Old Tom | Frederic Robinson Limited

very good
98 Reviews
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Old TomOld Tom

Brewed by:
Frederic Robinson Limited
England, United Kingdom

Style: English Strong Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by cokes on 01-13-2003

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Reviews: 98 | Ratings: 175
Photo of bnuttz
2.24/5  rDev -40.3%
look: 3 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

alright, i dont know what the deal with this beer is, but i was completely not impressed. This beer had a skunkish, kind of rotten smell. It poured a really dark amber color. Small head was present. The taste is all malts. Not enough hop balance, I even like my barley wines to be more on the malty side, but this is just too one sided. Not recommended.

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Photo of silenius
2.31/5  rDev -38.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

I am fairly sure this is an old beer and rumor has it that it is not distributed anymore by Capital Imports. The back label says "BEST BEFORE SEE BOTTLE NECK." I looked and the only thing I saw was this code on the bottle neck L2296 17:03. WTF?

Pours a nice dark red brown with a big head that subsides to a thin collar. Very little lacing. The beer is clear.

Doesn't smell like much, maybe a long since empty cookie jar. Slight brown sugar smell.

Taste is, well, pretty lame. A slightly medicinal twinge then some brown sugar and an echo of hop bitterness.

Mouthfeel is thin and weak.

This beer is hard to choke down after half a bottle. I thought I'd give it a try and that's all it gets.

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Photo of ALESwhatCURESya
2.59/5  rDev -30.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Couldn't pass this up at only $1.99 a bottle. Strange cat on label and what appears to be a reference to Capital Brewery on the neck label. The appearance was pretty weak with a resemblence to flat pepsi. The aroma is pretty malty with chocolate and sugar undertones. Pretty uneventful for a barleywine as far as taste goes. Not as explosive as I hope barleywines are. Decent for a one-time tasting, but not impressive!

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Photo of rhoadsrage
2.61/5  rDev -30.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

(Poured into a goblet)

Appearance: Dark mahogany brown with a tan head that disappears quickly. It is pretty opaque in the light with a ring of foam hanging on the edge of the glass.

Smell: very faint aroma but there is some caramel/prune smell with a hint of hoppiness.

Taste: watery taste that doesn't have any layers. A slight prune/pale malt flavor that disappears quickly. There is a little hoppy flavor in the back of the throat after a sip. It lacks warmth or malt that I would expect in a barley wine or the hops to back it up.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is low but the body is very thin and slippery

Drinkability: This beers prime has come and gone. It says it is best before L2296 17:13, but I left my Old Tom decoder ring in the pub. I will have to hunt this one down in cask next time I have a chance.

Thanks to tavernjef for mail this one to me, I'm glad I got the chance to taste this one for myself.

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Photo of jahred
2.86/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 9.3 oz. bottle. Thin head, medium brown color with slighty reddish hue. Smell is a bit medicinal with not too many other scents.
Mouthfeel is a bit too thin, especially for the large alcohol content of an old ale. Mostly medicinal taste, with yeasty and sweet cherry tones. I keep expecting more flavor from the beer, but all I'm left with is the yeasty aftertaste - which isn't bad, but not what I hoped for.

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Photo of captaincoffee
2.98/5  rDev -20.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 2.5

Pours deep brown with firm medium head that leaves a bit of lacing and a film and ring around the top of the beer. Nose is a bit of dark fruits a strong earthy or basement smell. Taste is...earthy in a bad way...like dirt literally muddy tasting. Like an old ale gone wrong. There is some of that dark fruit you would expect, and pepper, but not enjoyable when you feel like you are licking the ground. Overall, how could this have won awards?

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Photo of Quaffer
3/5  rDev -20%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Picked this one up in KC, MO. Not available here in Wichita.

Appearance: This beer poured a very dark brown with hints of deep amber around the edges. The dense, tan head rose up to under one finger with an aggressive pour and fizzed away quickly. There was only a thin ring around the edge of the glass when I took my first sip, and even that was gone in only a few minutes. There was no lacing.

Smell: Classic English barley wine aromas, if a little on the sweet side. Thick toffee, light caramel, brown sugar, and maraschino cherries dominated over some tart, dark fruit. These were all puncuated by the occasional hit of strong alcohol. There was also some burnt sugar floating around in there. No hops to speak of.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied but slightly buttery. Completely flat and dead in the mouth. Smooth beyond what is natural. Smoothness is usually good, but combined with the light body, this beer came across bland, watery, and boring.

