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 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 StonedTrippin
3.98/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

all old ale should taste like this. old tom is a classic, a genuine no frills english ale of the highest class. underrated as they get, this is everything we think about when we envision old world english evenings turning into late nights, and as claystation phrased it so eloquently, one sip and you expect to be visited by the ghosts of christmas past present and future all at once. its got just enough dark malt roast without being bitter like darker ales, rich enough, without being sweet at all, even dry in fact, and hefty while still being sturdy yet sessionable. its winter beer for me i think, but its not that confined. the combination of grain and yeast in this is impressive, i dont wish for anything else. a great balance between dark and light as well as strong and approachable are on display here. one of the more enjoyable beers on the market at about five bucks a bottle, it is an overwhelming success and a fantastic example of what true english old ale should taste like and feel like. a blue collar treat.

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Photo of metter98
3.7/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is clear dark brownish amber in color and has a light to moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a thin beige head that gradually died down, leaving some wispy lacing on the surface and a thick ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass.
S: There are light to moderately strong aromas of dark fruits in the nose along with notes of sweetness; these become a bit stronger as the beer warms up.
T: The taste is similar to the smell and has flavors of dark fruits along with notes of dark malts and a light amount of sweetness. Flavors of plums seem to stand out in particular.
M: It feels medium-bodied on the palate and has a low to moderate amount of carbonation. No warming from the alcohol is noticeable.
O: Although this is a nice beer to sip, it’s quite drinkable because the alcohol is well hidden from the taste and it isn’t heavy on the palate.

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Photo of chinchill
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dark red brown with a decent head.
Toffee and medium malts on the nose.
Rich and pleasant but not very complex malty flavor.
Way better than Chocolate Old Tom.

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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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Photo of TMoney2591
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Dogfish Head snifter.

Haven't had a good ol'-fashioned British old ale in a while, so let's see how this one stacks up. It pours a deep garnet-brown topped by a finger of tan foam. The nose comprises molasses, black pepper, dark red wine grapes, light oak, and a pinch of clove. The taste brings in more of the same, along with a hint of tobacco and some extra pepper for the sake of it. The body is a light-leaning medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a fluid feel. Overall, a very nice old ale, one certainly worth re-visiting on a number of future occasions.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.34/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Very dark coloring, nearly black, with a beautiful off-white, creamy head above. Wonderful.

Aroma: deceptively soft, smooth and creamy. Malty-sweet, but even-tempered and expertly balanced.

Taste: Enters the palate full, rich and in complete domination. Rowdy, ruddy, and taking no prisoners. This brew tastes like an old tom behaves, it throws itself around without regard for societal norms and common regard. Dark fruit on the flavor, some spice, massive malt, some toffee and a touch of caramel. All very well-played and perfectly put. No over-weening hops, no over-bearing malt, but this is still a large beer, just like any Tom Cat strutting it's stuff.

Philosophical question: is the American barley-wine style better because it's bigger, and hoppier? I say, not necessarily. If you can't handle some subtlety, if you need to be pounded on by every beer you try, …well, you're missing a lot. There is so much to be said with just plain old good taste. This is a barley-wine, but don't expect a ton of American-style over-hopping. Don't expect to be burned by over-…alcoholing…?
What's wrong with the classics, I ask, and I don't expect an answer, because I know what it should be. If you want something delicious, and beautiful, cool, calm and slightly cacophonous, Old Tom's your man. Deee-lightful. Tasty, tasty, tas-teee……

this is so good, so malty, cool, calm, and utterly lovely. My goodness. I like this more and more, as I drink it down. I'm practically in love with it, ...mmmm.

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Photo of stevoj
4.05/5  rDev +8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nice aroma and flavor from this brew. Dark and strong, with aged oak barrel essence. Slightly fruity (raisins, figs, prunes). Alcohol very present in finish. A nice evening sipper to finish the day

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Black Raven pint glass. Pours a dark clear red amber. Nice two finger light brown head with good retention and lacing. Intriguing aroma of dark malt and fruit. Flavor supports the aroma, sweet malt, dark fruit, distinct molasses, hints of cherry. Complex and fun to drink. Finish rather abrupt, leaving memories of faint dark malts and light hops; somewhat watery in the finish, unlike the main body of the flavor. Slightly oxidized flavors. Medium bodied, approaching, but not quite reaching creaminess. I like a beer that appears interesting and then surprises with an unusual flavor profile and this does both. Nice ale that I will return to. I also enjoyed the chocolate and ginger versions.

