Holidale | Berkshire Brewing Company Inc.

very good
181 Reviews

Brewed by:
Berkshire Brewing Company Inc.
Massachusetts, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Bierman9 on 03-07-2001

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Reviews: 181 | Ratings: 316
Photo of maximum12
1.36/5  rDev -64.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

2009 vintage, laid down for a year before the next holiday season & popped open on another blustery winter night between coatings of snow. One of those winters that seems like it'll never, ever, ever, ever...end.

Popped open & poured to vigorous acclamation, & reading the label, I see it was made with rye malt, which makes me happy, I've been longing for rye with my entire being of late. Looks weird. Half a hot dog of floaties. Looks like I might have to chew this coppery orange float.

Holidale didn't stand the test of time...it's flat-out awful. The aftertaste is a blast of lye & rotted fruit, obliterating anything that came before.

Straight-up drain pour. A barleywine should be able to last a year, & I see others have had the '09 with more positive results. I've held it in the cellar the whole time. Perhaps a bad bottle. But what bad. Nothing like the other good experiences I've had with Berkshire.

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Photo of nomad
2.18/5  rDev -43.8%
look: 5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

The thin, simple design of this bottle makes it ominous, and it does pour a dark and glossy amber with strong mahogany tone. Even better it consistently has this clean, soft, and dead consistent lacing all over the glass and on top. Just beautiful when it waits for ya. Damn.

So it comes out like cinammon and sweet spices on top of a Belgian-like load of soft-textured esters of apples and pears. Kinda strange, because I don't catch much traditional malt or hop aromas, but its sort of pretty like a bouquet of flowers on the dark side. I'm ambivalent but I also don't care because its just not like a normal barleywine to me, plus its a little simple and weak.

The simple malt flavor comes across thin and watery, heading next to the buttery finish and warm hum of alcohol. Um, where's the flavor? It took about 30 minutes before anything came forward and it was a bomber bottle. Very thin mouthfeel. Soft muddled spices softly coats everything, by the way and they're not Christmas tasty.

I am really surprised. I have a lot of respect for Berkshire and I love their beers because they're so drinkable and have beautifully malty bodies. But this thing was not nasty but incredibly boring. Insipid. Vacuous. Big words to signify how out-to-lunch this beer was tasting, but yet it was a great looking beer. Strange. The prettiest most boring girl at the dance.

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Photo of MenardMa
2.26/5  rDev -41.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

This really should be broken out into Holidale 2011, 2012, 2013, etc...because last year's and this years have been very different.

I'll start by saying that the 2012 Holidale, if I recall correctly, was a very nice barleywine.

The 2013 one, on the other hand...I could barely choke down. It smelled like weak, watery coffee, it looked like a fairly light brown ale, and it just tasted strange. Like bitter coffee combined with a watery, mediocre beer.

I really like quite a bit of BBC's offerings but this year's Holidale is unimpressive to say the least. Seems like they were going for something very different in a coffee/chocolate barleywine but it just doesn't work here.

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Photo of ClavisAurea
2.67/5  rDev -31.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

2015 vintage served in a snifter

Appearance: dark brown with a tan head. highly carbonated.

Nose: dark fruits, sweet alcohol, cherry juice, kinda boozy

Taste: alcoholic cherry juice. The carbonation is prickly and sharp. The cherry notes are over the top in this one and not balanced.

Overall: this one needs work. Age is only going to thin it out. I feel like it is more like a Belgian Strong Dark Ale or a Quad. It is somewhat like an English Barleywine but absolutely not an American Barleywine. Where were the hops? This could have been a bad bottle.

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Photo of chinabeergeek
2.81/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

22oz bomber. 2008 release. tasted in mid-may 2009. poured into tulip, at cellar temp.

very dark, ruby amber tones. gemstone clear on first pours. 1.5-finger off-white head, fades to wispy thin layer. good first ring of lace, then just splotchy after. (later pours give some yeast sediment, but give better lacing.)

faint aroma overall. weak pine and citrus rind, watery caramel. trace of cherry esters. a little more citrus notes as it nears 60 degrees F.

flavor is watery as well. weak caramel base with some resiny hop bitterness (moderate), but the hop flavor itself is subdued too - just enough to give an american character, but that's it.

feel is light and somewhat thin and watery again, esp for a barleywine. relatively smooth, w resins in finish, and the moderate carbonation is tingly upfront and gives some body, but all of this never really compensates for the wateriness.

not horrible. just quite mediocre. a disappointment from an otherwise solid local brewery.

