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Old Tom | Frederic Robinson Limited

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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: 174
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.

 2,264 characters

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.

 287 characters

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 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.

 1,317 characters

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 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 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 cypressbob
4.15/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

on cask, i noticed alot of the reviews were based on bottled

Pours with a very dark brown ruby body, almost black but with a ruby tinge at the light, slight foamy head with little retention

Smell, hints of wine, slight hint of malt, some sweetness also, slight whiff of alcohol

Taste, dry and port like, winey with a strong hint of alcohol on the finish, slight bitterness also, buttery on the finish , slight hint of hop oil

A nice strong ale, i was happy to find this on cask, its hard to believe that this is from the same people who brought us double maxim brown ale :S

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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!

 419 characters

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.

 353 characters

Photo of Naerhu
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark opaque beer with thin fine tan head.
Big malty caramel head. Dark dried fruit, leather and burnt oranges. Bitterness, though not present on the initial palate, shows well on the after taste. This lacks the depth of malt flavor that Old Nick has. For some reason this seems to be the barley wine of choice here in Osaka. Give me an Old Foghorn or Old Nick any time.

 370 characters

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 marc77
3.63/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4.5

Deep crimson hue with excellent clarity. Light beige, soapy head yields sparse lace. Mellow, ripe fig and dark caramel upfront in aroma, with a splash of cocoa. Trace black licorice and earthy hop hints. Tame and clean aromawise. Prevalent in flavor are notes of toffee drizzled biscuit and prune. Mild hints of baker's chocolate and woody, almost oaky hop tones add a bittersweet contrast mid palate. Nutty, burnt almond hints lend a trace astringency late. Lightly bittered, but well attenuated, with only moderate residual sweetness. Thinnish in body, with a mouthfeel shy in viscosity to support the malt profile. Finishes with a snap of singed chocolate cookie hints and a lingering, woody sweet Fuggles twang. A rather understated, but well rounded strong ale that's somewhat dangerous in its softness. Subtle and rather tasty.

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Photo of Realale
4.02/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Slightly hazy deep walnut. Extremely fine 1/3" beige head sits and stays, but does not leave any lacing.

Nose is barley wine 101 (yes, I know BA has it listed as a Strong/Old, but the brewery calls it a barley wine and I concur) - rich bready and sweet cakey malt over treacle. Touch of raisin and prune fruitiness supports. No hop apparent.

Initially, quite full in the mouth where it is richly malty, but still well-balanced and surprisingly light on its feet. As it warms, strangely, it seems to thin out a bit and lose intensity. Treacle is there, but not as strongly as on the nose. Medium length finish, with just a touch of hop showing at the death.

Lovely soft bottle-conditioned mouthfeel. Carbonation level is just right - whisks away the malt in preparation for the next sip. Very nice barley wine that doesn't go over the top in any way. Perilously drinkable for what it is.

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Photo of Mark
3.55/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This strong ale poured a dark ruby and was very clear. Head was thin and airy and slightly off white. Very strong alcoholic aroma, sweet malts evident. Some stewed fruit was in the taste profile, very malty and powerful. A sipping ale. Seemed stronger than it probably was after a steady diet of bitter.

 303 characters

Photo of Winter
3.68/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark burgandy with a light tan ring that forms a circle around the edge of the glass. Aroma consists of malt and dark fruit along the lines of raisins or prunes. Mouthfeel is smooth with slight carbonation. Flavor seems less complex than I expected. Malt and the aforementioned fruit flavors seem to dominate the palate. Even as the beer warms the alcohol is masked very well and you never really taste it. Finish contains flavors of prune and is somewhat vinous. Not overly complex but very smooth drinking. If there ever was a barley wine to ease someone into the style without bombarding them with hops (like some American brewers tend to do) or scaring them alway with a noticably high tasting level of alcohol, Old Tom might be the one.

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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 tavernjef
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Comes in a 9.3 oz bottle - Nice deep dark russet brown color with deep ruby red tones and highlights. Crowned with a tall, loose, tannish head that faded pretty darn quick and the lace is very minimal in spots that evaporate. Smell has a soft caramel malty front notes lend bits of fruity darkness of cherry, plum, prune, and raisin and a little covering of alcohol. A simple yet divine little nose, nothing potent here besides the warmth of the alcohol thats a little hard to get past. Taste is mellowing caramel malts mostly with a few notes of darker fruits of plum and raisin, a slight burnt quality adds and sweetens more towards the finish. Hops barely detectable, something associated with most BW's from across the pond, this brew is UK all the way and is a fine specimen for a calmer, toned down version of most US versions. Its mellowness and tamer qualities are nice but not something I was wanting. Feel is touch on the thin side with some boldness and small girth towards the finish where the malts lay a nice little lingering burntness of chewy caramel and sweetness, nice solid finish. A pretty nice barleywine all-in-all, a beer for anytime and not special or really memorable. But I will be using this to introduce others to the style for sure.

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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.

 627 characters

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.

 386 characters

Photo of ZAP
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

They list this as a Barley Wine but it really tastes more like an Old Ale...Also, no question this is a British Brew...pours a Ruby Red color..a slight creme colored head...On the nose I get dark fruits...tobacco....and alcohol...smells almost like a port...mouthfeel is sweet and sticky, but definitely not thick enough to qualify as a Barley Wine in my book...taste is sweet....a load of maltiness....dark fruits....some nuttiness....tastes like a port somewhat...I bet this would go great with a big thick maduro robusto cigar.....as a beer it's not bad by itself....I think there are better old ales out there but I wouldn't pass this one up...

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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.

 564 characters

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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Old Tom from Frederic Robinson Limited
3.75 out of 5 based on 174 ratings.
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