M Belgian-Style Barleywine | Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

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M Belgian-Style BarleywineM Belgian-Style Barleywine

Brewed by:
Midnight Sun Brewing Co.
Alaska, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.60%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
On this 10-year mark, Midnight Sun Brewing Company proudly releases its 1000th batch of beer - a larger-than-life Belgian-style Barley Wine (if such a style exists) simply called M - in commemoration of the enduring spirit that founded and sustains this little brewery in the extreme Northwest. Making M required a massive grain bill - seven seductive malts - boosted by strength-inducing Belgian candi sugar. Once original gravity hit 37 Plato, a frenzied fermentation ensued: four completely fabulous yeast strains, two of Belgian origin, transformed this sweet concoction into all that is beer. But not just any beer. A beer of madcap magnitude - 11.6% ABV. Character and complexity increased exponentialy while M meddled and mellowed for several months in all-American bourbon oak barrels. Blending the aged beer before bottling ascertained smoothness. M is mesmerizing, pouring dark and silky. Caramel and spice waft up from the glass; bourbon, molasses, leather and vanilla follow. The first taste proffers tobacco, burnt sugar and raisin with a sublime port-like finish, but bourbon - smooth, sensuous, brooding bourdon - is ever-present. The finish, a bit edgy like an American take on barley wine, provides the necessary leap toward overall balance. M is a precious gift to ourselves as well as you, seekers of beer-that-is-beyond-beer adventures... We are but mere mortals in the presence of M.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 06-16-2005

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 41 | Ratings: 94
Photo of Alieniloquium
4.07/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

650 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Dark body. Nearly black. Small khaki head.

Smell - Sherry and a bit of cardboard oxidation. Sweet brown sugar and caramel. Mild dark roasted malts.

Taste - Sweet. Sherry flavored oxidation. Caramel. Some roasted malts. Dates. Not any barrel, really. Lots of raisin fruitiness.

Mouthfeel - Thick bodied. Sweet, but not overly so. Alcohol is still prevalent.

Overall - Well, I'm underwhelmed. It's really good, but it's not earth-shattering.

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Photo of kayalla
4.08/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A huge thanks to Nate for this. I feel almost guilty having this handed to me at our MS tasting. Anyway, looks dark brown with a thin head in the snifter. Aroma was nice, old tobacco, sherry, dark chocolate, spice and oak. The flavor was rich dark chocolate, brown sugar, sherry, with a kind of long bitterness that I wondered about. Alcohol heat or some creeping oxidation? We drank this next to "similar" beers in Sloth, Berserker, and Bar Fly, and this really was more oxidized, kind of an alchol heat bitterness on the tongue. Pretty thick in the body. This has some great things going on, pretty old and elegant tasting, but I would venture it was better 3-4 years back. Sorry gang, Sloth and Bar Fly were both better than this, but Nate, I owe you still.

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Photo of cpetrone84
4.1/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Wonderful moment with two great friends, cheers to Kevin and Jeremy. Pour is black with light brown head. Nose is salty, soy, and date. A fair amount of berry fruit sweetness behind. Taste is a bit less soy, sweet berry, dates and figs. Some caky rum soaked raisin or date. Really soft body, full an gentle at the same time with very soft carbonation and extremely inviting. Overall, not really any oxidation, a really well put together beer, lots of sweetness but not sugary, nothing mind blowing but very solid.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.32/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to GRG1313 for sharing this one at his tasting.

Release date: 5/5/05.

Pours a murky reddish-brown with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of toasted malt, caramel, toffee, dark fruit, and raisin aromas. Taste is much the same with toast, caramel, toffee, dark fruit, raisin, and slight cardboard flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of earth bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and sticky mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer that is showing a bit of oxidation in the taste, but the flavors are still fantastic to me.

Serving type: bottle.

