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

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1,070 Reviews
Third Coast Old AleThird Coast Old Ale

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

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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Reviews: 1,070 | Ratings: 2,614
Photo of macpapi
4.48/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Was fortunate enough to find this fine, fine beer on draft at our local multi-tap facility in town. Third Coast Old Ale is a nice murky brown to amber colored liquid. It has a small tannish head, decent bubble activity and pretty impressive lacing. The smell was nice. Roasted malt with a bit of a hop pull. As the beer warmed, dark fruits--raisin, plum and cherry--were all present. The taste is fantastic!! It was malty with a lot of hoppiness. Great full taste. Alcohol content is also notable, but not overwhelming. The presence of fruit-- plums and cherries--was also there. Very balanced and complex flavors. In the mouth B.T.C.O.A.was bitter, full and potent. Impressive again. Overall, I would have to say that the potency of this Old Ale makes it a sipper. One or two a night would certainly be enough. That being said, this is a great beer. It is tasty, bold and smooth all at the same time. To drink one of these is to appreciate what beer is all about.

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Photo of nlmartin
4.67/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a wide mouthed 20 ounce wine goblet.

Appearance: The beer pours a deep dark murky copper coloration. The head was thin and cream colored. Thin streaks of lacing remain on the glass. The beer had major particles floating in the glass.

Smell: Where do I start talking about the smell? This beer has a whale of a complex smell profile. The beer has the smell of tropical fruits and berries. A fantastic malty sea of malt goodness. There is a slieght alcohol smell to the beer but nothing offensive.

Taste: The taste is as expected. The beer had a very small hop profile. The hops provided just enough bitterness to prevent the beer from being cloyingly sweet. The beer is a sea of malty sweetness. There is a vague taste of bananna and berries floating around in the beer. The alcohol was present in the taste as a slightly spicy compliment.

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: This beer was a full bodied treat.This beer is a very alcoholic brew. The beers alcohol is well encorporated in the beer. This is a very drinkable beer treat.

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Photo of hustlemuscle
4.44/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Amber, almost maroon. Tremendous floaties, huge dark chunks of particulates. Thin even head, oddly gray. Receeded to a thin film.

Huge sweet cotton candy nose, with a gentle undercurrent of hops.

Big big flavor, swirling candy transforming into a slightly earthier flavor with an ending hint of piney hops. Conjures visions of warm dark places.

Smooth and dry, with a touch of tartness. Alchohol makes it's presence known at the very end. A heck of a brew, the sort of quiet contemplation, or a nice afternoon by the fire.

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Photo of budsboy
4.29/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours rich, dark red. Vigorous pour leaves only a small tan head and lots of floating chunks.

Has a woody, earthy smell. Horseblanket maybe. Toasted bread, coriander, dark fruit, whiskey. Subtle but very interesting.

Taste is just as earthy as the aroma. Mellow roasted malts and a tart, sharp tang of fruit, a wallop of alcohol, then a slowly declining bitterness. Leaning slightly toward the sweet side.

Full bodied. Lots of malts add some serious weight.

This is an experience that is not easy to come by. I won't pass up many opportunities to enjoy this fellow. Warming alcohol and complex flavors to boot. Good stuff. Bell's does it for me again.

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Photo of ski271
4.42/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

At a seminar a couple years back, Larry Bell referred to this beer as the brandy of their beers. Pours a murky dark brown with a medium-large, light tan, foamy, slowly diminishing head. Excellent rings of lacing. The smell complex and wonderful. Thick malts with a light hop and alcohol presence and a little sweetness to the aroma. Caramel, dark fruit, vanilla and tobacco. The taste is more of the same with all sort of flavors swirling around your mouth during and long after the sip. The malt flavors are great, supported by fruit and alcohol esters, with the hops imparting just enough bitterness on the finish to balance out this otherwise malt bomb. It has a medium-full body, delicate texture that turns lightly dry and soft carbonation. A wonderful beer that I really wish I could find around here.

