Third Coast Old Ale | Bell's Brewery, Inc.

2,678 Ratings
Third Coast Old AleThird Coast Old Ale

Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Michigan, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
From Bell's website:
"Third Coast Old Ale is a cellerable American-style barleywine that has notes of dried fruit and caramel embedded in a rich malt background that will grow more complex over time."

Added by BeerAdvocate on 02-28-2002

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Ratings: 2,678 |  Reviews: 1,096
Photo of rwathree
3.99/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A: Pours nearly still (as it should), caramel color, deep brown at the center and slightly lighter at the edges. Little bit of sediment, but it's hard to see since the brew is more or less opaque.

S: Sweet brown sugar, not nearly as boozy as you'd expect for the high abv. Vine fruit, too, though I can't be more specific than that. Very inviting.

T: there's that booze, right up front. Not too aggressive though, more like the sweetness in bourbon. There's a nice, dry bitterness that kicks in to neutralize any burn. I'm impressed by the balance provided by the hops. Slight aspirin aftertaste, but it's not too offensive.

M: with that aftertaste comes some grittiness, and I don't love that. I also find this surprisingly thin. On the other hand, there's no lingering burn (see above).

O: this is a surprisingly - scarily - drinkable beer for almost 11% abv. It's a bold beer, and by that I mean that its best qualities appear up front; it's beautifully presented and pays off immediately. Some of the finer points need refining, but all told this is a quality offering, typical of Bell's.

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Photo of Gushue3
4.05/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A- comes out a medium brown from the bottle and looks hazy mahogany brown. 1 finger head with less than average retention and some lacing left around the glass

S- BIG sweet malt thats all over the place. Some sweeter dark fruit are there and make it a nice scent.

T- sweet upfront with darker fruits, heavy malt, and candied sugar. Sweet but not too crazy. Nice blend of sweet tastes are accompanied by some slight alcohol burn, small but there.

M- medium mouthfeel thats somewhat syrupy and has a smaller to medium amount of carbonation. Feels smooth and creamy.

O- really nice beer thats a little too sweet for me but absolutely enjoyable. Im about to pour a little bit of 12 year old Canadian Club into the remaining few ounces and see how it tastes.

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Photo of GregSVT
3.67/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into a snifter - Batch 9958

A: Pours a light brown with barely any head that fades to a ring and leaves no lacing on the glass.

S: The nose is lots of caramel, buttery toffee, and sweet malt. Pretty darn good but I don't get any hops.

T: The taste definitely has hops. I am picking up pine and a bit of citrus along with some bready and caramel malt. The year of age hasn't tone down the hops as much as I thought it did after smelling it.

M: The feel is medium bodied with just enough carbonation.

O: This is a very middle of the road barleywine/old ale. Good for tick but not sure if I would search it out again.

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Photo of Brunite
3.7/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

a - A deep ruby with an ecru head. Alcohol legs evident. Minimal lacing. Lots of sediment.

s - Syrupy cherry....sweet malty....dark fruit...alcohol.

t - Complex and bold. Lots of malt...brown sugar...dark fruit.

m - Medium body & syrupy. Slight alcohol burn but not bad.

o - Not a huge barleywine fan. But....this is one of the better I've had. I could finish this and enjoy it if in the right mood.

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Photo of auroracrisis
3.92/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz into a snifter, this was bottled on 10/9/2009.

Deep burgundy on the pour, with no head. Just a small collar around the edges of the glass that fades more and more as you drink it. Plenty of floating sediment, and decent legging when the brew is swirled.

Subtle notes of brown sugar, dark fruits, toffee and booze all mingle together. Fruits like raisins and dark, candied cherries. The brown sugar and toffee present even more candy like qualities to the brew. However, the subtlety of the nose does not understate the brew but brings a complexity and makes the beer less offensive than other malt forward barleywines. Not much heat from the booze, just a tingle. Which is nice.

Again, forward with brown sugar and toffee. The confectionary sweetness is much more apparent in the flavor than in the nose. Dark fruits compliment but don't overpower the candy like brown sugar and toffee flavor. Rich and sweet dark cherry flavor with less raisin than the nose. I like the juxtaposition between the nose and taste of this beer. Just a touch of booze again on the finish.