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Photo of GRG1313
4.39/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Admittedly I tried this for the first time 10 years after its release, the bottle having been cellared the past several years in a 53-55 degree walk in cellar. Sometimes cellaring works - this time it did. This beer is aged; it's old and it's past its prime. However, it remains a beer to be reckoned with.

Deep ruby or pomegranate brown with an assertive spiced coffee, malty, raising and cooked chocolate nose. The texture of the beer (the mouthfeel) is like velvet. This one was a huge surprise all around. I finally opened it since I found it in the back of my cellar and I just "knew" that it would be old and funky and just needed to be opened. Well, it was wonderful! Oxidized? Yeah...a bit, but the flavor profile was all there and truth is, it was part of a blind tasting so no one was influenced by what it was! We were all very surprised and delighted.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.42/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Huge, huge thanks to Scott for opening this bottle and giving me the opportunity to try some. Served in a Midnight Sun goblet.

Pours a very dark brown with a thin light tan head that recedes fairly-quickly, leaving behind a few spots of lacing as it falls to a thin collar. The nose has loads of dark fruits with plum and raisin being prominent. The background is a bit of caramel and toffee with very mild esters. Some barrel character is there, though it's in the background.

The flavor adds in a touch of port character along with a very mild oak and vanilla presence. Not the most complex that I've had, but quite good. Body is medium with low carbonation and a slight viscosity. Smooth with no noticeable alcohol.

Overall, a very delicious beer that I would have at any time. However, at this point, I'd say that things like King Henry and perhaps Kuhnhenn BB4D are equal or better. Still, what a damn fine experience.

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Photo of Jeffo
4.42/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Many years in the making and finally I was able to find a trade for this one, which has probably been my top want for several years now. Very happy to give this one a shot, finally. Big cheers goes out to the beer crew here for coming over to my place to help me drink it. Always a good time gents.

From a bomber into a mini snifter
Bottled 5 May 2005
Drank along side a recent vintage of Arctic Devil and some Flossmoor b-wines.

APPEARANCE: Pours out quite dark for the style, yielding a half finger, light tan head with decent retention. Same color as Arctic Devil and darker than Wooden Hell, sitting a deep maroon red in color with no carbonation evident. A splotchy wisp and ring remain leaving some falling dots of lacing down the glass. Definitely darker than the average barleywine.

SMELL: Lots of raisins and dark fruits on the nose. Some plumbs, dates, figs and dark caramel malts as well, but this is raisins and more raisins. Very nice, but also very different.

TASTE: Like a Belgian strong dark ale in many ways. Dark caramel malt sweetness with dark fruits, plumbs, figs, and lots of raisins up front. Red wine and grapes with light oak notes as well. A big finish of red wine, plumbs, figs, dark fruits and raisin sweetness with some slight oak flavors as well. A touch of vanilla sweetness there as well from the barrel aging, but this is really raisin and dark fruit heavy, with the barrel aging coming out as more red wine than oak bourbon per se. Really tasty and unique for sure.

PALATE: Medium-full body and medium levels of carbonation. Creamy smooth on the palate, goes down smooth and finishes a touch drier than expected. No real heat. Definitely thicker and fuller than Arctic Devil.

OVERALL: This was really wonderful and extremely enjoyable to drink. I didn't detect any oxidization or other signs of age on this bottle either. Definitely unique in the style, with a lot of dark fruit and red wine qualities here, especially flavors of raisins and grapes. One of my friends called it a raisin bomb, which might just put it close to some Belgian strong dark ales we are familiar with over here. This one also showed very little of the oak bourbon barrels it was aged in, which also made it stand out in the lineup we put together. It's hard to say whether a beer like this has lived up to its billing, but suffice it to say that it certainly didn't disappoint and I am very glad I kept at it and finally found one. We all enjoyed this beer immensely. Till we meet again.