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Photo of Derek
4.05/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I was looking through the fridge for something with American Hop flavour... I'm glad I found this one! (Note, fridge is kept at 45F, which is certainly a little cold for this one).

A: Slightly hazy copper, pours with a little off-white head. Although there's no retention, it does leave some lace.

S: Sugary candy with a little piney hops. As it warms, the alcohol becomes more pronounced... a little sherry-like.

T: Brown sugar/treacle sweetness are balanced with a wack of hop bitterness. Plenty of pine-resin flavour from the hops. There's certainly some residual sugar from the malt, but it's not at all syrupy, leaving a little vinous/raisin flavour. As it warms, the alcohol begins to come to the front, helping to balance the flavour.

M: Moderate to heavy body leaves plenty of acidity in the aftertaste. The carbonation is on the low side of moderate. Somehow it doesn't seem completely together. Perhaps it could use a little time to age.

D: I'm enjoying this big brew, but one is enough.

Thanks DrJay!

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Photo of yelterdow
4.45/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A true rarity here on the East Coast... I found this in a bottle at Monk's Cafe back in June '05 and brought it back home with me. Here I sit, seven months later, ready for the experience.

Served in a Chimay chalice at cellar temperature, leaving the sediment behind in the bottle for now.

Appearance- A beautiful display... a deep, cognac-bordering-on-red... on a rough pour, the head fights its way to almost two fingers. There is an interesting, gelatinous viscosity to this beer, and chunks float precariously in suspension, as if frozen in the moment.

Smell- Initially, my nose gets apricots and fruitcake... the similarity here to De Dolle's Stille Nacht is intriguing.

Taste- The first thing I notice is the humongous flavor... before any tasting notes come to mind, the flavors are just enormous. A sweet, intense, fruity maltiness gives way to a huge but elegant barleywine hop bittering... near perfect in that the pendulum swings hard but accurately for the style. After the swallow, the gustatory sensations are those of a year-old Bigfoot... but that's where the similarities cease. Juicy, rich, fruity, loaded with flavor... especially going into the mouth.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Heavy and chewy in the mouth, with just enough tongue-tickling carbonation to keep it interesting. The emphasis on this beer throughout this tasting was on weight and concentration of flavor, which both soared in each category. Not as complex as other greats in this area, but very well done.

Paired with a hefty chunk of Colston Bassett Stilton... life really doesn't get much better than this.


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Photo of GreenWBush
4.45/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Vintage 2003.

Bell's TCOA pours out an indescribably alluring deep, leathered brown with red glints. Suspended globules of yeast everywhere. Slow rising carbonation. 1/4" head. Abstract cave-paintings of lace.

Nose is filled with maple syrup, oak, vanilla, pine sap, candy syrup, saguaro cactus honey. Nary a trace of alcohol to be detected. Smells like a liquid beer cookie.

As with other aged big beers i've been experimenting with, all the hop bitterness has aged away into a silky syrup consistency which either works or doesn't with the aging malt flavors. Molasses comes through predominantly in this particular example. Noticably different than it used to be...intense cherry pie-filling flavors too.

Luscious mouthfeel...sugar sweet liquefied gumballs and gooey malts with a tiny bit of remaining bitterness balance. Outstanding. But i'm still trying to figure out exactly where well-aged (and well-calmed beers) fit in the parthenon of the beer experience.

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Photo of PatYoda
4.34/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This bottle is at least a couple years old, but I'm not sure how old.

Pours a relatively clear brown with ruby highlights (kept the yeast in the bottle) with a minimal bit of foam around the edges of the glass.

Smell is some sweet cookie dough, caramel malts, alcohol and grapefruity hops - very mellow and yummy smelling. Only gets better as it warms also.

