Backburner - Barleywine Style Ale | Southern Tier Brewing Company

very good
938 Ratings
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 Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 938 |  Reviews: 512
Photo of nickd717
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle via trade thanks to ben4321 on RB. "Imperial barleywine" seems to be a little bit of an overstatement.

Pours a reddish amber color with a medium off-white head and good lacing.

Aroma is surprisingly hoppy, along with wood, caramel malt, and toffee.

Flavor is mildly sweet and very good with caramel malt, toffee, wood, butterscotch, and some hops on the finish.

Smooth on the palate with some mild bitterness.

Drinkability is high for the style and ABV. Overall, this is a very nice barleywine. Southern Tier brews some solid stuff despite what others might say.

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Photo of bret27
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

bottle courtesy of MrDanno96

A: Beautiful ruby red, clear but dark. w/fluffy head and lacing, good retention.

S: Malt and grainy, w/american hop presence making itself known

T: Sweetness, grain, maple syrup, sugary, piney bitter finish, mixed w/alcohol warming.

M: Fairly thick, but not too thick

D: Very nice for ABV. Was able to finish a 22oz by myself, which isn't possible for me with all high gravity beers.

Overall: Solid american barleywine. Could compare to old ruffian or stone old guardian in style.

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Photo of sophisticated
4.12/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

"1st brew of 2008" stated on bottle.

A) Dark amber, almost a deep ruby when held to the light. Head is nice - tight small bubbles which left thick lace.

S) Strongly fruit smell - cherreies, plums. Some vanilla. Caramel, malts, some hops but mostly sweet.

D) Strong sweet fruit taste - cherries and caramel. Plenty of malts but also some citrus hops and some mild spice. The 10% ABV not noticeable in taste but leaves a slight warming burn.

MF) Chewey and soft

D) Good! This is an intense brew with complex flavors but a nice sipper to savor. Definitely enjoyable.

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Photo of bgjohnston
4.44/5  rDev +11%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

While this looked like it would be an "o.k" beer, it turned out to be much better than expected. Bottle indicates it is a 2007, so about 2 years old as it passes into history.

My lowest mark for this beer is appearance. Has hardly any head and is a murky, cloudy brown. It nonetheless looks pretty much like a barleywine should, and has smooth, foamy carbonation with each sip.

The smell made me excited to sip it, and the taste delivered in a solid way. The aroma of sweetness and spice is true to the flavor. Maybe because it has some age on it, I actually would have pegged this as an English style barleywine if tasting blind, as there is no hop attack like a Bigfoot. Maybe it is a misconception on my part, but I expect American style barleywines to have more of a sharp hop bite. Maybe the age of this particular one made it into what it is now. There is just enough of a hop presence to spice up the sweetness of the malt, which has a very agreeable caramel/vanilla flavor to it.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn't mark it any lower for mouthfeel or drinkability. It is a 10% beer and a big bottle, to boot. That said, I could easily drink it way too fast, even with its full, satisfying mouthfeel.

I have previously been disappointed with other Southern Tier offerings, but they made good on all promises with this one.

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Photo of yesyouam
4.23/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Southern Tier Back Burner is a clear, dense, ruby ale with a thick, lumpy, yellow-beige head that has outstanding retention and lacing. It has a strong, sweet aroma that's grainy, tart and grassy. It's full bodied and very smooth with a dry, delicate finsh. It's very sweet. The grassy hops are present. It's not super bitter, but it's pretty American tasting. There is a long aftertaste of whiskey and juniper and perhaps peat. 22 oz. is a lot of this. It looks like this is the "FIRST BREWED OF TWO THOUSAND & EIGHT".

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Photo of Stigs
3.88/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

bomber, poured into a mini Chimay goblet...sampling about 8oz of this

A - poured a thin layer of offwhite foam which sped away quickly. the liquid is a cloudy very dark burnt amber. looks like just about every other barleywine ive ever had.

S - loads and loads of dark fruits...fresh grapes, raisins, also apricots. some brown sugar thrown in as well.

T - more of the fruits, but throw in more sweetness and also a pleasantly surprising chocolate near the end. very small amount of hops creep in near the end and also some citrus here and there. great balance.

M - sticky, real sticky. pleasant aftertaste, and just about perfect carbonation...maybe the tiniest bit overdone and a tad bit thin.

D - not a huge fan of barleywines, but liked this. alcohol is very well hidden, the taste isnt too over the top with sweetness, and a pleasant mouthfeel. another pleasing release from Southern Tier.

