Backburner - Barleywine Style Ale | Southern Tier Brewing Company

512 Reviews
Backburner - Barleywine Style AleBackburner - Barleywine Style Ale

Brewed by:
Southern Tier Brewing Company
New York, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Retired after 2015 - new recipe/beer coming out in 2016 with a new listing.

Added by BeerTruth on 04-02-2007

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 512 | Ratings: 938
Photo of ClockworkOrange
3.7/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Here's something I don't see that often; a twist-off 22 ounce bomber bottle. Bought this one in 2007. Poured cold out of the fridge and into my nonic pint glass. Appears a rather cloudy crimson brown color with about an inch of creamy tan head. The head settles to a thin ring within a few minutes of pouring. Aromas and flavors consist of brown sugar, raisins, dates, caramel, quite bitter, still a good amount of alcohol heat, piney hops, pineapples. Decent carbonation with a medium to full body and a lingering bitterness. The bitter notes give way to a touch of sweetness as the ale warms. A sipper for me.

 611 characters

Photo of coldmeat23
3.7/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

GLASS: Snifter
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 45 degrees

Pours a nice, dark ruby/brown hybrid color. One-finger head of loose, light tan foam. Retention is pretty good. Lacing is in threads and very sticky.

Right out front is a nice, rich, sweet malty smell. It is wrapped around a nice breadiness. Light presence of hops is sprinkled around. Nice notes of toffees and dark fruits.

With the label of 'Imperial' Barleywine, I expected the flavor to be much bolder than it is.
Big sweet maltiness. Light hint of caramel. Notes of golden brown sugars. Flavor of a dark fruit blend. Light hop presence.
It is actually so nicely balanced that I think it may actually be hurting it overall. I can tell that there are alot of potentially bold flavors in my glass. They are so in tune with each other though, that nothing really shines and it all falls a little flat.

Full-bodied and rich. Very smooth. Only mildly creamy. Nice medium level of carbonation.

It's good and easy enough to drink. The 10.0%ABV is well-hidden within the taste, but you can certainly feel it.
I expected this one to be so much more. It's almost a letdown.
Sure I like it. Sure I'd drink another one, if I get the chance. Am I actively seeking that opportunity? No.

 1,231 characters

Photo of bnes09
3.71/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Dark bronze translucent ale. Ample light tan head with tons of lacing that lasts the entire drink and forms more with each sip.

Sweet, dark fruit aromas with raisins, dates and plums.

Dense malt character with dark fruits to add sweetness. Caramel and maple. Hops are subtle with an herbal tone. Sweet overall.

Thick, near syrupy texture. Descent carbonation provides a mild snappiness.

Adequate flavor and balance for a barley wine. Unfortunately, not much more to offer here. Also a tad too sweet for my taste.

 516 characters

Photo of mjgooner13
3.71/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - A coke a cola type color, a dark maple with hints of red on the sides. Left some nice lacing as i continued to drink.

S- had the usual sweet barleywine smell, of sweetness from some dark fruits and maybe some toffee.

T- Taste was not as sweet as the smell, which I think in this case is a good thing. Up front I get the same fruity tastes from the nose, some malt as well as licorice on the end. It was pretty well balanced throughout without really being dominated by anything.

M- Medium bodied and the alcohol was masked pretty well, so it went down quite smooth, which could make this one a bit dangerous with the 9.6 abv.

O- Def enjoyed this one, well balanced, hides the alcohol although you can pick it up a little bit, certainly wouldn't mind having one or two of these on a rainy day.

 800 characters

Photo of OddNotion
3.72/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bought this about 10 months ago and it was old at the time I bought it. It was in a store with a very slow moving stock. The exact age/vintage is unknown. However, I know it is over a year old.

Poured into my DFH Signature Glass.

Appearance: Deep burgundy/ruby color with a one half finger off white head that dissipates relatively quickly. Leaves a cap and some lacing.

Smell: Dark fruits and caramel. This smells amazing. The smells are so bold and assertive, yet smooth.