Taste: Hardly any of the sweetness that was present in the smell came through in the flavor. Tart cherries and dry alcohol dominated. There were light hints of bitter hops as well. A husky bitterness arose on the finish that was borderline astringent. That was about all there was to this beer.

This was a good beer up until the point that I took a drink.

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Photo of Bighuge
3.03/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Burgandy color. A thin beige head disintegrates into only a rimming. Aroma consists of deep carmelized burnt malt tones. There's a candy like sweetness on the tongue with some dull raisin and dates notes. Some alcohol....not a lot. This barleywine, while not a bad beer, just lacks the complexity and depth and courage I look for in this style. There's not a lot of hop character or bitterness. The malt is overriding, if not that enjoyable. Very average. Not sure I want to cellar that other one I have. Maybe I'll pawn it off on ZAP.

Thanks for effort cokes.

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Photo of spicelab
3.09/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Bottle thanks to Lukie.

Dark treacle with a very aggressive pour yielding a two-finger tan head. Good retention and decent lace trails.

In-your-face boozy port nose. Molasses, brandy cherries, raisins and oak. Too much booze.

Very similar to the nose with a tad less aimless booze. Lacks dimension and complexity but holds your attention with the intensity of the fortified dark fruit character.

Mouthfeel is way too limp for flavours this big. Simply no carriage of the bold character that it should be all about.

Disappointed by this. Excessive booze rawness that pretty well fails to integrate with the rich malt and dark fruit character. Similar to, but a pallid imitation of a decent Scotch or Old Ale.

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Photo of crowncapcollect
3.13/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

330ml bottle (design is different to photo)

A good example of this style, but not really a style of beer I like. The treacle taste is a bit too dominant for my liking and it is a touch on the sweet side. But, it does look lovely and the smell is quite intriguing.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
3.15/5  rDev -16%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Fat, medium size bottle. No glued on label. Formed glass into the head of a cat. Kinda cool.
A dark brown, ruby pour. topped with a slight head, kind of soapy looking. Solid color, not bad.
Aroma is sweet. Raisin, plum other dark fruits. Almost too sweet. Like a wine, too much like a wine.
Taste follows nose. Plums, prunes, raisins, dark cherry. A bit slick, yet syrupy. Seems a bit broken down. Malts don't mesh well, hops are non-existant.
a bit hard to finish. Too sweet for me.

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Photo of canucklehead
3.16/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A pretty brown beer with a nice head, but alas nut much going on below the surface. Very smooth and somewhat malty, this beer is too subdued in the flavour profile to being highly regarded. I sensed the quality but could not really grasp the nuances as they were too far down in the mix.

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Photo of mmapes
3.17/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Traded from Ben in York (thanks!)

Pours cola brown, but is much darker in the glass, a deep reddish brown. Not much head (the bottle is dated about 10.5 months ago). A second pour yields some fizz that dissipates quickly. Served at refrigerator temperature.

Smells mostly sweet and malty, maybe a little sour but not unpleasantly so. Vanilla? Very little hops or bitterness on the nose. Expected a sweet, smooth, carmelly, barleywine-ish flavor based on the smell.

Taste is a bit dryer and more astringent than I expected. Alcohol is very forward. At fridge temps, the flavor is pretty subtle compared to the booze, but I expect will be more interesting after warming up a bit.

As it warms, it grows on me. It has some interesting leather/tobacco notes. Still not very heavy for an 8.5% ale, so perhaps that's a balance some people will like.

Not really what I'm looking for in a strong ale -- I usually like something maltier, smoother, rounder, sweeter. This one is more mineral/alcohol/dry.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
3.18/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Squat 330ml bottle purchased from Stanmore Cellars.

Uncaps without much ceremony, a minor hiss that releases a tiny amount of carbonation. Body is a deepish, oily brown with a seeming clarity in the thinner parts of the glass. Head forms a very fine mesh across the top, eventually petering out to a thin but creamy ring. Carbonation is powdery. Overall, it looks pretty good.

Nose is malt-heavy, but with a distinct savoury overtone. Like rich malt extract spiked with seaweed glutamates. Some grainy notes come through as well, which somewhat add to the body of the savoury character, although they don't really add any additional savoury notes themselves. As it warms, the sweetness comes through a little more, giving some wild honey and crushed biscuits. Not bad.

Smooth entry on the palate belies the strong heat which pounces on the second half, leaving a sherry-like boozy ache on the back. The sweetness drops out about three quarters of the way in, leaving it malt-poor on the finish, and leaving the finish reminiscent of ink. Slight oxidation characters don't help this assuage this impression.