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Photo of MbpBugeye
3.94/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Poured into a snifter as the bottle suggests. A small, bone colored head rises late and leaves early, leaving some wisps and some sticky lace. There is a little bit of tiny bubbles rushing up to the collar of foam left around the side of the glass.
The body is a caramel orangeish brown. Not much light gets through but this beer glows pretty well.

S- Somewhat faint but heavy on the malts and equally heavy on piney and floral hops.

T- Lots of sweet caramel, brown sugar, molasses. The hops give it a nice citrusy side. Its notes of lemon, lime and grapefruit as well as some pine, especially on the finish. The alcohol is nearly just right. It is apparent but not too much. This is a well balanced beer.

M- Nice and full. Very syrupy, sticky and viscous. Low carbonation and a sticky, juicy finish.

D- Not at all hot. Great especially for the ABV. This is a nice balanced full and big sipper.

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Photo of TommyW
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- Cloudy, brownish gold with lots of tiny bubbles coming up the sides of the glass forming a thin, off-white head.

S- Caramel malts with some fruitiness (maybe golden raisins and apricot), faint note of floral hops and a note of alcohol as well.

T- Big caramel malt base with some notes of molasses and a nice warming alcohol presence.

M- Full and smooth body with a nice carbonation.

D- Really enjoyed this one a lot; a great sipper.

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Photo of portia99
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle (2007 vintage) poured into a Portsmouth goblet.

A - Pours a beautiful reddish amber/brown color (held to the light, this gives off a not quite, but close to a red wine color)...perfectly clear with a small, tight bubbled cream colored head that fades rapidly to a thick collar around the glass and sparse pockets of bubbles on the surface.

S - Tons of caramel character here. Very rich and sweet, lots of fruity aromas here...a little bit brighter than expected. Malty sweetness, brown sugar, unfermented wort.

T - Quite malty, tons of caramel, a touch of coffee and dark roasted malts. Molasses, brown sugar. Some fruityness (I'm getting citrus - oranges, lemons) and a good portion of port wine character. Alcohol presence is definitely there, but not at all hot...a couple of years on this one has smoothed out any hotness that was there to begin. Hop levels are just about perfect. Bottle says 85 IBU, but this has mellowed for sure over the years. There is still enough bitterness there to really balance this out well for me. Tons of malt and sweeet character, but the hops keep this from seeming cloying or syrupy. Very good barleywine.

M - Fairly full bodied. Has a nice feel on the tongue - a touch oily and quite viscous. The hops keep this from feeling syrupy. Carbonation is maybe a touch high for my liking, although I would say it is medium level overall. Just feels maybe a little too prickly for my tastes, feel it would be better served at a lower level to enhance the fullness of the body. Overall, still quite good.

D - I was a little bit concerned(?) about opening this bomber for myself, but figured what the heck. Thought it might be tough to get thru, but I'm finding this much more drinkable than expected. At 10%, it is on the high side...this will be my last beer of the night, but this is hidden fairly well. Thought with a couple of years on this the hops would be totally faded and this might be a super sweet barleywine, but I am pleasantly surprised to find that it is quite well balanced.

My local store still has about a case of the 2007's left...think I'm going to have to go down there and get a couple more bottles before they disappear.

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Photo of NYCWheatFanSC
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - nice solid, untapering amber that pours a 1-finger off-white/cream head that dissipates rather quickly, but leaves a good amount of lacing

S - The hops shine right through from the very beginning, with a floral and citric background bringing up the rear. Not too faint alcohols linger as well.

T - The hops are nicely balanced with the malts, making for a well-rounded barley wine. Perhaps a bit too sweet for my taste, especially as it warms. The alcohol is dangerously well concealed nonetheless.

M - very, very good. nicely carbonated and a solid creamy consistency.

D - I could drink this all day long - but definitely shouldn't.

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Photo of thain709
4.12/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 bottle

A - Poured a deep copper color with ruby highlights around the edges...a one finger head formed and fell into a spotty cap...nice lacing

S - The hops are still really present in the nose...lots of citrus is coming through with a little bit of flora-ness as well...there is a strong sweet smelling backbone

T - Again the hops are really up front and lingering even after a year on the bottle...they tingle your tongue first and the grapefruit really stands out...the middle of this beer is really sweet...the malts are predominately caramel and toffee flavors with a nice roast on them...there is some dark fruit lingering in the background but I can't put my finger on it...the hops again come back at the end and leave you with a nice bitterness that isn't too strong

M - Medium bodied...the alcohol is well hidden and has a nice ending thanks the balance of hops and malt

D - The 10% ABV is really well hidden on this one in the taste but you will start to notice it after a while...I was surprised at the amount of hops still left after a year...I wonder what a fresh bottle would taste like?

