John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale | Mad River Brewing Company

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John Barleycorn Barleywine AleJohn Barleycorn Barleywine Ale
519 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: 519 |  Reviews: 365
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.

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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.

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Photo of cjgator3
2.93/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

2007 edition. 12oz bottle poured into a pint glass. Pours an orangish-amber color with a creamy off-white head. The aroma is sweet and fruity with malt and toffee and a pretty strong amount of alcohol. The taste is pretty sweet and malty up front giving way to the hops and a warming effect from the alcohol in the finish. Overall, this is a decent barleywine that definitely needs a few years to mellow out as it is a little rough around the edges fresh. I will stash a couple of these away and re-visit after it has had a couple years to mellow.

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Photo of tpd975
4.22/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a reddish brown hue with a big bubbly head. The head dies quickly and leaves behind no lacing.

S: Wow, what a barleywine. Tons of nice sweet brown sugar. Pine sap, and vanilla, there is even a hint of nutmeg beneath it all. If I did not know better I would say this was some sort of xmas brew.

T: Quite possibly the most mild yet best tasting barleywine around. This one does not have the average barleywine kick. Tons of nice sweet dark brown sugar sweetness. Hints of pine sap with dashes of vanilla. Undertones of raisins and a touch of fresh Floirda orange juice. Mild, complex, wonderful.

M: Medium bodied, not a thick as most barleywines.

D: Soo drinkable. I have never had a barleywine that I could session with. Well this is it. Big taste, yet not overthetop. The ABV is not even noticeable.

Overall: Strange... a mild yet tasty barleywine. Tons of flavors. Each flavor comes at you mildly and in waves. Nothing over the top about this beer. No doubt about it the most drinkable barleywine I have ever had. Quite a pleasant suprise for a beer I had never even heard of prior to the purchase.

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

Vintage 2006

a: Negligible head, soon disappearing. The beer is a medium-dark brown in color with some floaters.

s: Interesting rich butter-toffee malt with an underlying subtle toasted malt aroma. Some sweet, dark fruits and a possible touch of cola. Hops are well tempered. Nice ethanol presence.

m: low carbonation, pretty full body

t: Pretty standard barleywine toffee and caramel barleys dominate the palate, with hops taking a backseat. Cleans up pretty well, with a light bitterness. A touch of nutty toast builds. Nothing stands out, nothing really detracts.

d: a pretty good, straightforward beer...a nice sipper

single bottle from Whole Foods Raleigh

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

2007 Harvest, poured from the 12oz bottle into a pint glass. Body is an orange-amber color, topped by a small flourish of creamy off-white head that vanishes rather immediately. Aroma is a nice blend of syrupy-sweet malt and bitter, fruity hops, along with a good strong whiff of alcohol.
Palate is sweet up front, with notes of caramel and oats and a hint of tropical fruit. The hops come through mid-palate, providing an assertive yet mellow bitterness. The finish has a nice bready sweetness, along with just a hint of tropical fruit and a trace of lingering hoppy bitterness.
The body of this beer is a fairly thick, but not nearly as sticky as most of the barleywines on the market. A fairly pronounced dryness can be detected long after the finish. This is a fairly drinkable beer, and although it's certainly evident that it is high in alcohol, it remains pretty smooth. This year's batch may need a few more months to soften the rough edges, but it's off to a promising start.

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

2003 Harvest. Majestic magenta with a definite orange influence when backlit with sunshine. The pale caramel cap is on the small side, even after an aggressive pour. That isn't surprising, I suppose, in light of the ABV. A slurred collar of lace is the only glass decoration. Despite the lack of icing, this really is a good looking barleywine.

The nose is chock full of toffee and all manner of alcohol-soaked fruits. I don't mean alcohol as in raw ethanol, because that's barely evident. I mean cherries and figs soaking in tawny port and cherry brandy. One thing is certain when drinking (and smelling) a four year old barleywine, the various flavors (and aromas) will be nicely melded and will feature nothing but smooth edges.