The taste is extremely complex. The same sweet caramel malts and cookie dough are in there along with some raisins for sure. All this sweetness is countered by a pretty strong hop bitterness, and some hop and alcohol spiciness. There is definite burn going down, but not as bad as a lot of old ales I've had. The finish also includes some candied pineapple and grapefruit hoppiness even after at least a few years on this bottle. The mouthfeel is medium to thick with very little carbonation which really works well for the flavors involved. This is definitely a sipper, but still one I could have a few of over the course of an evening. Very impressive offering.

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Photo of DrJay
4.37/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Reddish brown colour topped by a thin lace of off-white foam. Even with the meager head, it managed to produce spotty lacing throughout. Warm, malty aroma, lots of caramel and toffee with a hint of alcohol and hops. Complex maltiness with low bitterness. Fig and cherry round things out a bit. Alcohol melds well with the rest of the flavour and adds to the character. There's also a creamy, honey sweetness in the finish -- this also seems to add to the body. Finishes with lingering alcohol warmth. Full bodied with low carbonation. Well attenuated, so the mouthfeel is smooth with being sticky. A top notch old ale. Try it if you find it.

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Photo of KarlHungus
4.3/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This brew pours a very dark reddish-brown color with almost no head. The aroma is a nice balance of malt and hop with neither taking control, but both working in harmony with each other. The taste is just as balanced as the aroma, but stronger in all facets. The sip is balanced while the finish and aftertaste are slighlty more bitter than sweet. The mouthfeel is full bodied with nice carbonaiton. Overall, this brew is perfectly rinkable now (when it is a couple months old), and I can only expect it to get better with age.

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Photo of rousee
3.42/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

One of my first 2 review beers.

It has changed dramtically since my previous try. These reviews are from 2 bottles I received in a trade with Frozensoul327. Thanks Erik.

Firstly, the color has gotten much darker and it is maybe even murkier than before. It is now a caramel color. It still has a nice head and holds it quite well. The taste is not as good. It is more sour and acrid and just lacks the smoothness it had fresh. the smell is still a tremendous maltiness akin to an American Aventinus. The decreased smoothness hurts the drinkability and mouthfeel some.

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Photo of unclederby
3.68/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A= Dark, hazy amber with little head retention even after a vigorous pour. Lacing was minimal...
S= Sweet, caramal malt profile. A faint bouquet of brown sugar and dark fruit, and a bit of alcohol too...
T= Again, sweet and caramel-like - with a faint hop bitterness. Tasty, but i can't detect alot of flavour specifics.
M= Thick and chewy, with a bit of alcohol burn. Nicely carbonated.
D= This thing is easy to drink alright. Tasty, but i just find myself a bit underwhelmed... this ale is unfocused and confused.

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Photo of waldowin
4.76/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Many thanks to Beerhandy for this brew! My first "Old Ale", but reading what the style descriptor says I'm looking forward to it!

Pours a very murky gold-fading-to-ruby. Almost a two-toned beer. Almost a non-existant tan head that fades quickly to nothing. Some visible carbonation very sloooowly working its way up.

Just on pouring this beer, I got a wonderful whiff of raisins and plums. A more detailed sniff gives some caramel, peat, and almost a scotch quality to this beer. Very enticing!

And this is an extremely smooth malty beer. Caramel and a hint of toffee up front, and as it works its way back, the beer turns to raisins and a definite alcohol warmth, with a very faint aftertaste of cedar-like hops. Perfectly blended, and very well balanced. Wow!

This beer is unearthly smooth, and it just slooowly oozes over your tongue. Just enough carbonation to keep the body from being overbearing, and the hint of bitter in the aftertaste leaves you ready to dive right back in for the sweetness. Careful, this ABV hides itself very well! If it wasn't for the warmth radiating from the beer as you swallow, you'd never know it was there.

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Photo of Golden2wenty1
4.17/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a single at Riley's here in Madison quite a while ago.