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Photo of pwoods
3.93/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22oz. brown bomber poured into a snifter. Notes.

A: Deep mohagony pour, completely opaque. Shortish light tan head on the pour with good retention. Nice lacing.

S: Super sweet malts with dense bready aromas. Hops are light but present and floral. Just a touch of alcohol in the nose.

T/M: Sweet malts with a great alcohol complexity. Hops are a bit bigger with a nice bitterness and a citrus twist. Dense dark moist bread and dark fruits. Body is nearly full and a bit chewy.

D: Big beer but still drinkable fresh. Definitely have to take your time, though.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.18/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark bronze with bright Sunkist highlights... that becomes blood orange when backlit with fading afternoon sunshine. Topping the liquid is an outstanding looking lid of golden brown sugar colored creaminess that is starting to lay down gorgeous sheets of shotgun-blasted lace. We have ourselves a looker.

The aroma is exactly what the ingredients list says it will be. It's moderately caramel-like and has a decent amount of citrusy hoppiness. The hops (Chinook, Willamette, Amarillo and Centennial) could stand to be a little more aggressive, but then this isn't a DIPA, so allowances will be made. No appreciable alcohol is a plus.

Back Burner Barley Wine Style Ale is yet another delicious big beer from the good folks at Southern Tier Brewing Company. These guys almost never let me down (Imperial Cherry Saison is an unfortunate exception). This brew is sweeter and less hoppy than I typically like, but I'm enjoying it all the same.

I'm still floored by how the 10.0% ABV tastes several percentage points lower... at least. The flavor profile include a raging river of melted caramel and a boatload of liqueur-infused fruitiness. Let's go with maraschino cherries, orange peel and grapefruit peel macerated in Grand Marnier.

If I had cracked the crown right after release (when the alpha acids were still kickin' like a mule), the flavor score might have been one notch higher. As is, this stuff is too good not to give the drinkability score a well-deserved bump.

The mouthfeel is as expected given the talent at this brewery and a few megatons of malt sugars. Calling it luxurious would not be out of line. Well-integrated carbonation does great work behind the scenes.

Back Burner may not be my favorite Southern Tier beer, but it's damn good stuff that I will definitely be drinking again. This is a gentle giant of an American barleywine that everyone from adventurous newbies to beer geeks should enjoy. This beer geek sure does.

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Photo of Rguardian989
4.11/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

presentation - 2008 bottle served into a snifter

appearance and smell - awesome mahogany color with a tan head that lingers for a little while before settling to a film on the top of the beer. leaves a pretty good amount of lacing for a 10%'er. for some reason i get a pretty strong chocolate note in there from the first sniff. lots of dark fruit and caramel. lots of caramel... defintly some hop complexities in there but still overtly sweet.

Taste - taste is sweet with a bit of a bitter bite that lingers on for a little while. dark fruits and caramel again are both in the flavor. the alcohol is appreciated in the flavor but it doesnt cut in more than a little bit in the overall flavor, thus it is pretty well masked.

mouthfeel and drinkability - good level of carbonation with an underlying hop bite. alcohol makes its statement but is quickly washed away by the sweetness again. very smooth. i could and did drink a whole bomber of it over the course of this evening. the 10% is making me very loose so i wouldnt press onward if i had more of this delicious barelywine.

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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.

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Photo of webmanspidey
3.65/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Bomber poured into a Chimay chalice. A dark caramel/amber color with a slight head. Smells sweet and rich.. taste is much of the same. Full bodied, very rich, heavy, and malty with a mild hoppy bitterness in the background. Alcohol is present but not overwhelming, yet the overall characteristics of this make it a very slow sipper.

For this most part, I think this beer is pretty par for the course for the style. A solid offering.

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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.

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Photo of mhatters
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a Duvel tulip

Pours a copper color, clear, with a medium white head

Decent amount of hops in the nose, with a backnote of caramel and fruitiness

The flavor is similar to the nose, - this is really well-balanced. Not too hoppy, not too sweet, not too malty - strong ion each without overpowering in any.

Crisp finish, low carbonation but an overall light feel

Easy to drink - not the best barleywine in the world, but pretty damn good

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Photo of nick76
3.87/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The aroma is very rich with caramel, toffee, grass, butter, nuts, and toasted malt. The appearance is deep amber with a head that is appropriate for the style. The flavor is like the aroma with a bitter and malty finish. The palate is smooth and thick. Overall this is just what you are looking for when you want a Barley Wine.