My first sip tells me that was a good call. John Barleycorn is nothing if not well-mannered at this stage of the game. Why on earth would anyone drink a barleywine fresh when the years are so kind? Although it's hard to be sure, I think this vintage has some time on it yet.

I have no doubt that the hop attack has faded to a considerable extent, but I'd have to say English barleywine rather than American barleywine. The star of the show is a wonderfully rich maltiness that is reminiscent of brown bread slathered with thick layers of cherry and plum jam, then drizzled with melted caramel. A modest amount of black tea leaf bitterness keeps things from becoming too cloying.

The mouthfeel is light-medium for the style on first blush. However, as the beer approaches room temperature, it develops a stealth viscosity that is most enjoyable. It's slowly morphing from summer-weight silk to winter-weight. Sip or gulp... it's up to you.

John Barleycorn is a barleywine that doesn't get a whole lot of buzz. If I lived in Mad River's distribution area, I'd buy a sixer every year and would do a killer vertical tasting every now and again. This is good stuff that is disappearing remarkably quickly.

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Photo of Chuggnutt
3.79/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Dark brown, murky—like dark maple syrup. Almost no head when I poured.

Smell: Sweet, alcohol, plummy fruits, fig, raisin, brown sugar.

Taste: Strong alcohol (phenols?), coffee, caramel, dark berry, brandy, hint of vanilla and molasses.

Mouthfeel: Nice and syrupy thick, alcohol numbing, pleasantly warming.

Overall: A very decent barleywine with a lot of complex character happening there.

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

2006 harvest.

Pours a cloudy brown with loads of yeast particles suspended throughout the liquid. There are some lighter orange highlights on the edges of the glass...but it still looks like Hudson River water. No head at all, only a thin ring of bubbles.

The aroma is very malty for an American Barley Wine. Sweet toffee, caramel, alcohol, light floral and citrus hops, dark fruits and just a hint of earthy tobacco.

The flavor is in need of some aging, imo. Alcohol burn is present from almost beginning to end. Sweet, dark fruits (plums, prunes), bready, boozy, resin bitterness in the finish. This is definitely a sipper.

Mouthfeel is a thick medium with light carbonation. The burn from the abv is not very enjoyable to me. Not enough flavor to complement it , imo. I will let the other five bottles I have sit for a while in the cellar before I come back to this one.

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Photo of walshclimb
3.67/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours cloudy, medium brown with thin lacy off-white head. Smells malty and sweet with maple syrup or molasses and a touch of alcohol. The initial flavor is malty and very sweet with only slight balancing bitterness. The aftertaste is malty and lightly sour. The mouthfeel is full-bodied, slightly oily, and pretty smooth. This beer is a little sweet for my taste, but nice to split a 12 oz. bottle. I suspect it may improve with age, mellowing the sweetness..

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a deep brown color ale with a nice foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of sweet malt with some dry and bitter hops also noticeable. Taste is a balance mix between some sweet malt and some bitter and citrusy hops. I personally like more malt heavy barley wine then hoppy barley wine so this was not necessarily for me. Body is about average with some good carbonation and no sign of alcohol.

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Photo of mcallister
3.6/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2006 Vintage at 9.5% ABV.

Pours russet colored with some sediment abound. Head of tan arises too around a half inch then fades quickly into spotty clusters.

Sweet toffee aromas with caramel in a close second. Citrusy hops with a great floral touch that makes the nose quite lively. Fig, raisin, dates, and prune with a pineapple, grapefruit twist that leads into a maple brown sugar ester.

Nice hop bitterness on the mid palate and ending of this but it leaves an unpleasant film that hurts both the taste and mouthfeel. Would probably mellow out overtime and be no problem. Cherry, fig, dates, brown sugar, some citrus although not as showing as the nose, hazlenut, and chewy caramel. Mouth is big, full and overtaking but like mentioned earlier some time to rest is needed.

A good barleywine I'd like to lay down for a few years and try again.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.54/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a clear, bright carnet body with a small, off-white head.

Smell: Whiskey-scented aroma with hints of sweet caramel, vanilla, spiced plums. Some perfumy peach notes.