Mouthfeel is full and sticky, with low carbonation. Seems to kind of stick to your tongue and not want to go down upon swallowing.

Overall, a good malt forward American barleywine (old ale, whatever). Good brown sugar and dark cherry flavors, with a subtle yet complex nose. Easy flavors and not much booze at all. Glad I've still got some of this to see how it develops, and I'd love to try a barrel aged version of this. Seems like the perfect canvas for some bourbon aging.

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Photo of zeledonia
4.28/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Batch 9970, bottled 15 October 2010.

Pours a deep enigmatic reddish brown. Seems like every time I look at it, and in every different light, brings out a different hue. Sometimes it's mahogany, sometimes a dark caramel amber, sometimes yellowish. Seems to hold a whole spectrum in its depths. But whatever color it is, it's clear, nearly see-through with light behind it, despite being so dark. One-finger dark cream head, good retention and lacing.

Smells of booze and strong dried fruit - kinda like a Pedro Jimenez sherry. Raisins and prunes are dominant, sweet, dark, and sun-dried. Yum.

Taste is quite different from the smell. First, the fruit is lighter - more like plums and figs, and without the dried-out sweetness in the smell. Second, it's got a combo of hop bitterness and alcohol burn that gives it a liquor-like punch. It burned a bit going down - definitely doesn't hide the alcohol the way some high-ABV beers do. But it's tasty, and complex in a different way than the smell.

Mouthfeel is right on - heavy and slightly sticky. The low carbonation works well for this beer - the flavors are so robust they don't need bubbles to bring them out.

A very good beer, it drinks somewhere between an old ale and an American barleywine. Deep, dark, rich malts, but with a hop kick. Quite nice.

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Photo of damndirtyape
4.6/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

12oz bottle (batch 9970, bottled on Oct 15, 2010) poured into a snifter.

Appearance: Careful pour gave a deep mahogany brown color, quite dark, with a 1/4" tan head. The foam died down to a thin ring at the edge and a few persistent strands here and there. When held up to the light there are some ruby red highlights, but the brown is still there.

Smell: Sweet. Baked pastry with some fruit (plum and grape) notes and some hints of alcohol. With a swirl the alcohol becomes more notable and some liquor and whiskey (bourbon) smells come out.

Taste: What a wonderful malt bomb this is. Nice sweet caramel and buttery toffee flavor combined with that a sweet fruit pastry flavor, but never cloying. There is a bitter finish at the end which is part coffee and part resiny hops at the same time. Alcohol completely hidden until the very end of the sip and then a hint of it re-emerges with an exhale. A complex tasting beer.

Mouthfeel: Mild carbonation on the tongue, but never gets in the way of the beer. Nicely thick, smooth and creamy mouthfeel.

Overall / Drinkability: Wow, this is quite an amazing beer. Definitely strong on the malt and sweet side of things, but with some good character. While this isn't a beer for a hot day like today, I enjoyed it anyway and will have to pick up a bottle again for sometime in the winter. A good beer with a meal (fish cakes and peas) and would be even better with dessert. But...after awhile the alcohol starts to creep in and it tells me that this a one per evening beer. Still, a great beer that I will definitely revisit and let it age more next time to see how it turns out.

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Photo of jayhawk73
3.58/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A- Pours a dark copper color w/ a sliver of a cocoa head. Very cloudy looking, with good carbonation and lacing. Lots of floaties in this brew as well.

S- Caramel, rum soaked fig, malt, some hops. Toffee, figs in the background. Not as strong as I'd like for a big barleywine. Nice nose though.

T- A little of a disappointment. I'm a big fan of barleywines, and this misses the mark a little bit. The flavors are a little out of whack for the style, and the hops are way too strong. Still, it's not horrible- but there are much better barleywines out there.

M- Fairly one dimensional, and not great for the style. Not impressed by this one.

O- Fairly disappointed w/ this beer. It's not bad, but it doesn't live up to the Bell's Brewery name. There are a lot of barleywines that are better than this out there. I'll probably pass on this if I see it again.