Taste: Dark fruits, caramel, raisins. Not bitter at all. I guess this was older than I hoped. I like my Barleywines mellowed out but not to the point where the bitterness is completely gone. Honestly it tastes like a more assertive Quadrupel. It is good but I assume past its prime. I have not had it fresh so I can not compare, but most Barleywines start off with a more aggressive hop presence. The malt flavor in this is great.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, almost creamy, lightly carbonated.

Overall: I enjoy this, not my favorite for the style and I will need to find a fresh one for comparison sake. The malt flavor in this is amazing, I want to have this one with some bitterness and hop presence.

 1,173 characters

Photo of oberon
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Southern Tier's two new offerings are seriously top notch and being so close in proxemity to the brewery they are easy to find and will be a main stay in my house.Poured into an oversized wine glass a deep amber almost burgundy color with a tight formed thin white head leaving shitty lace stuck to the glass.Big and balanced aromas deep cherry and brown sugar tones mixed with piney,resiny Amarillo hop aromas a defient rum like alcohol presence shows thru as well.Sweetish brown sugar and dark fruit flavors really hit home with a noticable sweet alcohol zip really coming thru as it warms to near room temp,the hops seem a bit overwhelmed by such a big malty sweet base but they show thru after a bit in a piney,grapefruit rind presence but never jumps out at ya.The hop burps came afterwords but the hop flavors need a bit of a push in my mind but they are everywhere else,big and brash Iam gonna hold one for a awhile and see what turns up.

 945 characters

Photo of xcrunner78
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Aroma of a carmel malt with a hint of dried fruit and hopped very lightly. A tan head on top of a dark amber color. It has a very carmel, malty flavor that leads into some hopness and leaves a sugery carmely taste on the palate. Thick body and really smooth with a lot of alcohol.

 280 characters

Photo of DawnL
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

True amber with a little sticky lacing at the rim.

Pleasant hops with some alcohol on the nose.

Lots of alcohol heat. A cross between fine whiskey and beer. Wooden quality - not oak and not pine - more like bramble. Very intense, especially the alcohol.

This brew coats the palate. Has some residual sugar that collects around the lips but is not evident in either taste or aroma.

The drinkability suffers just because of the massiveness of this brew.

All in all - I love this beer!

 487 characters

Photo of chicano4craft
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dirty brown. Cloudy and slighty red. Creamy white head.

Nose is strongly caramel and toffee. Smells very sweet. There's a faint citrus smell way in the back. I'm not sure how old this bottle is. I got it in a trade a few months ago. But whatever hops were there have since faded to the background.

Hops are still hanging around in the taste. There back up singers to the sweet barley now. Not as caramel as I expected, but that's good. There's a bit at the end. It's by no means hot...but after half a glass I was feeling this one.

Mouthfeel is a tad syrupy and heavy. This and the hugh abv brings down the drinkability for me. Overall it was an enjoyable barleywine. I much prefer my barleywines fresh. I'm more into the balance of lots of hops and barley. Would love to try this one again.

 802 characters

Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a ruby-colored body with a short-lived, beige head.

Smell: A rich, malty sweet aroma with plenty of fruitiness held within notes of black cherries and syrup-soaked plums.

Taste: Strong, supporting malt backbone bringing flavors of sweet, charred caramel, dark fruits, and hints of chocolate. The beer certainly needs that malty brace for the sharp hop hit of soapy pine right at the end and into the long, lingering finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body, with a very thick, lush mouthfeel.

Drinkability: Its all kinds of decent!

 556 characters

Photo of thecheapies
3.74/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bomber with no freshness date, purchased in 2012. Poured into two snifter glasses.