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Photo of sinstaineddemon
2.92/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

2013 vintage

A - dark brown, yet transparent liquid with a thin white head with a bit of staying power. A light source reveals plenty of busy carbonation keeps that head afloat.

S - A whiff is mostly filled with malty goodness and cocoa powder. At the end there is a slight tweak of spice, the bottle blurb mentions cinnamon and that makes sense. Not sure if I could discern which spice without that hint.

T - this is a sharp beer. It's not quite there yet. The hops have not faded and not let the barleywine greatness through. The cocoa powder adds the bitter. The cinnamon-ness is more pronounced in the flavor and is a nice finish.

M&D - as mentioned, sharp and a bit harsh. It needs a year on it. Makes me glad I got two bottles for Christmas. I will hang on to the second one for a year or so and edit this review accordingly.

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Photo of AlexJ
2.93/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

05 Vintage
Light brown pour with a thin, but persistant head of tan froth that eventually settles into a thin ring, leaving very slight whisps of lace on my goblet.

Aroma is sweet and fruity, almost like a fruit cake. There's a faint note of floral hops hiding somewhere in there. Not much to smell here.

Unfortunately the flavor is quite similar. Very sweet and fruity, with notes of cherries, apple, pinapple, and creamy caramel. Very one-dimensional due to the very light hopping. My wife thinks it tastes like canned fruit cocktail.

Body is below medium and way too light for the style. Carbonation is soft with pinpoint bubbles. Not very easy to drink due to the unbalanced malt overload.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.03/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reviewed from notes.

Pours a moderate amber color with a thin off-white head and a tad bit of spotty lacing on the way down. The nose brings some spice along with caramel and dark fruits. A bit of sweet bread in the background. The flavor has caramel and sweet malt plus some dark fruits and a bit of winter spice. Medium body with spice and a bit of booze to go along with the sweetness. An interesting winter beer, though probably not something that I would seek out again.

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Photo of DIM
3.15/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2009 edition

a: This was a hazy copper color with reddish golden highlights. It pour4ed with a medium sized, moderately fizzy head.

s: Citrus aromas that bring potpourri ot tea to mind. Mild spicy prpper aromas and some brown sugar or molasses. Doesn't smell like a typical b-wine, but this is a nice change of pace.

t: I like what is here, but I can't help but think something is missing. It starts well, with tea-like spicy citrus flavors. The spicy notes become stronger towards the middle, probably the rye coming through. But then, oddly enough, it just kind of stops right there. I mean the flavor all but disappears. There really isn't a finish to this one. I can't believe that 1 year could have made much of a difference, but I guess its possible.

m: Light bodied for the style with gentle carbonation.

d: This tastes like an unfinished symphony. It was rising to a flavor crescendo and then...blue-balled by a b-wine.

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Photo of homebrew311
3.16/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Appearance is reddish clear with thin white head. Nose is heavy with cherries, syrup, grenadine, and caramel. Taste is sweet up front with one notes malt sweetness, not enough hops to cut out the fruit. Taste is sweet and oxidized. Out heel is heavy with low carbonation. Overall, not that great. Not really to style.

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Photo of Arbitrator
3.2/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2009 vintage, chilled bottle into a glass. A generous extra from portia99. Thanks, Bill.

A: Pours a deep, murky amber body that glows burnt orange against the light. A short-lived off-white head leaves a few dribbles of lace as it recedes.

S: Dark multi-grain bread, caramel, honey, and raisins. It really needs to warm up to get the aroma going, though it's never pungent. I'm assuming this was a pretty hoppy beer when fresh, but it's not, anymore.

T: On the sweet side; I don't know if it was mis-classified or if the age just took all the hop edge off, but there is very little hoppy flavor here. The beer is instead lightly spiced, with overt tones of caramel, brown sugar, and raisins. There isn't even much bitterness present.

M: Medium-full bodied. The finish is relatively clean, though there's a very light retro-nasal effect of honey.