Pours a rusty dark amber with a finger of tan bubbly head. Has the nose of a double IPA - nose hair burning piney hops with some balancing maltiness. Tastes like a double IPA with its potent hopiness but is nicely balanced by caramel-toffee malts and warming alcohol. Mouthfeel is syrupy rich and well-carbonated. This is a big beer, with big hop bitterness, big malty sweetness, and big alcohol waming. It could use some refining, as they compete for prominence, but who couldn't use some refining?

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Photo of Viggo
3.83/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a cloudy brown, some chunkies, small white head that disappeared to a ring around the glass, some lace spots. Smell is caramel, toffee, chocolate, floral hops and alcohol. Taste is sweet, honey/molasses, toffee and caramel, floral hops, some cherry and alcohol. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, low carbonation. Seemed a little too sweet to me, and the body was too light for an old ale I thought. Thanks DrJay for the pickup.

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Photo of shbobdb
4.27/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Wow-eee, this beer truly is a 'blanket'. Drink a few of these on a cold winter's day and you'll be feeling like you're sitting by the fire!
The taste is incredibly pleasant. Very sweet, with lots of caramel. The mouthfeel is full and rich, as one would expect from the taste. Wow. Good stuff. Gonna be buying this one a lot this winter.

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Photo of MuddyFeet
3.25/5  rDev -20.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured a dark brown color with a bit of a head. Spotted lace was strewn on top. No lace. However, there were lots of little white floaties in the beer.

Nose is butterscotch and stale malts.

Flavor is kind of underwhelming. All sorts of malts with strong caramel, dark chocolate and butterscotch flavors. The alcohol breaks through it all. Little bits of peppery and spicy bursts are trying to exploe on the tongue but they are not quite coming out as well as I expected.

Rather heavy and thick body. The malts and sugars seem to coat the tongue.

The alcohol is a bit too much without enough of the flavor coming through to provide some sort of balance. I did allow the beer to warm up considerably and the flavors all improved as it warmed. If drank simply cold I would find it difficult to stomach.

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Photo of AlexJ
4.91/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Many thanks to Sephiroth for the sample.

Dark cloudy pour, the color of dirty mahogany rustwater with a small, but sticky khaki head that laces impressively. In spite of a careful pour, there's an aquarium's worth of swimmers in my sweet new rapscallion sniffer. Ugly looking, but I know the goodness lies within.

Deep succulant aromas of deeply carmelized malts, brown sugar, dark ripe fruit, raisins, plums, figs, and sticky pine-drenched citrus hops. A glorious nose that inspires me to nearly hyperventilate the aromas.

Flavor knocks my socks off, this is incredible! A thick and chewy layer of carmelized malts, toffee, melted brown sugar, and dark sticky fruit notes leads into well-stated pine and candied citrus peel hops. Unbelievably balanced and extraordinarily complex in nature. Even better than North Coast Old Stock Ale, which i hold in the highest regard. This stuff is goood!

Big beefy body softened by smooth silky carbonation that just melts on your tongue. Creamy and sticky, coating your mouth with flavor. Well hidden alcohol makes it dangerously drinkable. More please!

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Photo of Bumpon10s
4.13/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From the 2004, possibly 2003 release of this beer and poured into a pint glass.

A - Pours a very foggy brown, with no head and a touch of lace on the glass.

S - Simply malts, this is a very light beer in the nose, I can't quite seem to pick anything up other than the malt notes.

T - Starts out very malty and ends with a ridiculous amount of hop finish. Touches of dark fruit in the middle blending with the malts.

M - The smoothness in this beer takes accord, an unusually smooth beer. BUT, pretty strong, this beer is a sipper.

D - Very strong beer, but still very high, a great beer for a winter release at it's ABV.

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Photo of GCBrewingCo
3.92/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pooured into the glass hazy deep amber brownwith a yellow and low head which was very persistent to try to lace the glass but found little success.

The aroma was deeply malty with a strong biscuit aroma coupled with a large aroma of darkened caramel. Fruity aromas of dark fruits, namely raisins and prunes also dominated the nose. A nice sherry aroma was present as well.