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Photo of Kuromaru
4.21/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance--Pours a deep, mostly opaque tawny/ amber with nary a trace of head.

Smell--Grapes, plum, caramel, chocolate. Notes of tart and sweet go back and forth, and I got a little black pepper, maybe some bitters, too. Alcohol is pretty subdued, but there.

Mouthfeel--No carbonation, very full body. Some bitterness in the finish. This really lingers on the palate.

Taste--Complex. I got a lot of underripe grape against sweet caramel. The malt presence is deep and lasting, with some light yeastiness and bitterness in the distance. The alcohol is hidden quite well, but it is noticeable.

Overall--Very complex, distinct and satisfying. Maybe a little overly full and heavy, but nicely balanced and very very tasty.

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Photo of claspada
3.38/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottled December 4, 2008 according to the Bells website. Shout out to Plenum for providing a super extra in our in-person swap.

Pours a honey-beige color with a nice whipped cream head leaves a nice amount of lacing behind. Aromas begin with a hint of caramel malt, but nothing darker than that. Some assorted fruits soaked in brandy, though ethanol notes are minimal.

The tastes begin with light and mid-range caramel malts but really not that much. Other flavors include apricots macerated in brandy and a handful of caramel-dipped nuts. A surprising amount of bitterness and a fraction too much unmasked alcohol result in a finish that is surgically clean and drying. Really wanted to like this more but the lingering bitterness is surprising and unwanted after almost 3 years of aging.

The body/mouthfeel is lighter than it should be and the carbonation is more active and more sharp-edged than it should be. I keep hoping things will settle down. It hasn't happened yet and I'm now into the bottom half of the bottle.

Overall this was a disappointment to say the least. I fully expected to love Third Coast Old Ale because I'm a huge fan of the style but Bell's once again has let me down. I have yet to have a beer that I want to have again from them and I am debating abandoning all hope.

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Photo of ColdPoncho
4.05/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Batch 9958

A - a rather murky brown/red body with a nice and tight light tan head. Very masculine.

S - Raisin, dark fruits, chocolate, woody smokiness, lingering tropical fruit hops...nice complexity.

T - Dark fruits and roasted malts, drying bitterness. Again some good complexities, nice levels and balances of things.

M - Very big and smooth. Quite nice.

O (D) - A big and interesting beer. I think it's good now, a year or so out, and I think it will develop for a while. definitely a good choice.

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Photo of bigaltemple
3.97/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle from batch 9970 poured into snifter

A - Pours what at first glance appears to be a cola color, but when held up to the light a really nice, rich red appears. Very small head appears for a quick second but is gone in an instant. Some good looking lacing though.

S - Deep, dark caramel malts are really prevalent. Strong sense of raisins. Also picking up some figs and dates.

T - Sweet caramel, with some hints of toffee. Mild alcohol burn , but not overpowering. Slightly bitter on the back end as it gets warmer.

M - Medium body with very light carbonation. Kind of creamy.

O/D - Rather enjoyable. Looking forward to sitting on the other bottle until a much cooler night.

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Photo of hardy008
4.1/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Cloudy reddish brown with a small light tan head, with good retention.. The aroma has figs, dates, raisins, caramel, and alcohol. Seems like a great beer for a cold winter night, but it is hot and summer. No problem, the air conditioner is running.

The flavor is just like the aroma suggests. Sweet, and a little boozy, with figs, dates, raisins, caramel, and alcohol. A nice beer to sip.

Medium to full bodied, average carbonation, the alcohol is somewhat noticeable, but not overpowering. A nice beer from Bell's. I will have to drink this for sure when the cold weather returns.

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Photo of beenitty
4.12/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Glad to try this as part of a nice array of extras recieved from schultz22

A- Pours cloudy copper, red. Very Nice Lacing and sizable off white head. Looks great.

S - Mmmm. Booze and Booze roaked fruits. Intensifies as it warms, smells like a barleywine, which is good for me

T- Malt, dark fruit notes, finishes with slight cherry after taste. I love it. This is dried fruit that is spiked in a bottle. It's filling and hearty at once. Good flavor

M- Nice body, more kick as it warms

D - Medium, had one. Could probably have another but after that it'd be interesting to see what would happen.