Taste: Sweet and syrupy, yet also earthy and grainy, with flavors of caramel, stewed plums, and brown sugar. The sweetness is backed by plenty of hop bitterness and, again, hints of peaches which meld with the alcohol is provide a shot of peach schnapps. Ends with a dryish, woody finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Dense, sticky mouthfeel. Relatively low carbonation. Quite warming, alcoholwise.

Drinkability: Paired very well with the movie "The Lost Weekend".

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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.

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

Solid hitter here, proper ol’ dark oak pour, lacey tan head, nice lacing. Yum.

Cherry and plum in the aroma, sweet malt too. The malty quaff is pleasing me, as I work thru this snifter. Woody and resinous, I’m still drawn back to the black cherry backbone. Sharp and dry, the cherry sweetness doesn’t over power in the finish. Just a top-notch brew. I could drink this all evening long. I sure hope to hell have more of these down the road.

I’m in debt to Dubbercody
for this nice brew, sent for my BA annv.

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Photo of russpowell
4.09/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 Pours chestnutwith 1 finger+ of sand colored head. Average lacing & above average head retention

S: Bready, doughy with chocolate & brown sugar

T: Bready & boozey warmth up front. Earthy hops & a little roasted grain. Brown sugar, itense dryness & pecans as this warms. Finishes dry with bakers chocolate, sometimes harsh boozeyness( mellows as it warms ) & piney bitterness at the back of the throat

MF: Medium bodied, slight oilyness & low carbonation

The 9.0 abv is evident here, not a bad one to sip a bottle or 2, but after that, move on! A bit pricey at $12 a sixer (my biggest bitch about this beer)

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

From a 12oz botle, this poured shockingly dark, although the deep crimson color shows up if you hold it to light. There’s little life to it and almost no head. The aroma is sugary sweet, syrupy and molasses-like. This is extremely rich, sugary and full-flavored, definitely a dessert beer. To my palate of limited range, I’d be forced to say that raisin is the predominate flavor here, although there’s also a tingle of hoppy pine/resin, along with the strong baked sugar strength of the alcohol. (#2770, 4/8/2007)

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

01/20/07- Purchased at Ledgers Liquors in Berkeley, CA.

2006 Release****

Presentation- 12oz bottle, bottled in late 2006. Poured into my Alesmith tulip.

Appearance- Dark caramel brown pour. 1/4 inch head from a very slow pour. Nice patchy lacing.

Smell- Super dark roasted malt with pine hops beneath. Smells very bready.

Taste- Intense deep roasted malt flavor. John relies more on malt than hops for sure. It does have a nice woody hop profile though. Kind of a nice change of pace for a barleywine. Seems to have a slight touch of a cardboard taste.

Mouthfeel- Pretty smooth with a lower carbonation rate. Very nice malty aftertaste.

Drinkability- Overall a very tasty barleywine. More of a malt bomb than based on hops. Very drinkable.

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Photo of Neehan
4.08/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Celebrating the 2006 Harvest. Cheers.

A ruddy and hazy dark bronze with a nice ring of lacing that stays alive with each sip. Pleasant webbing and foamy head. This year's harvest reaps apples, plums, grapes, and perhaps a very slight hint of grapefruit. The taste is very smooth, much smoother than what I remember of last year's offering. With a bitterness that quickly and quietly disappears. A back and forth between sweetness and bitterness with each sip, mellowing more as the drink warms. Very light and foamy in the mouth that eases down quite nicely. Very drinkable for the genre because of its smoothness and relaxing character. Far better than I had expected, this year's offering is fantastic.

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Photo of khiasmus
3.72/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A-Deep amber color, with light head that quickly dissipates to a lace. Very slightly cloudy.

S-Almost a three way tie between hops, malt, and alcohol. Very sweet with notes of nuts and honey.

T-Very sweet and malty, with hops almost balancing. Overall very sweet and slightly fruity. Citrus, maple, honey, cane sugar, cocoa, coffee.

M-Slick and buttery, with a slight astringency and dry finish.

D-More drinkable than many barleywines, but once again, unless your a freak for them, you won't have more than a couple.