Feel is smooth enough on the entry, but it disappears as the booze increases, leaving it volatile and hot in the mouth.

Overall: watch out. This has an unpleasant heat to the booziness on the back that's not matched by enough flavour to give it structure or purpose. By the end, I felt a little bit battered.

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Photo of Skidz
3.22/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours out a goldent yellow and sits crimson in the glass. Small head achieved with a forceful pour, but is soon gone, leaving only a bit along the fringes.

Smells of dark, fruity esters (raisins, dates), sweet malts, dark caramel, and a hint of chocolate. A slight hint of alcohol is noted.

Tastes of sweet malts, caramel, prunes and dates, but soon thins out as it becomes astrigent and the alcohol takes over. Finishes off dry and bitter.

Feels a bit thin in the mouth to be honest. I was expecting something a bit more rich and full-flavored. It's smooth through, and the carbonation is at the right level. One of these is enough, however.

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Photo of DerBayer
3.4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

The look is more of a Porter or Schwarzbier than a Barleywine -- minimal head though. Not bad in all.

Smells like a good old Barley wine, summer fruit, some alcohol and harvest spice. There is some chocolate in the background though again more like a Porter or maybe a Stout

Taste is overpowered by chocolate like Porter Stoutness

Mouthfeel is refreshing and creamy. I could have it again but I am disappointed since this should be labelled a stron Barley Porter so you would know what to expect

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Photo of stcules
3.41/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A beautiful dark mahogany color. Brownish head, relatively abundant, compact and sticky, even if not too persistent. Good appearance.
The smell has good woody notes, with vanilla and raisins. A good dark maltiness in the background.
The wood note becomes softer in the taste. Not bad at all. Intersting and pleasant. Woody and vanilla. Even some chocolate.
In the aftertaste a good resolute bitterness. And again wood and vanilla notes.
More than plesant.
Good nightcup.

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Photo of flyingpig
3.43/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

330ml Bottle from Asda Supermarket:
Chestnut brown with a few red tinges and a tiny, white to tan lace on top that turns patchy fairly quickly.

Fruity, sweet malts and a lot of alcohol on the nose with some darker, strong fruits and berries coming through. There was also a touch of caramel and some rich fruits with sugar. Pleasant but perhaps the alcohol could have been hidden slightly better.

Sweet with some alcohol but not as much as with the smell, there is however the same, strong fruit and richness. I could detect some plums and a few other darker fruits with some caramel and toffee coming through as well as some cherries.

Smooth and a little spicy but with a lot of alcohol that had a negative impact on my opinion of the beer. The taste was sweet and boozy and the mouthfeel was medium to full bodied.

An average beer if truth be told, I did enjoy it but they alcohol was a little strong and although pleasant the sweetness and fruity flavours did little to mask it. The beer is a strong and boozy one that leaves you with a warming alcohol taste to it and it was easy enough to drink despite the alcohol.

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Photo of cokes
3.46/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Clear garnet bodied beneath a small sandy foam.
Muted nose of butterscotch, plums, hard water. Likeable but barely present.
Nice buttery caramel base, layered with some plums, beets, raisins, and concord grapes. Cardboard hues are evident, but faint. Hops add some tea notes late. Pleasant, but there just isn't enough here.
Thinnish for the style. Seems more of an Old Ale a la Old Peculier.
Alcohol is totally masked.
This is pretty decent and distinctively British, just not what I look for in a barleywine.

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Photo of blitheringidiot
3.47/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Decorative 9.3 fl oz. Browner bottle with attractive red & gold trimmed triple label with a winking cat on the body and a brief explanation on the back describing an 1899 hand written recipe as the source. Cryptic neck imprint: L2296 16:56.

Well, let’s let the cat out of the bag and into a wide mouth tulip, shall we? Pours out a rough stormy opaque dim brown with a thin settled tan collar head cap. A few healthy swirls erupts the tan cap to a coating leaving scattered spotty lace.

Persuasive tobacco leaf malts and woody charcoal hickory notes.

First swigs: Dull wood essence. Dry lingering pancake batter flour malt aftertaste. Slight smoky caramel, as in the nose. As warmed, some delicate date, fig and walnut nuttiness peak out. Otherwise, the fruit characters are subdued as with the hops profile. Slightly diluted middle.

Medium body with soft gentle carbonation. A rigid original style interpretation that favors harmless benign style prior to mouth shattering zing.