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Photo of brewandbbq
4.47/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown and nearly opaque, with traces of ruby in the hips of the tulip glass.
A tan head of humble proportions struggled to reveal itself, with a stretch of a pour.
The quarter-inch of foam dissapated quickly, leaving a partial coverage at best.
Susequent swirls of the glass rose up continued frothing easily.
Remarkable in the nose. Heavily laced with thick malt, dried figs, charred oak, bourbon, and port.
Layers of richness continue with shades of leather, sherry, dark rum, toffee, and vanilla.
Mouthfeel is thick and chewy. Quite sticky and somewhat syrupy.
The pallet is rich and decadent.
Caramelized sugars, chewy malt, vineous port, and burnt chocolate bits.
Beneath the massive malt bill and unfermentables lies a cherry-like oxidation and bourbon.
Bitterness and any hopping is negligable, and the vineous nature leans the brew into an "Old ale" stance.
Finishes sweetish with lingering dark rum, port, smoked leather, and caramlized brown sugar.

A totally unique beer, with liquer overtones.

Big props to Tim for hooking me up with this remarkable brew.

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Photo of drabmuh
4.47/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A generous pour shared by Scott the other day in Waldorf, MD. Year of the whale continues. Served in a Midnight Sun glass because I would never have the opportunity to do that again.

Beer is brown, dark brown with a thin head on it, tan bubbles, no lacing, moderate retention, low carbonation.

Aroma is really nice. Probably the highlight of the beer is the depth of the aroma. Obvious things like caramel, raisins, a mild plum presence, other things like figs, chocolate, roast, mild yeast, vanilla. A very nice aroma.

Beer is strong and medium in body, sweet up front, a mild roastiness, subtle bitterness, figs and plums on the body, no hints of oxidation, no paper, nothing at all. A nice finish with the flavor carrying through to the end.

While this beer was good, approaching great, sometimes the point of climbing that mountain isn't to get the top because there is a treasure there, it is just to get to the top. This beer didn't change my life or open up what I thought a beer could be. It wasn't the platonic ideal of a barleywine, King Henry is a better beer in my opinion, but I got to drink this beer with a few friends, reflect on the evening and really tease apart the flavors and variables at work here. I'll never get to have it again, but it would be too difficult to rebuild that day anyway. Some things, once is enough.

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Photo of jegross2
4.48/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewing the infamous and elusive M Begian-Style Barleywine from the Midnight Sun Brewing Company out of Anchorage, Alaska. This is Midnight Sun's 10th anniversary beer and 1,000th batch produced. This barleywine has a massive malt bill, used four different strains of yeast to ferment (two were of Belgian origin, hence the "Belgian-Style"), and was aged in bourbon barrels.

Score: 96

May 2005 vintage bottle served in a snifter glass and enjoyed at Dark Lord Day 2013 on 04/27/13. HUGE thanks to Shawn Raymond, the generosity king of all kings, for this glorious hookup! This is likely going to be the biggest whale I ever slay, and I cannot begin to thank you enough for the opportunity. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a traditional toffee brown barleywine color with a wispy coating and thick ring of tan-beige head. Good lacing and retention for the pour size. 4/5

Smell: Surprised to find no real oxidation here. The dark fruit presence is greater than anticipated, with ample caramel to boot. Bourbon-oak, vanilla, and molasses too. Incredibly enticing; an interesting medley of flavors. 4.75/5

Taste: Taste follows the nose, but the vanilla character seems more prominent. Incredibly smooth, perfectly balanced. Just a hint of positive fruity oxidation, which plays nicely into the dark fruit character. There is a little bit of raw chocolate or cocoa powder-like flavor too. Some non-sweet molasses flavor as well. I do not detect any oak, and the bourbon quality was pretty subtle overall save for the vanilla. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: I felt the viscocity and carbonation were appropriate, but one of the trade offs of analyzing a small pour is the mouthfeel. If you want to get a few good tastes, you cannot take a single sip large enough to get any solid impression about the mouthfeel. The flavor balance was excellent, and I did not find this barleywine to be too fruity or sweet even with eight years of age. 4/5

Overall: An excellent beer, and one of the top barleywines that I have had the opportunity to tick. However, that said, this beer is not one of the ten best overall beers I had ever had and it certainly is not worth the $1,500 the last one sold for on eBay.

