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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:
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Ratings: 519 |  Reviews: 365
Photo of BeerRun13
3.59/5  rDev -4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark ruby brown with some floaties & just visible bubbles. An agresive pour still ony produced a thin film that quickly faded to a ring.
Malty and raisiny in the nose. Something in there reminds me of those Red Hot candies.
Strong malty flavor with a slight alcoholic kick. Nice hop flavor and bitterness. Bittering with a slightly spicy finish.
Full malty body with moderate carbonation. Very warming alcohol down the throat. Bittering finish.
A sipper for sure, but pretty good overall.

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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 rkuhnel
3.95/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I tend to like most of what Mad River attempts, and being local I can always get this. This was the early 2007 vintage, and they seem to have made this even better. It pours what I guess you would have to call a cross between red and brown, sort of deep mahogany color and up popped a big light tan head that settled slowly and left lots of big chunks of lacing in the glass. What actually greets you first when you take a big sniff is alcohol, then you get caramel malts, piney hops, and fruits like cherry or figs. Mouth feel is somewhat more dry than the nose would suggest. Flavors are of sweet caramel and chocolate. A very decent Barleywine, and it would be interesting so see how it would do if I could just buy a six-pack and leave it alone for a year.

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Photo of akorsak
2.42/5  rDev -35.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

A 12 oz bottle from a trade with Boolshot.

A: The barleywine is a deep copper red, very hazy, with a small white head and no lace.

S: The aroma is almost nonexistent, regardless of temperature of the beer. A very grainy, unsweet malt scent manages to waft up but it is weak.

T: The flavor is grainy malts. The body is very light, lacking the intense complexity and malty overload of a good barleywine. On top of that, there are no hops to be found. As the ale warms, it takes on a slightly medicinal malt flavor with some residual sweetness, but it is still lacking for hops.

M: The mouthfeel is bland, lacking a memorable hop or malt body.

D: I would not grab this one again, it seems to come up short in every category.

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

2006 Bottle with a listed 9.5 ABV.

In the glass this is a clear coca cola brown colored beer. The head doesn't really form here what there is of it is tan.

Smell is sweet and very malty with a strong pine cone scent. Alcohol is evident and adds a black pepper aroma. Fruitiness is in this mostly cherry and prune smell.

Taste is sweet and very bitter at the beginning. The bitterness doesn't get much stronger and this quickly becomes malty and woody in flavor. Not real complex but it is fairly good.

Mouthfeel is good.

An OK Barley Wine that is of the bitter and woody type. If you like a strong woody beer then this is for you.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.62/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz single split with blackie, from the these go to eleven bif, 2004 bottle

appearance: poured into snifter...murky/muddy mahogany-amber. foamy beige head with light retention

smell: bitter hops dominate the aroma, heavy pine, strong citrus, boozy plum, light brown sugar, boozy malt

taste: boozy at 9%, bitter pine cones, fig, dark fruit, brown sugar...not terribly complex, but a nice bitter barleywine

mouthfeel: boozy, hop kick is heavy

drinkability: alright

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

2006 Harvest (Sampled Fresh)

Presentation: Stubby 12 fluid ounce bottle sealed with a twist off standard brass crown cap. Single main label has a light tan brown background with dark brown printing and text. Labeled as ‘John Barleycorn’ but described as ‘Certified Organic Barleywine Ale – Celebrating 2006 Harvest’. Listed at 9.5% Alcohol By Volume, no Freshness Date.

Appearance: Creamy tanned head soon forms a very smooth and uniform looking vicars collar that starts at ½” thick and settles at no less than ¼” when it relaxes, leaving some large bubbles on the surface when it does. A light haze sits like a Victorian London mist in the pastel looking horse chestnut body. The carbonation is broken in places but always finely dissolved. Exhibits a very traditional looking English Barleywine appearance which I love.

Nose: Soothing toffee, alcohol laden caramel, dark fruits, soft chewy malts, brown sugar, hints of raisins and a nice low key bitter hop pinch at the death. Warming, soothing and very relaxing….if only I had a roaring fireplace to sit next to and a clay pipe to smoke on.

