becoming maltier with a nice clean balanced finish.
The alcohol is very well hidden and it is too easy to drink. Really well done. I've got to find a way to age some of these, self-restraint not being my strong suit.

 634 characters

Photo of NCSUdo
3.81/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle, 2007 version

A: Pours a murky amber under a small white head. No lace, no retention.

S: A lot of caramel malt, some piney and light citrus hops. Caramel character is very candy-like.

T: This one is pretty hot. Alcohol is very apparent in both taste and warmth. Caramel character is big here too. Some piney hops make an appearance in the back in with moderate bitterness. Really malty.

M/D: Full bodied, carbonation is high but not prickly, body is slick and slightly creamy, sticks to the teeth a little (something I appreciate in a barleywine). Drinkability is so-so, maybe a tad low for a barleywine. Overall though, this is a solid beer. Not much to look at and the alcohol is a little too apparent, but it's still nice. I have a 2006 version and a few 2007s put away, and I think that time will really do them some good.

 857 characters

Photo of avalon07
3.5/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a light amber color, with a thick consistency. Lots of sediment floating around in it, which I guess is common to the style. There was a small, quarter inch head and some decent lacing.

This had a sweet smell, with some candies and malt.

The taste was a bit of a let down after having the J.W. Lees Barleywine. The taste wasn't as sweet as I would've thought, given the smell. Some hops and malt above anything else. Not a thin taste, but not overly complex.

There was a solid amount of carbonation and a smooth finish for this one. Good mouthfeel.

Overall, not a bad beer. Not as complex as some other barleywines (see the aforementioned J.W. Lees). Still, a decently drinkable beer.

 731 characters

Photo of Murchmac
3.35/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

John Barley cracked corn and he dont care.This is a good beer.

I shyed away for a while, glad I bought it. I had there double IPA last weekend and it was the first creamy DIPA i ever had.

Pours a beautiful warm orange. with little head and not much lacing.

Smells really good. so many smells, lets just leave it as complex and you like it.

Tastes sweet, alcohol taste. Smells better than it tastes.

Like grass fed organic corn, this beer is unique. The more I drink it, the more it tastes like sawdust.

 509 characters

Photo of illidurit
3.49/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a crystal clear dark amber color with a tan head. The suds leaves modest lacing but stays around for a while.

Smell is almost nonexistent. Alcohol is the main note, with some faint maltiness.

Taste is much better. Very fresh flavors of caramel malt and a moderate hoppiness that dries the palate.

Carbonation is good, body is a little too thin, alcohol is a bit hot.

 375 characters

Photo of msubulldog25
3.91/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After giving this a try at the 2007 Holiday Ale Festival, I decided to pick up a bottle on a whim. 12 oz., twist-off cap - "Celebrating the Harvest 2007". Label shows ABV of 10.8%. Poured into a small goblet.

From notes, mid-December 2007.

A: Fiery copper/auburn with a faint suspended haziness. Plenty of carbonation rises to a generous head, a fizzing and crackling two-fingers of tan-yellow. Several minutes to drop to a dense 1/4" of cream; fair amount of sticking lace beads clinging to the glass.

S: First whiff is all candy - a gooey, sugar-sweet caramel. Subsequent sniffs reveal a flatter grassy hoppiness - weirdly stale and pungent like, well, mulch? Has a musty woodiness and a little grain huskiness, too. Aromas are fairly strong, but I can't say I love them...

T: Upfront fruit pulp and sugary toffee, with a a likable grainy nuttiness (think Grape Nuts). Bitterness builds, but the malts and hops stay well-balanced. Subtle woody texture, with a little mulled cider citrus/spice and some alcohol in the finish.

M: Mouthfeel seems to grow, from a start that felt barely medium-bodied (almost too thin) to a fuller, warming and clinging viscous richness. Filled with fine, steady carbonation. It stays mellow and dries towards the finish. Not too sticky.

D: For a nearly 11% big barleywine, this is pleasantly smooth and easy-to-sip right now. Well, maybe needs a little time for some fusel heat to die down... Despite an aroma that didn't quite agree with me, this is a solid/recommended choice for the barleywine fan.