Cost: $10 or $15 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle at the brewery at the time of the release, the most recently sold bottle that I know of sold for over $1,500.

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Photo of grub
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

lantern corps beer summit 2010 - day 1, oct 8/2010. xmarcnolanx contributed this one. thanks marc!

22oz bottle with a tag describing the beer.

pours nearly clear brown, showing great ruby highlights when held to the light. a thin ring of fine tan bubbles forms around the edge of the glass but leaves no lace.

aroma is great. caramel and toffee. whole wheat bread and biscuit. light alcohol. lots of complex dark fruit - date, raisin, fig. hint of oxidation.

taste is great. caramel and toffee again. whole wheat bread and biscuit. light alcohol. just under medium bitterness level. the complex dark fruit from the aroma is joined by a nice dark and milk chocolate component, lending a chocolate covered raisin slant. light orange and tangerine. big and sweet.

mouthfeel is great. medium-large body. medium-low carbonation level.

drinkability is great. great balance. i think that to some degree it's been overshadowed by the beers drank just before it, but for me at least it still manages to hold its own. not as big as the last ones, with more balance too. good stuff!

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Photo of coreyfmcdonald
4.54/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle split a few ways into a snifter

A: Pours very dark brown, nearly black, with a half finger of off white head. Retention is decent.

S: Extremely complex - one of the most complex aromas I've ever encountered. Tons of dark fruit - prunes and raisins up front. Just behind that I get quite a bit of vinous qualities and a hint of bourbon. Burnt sugars are also very apparent along with a bit of dark and milk chocolate. There is a bit of oxidation, but it's pleasant.

T: Like the aroma, lots of dark fruits up front. Just behind that I get some burnt sugars and dark chocolate as well. Wine and bourbon are present, but subdued. I get some moderate oxidation notes here - wish I had this a few years ago. Balanced and complex, this beer never becomes too sweet despite the wide array of sweet flavors adding to the complexity of the beer.

M: Low carbonation with medium thickness - quite creamy.

O: Well, I never thought I'd be able to try this beer. The aroma is the best I've come across in a barleywine. The flavor is a bit oxidized, but certainly quite nice. Very balanced and complex, I'm impressed.

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Photo of juzy
4.55/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Being that there is no more of this, we didn't want to crack one of the twelve in our cellar so we headed out to Cafe Amsterdam where we knew there to be a few bottles left. We last sampled this in September or October and I remember that I thought it still needed more time aging.

Bottled in May of 2005, it's almost a year old.

We bought the bottle for $15 at Cafe Amsterdam (I think we paid $10 a bottle at the brewery back last May).

It pours a dark, opaque, deep brown with a tan rim of big bubbles. The legs would rival any fine wine. Dotted lace clings to the wine glass it was served in.

It has a very port-like nose; dark fruit, vanilla, bourbon, oak - lovely to take in.

The taste has mellowed since the last sampling of this. Starting to lose it's "green" taste. Figs, prunes, molasses, a long, sweet, finish loaded with dark fruit and bourbon. Just a touch of hop bitterness to tame the overwhelming malt sweetness.

Some dribbled down the sides of my glass, very sticky on the fingers.

Drinkablity, well for this style, I think I could drink another glass. It's definitely more drinkable now than it was a year ago.

The mouthfeel is smooth, creamy, light carbonation, not as full-bodied as I thought it should be, but overall it's coming along quite well. We'll have to try it again at it's one year anniversary.

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Photo of gford217
4.62/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I want to start off by saying thank you to the generous BA who shared this with a few of us last night. I definitely thought trying this one was beyond my reach. "We are but mere mortals in the presence of M." Indeed.