Taste: The chewy toffee malts kick things off; there is only the mildest hint of sweetness in this Barleywine, which is rare treat these days. This low sweetness is a positive advantage; it discretely gives way to dark fruits, brown sugars, a little anise, some toasted bread and caramelized raisins in the middle with a firm bitterness in the finish to pick up the excitement in the ending. Dry and bitter with a lovely warm malt presence. A few mouthfuls later and a healthy punch of pine hops and oils coat the cheeks. The bitterness gives way to a thick oily hop death. Super stuff.

Mouthfeel: This doesn’t so much have Mouthfeel, as Nosefeel, a warming waft of nasal alcohol heats up the back of the throat and leads you into the firm body. I think this Barleywine got a Bowflex for Christmas; there are no flabby bits anywhere, nothing but a firm, well toned, mid-rift with some thick calfs for long distance drinking. The alcohol plays its part here, but perfectly balances the traditional English Barleywine character.

Drinkability: I wished this one had arrived in a Bomber, though at 9.5% ABV and with a work day tomorrow, it is probably better that it does not. John Barleycorn has an archetypal English Barleywine composition with a projection that reminds me of the days of the Empire, oh I digress. Suffice to say, this is a very enjoyable brew, a great libation that allows you to forget the days stresses and helps you to sink into a time past and happy memories.

Overall: I haven’t seen this one knocking around before, so it was a ‘so-so’ pick-up. ‘so-so’ because I like some of the Mad River Brewing beers, but not all. I’m impressed by this though, it’s very English, and I would hate that to come across as Xenophobic or biased, but by that I mean that this Barleywine has a solid chewy toffee malt base, a restrained hop character in the middle but a lovely liquorice pine oil hop bite in the rising finish. Lovely. Didn’t seem to be much in the way of yeasty detritus in this one, but I’ll wager it will age for a year or two and improve for sure. $2.49 from Hollingshead Deli of Orange. Recommended.

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Photo of DogFood11
4.02/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a stone barleywine glass. It formes a rather dense tan head that holds true for a while. Cloudy brown body. Fine swirling carbonation slowly cascades down the side of the glass after a pull...love that.

Very fruity in the nose. Citrusy hops seem to be a big factor as well. Bakers chocolate on the backside.

Taste while similar tends to be swayed by the aggressive mouthfeel. Caramel and dry chocolate tend to stick to the palate and form a sort of layer across the tongue. Malts are somewhat candied but carry a burnt quality to them that I enjoyed. Plenty of hops in this one. It has a nice playfull balance back and forth. This is fairly balanced and the chocolate bitterness is a nice touch to the overall sweet brew. One thing I didn't like too much is the cakey dry mouthfeel that leaves a coat to remember. I expect some of that in a barleywine but this was slightly annoying in that department.

Notes: Winner. Very good barleywine and another product from Mad River that impresses this household. I could see laying some down for a yearly tasting. Was nice fresh!

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Photo of brewandbbq
3.41/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Vintage 1997

Pours mostly flat, with minimal carbonation coming out of solution. A brief moment of spritzy bubbles jumping out of the brew, like cola, followed by a placid suface.
The body is light mahogany and clear, except for some stray particulates from the near-bottom of the bottle.
Aromatics are unusual to say the least, especially for a barleywine.
Dried cherries with light malt, followed by a floral note which seems like tarragon or chamomile. Other hints lean in a more asian direction, such as kaffir leaves or lemongrass.
Mouthfeel is flat and puckering, with a lactic twang.
Pallet is laden with cherry and lime juice. Tart and juicy with hints of nutmeg and peppercorns.
I think the lactic quality was non-intentional, and obtrusive in the drinkablity.
Finishes warm with lingering spice and bitterness only from the acid.

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Photo of EPseja
3.09/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served from a 12oz bottle in a Duvel Tulip at cellar temperature.

A - Slightly hazed, medium brown color with ruby highlights. A modest head composed mainly of tiny, frothy bubbles. No lacing, quick head dispersal. All that's left is a thin tan ring around the rim of the glass and a wisp of bubbles in the center, only because of the etching on the bottom of the glass.

S - Juicy, green fruitiness and fragrant citrus hop notes. Some candy sugar sweetness.