O - Great offering by Bells. I dont really have much experience with Olde Ales besides Kuhnhenn 4d. Even though that one has bourbon and this one doesnt, I found this to be more enjoyable and drinkable. With some age I'm sure the Kuhnhenn would be less boozy, but this one is definitely a great introdution to the style if someone out there is looking for a place to start with olde ales, excellent offering.

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Photo of zaphodchak
3.88/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Bell's Tap Takeover at Mellow Mushroom in Charlottesville, VA.

1.5 fingers of tan head-- brownish, ruddy and hazy, laces a ton.

Nose is tart, spicy, some malt and caramel. Some booze and maybe malty peach?

Taste is potent. Malty but heavily hopped, some caramel.

Mouthfeel is nice, standard.

Slightly bitter for something so malty. Aging would help a lot with this one.

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

Finally, something out of that cellar of mine that has a chance! Many of the beers down there have been marginal at best and some have been post-prime drainpours. I assure you that once the purge is completed, this is not going to happen again.

From the bottle: "Perfect for your cellar, TCOA is strong and rich. Its caramel malt and long, slow finish create an experience as warm and inviting as your favorite blanket." Dang, no bottling date or batch, though!

Once more, I employed a slow, gentle pour so as not to stir up any lees. In spite of this, I still got 1/4 of light-tan head that quickly became mere wisps. Color was a deep cola brown with NE-quality clarity. Caramel malt, indeed! The nose smelled like liquid toffee with a bit of pine resin mixed in. Mouthfeel was medium and the heat was the first thing that I noticed. This is no playing around, even after all of this time. As the heat subsided, it tasted heavily of mentholated tobacco and toffee. Wild. Finish was warming with the caramel/toffee up front and the mentholated tobacco lingering well after the swallow. I may need to lay down with my favorite blanket after this!

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Photo of 1Adam12
3.92/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours almost a light purple. Darker than most of the barleywines i've drank. Smells sweet. Smells of fig and burnt sugar. Tastes quite the same, very sweet, but good. Noticeable alcohol, but barely. I swear I taste a bit of maple syrup. Maybe a bit of raisin. Pretty decent balance between the flavors and the alcohol. Mouthfeel isn't as creamy as I would've liked. Moderate carbonation. Overall this is something I might like to age with hopes that the alcohol flavor goes away. Very nice.

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Photo of TheBear11D
4.38/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

16oz draft beer at Bell's on 7-8-11

Pours a deep amber red to auburn brown with a beige head that lasted a good while and leaves plenty of lacing.

Citrus hops are the most prominent in the nose with caramel also present.

Good balance of hops and malts. The citrus hops are again the standout here, but not for too long as the caramel malt shines and provides a great blend of flavor.

This is a thick beer and that makes me happy.

Overall this is a beer one should try if one is a beer drinker. The high ABV is fairly well hidden and the beer is well done all the way around.

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Photo of Knapp85
4/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer poured out as a dark brown color. The head was pretty big but settled quickly. The lacing wasn't too bad leaving some bubbles down the glass. The smell of the beer was earthy, toasted and a little sweet. There is a some booze on the nose too. The taste of the beer has a sweet start to it with some burnt bitter flavors in the end, all that mixed with some caramel and booze. The heat on this beer is give the mouthfeel a big warming aspect to it. It's not overly heavy at all but it still feels like a big beer. Overall the beer was pretty good, I'd be willing to drink it again sometime.

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Photo of mdaschaf
3.97/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a cloudy brown/mahogany with very little head and no lacing.

S: Lots of caramel, brown sugar, and some toffee. Dark fruits develop as it warms with some plum and raisin. Also get a slight hint of citrus.

T: Heavy malt flavor profile, brow sugar, lots of caramel, and some toffee. Extremely sweet with heavy dark fruit flavors in the middle. Little bit of maple syrup shows up at the end.

M: Medium to heavy bodied, rather rich and sweet. Low carbonation lends to a slightly creamy mouthfeel.