Pours extremely dark for a barleywine, dark mahogany brown, with a small beige head. It looks almost like a Belgian dark in color, almost black.

Aroma is outstanding and has clearly held up to the years in the bottle. It's a good bit fruiter than I was expecting, certainly more than the typical barleywine. Lots of raisins and plums mixed with chocolate and caramel. The oak is present with some light tannins, leather and booze.

The taste just doesn't live up to the aroma though it's still extremely good. This is clearly where the age is beginning to catch up to M, with hints of oxidation creeping in. The booze soaked dark fruits are in the forefront, but with a chocolate-covered character to the whole thing. The finish is a mixture of port, oak and the oxidized notes. It's a tough call between 4 and 4.5 on the taste but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt....

The mouthfeel is creamy, smooth, and softly carbonated. Hides the alcohol exceptionally well
This is one of the more complex barleywines I've ever had and the nose really stands up to anything I've ever smelled in the style. I have to imagine that this would have been one of the best beers I've ever tasted if I had it 2-3 years ago. As it is, I feel lucky to have been able to try it and it has held up much better than could be expected.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.62/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow...bottle shared by scraff. Thanks a lot, Scott!

The beer appears a dark, chestnut brown color and displays a small, oily, beige head. Only sparse lacing is left behind as well as an oily, filmy layer that coats the snifter.

The aroma shows a bit of age and a myriad of scents, to include figs, raisins, plums, oak, booze, maple, brandy, toffee, caramels.

The beer is rich and luxurious, yet light on the palate somehow. Smooth and velvety, a silky feel. The flavor resembles a fine tawny port or sherry. Dark fruits coated with brown sugar. A delicate sweetness is present throughout. A light, warming booze presence, but unobtrusive. This beer goes down effortlessly. What an experience.

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Photo of Retsinis
4.64/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Ruby Porterish color. Medium carbed head retention. Semi oxidized, notes of caramel, cola, spice, malt, touch of rye. Wow. Admittedly past prime, but thank you Richard. What a treat to taste.

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Photo of BucketBoy
4.65/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Review from notes. I've opened a couple bottles of this, courtesy of the uber-generous Doc! I can't thank you enough, my friend. The bottle being reviewed here was opened at Ryan's Labor Day tasting 2011 (another bottle I opened the following March was almost identical to this one).

L - Glimmering, shimmering dark deep walnut, wispy clouds of fuzz - just beautiful.

S - Sweet booze (sherry/port), chocolate fudge, dark fruits (mostly raisins), touch of oak, and still a micro amount of balancing hops.

T - Dark chocolate, fudge, toffee, dark raisins, figs, plums, sweet apple,bourbon, touch of allspice, vanilla, hint of oak. Regardless of the age, this is a real treat - just delicious stuff.

M - So smooth, creamy, perfect body, slight slickness. An exemplar of perfection for the style.

O - Phenomenal! Although I never had it before fall 2011, it did not seem to have lost anything I would have expected. The bottle I opened in 2012 was just as awesome. Glad I still have another bottle to play with.

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Photo of ygtbsm94
4.67/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Joe for sharing this outstanding brew! 22oz bomber pours a dark brown, opaque, with slight ruby hue in the glass. It has a very port-like nose of dark fruit, vanilla, bourbon, oak gooey malts you can almost taste through your nose. The mouth feel is smooth as silk with very light carbonation. The taste is rich and buttery with molasses, a long sweet finish loaded with dark fruit and bourbon; gotta love this taste. This brew is still very drinkable with the alcohol in the stealth mode; an outstanding finish, kind of like drinking a glass of port wine. Would love to have this superb brew again some day.

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Photo of hopdog
4.67/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle acquired in trade with DarkElf (thanks!).