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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 Halcyondays
4.44/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

11.2 oz. bottle, nice to see another beer I've read about in Michael Jackson's books show up in the Southland,

A: Pours a clear mahogany, medium white head, good retention, light lace.

S: I like this from the first sniff. Great leather and English malt, cherry skin, very inviting, I love a good nose.

T: As spiritous and sweet as the nose was, the flavour really reins it in. Great molasses and dark dried fruit notes, raisins, but never super sweet.

M: The dryness on this beer is exemplary on a beer that initially seemed this sweet. I love it, this is the drinking man's old ale. Nice soft carbonation, medium-bodied, never really full-bodied.

O: This is a great English beer, the dryness makes it really dangerously drinkable. A modern classic as I've read and heard about this beer from the late legendary Michael Jackson, but never had a chance to try it, glad I came upon it today.

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Photo of BlackHaddock
4.08/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brown 330ml bottle, best before Sept 2008, drank July 2007.

Poured into one of my Gordon Thistle glasses. Very dark brown/red with a well formed off-white head. The head stayed throughout the drink.

Aroma was sweet malts and plum bread.

Tangy, malty, old Sharaz wine flavour, very different from other Barley wines I have had over the years. Complexed and interesting.

A very good beer. By far the best beer I have had from the Robinson brewery.

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Photo of Derek
3.99/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Chestnut, tan head, thin ring of retention, very little lace.

S: Awesome plum pudding, Christmas cake aroma, plenty of dark raisins, brown sugar & sherry. Really great aroma.

T: Dark raisin, christmas cake, dark toffee, warming alcohol.

M: Well-attenuated moderate body.

D: A decent drinker.

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Photo of Evil_Pidde
3.86/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pour is dark brown with lots of red hues. Rather large tan thick/creamy head, leaves nice lacings when stetting slowly.

S: Rather mild for a Barleywine, but there's molasses and port. Dark dried fruits.

T: Sweet surupy malt, dark dried fruits. Some tart. Vineous. Chocolate.

M: Long sweet alcoholic aftertaste. Full body and mild carbonation.

O: A nice Barleywine that probably will evolve nicely in my beercellar - lucky me, who bought a whole case...

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Photo of jdhilt
3.58/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured with a small white head that doesn't stay, leaving no lace. Almost no carbonation. Dark, clear ruby color. Nose is alcohol. Starts with an alcohol/sweet taste, finishes flat with alcohol overtones needs some malts and carbonation. Label has this as a strong ale but site says "dark, rich and warming superior barley wine". It is warming! Found in York, England, 275ml was £1.89.

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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 wl0307
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

New packaging: a brownish 330ml bottle embossed with words Robinsons OLD TOM STRONG ALE, with a pix of OLD TOM Cat's face blinking with one eye~~ BBE MAR 07.

Served cool in a broad-rimmed goblet.
A: beautifully clear dark ruby hue, coming with a thick and foamy light beige beer head, gradually settling to a thin layer of froth sustaining constantly on top.
S: deep scent of caramel malts bringing mixed aroma of mildly preserved figs, sweet plums, dried black dates, preserved black cherries, a little licorice syrup and a touch of coconut, with good backbone of treacles/burned sugars and fruity hops; each swirling bring out more perfumy scent of fruity esters and creamy note... so smooth and quietly pleasant~~
T&M: slightly fizzy on texture upfront, followed by raisins, toffeeish malts with a not-so-sweet treacles-edge, coming hand in hand with moderate alcoholic warmth creeping down the palate... the mid-flavour sees a flow of bitter-sweetness and mildly spicy hops developing quietly, lending some depth to the smooth, dark-fruity vinous texture of a forteified wine (maybe tawny port?) and an underlying herbal-syrupy maltiness at the back of the palate. Surprisingly clean and moderately-lingering bitter finish, without the slightest trace of sugary or syrupy aftertaste while the alcohol hides just too well underneath.
D: compared with my previous note of this beer on draught, it seems that the bottled version shows less alcoholic warmth and also less explicit fruity elements but better-balanced... Slightly lighter-bodied than expected, this beer just punches above its weight and makes a really smooth yet complex digestive instead of a glass of port to round off my X'mas celebration~~ Wonder how it'd taste if bottle-conditioned?