 1,539 characters

Photo of paulthebeerguru
3.9/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Mad River John Barleycorn
12 oz. brown bottle

poured into a snifter. JBC, as I call it, pours a beautiful orangy/amber color with a reddish tint. Slightly off-white head retains about a quarter of an inch, and it gives the brew a nice amount of lacing. Strong hoppy aroma, followed by a sweet aroma of grains. Strong alcohol aroma in the tail-end of the nose. Citrus is the primary aroma in this with some pine. Original taste is overwhelming. My palate id perplexed, strong alcohol, sweet and fruity with a wonderful floral hop finish. Low/medium carbonation, with a complex palate, great mouthfeel. very drinkable and enjoyable. by the way, the alcohol content of the 2007 is 10.8%.

 686 characters

Photo of 1whiskey
3.43/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2007 vintage. 12 oz bottle poured into a goblet. Pretty reddish-bronze color with a very light tan head that quickly dissipates

The smell is very pleasant, sweet and rich. Perhaps not overly complex, but very appealing.

A burst or resiny hops...pine and apricot at first, then more musty/earthy notes, are what meets the palate on first sip. Woody tannins, bourbon, alcohol, and general sweetness round out the profile. A bit of tea-like bitterness lingers on the tongue when you're done.

The body is surprisingly light, and there is abundant carbonation. The alcohol is not very well hidden in this thin barleywine, limiting it's drinkability.

To be fair, I've had this beer each of the last few years and it was considerably better than this year's version. If you find a previous year's vintage, go for it. Otherwise look for it next winter.

One more note...I think this may be miscategorized as an "American Barleywine". Mad River is indeed an American brewer, but this is much more of an English style barleywine. Comparing it to Old Ruffian or Bigfoot is simply apples and oranges. Think Old Nick if you want a better comparison.

 1,140 characters

Photo of czfreeman
3.88/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 bottling
poured out a nice amber brown- cherry color
fluffy white head dissapates quickly and laeves a tiny bit o' lace.Malty,yeasty,on the nose, bitter orange, but not huge on the aromas in the beginning,the smells come though about halfway through the beer. Flavor is where its at with this beer, tart, orange,malts,caramel,alcohol in the throat, my first barleywine. very interesting balancing the alcohol-which is apparent but not too sticky nice biting warming finish,makes drinkability very high,Id have no
problem drinking quite a few, however the 10.5abv tells me to savor! my local store sells sixers of these will go pick one up and cellar a few. lookin foward to Old Ruffian!

 692 characters

Photo of czechsaaz
3.78/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2007 bottling.

A bit of an unmashed grain aroma right off. But that doesn't linger and then I get nice base malt aromas mixed with floral hops. There's also a little bit of roast malt in there too. Otherwise a very clean smelling ale which is a little odd for a barleywine.

Amber colored and very clear. Smallish head but persistant little pockets of whie foam that are fed by rising lines of bubbles in the glass.

Initial flavor is a storng hit of bittering hops. Malt flavor is strong caramel and again that hint of roast malt. There's a good spicy hop flavor on the backend. The aftertaste is a nice combo of caramel malt and hop bitterness. But I'm not getting the fruity ale character or fermentation flavor of some of the great barleywines.

Full bodied with very good carbonation level. No alcohol warmth wich is amazing at 10.8%.

As noted from the lack of alcohol warmth, this is a really drinkable beer for the strength. A nice sipper but it doesn't wow me.

Aside, in my pre-BA days, I had a five year old bottle of this, 1998 bottling. It was nothing short of amazing and is one of my all-time favorites.

 1,121 characters

Photo of DrJay
3.97/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage.
Clear, deep reddish brown with a thin, off-white cap. Decent retention with spotty lacing. Rich caramel aroma with some warming alcohol, toffee, faint hops and a hint of roast. Medium bitterness that lingers at the back of the palate. Sweet caramel with doughy malt, mellow alcohol, a bit of dried fruit and dark malt, light grapefruit and a bit buttery. Full bodied and a little creamy, with lowish carbonation and fine bubbles, some warmth. Alcohol was definitely present, but stayed mellow. Easy drinking for the abv.

 534 characters

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

I just shelled out $14.99 for a six of this and it is not as good as Great Divide's Old Ruffian or Avery's Hog Heaven. Don't mind its imperfections halfway through because of the high alcohol content which quite possibly smothers the positive attributes this Barley Wine might have but can't express.