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Photo of Bung
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

22 oz. Cloudy amber pour, with a nice whitish ring around and good lacing. Aroma is sweet malt up front, caramel covered fruit, faint hops. Taste is a pleasant and balanced blend of caramel, malt, yellow raisin, brown sugar and piney hops. Pleasant nearly creamy mouthfeel. Nearly 2 years on this has turned it into a cross between an English and American barleywine. I prefer the English, so I'm glad I waited. One of the most balanced barleywines I've had. Drinkability is good for a big beer, good warming brew. Worth trying, but if you're really looking for American style, drink this fresh.

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Photo of Docer
3.93/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Acquired in a trade some time ago... let it sit in the cooler for a few months... found many S. Tier brews to be too sweet.... let's see about this one. Drinking at cooler temp. of 9 deg. C. Not at the recommended 5.5 deg. C.

- Dark caramel color.. mostly see-thru with lots of swirls of yeast and chunks floating about. Minimal bubbly head down to a nice small amount of lace.

- Smells like a caramel malt bomb of a barleywine (which most do). Similar to Rogues scent anyway. Some bitter notes, fresh hops... even in my slightly aged bottle. Sweet molasses.. brown sugar..

- Nice thick robust malt profile.. ester, sugars and more ester. Not much of a strong alcohol flavor at all... but burns a bit once swallowed. Some floating yeast delivers a bit of a bitter bread zing.. zingy bitter hop.. which is quite nice.. and some floral hop notes as well... surprised the hops actually are well balanced in this... hard to pull of in a barleywine.

- Slightly dry, but a zinginess leaves the mouth watering a bit to make up for it. Some sticky chewiness..

- Overall still a bit on the sweet side, but the flavors are there, and I think aging my bottle helped dissolve any hint of strong alcohol in the initial flavor... overall very good.

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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!

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Photo of BMoney575
4.57/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sampled on 9-14-09

Pours an ultra-cloudy red/brown color, with a thin white head that bubbles away. Boozy looking, with no lacing whatsoever.

Smell is great strong malt and super booze, with a hoppy fruitiness to keep things even. A year in the cellar has added just the right amount of age.

Taste huge booze, in a good way. Lots of peaty malt, a little smoky, tons of bitter hops, and slight coffee at the very end. One of the best I've had.

Mouthfeel is dead nuts for the style, slick to go with the hops and alcohol.

Drinkability is quite good, considering.

Overall, an impressive Southern Tier. Get some, but age it first.

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Photo of tigg924
3.55/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: minimal head, moderate carbonation, orange-brown, slightly cloudy

Smell: pineapple, pine, malt, hops, and dark fruit

Taste: hops, alcohol, sweet dried fruit, pine, caramel, and malt

Mouthfeel: harsh/bitter first sip then smooth with a bitter aftertaste, medium heavy in body

Drinkability: One is enough for me. This one definately lands on the bitter side of barleywines. This does have a good flavor combination and the alcohol is not hidden. To me this is not as experimentive as other barleywines I have tried.

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Photo of Arbitrator
1.9/5  rDev -52.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Lightly chilled bottle into a glass. Received in a trade from busch03. Thanks Waylon!

A: Pours a clear mahogany in the glass with ruby highlights when held against a lamp. The pour produces a light tan-colored head of two fingers' worth, but it slowly recedes into half a finger on the brew, and leaves some flecks of lacing down the glass. Really impressive for a 10%er.

S: Sickly sweet. Oh god. I was getting worried upon smelling this, thinking it was going to wind up tasting like the Cuvee One, which was a total sugar bomb. Caramel malts, toffee, honey, brown sugar, and fruits: pineapple / citrus and apple. Hugely complex, but it has me scared this is going to turn into an oversweet drain pour. Too much.

T: Surprisingly, it is not oversweet. Definitely caramel and some chocolate on the initial taste, but they're not out to make this a total malt bomb. Citrus hops make themselves known as grapefruit, orange, and pineapple flavors atop the malt backbone. Their bitterness carries toward the finish, where they work to blend with the more unrefined sweetness of honey and brown sugar. The finish is faintly grassy with a lingering bitterness. Some booze.

M: Viscous and thick, suggesting a lot of residual sugars, but the hops do well to fight them off. I'd be very worried about having this aged, though -- with faded hops, I think this would quickly become an imbalanced sugar bomb. Creamy carbonation. Slightly boozy.

D: I have another one, but I'm not looking to drink it anytime soon. I'm a little apprehensive about what it will turn into, but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt since it is fairly good right now.

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