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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 bluejacket74
3.96/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

11.2 ounce (330 ml) bottle. Served in a snifter, the beer pours a dark reddish/brown color with a half inch light tan head that stuck around a while. There's also a good amount of lacing. I like the aroma, the brew smells like dried dark fruit, molasses, port wine, and a bit of brown sugar and bananas. It tastes like dried dark fruit, banana, toffee, molasses, port wine, grape skins, and some earthiness. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it's slick and smooth with a good amount of carbonation. Regardless if you call this an Old Ale or an English Strong Ale, it's a good brew. I'd buy this one again.

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Photo of avalon07
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a brownish-red color and a slightly hazy texture. There was a big, off white, long-lasting foamy head. Very good lacing.

S: An interesting aroma of malt, caramel, and a vinous quality.

T: Tasted of caramel, dark fruit (plums especially), malt, light hops, and the aforementioned vinous quality. A solid flavor here. At first it seemed a little thin, but seemed to get better as it went along. Subtle, yet complex.

M: A good amount of carbonation with a somewhat boozy finish. Medium-bodied.

O: A well done, oddly likeable beer. Definitely tasty and drinkable.

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Photo of bark
4.35/5  rDev +16%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The colour is deep wine red, the liquid is clear and the pale brown light finger thick foam is slowly dissolving.

The large, full-bodied smell is full of malts with a burned sweetness, marzipan, wort and some alcohol. There is also a sour touch with hints of bitter almonds.

The carbonation is sort of soft with lots and lots of small bubbles that balance the taste which otherwise might have given this beer a dull feel.

The taste is complex and heavy (in a positive sense) with notes of loaf, some yeast, raisins and a cask-matured flavour. The complex (yes balanced and pleasant) finish is a bit sweet, and the long lasting aftertaste is a bittersweet one with notes of a sweet Madeira, caramel, lemons, bitter almonds and raisins.

A fine ale for those grim, cold winter nights.

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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 Viggo
3.8/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of bobsy at his insane barleywine tasting.

Pours a clear ruby red, some orange/brown highlights, medium sized light tan head forms, settles down to a thick ring, lace spots stick to the glass, looks good.

Smell is nice, brown sugar, caramel, very malty, lots of fruit, raisins, alcohol, pudding, pretty intense maltiness, a bit of alcohol comes through, good stuff.

Taste is similar, very sweet and malty, grapes, raisins, brown sugar, lots of dark fruit, alcohol, biscuit, pretty solid although not as good as the aroma.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with low to medium carbonation. A pretty solid English barleywine, I like it. Thanks Rob!

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Photo of StJamesGate
3.67/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours translucent kola brown with pink tings and a cream tan head that fades fast. Nose is toasted cinnamon raisin bagel(!) Sharp prune, balsamic and barrel up front with tobacco and ginger hops. Dark cherry finish with a bit of chalk and dry spicy linger. Thin, hot, greasy and prickly.

Don't know why this is in as barleywine - as if the "Old" in the name didn't give away that it's an old ale.

Having said that, it's not a great example of the style. This one had a year or two to mellow and is still harsh which, combined with a lacking body, undermines any flavors here. Closer to Old Peculier than Ola Dubh.

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Photo of Suds
4.23/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer falls into the category of brews that I'd wanted to try for a very long time. I'd read about the beer years ago, but never found a bottle until coming across it in a great beer shop in Italy. The beer pours a dark chestnut color with a firm and soapy head. The foam is densely packed and a chocolate-tan color with lots of staying-power. The aroma is solidly good, vinous, with plenty of oak and malt. There's also a touch of vanilla, caramel, and booze-infused dark fruit. The taste is complex and mildly sweet. Balance, drinkability, and subtle flavor nuances are the key to this beer. It's quintessentially English in style, not the in-your-face American strong ale. This suits the beer perfectly. Smooth and complex, the beer is a real joy. The carbonation was a little more pronounced than expected, but it fit nicely with the brew. Very enjoyable.

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