Tried to be vigorous with the pour to yield some head, but nothing stuck around. What was there fell to a thin ring in no time. The color is a dark coppery orange-brown. Not much more to say about the appearance. 2.5

I'm gonna try to let this one warm up and breathe a bit. The nose is offering a pronounced woody oak character along with citrusy hops a la tangerine and grapefruit. Some roasty toasty malts, but little toffee sweetness. There's a decent alcohol sting coming upwards. I wouldn't call the hops aggressive, but they're the main feature, thus far. 3.5

Oak, with the volume turned up, mixed with more orange rind hops. A dose of grapefruit pith, grassiness, and booze. The oak and hops are very prominent, leaving pale the semi-dry caramel malt. A semi-balanced, dry-hopped American-style barleywine, for sure. Missing some of the complexities of the hop-forward version that Bigfoot has. A little attenuated, but a decent drink. 4.0

Not much carbonation, as previously stated. The body is pretty light for a 9.6% beer. It's drinkable. I can say that much. Goes down pretty easily. Heady, but drinkable. 3.5

I'm not a huge fan of this kind of barleywine, but Southern Tier didn't make a bad beer here. I'd drink it again, preferrably to look for it on-tap. I wouldn't age it. Not sure what would be left of the original brew if one did. Give 'er a try. 4.0

 1,462 characters

Photo of Amalak
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I had at Muggs Tavern in Williamsburg, Brooklyn off a pump cask.
A- It has a red color to it and has some bubbliness. There's a good foamy head that leaves some lace.
S- Hoppy with a hint of alcohol.
T- It's extremely hoppy and is very bitter. Intense taste is the best way I can put it. The hops overshadow everything else. There's some alcohol in there as well. Not bad at all.

 379 characters

Photo of Casey10
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Not sure if I just had a bad bottle or something but was let down by this barley wine beer.

While the apperance was nice dark and the smell was good which was like slight carmel like smell.

The taste was okay as the mouthfeel I realize that that Barleywines can be hit or miss I gave this a good.

If I try this one again I hope that it is a bit better.

 357 characters

Photo of lincoln44
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

22 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

Bronze amber color, clear but deep mahogany appearance. Not much head after the pour but may be contributed to the temperature. Nice lacing stuck around afterward.

S- Spicy, sweet, and slight floral hop aroma all combined. Picking up a roasted malt flavor, must have been used for color and depth.

Taste- Rich sweet and spicy taste. The hop flavor must be from the Chinook as it is spicy and not as aromatic yet still enjoyable. Kind of a woody taste coming through on the tail of it all.

M- slick feel from the high residuals and hop oils. Carbonation is right on for this style.

D-Not my favorite barley wine but enjoyable nonetheless. Spicier and woody taste compared to the BW I am familiar with. Overall decent brew but I don't think I would be searching for this one every time I go to the store.

 841 characters

Photo of waltersrj
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pour: Deep ruby red with a brown hue and a 2 fingered off white head. Sticky lacing on the glass and decent legs.

Nose: Dark fruit, sweet sugars, very hoppy, caramel malt, and toffee.

Taste: Dark fruits, prune and fig, toffee, caramel, very bitter hops, slightly cloying malts, and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Thick but creamy with a slightly cloying feel.

Overall: a pretty good representation of an ABW, great hop and malt profile but not the best.

 446 characters

Photo of BigMcLargeHuge
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Courtesy of RB's own GMCC2181 via sweet trade bonus, thanks Gabe. Pours clear crisp amber with thin tan head. The aroma is musty dark fruity esters, some pine and grassy hops followed by a note of alcohol heat. The taste actually feels a bit thin to start flowing into notes of prunes, raisins, followed by pine and grassy hop bitterness. Some moderate alcohol rises up toward the finish as a tasty roasted malt note brings this to closure. Feels like more age might help this some.

 482 characters

Photo of torchednoodle
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to jctribe25 for this beer.

It's a decent barleywine. Pours a dark brown copper. Taste is of sweet raisins and fruit. There's some mild burn from the alcohol, but it really hides the alcohol pretty well considering 10%. Carbonation feels very good. The group I drank this with enjoyed this beer, but we agreed that it wasn't a standout compared to the other beers we were drinking that day.