Poured a dark mahogany color with a smaller sized tan head. Aromas of dark fruits, chocolate, caramel, light roast, smoke, brown sugar, bourbon (not overpowering) and wood. The woodiness came out more and more in the aroma as the beer aired out. Aromas were very complex and I kept getting more as I smelled each time. Tastes of dark fruits (raisins and plums), caramel, earthy / peaty, woody, candi & brown sugar, and vanilla. Very sweet, not cloying, but any sweeter and it would be. Alcohol completely hidden. Creamy body.

The barrel aging was done very well; it complimented both the aromas and tastes nicely.

Notes from and tasted on 3/20/07

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
4.7/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Can't even believe I'm reviewing this one right now. A huge thanks to capra12 (Jon) for pulling this one out as a surprise. Never say never I guess. Reviewed from notes at a tasting on 6/4/11. 4oz. pour from a 22oz. bottle into a Hill Farmstead snifter.

A: Pours a .25 finger light caramel head with great retention. Beer has spotty lacing with little cling but great legs that really coat the glass. Beer itself is a clear, dark brown color.

S: Nose is sublime. Caramel, brown sugar, toffee, vanilla, and a woodiness in the background mixed with the slightest touch of alcohol. Super rich but incredibly mellow at the same time. Very impressive.

T: Opens caramel, brown sugar, toffee, and candied sugar. Plums in the middle with crystalized brown sugar and some raisin. Finish is rich brown sugar that's silky smooth and almost no aftertaste save for a bit of toffee sweetness. Unbelievably balanced and subtle.

M: Medium bodied with low carbonation. Super smooth and rich in the mouth and goes down silky and a bit oily. Finish is rather clean with no aftertaste. An 11.6% beer that drinks like it could be 6-7%.

O: I'm not sure I'm drinking the same beers as the reviewers that are saying this is going downhill. The most balanced, subtle, and well executed barleywine that I've ever had by a mile... really blows everything else I've had in the style out of the water completely. I'm not normally one to buy into the hype but this beer is really incredible in almost every way.

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Photo of mikey711
4.74/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A major thanks to Jon for bringing this surprise beer. I can't get over your generosity my friend!

A: A thin layer of head sits a top a murky toffee colored beer, with some mild lacing.

S: Loads of dark fruit upfront, some port notes, a bit of sherry as well, a mild leathery and woody smokiness, some vanilla notes and a nice bourbon alcohol note. With all this going on, it may seem overwhelming, but the subtlety of this beer is unreal.

T: The first ship provided one of those Zen-like moments where you just get it. I could only mutter the words "Oh Yeah" because i was taken aback by the extreme precision of balance that all of these beers came together to create. Having tried many of the most sought after bourbon barrel wines, i have no problem saying this one is the best and most balanced one I have tried. Tons of toffee and caramel notes with some bracing dark fruit and sherry notes which are accentuated nicely by the wood and bourbon from the barrel

M: Silky smooth, the abv is very deceiving and there is nothing cloyingly sweet about this beer.

D: I will forever be grateful for having the chance to try this beer. In terms of flavor, balance and complexity this has it all. Again, a big thanks to Jon for providing this brew

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Photo of callmemickey
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: Dark chocolate brown body with a thin to moderate sized khaki head. Light amount of lacing left behind.

S: Tootsie rolls, brownies, slight burnt brown sugar, the slightest hints of sherry and booze.

T: Chocolate, caramel, brown sugar, sherry, toffee, slight booze, oak, and a hint of vanilla.

M: The highlight of the beer. Sublimely smooth with a light to medium level of carbonation. Decadent, silky-sweet finish. Not cloying in the slightest. Perfect.

O: This is closer to a 4.75 here, but the nose could have been a "tad" better. Well worth the hunt... I am lucky I didn't have to do the hunting. Thanks, Joe.

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Photo of Sean9689
4.77/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Mega Tasting III. 22oz bottle, wow...really? I'm reviewing this beer? Pinch me. Huge thanks to Derek for this one!

A - Pours a very dark brown, almost black, small ring around the glass, no head or lacking to speak of.