O: Pretty good beer, thought it was an old ale, but classified as an American barleywine. Either way, very nice, in a style that I typically am not a huge fan of. Pretty drinkable at such a high abv.

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Photo of tobelerone
4.2/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found this beer in Florida along with a variety of other Bell's products...can't get these at all at home in NJ/NY/PA, at least as far as I can tell. So I was pretty stoked.

I really enjoyed this beer, a great example of an old ale/barleywine. This was my nightcap as I lounged around the pool at midnight, and it definitely sent me off to sweet dreams. Based on what I have read here I and the bottle numbering I believe this beer was about a year old. I wasn't about to pack it into my luggage so down the hatch it went.
Dark brownish color with low carbonation and head, minimal lacing. The smell of toffee, prunes, raisins and booze waft up at you and continue as you taste it. There's an appealing and stylistically fitting mustiness here. Finish is dry enough and doesn't overstay its welcome. The booze is there but there's very little burn. This is obviously a sipper, I had a bit of trouble finishing the bottle but then I'd had quite a few before I got to this one.

If you're a fan of this style I think you may like this one quite a bit. Really wish I could get these at home and stick some in the cellar. One day, perhaps!

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Photo of scottfrie
4.13/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into Portsmouth snifter. The code on the bottle isn’t working on Bell’s website but this bottle is at least a couple years old.
A: Pours a very dark brown mahogany with a finger of dark tan colored head that faded into a wispy film leaving some thin lacing down the glass. There’s a good amount of white chunks at the bottle of my glass.
S: Big sweet and syrupy malt notes with a touch of caramel, molasses, and overly ripened fruits and berries.
T: Notes of molasses, caramel, pine resin, orange zest, vanilla and a hint of chocolate. The finish is sweet and honey like, and the aftertaste is lightly bitter and full of tobacco.
M: Thick body, syrupy smooth mouthfeel with low carbonation and almost no alcohol presence.
O: Really rich and flavorful and for 10% this beer is very smooth. I would definitely drink this again.

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Photo of devilben02
3.37/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a drab, opaque mahogany color with a modest, creamy, sand-colored head. The fragrant aroma is rich with characteristics of cherries, prunes, and some brown sugar. The flavor is not quite so sweet, with caramel and raisins being contrasted by a woodsy hop bitterness that I can best compare to pine bark. Both the bitter and sweets sides are presented in big doses along with an alcohol warmth that is noticeable without being overpowering. The fine, tingling carbonation keep neither adds nor detracts from the experience. Overall, the dense, robust combination of flavors is challenging without being difficult (if that makes sense), but there really isn't anything that truly sets this beer apart from any other reasonably well-made old ale/barleywine.

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Photo of SWMeyer4141
3.75/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

My first Barleywine in a while.

2011, poured into a snifter

Appearance-Dark brown with a beige head, not much retention. One finger of head. Tons of carbonation on the side of the glass.

Smell-Very sweet. Rum soaked cherrys. Brown sugar/molasses.

Taste-Sweet malts and some nice bitterness. Lots of dark fruits and booze. Lots of spices as well. Very intense and rich, I like it, but doesn't wow me.

Mouthfeel-Full bodied. Nice carbonation, a little prickly

Overall-Kind of a hybrid between an english and american barleywine. Some hop bitterness, but not as hoppy as most American Barleywines. Glad I tried one fresh, but would like to try it with some age as well.

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Photo of JayQue
4.32/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Its June but the air conditioning is kicking in good and its just right for a barleywine nightcap. Pours a clear brownish color that glows ruby red when held to a light. Nice size light tan/dark off white head with good enough retention for this octane level. Light lacing.

Smell is USDA Prime Barleywine. Caramel malt, spices, dark fruit. Rich and inviting.

Taste is the same. Strong spice presence, big caramel malt profile and raisins, cherries, figs. Moderate hops presence kicks in at the end.

Mouthfeel is good. The spices tickle the tongue. There is an alcohol presence, but it serves to warm rather than offend. This is a rich and smooth barleywine even though it is fresh.

Overall this is a good, solid barleywine and I'm sure I will be getting more for the cold weather.

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Third Coast Old Ale from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.1 out of 5 based on 2,678 ratings.
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