D: This is a pretty decent beer, but it demands slow sipping owing to the richness of sweet flavors. It would benefit from being drier, or failing that, having more balancing hop bitterness.

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Photo of nhindian
3.26/5  rDev -16%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

22oz bottle poured into a snifter. Bottle generously provided by apollokim in the 'You Aint From Around Here?' BIF, thanks Kim!

2010 vintage.

A - Pours pretty light for a barleywine, it looks like more a darker IPA with a burnt orange body, bordering on crimson. Hazy and opaque but can see some carbonation bubbling on the sides of the glass. A 1-finger, light tan head builds before receding soon thereafter into a thick, bubbly cap. Lacing is comprised of residual foam from the head and large bubbles that slowly slide down the sides.

S - The smell is interesting to say the least. The very first initial smell is malt-heavy, that instantly takes on a citrus note. It doesn't come across as incredibly hoppy more than it imparts a sort of strange, solventy smell. That may be the alcohol coming through as well, as it does seem to round out a bit as I drink, but it still has that off-putting feeling. The malts are sweet and give off some caramel and toffee.

T - The taste continues the pattern of the nose, starting with a sweet yet semi-dry breadiness malt flavor. Some toffee and caramel again, as well as some slight raisin and honey. The hops come across smoother here, imparting the citrus, orange, and spice that seems to fit better. The alcohol is still solvent, unfortunately.

M - Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with high carbonation. Pretty smooth, the carbonation is a tad too high for the style but it goes well with the high hop profile. Has a slightly bitter, alcoholic finish.

D/O - Drinkability is moderate. I feel this beer doesn't really have much of an identity as it seems at times that the hops come across stronger than the malts which is just strange for the style. At first its hot and awkward, but luckily it smooths out as it aerates. Maybe in a few years the hops will fade even more to make this more integrated.

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Photo of Jmoore50
3.28/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Shared this with my buddy jh1982 on a nice Summer evening, this beer has been aging for two years and is still mediocre.

The appearance is dark mahogany color with no head or foam at all. It has a very thick viscosity, thick oily legs coat the side of the glass.

The smell is of sweet plumbs, brown sugar, and some alcoholic heat. Pretty mellow smells, nothing too pungent and I struggled to pull many characters out.

The taste is very mellow and not complex, which is a very large disapointment for a barleywine that has been aging for two years. It has some nice malty backbone, with light sweetness and strong alcohol. It is almost stale is flavor, nothing is complex and it is very one dimensional.

The mouthfeel is avearage, the beer overall is stale and simple. It has a slight tart flavor that was unmentioned, it is like a slight note of cranberry or something similar that just ends the tasting with an unexpected flavor. This beer will be soon forgotten, nothing here to remember. Don't get me wrong, its not offensive in any way, its just very average.

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Photo of jstilwell
3.3/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Dark brown, copper, amber with frothy white head that grabs the glass before slowly dissolving.

S: Fruity, citrus, oak, hops, slight bananna

T: Mildly syrupy sweet with some fruity hops, strong malt overwhelms.

M: Smooth and carbonated somewhat watery considering it is unpasteurized and unfiltered

D: Could not drink more than one. The 9.5 alcohol is hidden but the beer has harsh undertones.

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Photo of aquatonex
3.3/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not one of my favorites from BBC...

Got this one on tap at Rafter's.

Pours dark ruby, almost brownish with a thick creamy head, decent retention. Good carbonation. Immediate sweetness in the nose mixed with acridity and some alcohols. Taste is strong but in an odd way. Very sweet up front, overpoweringly so. Sugary malts (like heavy candy) and unplaced fruits. The alcohol isn't so prevalent in the taste, at least. Otherwise, it was a bit off. Not sure I'd get this one again.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.33/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured an amber color with a small cream head with decent carbonation. Nose was faint caramel and some piney hops. Taste is a decent Taste is a big on caramel, fruits and brown sugar. Taste was thinner bodied than I expected. Mouthfeel was nice and ABV was well hidden. Nevertheless, a good barleywine by BBC.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.33/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

2006 release. Firelight orange with a hint of cranberry red and edges of honey gold. Maybe it's the power of suggestion, but the color of the liquid is festive and matches the name well. The tight-bubbled crown, that looks like a luscious melding of melted vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet, is relatively generous when it comes to lace. Later on... not so much.