The flavor was nicely malty with a strong caramel malt presence and dark fruits, raisins, but the hop level was high and interesting. The bittering kept the malt flavors at bay. There was a slight cardboard presence in the aroma which indicated oxidation of the beer which was not dated.

The finish was dry with a lasting bittering and biscuit into the aftertaste. The body was full, but not viscous. A nice old ale, but the beer was on the verge of becoming oxidized and not in a good way. The cardboard was forming, thank goodness it was not yet a dominate player.

12 ounce bottle purchased at Riley's in Madtown, WI for $2.50.

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Photo of numenor1
4.3/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy reddish orange. With a small head that lasts a bit, leaves some lacing. Smells sweet of honey and resiny cedar pine hops. The hops are tough to distinguish from the honey though, the integration is terrific. A slight whiff of alcohol and yeastiness. Taste starts out very malty sweet with a slight hint of hops and spicy alcoholic yeastiness. Then from start to finish the hops become more pronounce, finally overtaking the enormous malt body in a lasting piney, surprisingly semi-dry finish. Yeastiness and slight alcohol present throughout, but in no way impedes drinkability. Mouthfeel is incredibly thick, and i'd prefer a tad more carbonation, but very nice. Reminds me very much of Rogue's Old Crusty but with less assertive hops. I don't really detect any sour characteristics of old ale. To me this seems like barleywine. But what do I know. Lovely all the same.

Thanks to deejaydan for this one.

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

12oz single, bought at Riley's in Madison

appearance: murky burnt copper, virtually no head...cloudy and mysterious

smell: very sweet, alcohol (brandy), cherries, caramel, grapes, malty. Lots of complexity in the nose, just as i remembered

taste: nice brandy like alcohol hits up front almost making the 9% abv seem like an understatement. heavy caramel malts surrounded by sweet cherry and mild grape...nice woody (oak) tastes can be found. Theres some hop bitterness deep down as well All in all, a pretty solid old ale

mouthfeel: powerful, complex and very well textured, alcohol warms the mouth and stomach.

drinkability: she's a sipper, very easy drinking if you can handle it

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Photo of amicar
4.15/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy brown with minimal head (no matter what I try). Smell is a shock- really smacks you with a sharp, strong barley scent, mixed with some caramel and burnt sugar. Taste is of a strong caramel and vanilla with more roasty burnt things. An acidic slightly tannic taste is under that with finally a subsequent 'hint' of figs. Maybe a little sherry under there, too. Feels just right in the mouth- a little syrupy with mild carbonation. As for drinkability- well, sip, don't gulp. One max will keep you happy.

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Photo of Sephiroth
4.35/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I have poured this into a tulip. Where the batch number should be listed, there is only a blank space. Not like it matters anyway, since every time I enter a batch number on the Bell's website, it gives me the wrong beer.

There is a slight head which quickly dissipates to a light swirl. The body is a deep amber color. Pour this carefully, as I was unable to keep some of the chunky yeast out of my glass. The nose is vinous, with the hops and the alcohol making their presence known. I detect some cherries, too.

The taste is of cherries and raisins, with a nice citric hop character. Caramel malt appears, and I taste every bit of that 9%ABV. I don't ever mind tasting the alcohol. After all, that is a small part of why we drink beer. The mouthfeel is is like thick silk. The low carbonation is in keeping with the style. This is one of my favorite beers, as it is readily available to me pretty much year round. The drinkability rocks. This batch tastes quite fresh to me, but I cannot be certain, because of the problems I listed in the first paragraph. Assuming that this is a fresh sample, it is great now. I will, however, age the four samples remaining from this six-pack until the winter. This is a poor man's Batch 6000. And here's to hoping that 7000 is a re-release of 6000.

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Third Coast Old Ale from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
4.1 out of 5 based on 2,614 ratings.
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