Last swigs: Flour and walnut. Authentic traditional English emphasized Barley wine. 8.5% ABV is completely hidden. Picked up as a rare treat with my 2004 Secret Santa BA Kathleen. Thanks! As much as American Barleys are a favorite, props to the real thing. Always appreciating the original idea. Some envy over fellow BAs who have enjoyed this on cask.

Beer is good. Happy beering.

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Photo of bditty187
3.5/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark reddish-brown hue, fairly deep, modest beige head, sinks to a long lasting collar, no lacing. Lovely nose, malty-sweet alcohol, prunes, candy… does lack depth, a touch empty… the invitation is modest (but inviting nevertheless). The palate is not as flavorful as I wanted, malty sweet, figs, nuts, candy-sugar, touches of alcohol. Rather dry… modest bitterness (more than typical for a British Barelywine). Fairly long finish, pleasant malty-sweet aftertaste. Tasty. Medium-full body, lightly carbonated. This is not the best Old Ale I’ve had but I’d gladly have it again… solid. Try one, if you're new to the style.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.5/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours an almost opaque super brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to a partial film on top of the beer. Small streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of toasted malt, caramel, molasses, and slight dark fruit aromas. Taste is much the same with dark fruit, toffee, and alcohol flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of roasty bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer that is slightly strong and boozy.

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Photo of heygeebee
3.5/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

From Warner's. BB Aug 13

Pours a deep dark brown. Half finger tan head fades to a clumpy film.

Strong aromas of port, rum, brown sugar, and caramel. English malts to the fore. Little hop presence.

Taste is warmly alcoholic, making me think more rum in the barrel! Rum and brown sugar are dominant flavours in with the English malts. Alcohol starts to take over as it warms.

Mouthfeel is a bit thin for ABV. A little harsh on the back palate.

A good beer, but too alcoholic to be a very good one. Drink ability very much down by end.

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Photo of JK4Stout
3.52/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

A: If I were ranking the label and cap appearance it'd be a five straight up! Brilliant. This one isn't too far off either though. Looks like a good solid beer. Coloring similar to a scotch ale: nice mellow earthy brown. Good head.

S: A little burning tinge to the end here signals high APV. great malt notes of toffee.

T: Well, it is strong so it lives up to the name, but I was really hoping for something a little more here. I like the initial taste with fruity notes in there, but it falls short. Almost unfinished.

M: Heavy and lingering...(insert fat guy at buffet joke as you see fit)

O: I like it, but man it could be so much better. I wish it just had a little more malt to even out the alcohol content. enjoyable though...and I'm certainly saving the bottle.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.52/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Toasted walnut brown that becomes brilliant scarlet with even weak backlighting. The head is ecru in color and is nicely firm and lasting. Even so, the cap displays nothing in the way of geologic features as it drops and doesn't grace the glass with any lace at all. It'll do, but Old Tom needs to work on his looks.

This beer doesn't smell ballsy enough to be a barleywine (maybe it's a 'barely' wine?). I have to keep reminding myself that it's an English version of the style, but it really does smell more old aleish to me (I wonder why the photo at right says 'Strong Ale' where mine says 'Barley Wine'. Hmm... ). The nose is caramel malt-dominant with quite a bit of fruit as well; figs and plums for the most part. It's also vinous with more than a passing resemblance to a big, spicy Cabernet. Old Tom is growing on me with each sniff.

Unfortunately, the beer is underwhelming on the palate. The flavor could fairly be called lackluster, the mouthfeel is nothing to write home about, and even the alcoholic punch is more like a light tap on the chin. Alcoholic heat rushes in on the finish, although it feels half-hearted as well. This kitty had better steer clear of any more alley fights because he's short on both teeth and claws.

I feel a little better about things as the beer warms. The flavor profile improves throughout each mouthful, even if the finish can't quite overcome a shaky start. The plum jam fruit flavor becomes more and more concentrated, and raisin paste and (weak) port wine enter the fray just prior to the finish. If those flavors could be amplified at least two-fold, they might have a chance to impress.

The mouthfeel is where this experience really suffers. It's waaay too light and insubstantial for the style; it doesn't allow what flavor is present to be appreciated in the best possible light. Without a doubt, this is least impressive mouthfeel of any barleywine that I can remember drinking.

Old Tom is not a good barleywine, no matter its country of origin. It may have originated from a hand-written recipe from 1899, but this is one instance where historical accuracy should take a backseat to common sense. This kitty could stand to replace a large portion of its soft purr with a snarling lion's roar.

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Old Tom from Frederic Robinson Limited
3.75 out of 5 based on 175 ratings.
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