The nose is dominated by a pale malt simplicity (there may be a little caramel malt in there as well) with no hint of alcohol, in a beer whose ABV has to be pushing double digits. It's fruity and smells faintly spiced, although it's more a Belgian yeasty spiciness that a 'spices added, winter warmer-like' spiciness. So far, so good.

Holidale 2006 is surprisingly mild for a big beer. And I don't mean that it's a gentle giant whose alcohol is well-buried and whose flavors have had time to get comfortable with one another. I mean that it's a wimp. The malt backbone isn't the least bit sturdy and the flavors don't exactly challenge the taste buds with their boldness or complexity.

I'm reminded of a 'golden' barleywine or strong ale that has been mixed with a few ounces of water. Certainly one year in the bottle hasn't been enough to cut this beer off at the knees like this. The flavor profile consists of an untoasted pale maltiness, an 'apples and bananas soaked in honey' fruitiness and just a touch of Belgian yeast spiciness. I'm betting that a simple ale yeast was used, so maybe the brewers added a pinch of clove.

I keep waiting for something more substantial to emerge with warming. More flavor, better flavor or a bigger body would be nice. What I'm getting is bupkis. The mouthfeel is way too thin for a beer of this style. Since it doesn't compound the error by being fizzy, and since there's a trace of... a hint of... the suggestion of... a mild stickiness on the back end, I've decided to cut it some slack. Believe me, the above score is cutting it some slack.

Berkshire Coffeehouse Porter is damn good beer and Lost Sailor IPA is nicely drinkable too. Holidale 2006, while it looks the part, can't deliver where it counts the most. Here's hoping the brewers have reworked the recipe for 2007.

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.36/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2009 Vintage
Pours a deep reddish copper color with a good sized bubbly beige head that shows great retention. Smells of caramel and brown sugar with a hint of ethanol and a touch of oxidation. Taste is a bit on the malty side up front. Lots of sugary sweetness that gets beaten back by and earthy and a muddled buttery harshness. Long lingering sugary and butterscotch sweetness. Medium body and level of carbonation and a sweet bubbly mouthfeel. I really enjoy the coffeehouse porter from Berkshire, but most of their other beers strike me as too heavy on the diacytyl. Decent beer, but not great.

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Photo of taez555
3.36/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured a clear amber body with a small off-white head.

Nose was a mix of subtle fruit, alcohol and malt.

Medium to full bodied. Medium malt body with a strong alcohol punch. A very fruity malt taste. Smooth silky caramel malt, touches of vienna or biscuit malt. Very belgian-ish. Banana or even wheat characters come through big time as it warms. Very dunkelweis-esque even. Touches of natural root and subtle spices. A mild but present bitterness comes out just enough for a good balance but never becomes overpowering.

As a barleywine this beer completely misses the boat. As a belgian style quad/dark triple with touches of dunkelweis mixed with a holiday ale, it's pretty damn good. Not my favorite holiday ale, but rather drinkable.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.38/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2006 Release, Sampled December 2007
When poured vigorously the head forms a fat-two-finger thick, tan colored head that sits atop a brilliantly clear, dark, cranberry red colored brew. Chewy, sweet malt aromatics mix with appetizing hop aromatics. Aromas of toffee, sweet caramel, berries, kiwi fruit and a green, slightly vegetal notes something like fresh cut milk-weed and a touch of warming alcohol towards the end are all noticed. Really the herbal & odd fruit notes are what dominate the aroma; this ends up being not nearly as malty as one would expect from a Barleywine.

Sweet & fruity tasting up front, again berry notes and something a bit sharper like kiwi and maybe strawberry flavors are definitely quite noticeable. That milk-weed note is here in the flavor as well, though it is a bit reduced. This green note definitely lingers on the palate through to a lingering finish. A noticeable, though not overwhelming (more of a secondary note), bitterness is found throughout each sip. Caramelized malt sugars (which accentuate the fruit notes) as well as a touch of toffee, some lightly toasted notes and some chewy bread flavors play a supporting role here. This does not have as much heft as I was expecting it too, but it definitely has a fullness to it that makes this a sipping brew. A bit of warming alcohol mixes with the weird herbal note in the finish.