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Photo of phisig137
3.9/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle dated for the 2006 harvest. Pours a deep brown with ruby tinges, fairly cloudy, and a one finger creamy head. Decent retention doesn't leave much behind.

Aroma is full and enjoyable. Well balanced between malt and hops, and with only a little hint of alcohol. Nice and pine like hops give this an american spin.

Flavor is quite nice. Huge toffee notes up front, with some complex caramel, malt, and molasses flavors. Finish is firmly bitter, with only moderate hop flavor. Not sweet and not bitter, but very nicely balanced. I can see this aging quite nicely for a few years. Mouthfeel is stick, full, and heavy. Drinkability is quite good for a fresh barleywine.

Without a doubt, this is the best organic beer I've had to date. I'll be very curious to see how this ages in around three years. It's pretty delicious now, but has the potential to be amazing. It's not as in your face as many other american barleywines, but it stand up well to the competition. Recommended.

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

another tasty treat acquired through the wonders of trading!

A - Nice rich burgandy color, creamy tanned head.

S - Rich malts, toffee, ripe dark fruits and a warm alcohol hints.

T - similar to the smell but not heavy sweet. A wisp of hops finishes this one off nicely.

M - full bodied, smoothly carbonated. Nothing better when natural carbonation does it's thing!

D - while not overtaking some all time favorites, this one was quite tasty. I only had two and it was enough for once sitting, not enough in the cellar.

I could see cellaring this for a few years. Of course that is if I could get it in NH. Enjoy if you can get them.

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Photo of Enola
3.63/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served in a Chimay glass.

This beer is a nice plum color with a fair hed the receded into a thin layer. The smell is a sweet combination of hops and fruit. The taste is sweet and the hops present a slight bitterness. The beer is very smooth, with only a slight sour bitterness in the aftertaste that hopefully will lay down with time. Drinkable for sure, as the bottle lists a slightly higher abv than listed here. Whatever the avb, it does not show at all. A good barleywine that should get better with time.

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

A: Rich reddish brown with a nice white head that lasts.

S: Lots of sweetness. Caramel, brandy, etc.

T: Definitely sweet. Tastes of sweet caramel and has some brandy. Some bitterness at the very end, but only barely enough to counter the sweetness. Also get some alcohol burn. Sort of works in this case, since the beer is so rich, but it's there. Although, for a 9% beer this rich, the alcohol could be a little more hidden. You want something after dinner to go with your sweet dessert? This is the beer.

M: Rich, thick, full. No doubt about it. Some carbonation to keep it from being overly syrupy.

D: I like the beer, but it's a bit too rich to be really drinkable. A 12 oz bottle is just about right.

Semi-recommended. If it's what you're in the mood for, it's enjoyable. Just be ready for it.

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Photo of Foxman
3.58/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

It pours a very hazy brownish coppery amber, more orange at the edges. A finger-plus of khaki head lasts a fair while. Scoops of lacing dollop the inside of the glass.

The aroma is disappointingly sparse, and barely indicates roasted malt, some sloe and currants, and a sprinkle of hop scent. Not so sparse is a sinewy tendon of alcohol.

Upon sipping, there comes a quite sweet twist of earthy, sugary malt, caramel, plum, and vanilla. A slightly floral and peppery hop presence tempers a sherry vinous aspect of hot alcohol. A decided turn of gritty bitterness overlaps some biscuit. The finish is dry and very bitter, lingering stoutly. The flavor strives for mainstream, and it does end up being manageably alright.

Full bodied, the slick viscous malt and glowing bitterness impress the palate well.

The nose is very thin and made me work too hard, and the flavor almost did the same, but to a somewhat lesser degree. It is quite bitter, and almost refreshingly dry in the finish, but it doesn't overload the tastebuds with hop lava. The ABV is gutsy and hot, but while it hits hard, it doesn't strike as out of place. The size alone makes it worthy of caution, and the rather mundane presentation leave it moderately drinkable. So while I don't think John Barleycorn must die, he doesn't have to stop around real often either.

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John Barleycorn Barleywine Ale from Mad River Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.74 out of 5 with 519 ratings
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