T - A touch of ambiguous sweetness on the tip of the tongue that is quickly overtaken by a big, drying piney hop character that numbs the tongue. Alcohol is quite present as if not much effort was taken in trying to hide or subdue it. Yeastily tart and bitter in the back, with an extremely dry finish. Some balance problems with this one, I'm afraid.

M - Low viscosity and medium effervescence for the style, expanding to a decent frothiness in the mouth. More watery than slick. Swallow is unassuming.

D - I've had other barleywines that have heaps more balance than this one. While this beer is still tasty in it's own right, I'd reach for many others before I would reach for this one.

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

This is a deep, deep amber almost black with a respectible thin white head that melts to a sticky ring of lacing.
Aromas are what you would expect for a barleywine...sweet dark malts, dark fruits like raisins, candy sugar, brown sugar, only a hint of hops.
Flavors are again sweet malt and burnt brown sugar but only with a hint of bitter citrus hops at the end.
Aftertaste is a combination of burnt sugar and bitter hops. Hops leave a drying that is pleasing.
Mouthfeel is creamy but slightly cloying.
Nice version of an American Barleywine...not great, but damn good.
NOTE: Edited slightly after a second bottle at a later date.

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Photo of dherling
3.71/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2005 Harvest

Poured out a darkish brown with a slightly reddish hue. Thick tan bubbly head that sticks around like that crazy Thankgsiving uncle. Would you leave already? Nose was bready, malt, with some alcohol, and sour cherry. Taste offered Good hop bitterness, balancing malts flavors, some alcohol, and a long bitter finish. Tastes more like a hop head's type of beer than a barley wine or malt lover's brew. Good mild carbonation, appropriate for the style. Rather dry mouthfeel and finish.

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

Dark russet mahagony pour topped with a corner grabbing collar of khaki cap.

Lightly boozy awl-kee-hawl nose with wiffs of deep malt and spice cake hints.

First swigs: Cocoa and cake icing with a high amount of sugary sweetness. Bright with a doughy character. Circles around cookie dough.

Feel is smooth and buttery with a delicate carbonation.

Last swigs: Focused one trick pony of buttery cinamon crisp! Nice!

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

Pours a thick brown, though you can see some light through it, no head and a nice lace top it off. Smell is hopped for sure, but with a subtle sugary undertone, and a hint of alcohol too. Taste is not very strong at all. There is the natural piney hoppness you would expect from a barley wine, but not too strong, there is also a sugary, nuttiness about it as well. The alcohol is there, and that keeps this a sipper. It is actually nicely carbonated, and not harsh going down, has the warm feeling on the way. Overall this was a good brew, I would not mind having another and certainly kept me warm this evening.

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Photo of silver0rlead
4.13/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2006 version: Pours a cloudy brown color with some garnet highlights and a thick tan head taht retains impressively. The aroma has some piney and citrus hops upfront, along with some ripe berries (strawberry, blueberry), caramel, and a touch of alcohol. The flavor has some big citrus and pine hop flavor initially, along with a big caramel sweetness, some ripe fruit (strawberry, raspberry), a slight oakiness, and some alcohol. The mouthfeel is just short of slick, with low carbonation...very drinkable for the style. A very solid Barleywine from Mad River, they're big beers seem to be pretty good.

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Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.4/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle says “celebrating the 2005 harvest”

This beer pours a slightly foggy amber, strawberry and honey color with a wide creamy collar of off white.

Smells of sweet red grapes, strawberries and brown sugar with a dry, earthy oak that works well with the sweeter aspects. There’s also a warm, aromatic alcohol glow to this one.

Tastes of light grainy barley with some caramel and a woody brown sugar. It then nicely fades into a dry subtle coffee and a little sappy green oak in the finish.

The mouthfeel is light to medium bodied and rather flat feeling.

This one’s just simple and solid. I really admire the upfront grainy nature of it. I guess another way to say it is that it is very direct. Great beer!

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

Go ahead. Pop one of these and see if Steve Winwood's voice doesn't come out of the bottle. 2005 edition.