 398 characters

Photo of PorterLambic
3.76/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Arrives in a snifter, a hazy dark brown with no head.
Smell is piney hops with some dark fruits and malt. Not exactly as expected but well balanced.
Taste is hoppy, sweet, malt, pine and some generic dark fruit notes. Balance is good.
Full bodied, warming and quite smooth. Extremely light effervescence, as expected. A nice sipping beer. Well done. So much better when it warms, easily twice the beer. Let it sit for 30 minutes at least and love it.

 453 characters

Photo of Vierenner
3.77/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Flavor and sweetness resemble many other Southern Tier brews. I can't pinpoint it, but there must be a substantial, common ingredient in all of them (Cuvee Series One, Oat, etc). I think there's too much sweetness, really. However, if you're looking for a desert-like beer, this could work very well. Very little hop bite makes the desert experience work.

 355 characters

Photo of JohnGalt1
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 from joe1510 .. shared a small glass with Brenda.. mine poured into my Smokestack goblet..

1" head with beautiful lacing.. brew is dark brown with not much showing until I held it to a light and it revealed a crystal clear ruby brew.. very pretty for the entire bottle.

Aroma is American hops but with a significant backboard of malts caramel and even some chocolate as it arms.. . yeasty fruitiness reminds me of overripe plums... does have a distinct solvent characteristic as it warms.

Flavor is very nice.. just enough bitterness to balance the malts.. good caramel.. toasty and much lesser chocolate malts.. complex malts with the fruitiness from the yeasts make this a memorable brew. Pine and citrus hops play very well with the overall sweetness. Bready midpalate and a long lingering hoppy/fruity finish combines with caramel remnants. Body is pretty much exact so is the carbonation..

I wish Backburner and other Southern Tier brews were available to me.. This BW is pretty classy fresh.. an would probably age like a champ if I had them in the cellar.. Good Stuff! Big props to joe1510 for a great trade!!


 1,140 characters

Photo of StephenRich
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

In the early 1900s and before, a brewers first runnings of the mash (the first amount of sweet liquid that they would drain off the soaked malts) would always be the strongest, and would indeed be very rich given the large quantity of malted barley used at the time. Every successive running would allow the brewer to create the same beer, but with lesser alcohol and character each time. Thus with 1 mash but 3 sparges (filtering water though the grains) the brewer could create 3 similar beers of varying strength (ie. 12, 7, and 4%). This very first running, the strongest of the three, created a high alcohol beer known as a Barleywine.

Today a barleywine is widely considered by brewers and beer aficionados to be the epitome of brewing expertise. The style has become popular enough too that various brewing regions have adapted the style to their own preferences - and hence, the American Barleywine was born. This is of course a more heavily hopped, and drier barleywine than the original English style, and it commands respect world wide. From Up-State New York then comes the Southern Tier Back Burner Imperial Barleywine style Ale; a quintessential example of American Barleywine.

Although Southern Tier calls it an Imperial Barleywine, it is really just a Barlywine. These beers by definition are anywhere from 8 to 12% abv, and sometimes even higher. The Back Burner comes in at 10% abv, thus placing it directly in the median. An Imperial Barleywine would be 18 or 19% - they do exist. Southern Tier's recipe is a relatively simple one; the Back Burner is brewed with three grains, two hops, and is dry hopped with an additional two. This would seen very classically American to me. This beer is released every February so to enjoy its warming malts in the dead of winter, however you could easily hold onto it until the next cold season runs by. Beers like this beg to be aged smoothing out the flavors and bringing greater complexity and power.

I opened the Back Burner up at the upper end of cellar temperature around 13 or 14C (57F) and poured it into a wide mouth snifter. The beer was very silky and oil like showing great depth in color even before the growing ruby beer hit the glass. What formed was a richly crimson red beer with deep caramel browns, copper, and thick burgundy resting in the center. A short head just under an inch build up showing dense carbonation, tightly packed bubbles, and a soft light brown to tan color. It sat there with a creamy and silky cap to a monstrous looking beer.

The nose is richly warming with thick and gooey caramel malts. Its filled with the aromas of light brown sugar and toffee, but shows a definite dry side, and citrus hops are also easily present. Its not overly bitter, and seemingly less so than many of its American counterparts, but the hops come in with a proper balancing of the rich malts which show a strong presence and an obviously dry sweetness.