 300 characters

Photo of BlindPig
3.03/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A- Just under a 1" light tan head on a cloudy amber orange body.
S- Sweet caramel with alcohol, light breads, and almost the aroma of faded hops but it was made in 07. Sweet cherries hidden in there as well.
T- A really sweet caramel body with some cherries and maybe a little raisins to help with that really dry finish. A big warming from the alcohol. A light pine or hint of citrus hops that leave a decent size bitterness on the tongue.
M- Full chewy body with low carbonation. Big dry finish.
D- Not a huge fan of this. Seems like nothing is really refined in it. Pretty basic American Barleywine.

 602 characters

Photo of t0rin0
3.64/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was a 1998 bottle thats supposedly been kept in the fridge. I guess I should have tried a new one first to see what this beer started out as. The appearance was a murky brown with some red showing through. Had a nice amount of carbonation and produced a decent sized offwhite head. The murkiness is evidence of its age as it sounds like this beer started off pretty clear.

The smell was very inviting. It was very malty and a tiny bit hoppy in the nose. It smelled of a well aged barleywine. The taste was very interesting. Part of it consisted of that sweet malt/maple syrup taste that comes from age. But the other part tasted like A1 steak sauce. Now, there were 7 of us that did a barleywine tasting of about 15 different beers and everyone agreed that there was a weird steak sauce flavor in there. It actually didn't take too much away from the beer but it was very strange.

The body was relatively heavy and went down smooth. This was a drinkable beer after 10 years, so I'm guessing its drinkable when its new.

 1,025 characters

Photo of sfoley333
3.55/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from 12oz bottle 07 edition into a delirium tremens glass. Poured a brown amberish color with thin white head that quickly faded. Smell is toffee, malty alcohol aroma. Taste is very strong with a unbalance between the malt alcohol and bitterness. One is enough.

 268 characters

Photo of MisterDeeds
3.58/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My first jump into Barleywine, and from what I hear, the perfect choice to start.

The appearance and smell didn't impress me. Although I knew barleywine is generally much stronger, I didn't expect the odor to smell like straight up booze.

Tasting it however, I was very surprised. Quite a bit smoother than the smell suggested. Not as bitter as the "stronger" IPAs tend to be, but with a definite "warm" aftertaste.

Very drinkable, but at 10.8% that might be bad idea.

 473 characters

Photo of ccrida
3.83/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle, 2007, served into a snifter.

Appearance is hazy, glowing ruby, with a small, quickly dissipating off-white head. Brilliant color that I really love.

Smell is all malt, sweet caramel and honey, a touch of spices. Medicinal but pleasant cherry cough syrup, apricots and alcohol. Could be stronger, but good.

Taste is balanced and fairly clean, not to sweet or cloying, but the alcohol is rather assertive. A little fruity esters and nice maltiness. English style, not American, and well done, if a bit on the bland side. I'd prefer if the umph of the nose came through better on the palate. Good but forgettable, except for the gorgeous color.

Mouthfeel is on the lighter side, with a touch of carbonated creaminess.

Drinkability is pretty good in that this goes down really easy and drinks like a beer less then 9.5%...the is almost like the Coors Light of barleywines, light and bland and inoffensive. If your looking to slowly peel away layers of complexity, then you'll be disappointed, or perhaps it's just to subtle for a neanderthal like me!

 1,070 characters

Photo of AKBelgianBeast
4.35/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I really like this beer. It is a bit light for a barleywine, but it makes up for that in smoothness and drinkability. Pours uniquely clear for a barleywine style, and has a refreshingly sweet taste rather than the common hoppy american style bwine. Very smooth, probably the most refreshing ( relatively speaking ) bwine I have tasted of yet. Good flavor for those who are not used to Barleywine, dont jump right into J.W. lees, have a few of these to acquire the taste and educate your palate. Good brew, a fun barleywine to get tipsy on, not too filling which is nice.

 570 characters

Photo of srrn
4.06/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

2007 edition: Clear amber with quickly reducing 1 finger head. A bit of malt and piney hops in the smell, I really couldn't get much. Taste is complex and very good, fruity malt is followed by bitterness, then a bit more fruit and again bitterness. Mouthfeel is perfect, perfect carbonation, and slickness. I've laid a bottle down to see how it ages. Seems to me this is an underrated beer, on of the few rated good call that I thought were exceptional.

 453 characters

John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
3.74 out of 5 based on 517 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.

    Subscribe