The head on this one lasts longer than a, umm, well, it lasts a while. Dark ruby with a light reddish tan head that'd go great with a mahogany end table. Sweet toffeeish/dark fruit malts and some spicy, faintly citrusy aromas waft up from the krug.

I'm getting fruits, nuts - almost a Marzipan-y like flavor in here. Marzipan dipped in toffee maybe. With some citrusy and spicy hops on the edges. Definitely has a malty sweetness to it. Nine and a half percent and it only just shows up in the finish, along with a flavor I like but can't quite place - not chocolatey, not toffee, not figs or dates or marzipan so much, something in that general vicinity. Sticky chewy mouthfeel - lots of residual sugars in here.

Like it, but don't know if I could have a lot of them because of the sweetness.

(looks in the bottom of the krug) John Barleycorn is dead.

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Photo of Higravity
2.89/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Nice garnet color with a slight head the quickly goes. A 2005 bottle conditioned properly. The smell is sweet malt with caramel tones but is backed up by large piney and spicy citrus hops and a bit of sulfur giving a medicine like quality to it. The flavor continues with a large chunk of bitterness but there is this tanic medicine flavor that digs at the tonuge almost numbing it to the flavors of the malt and blooming hops. This might straighten out in a year or two. The alcohol is well hidden and it has a good mouthfeel but it isn't too drinkable at this point.

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Photo of mmmbeer
4.25/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. stubby with "Celebrating 2005 Harvest" on the label. It pours a hazed garnet color that is a coppper/strawberry red when held to the light and topped with a small tan head that reduces to a collar with an island of foam in the center. The bouquet consists of sharp piney/citric/perfumy hops with sweet, vinous, and perhaps chocolate malts to back them up. The taste is about the same with a medium to high bitterness that brings it all together. The body is somewhat oily and coating, with a full body that leaves a long finish. Overall a pretty good barleywine, and I wish I had some more bottles for cellaring purposes.

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

1997 bottle that i was saving for a special occasion but had anyways. It had mellowed marvelously and was a magnificient aged barleywine. Reminded me of a mellow balanced cantillon open fermentation. A cloudy fruity appearance. Clearly barley and malt in taste.

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Photo of brentk56
3.73/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a hazy copper color with a frothy head that displays good retention and a bit of splashy lacing

Smell: Toffee and leather notes; a touch of raisin

Taste: Opens with caramel and raisin flavors that are quickly subsumed by the piney hops; slightly medicinal and astringent on the finish

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and creamy with plenty of carbonation and some warmth in the gullet

Drinkability: A little too over the top on the bitterness; lacking a good malt backbone; definitely not cloying but the beer lacks the balance between the sweet and bitter flavors that define the best barleywines; aging a couple of years certainly helps this brew

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Photo of rodrot
3.65/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2005 bottling. This beer poured a hazy reddish brown color with a small tan head that lingered in the glass. The smell was malty and fruity with a spicy hop aroma in the backround. Taste was very fruity and malty with notes of caramel, rum soaked cherries, dark fruit and bitter hoppiness in the finish. However, I kept tasting a slight funky cardboard flavor that was unpleasant. This was a pretty full bodied barleywine, but it tastes like something is off and unbalanced. I gave the taste a 3.5 because of that cardboard aftertaste. I plan on aging my last 2 bottles for a year or more to see how this beer matures.

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

2005 Harvest, courtesy of bditty187.

Pours a dark red tinged brown, with a two finger off-white head that settles slowly to a thin cap and leaves behind tons of thick lacing.

Smell; sweet caramel malts, citric and piney hops and there's some dark fruity aromas as well.

Taste; a rather strong alcohol taste on the first sips, along with those hops, which have hints of grapefruit and pine trees. Sweet caramel and toffee, with a nice touch of cherries and figs. The alcohol presence fades quite a bit as it warms, making this quite drinkable. Mouthfeel is medium to full, and almost velvety smooth.

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Photo of Crosling
3.7/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Enchanting deep red color. Spotted, yet well laced film coating the surface. Aromatics of maple and honey covered dark fruits, along with a touch of caramel and toffee. The flavor, like the aroma, is much more malt accented with maple, caramel, fruit and toffee characteristics. Well balanced, not amazing, but balanced and pleasing to drink.

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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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