S - Huge sweetness, caramel, molasses, slight dark fruit, ultra-smooth alcohol. Just an excellent combo of sweetness and booze. Lots of chocolate in there as well...wow. The oak is a perfect touch to round things out.

T - Burnt sugars, caramels, chocolate, touch of oak, dark fruits. This is like a decadent chocolate truffle mixed with sweet caramel and dark fruit. Seriously amazing. Lots going on...just excellent. A barleywine and imperial stout hybrid of some sort, IMO.

M - Full, rich and smooth, light carbonation, creamy finish.

O - Uh, wow. This is just phenomenal. Almost like a BA stout in some ways. The chocolate sweetness and dark fruits are just stellar along with the oak. Jeez...really impressive. I would have really liked to have tired this fresh to see what it was like, but really, I enjoyed this so much at the state it's in now. My #1 Barleywine, believe the hype.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.77/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Huge thanks to Derek for pulling this out of the cellar this weekend, and graciously welcoming me into his home for the most obscene collection of beers I've ever seen. Served in a tasting snifter. Bottled May 5th, 2005.

A - Pours with a small tan head that dissipates to a thin collar and some light haze, with minimal lacing. The body is a very, very, dark brown with no hints of transparency. This looks quite a bit different from the other barleywines in the line-up.

S - Caramel, dark fruits, port, raspberry puree, vanilla, chocolate truffle, tobacco, leather, and notes of sherry-like oxidation. There isn't a ton of obvious bourbon from the barrel-aging process - perhaps that has mellowed out over the intervening years. This is quite unique and doesn't really fit the traditional barleywine mold - more of a mix of a Belgian Dark Strong and English Barleywine, with hints of candi sugar and estery yeast.. It's wonderful, but didn't really jump out of the glass the way some of the other beers did, even when it was warm.

T - The taste is actually quite a bit better, as the oxidation is less present and better integrated into the flavor profile. Mid-palate a spot-on chocolate raspberry port flavor emerges. The aftertaste is lightly tannic and oaky but lingers nearly indefinitely.

M - Soft, smooth, chewy, medium-full body. There's minimal alcohol heat, low carbonation, and a dry tannic finish. There's some light residual stickiness as well, but this never gets cloying or syrupy.

D - This was the one of the easiest drinking high-gravity brews I've had the pleasure of trying. My 4-5oz went down really easy, even though I tried to savor it. Compared to Wooden Hell, and especially The Perfect Storm, this was significantly mellower and suited for indefinite sipping.

So it's time to answer the $600 (or more) question. While this was excellent, it was probably the 4th or 5th best beer I had at the tasting. Considering you could buy three cases of The Perfect Storm, a plane ticket to Europe, or God-knows-what-else, there are probably better ways to use your disposable income.

Judging from some of the other reviews it seems like the oxidation is starting to be deleterious instead of complementary - hopefully this will loosen some of the bottles being hoarded in various cellars. I think it's time for Midnight Sun to fire up the mash tun and give everyone the privilege of trying this fresh.

Thanks again Derek, for sharing a very good beer that I was beginning to think I'd never get the chance to try.

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Photo of grumpy
4.8/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

One word: "WOW!!!" Just a great beer. I promised myself I wouldn't hand out scores of 5 when I started submitting reviews here, but then I considered that a 5 is defined as "exceptional." This certainly is an exceptional beer in style and taste. There is nothing I can add to the previous reviewers' tasting notes.

If you like American style Barley Wine and Belgian Strong Dark Ale, you will love this beer. Unfortunately, it's a limited edition. I wish I had more than a couple of bottles of this stashed away. It should age well.

Edit: I see that the aforementioned previous reviews have disappeared. Makes my reference look a little silly. Oh, well, no choice but to go have a beer....

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M Belgian-Style Barleywine from Midnight Sun Brewing Co.
4.68 out of 5 based on 94 ratings.
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