On your palate the Back Burner delivers smooth and creamy malt flavors at every inch. The richly caramel malt aromas burst into action now showing your tongue a wide dark fruit flavor that hints at dried cherries, blood orange, a touch of spice and hints of warmth. Toffee and caramel are really round here and melt across your cheeks bringing deep flavor everywhere.

The overall sweet malt sensation is dry, but somehow very fruity. It strikes a very nice balance between rich sugar and mellow malt. What helps create this illusion is a soothing dose of both bittering and aroma hops. The backbone of the Back Burner is dense malt (dark cherries, dried apricots, prunes, and figs), but it is made possible by a lightly grapefruit flavored hop aroma that brings a touch of pine, earth and spice along with it. It helps to soften this beer without being too bitter.

It is actually not very bitter at all, not compared to most American Barlywines. But it is dry, dry and malty. There is greater complexity in the flavor than I would have originally anticipated as I begin to get vanilla, a hint of ginger, and Grand Marnier. This is a warming and rich barleywine, but it dryer than I normally enjoy. I tend to favor the juicy, gooey barleywines. This though would make an excellent desert pairing with rich chocolates, or would be a wonderful companion to a aromatic cigar.

 4,306 characters

Photo of Jayli
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had at The Abbey in Worcester 2/13
This beer pours a a mahogony color leaning more towards a plum color with an off white half finger head that holds nicely. Thick lacing that are present throughout. Nose is a big malty presence with hints of sweet caramel and sugar. Hops are also present with pine and floral fruit aromas. Alcohol is also very present in the nose. This is the first barley wine that I've tried and based off the nose, I thought that I would not like it. I was wrong! Taste is way more mellow than the smell - in a good way. Caramels, chocolate, brown sugar mixed with pine and floral hops. I found this to be very well balanced. Somewhat thick and juicy in the mouth. This is definitely a sipper, and with the high ABV not one to sit with for a session - however definitely a beer that I would have again!

 824 characters

Photo of siege06nd
3.79/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A 2011 bottle, poured into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint.

A. Pours a very cloudy, ruddy copper color. Not much head to speak of, just a wisp of a cream colored neck around the top. Lacing is also very faint. Meh.

S. Toasted malt, raisin, caramel, and some subtle hop notes.

T. Lots of toasty bread crust, some toasty caramel, raisin, toffee, spicy and bitter hops, and a fairly big booze burn on the back end.

M. Boozy finish but everything else is pretty well-balanced. Slightly astringent and drying from the bitterness and alcohol burn.

O. A solid American Barleywine and, I think, one of the better versions that is readily available. That said, with a little bit of effort, far better can be had, including Gratitude and Dogfish Head Olde School.

 752 characters

Photo of Sammy
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks Derek, this was good drinking for a young fresh BW.The malt and fruity yeast was enjoyable in the aroma, there was lace on the opaque brown. Amarillo and C-hop. Appropriate above-average carbonation. Above average mouthfeel.Some complexity and significant fruitiness to taste.

 283 characters

Photo of augustgarage
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Courtesy of ShogoKawada (thanks!) - poured from a 22oz bomber into my Dogfish Head oversized snifter.

Sienna body with bronze highlights and a beige pearling collar and isthmus. Decent retention. Light lacing.

Malty aromatics with caramel, toffee, and a touch of sherry as well. Lightly herbal hop notes.

Zesty earthy hops with a touch of citrus throughout - but the sweetness from specialty malt and a touch of oxidation is paramount. Moderately bitter at times, though this is by no means a hop-bomb. There is a touch of fruit in the drying finish, though the caramel never abates entirely.

Medium-bodied with sufficient carbonation. ABV is well hidden.

Uncomplicated, slightly sweet barleywine.

 707 characters

Backburner - Barleywine Style Ale from Southern Tier Brewing Company
4 out of 5 based on 938 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.