The flavors in this beer are just a bit odd, not nearly malty enough & the hops have taken a weird, not quite herbal, not quite hop fruity character. Definitely interesting though & worth trying, I wonder how much more this will change with a couple more years of age on it.

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Photo of msolar
3.4/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2005 Batch.

Appearance – nice amber color. A bit murky.

Smell – a lot of cinnamon and fruit smalls.

Flavor – good. Definitely a holiday spiced beer, but was tasty. A bit more spices than I’d favor again.

Labeled as barelywine, but I wouldn’t have guessed it otherwise.

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Photo of alovesupreme
3.43/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Very dark scarlet red when held to the light. An offwhite head of 1 and a half fingers sits for a few minutes before dissipating to a pleasant foamy ring, with nice lacing.
Medicinal, Scotch with alcohol and bread. A hint of sweetness.
Alcohol, some fruits, maybe apple? A little caramel with a bready finish.
A full body but not as syrupy and thick as I prefer my barley wines.
A pretty good barley wine.

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Photo of YonderWanderer
3.43/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2007 Release.

A: Pours a clear, clean copper with a finger of pillowy, thick foam that takes a long time to dissipate, leaving lots of lacing on the glass.

S: Lots of malt, with some hints of caramel. A slight hint of alcohol comes through. The hops come through as well with some nice floral tones. Not bad, but not as balanced as I'd like.

T: Big maltiness hits a nice bit of hops in the middle, with a hint of alcohol continuing to make itself known. Still, this one's somewhat raw and unbalanced. Hopefully some age will smooth this one out.

M: Smooth and clean, with a crisp finish.

D: This is a nice brew from BBC, but I think some age will do it some good. Definitely going to lay one of these down for a year or 2 and see how it comes out. Good, but not great.

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Photo of DefenCorps
3.45/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

If the reviewer below me got snow a couple of days back - well, I'm glad I'm not in MA! I got a bottle of the 2008 vintage a long time back from Cedromar. Thanks, Tyler!

Clear mahogany red with a thick off-white head that recedes to a thin disk leaving patchy lace, this is an attractive barleywine. The nose is solid. With a blend of a strong pine and minty hop character, there's also plenty of malt sweetness here, with caramel, toffee and a little oxidation that adds a macerated date and apple cider. Spicy alcohol is apparent, enhancing the cider character of this beer. I'm really digging the nose despite not being the biggest barleywine fan.
The palate is quite a disappointment. Opening quite sweet with a rather prominent hop character, I get a ton of really good flavors up front, with caramel, toffee and mint all making for a tasty beverage before a finish that is sorely lacking in character. The blend up front featuring the caramel and pine is pleasant, but the beer quickly devolves to a mildly bitter finish with no real malt flavors that one expects from a barleywine. And while there is a certain heft to the palate, this still comes across as slightly watery, even when at 60+F. Is there rye in this beer? The spiciness I taste is definitely not from the alcohol, I can swear there's some in here,and some reviews refer to it as well. Also, with time, I'm noticing a butterscotch character which isn't wholly pleasant either, especially in conjunction with the hop profile. Medium in body with moderate carbonation, the palate is decent but for the finish. Solid stuff for a fan of barleywines, but since I'm not in that camp, I'm harder to please.

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Photo of sisuspeed
3.46/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured this into a small 0.3L pint glass. Red, amber-brown hue with less than a finger of white head.

The aroma holds a fairly large malt base. A good amount of sweet malts, but also a little bit of spice from the rye malt. Some faint citrus and earthy hop aroma.

Good, strong malt taste, but then BBC spices it up with a bit of peppery hop flavor. Very interesting. I can see how they market this as more of a winter holiday beer. Going back to the malts, they are pretty chewy, sweet and the rye malt is what makes the malt profile more unique than most American Barleywines. As the beer starts to warm I can pull out some candied fruits and bready malts as well.

Mouthfeel is smooth at first, but then jumps around with the peppery hop spiciness. Carbonation is about right. Not lacking, but not over done.

Drinkability is knocked down some for me, because of the peppery hops. I would struggle to finish a bomber of this by myself, but with a friend or two, this a nice seasonal barleywine. I look forward to trying some more brews from BBC.

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Holidale from Berkshire Brewing Company Inc.
3.88 out of 5 based on 316 ratings.
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