M Belgian-Style Barleywine | Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

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97
world-class
95 Ratings
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M Belgian-Style BarleywineM Belgian-Style Barleywine
BEER INFO

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

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.

BEER STATS
Ratings:
95
Reviews:
42
Avg:
4.68
pDev:
7.05%
 
 
Wants:
445
Gots:
12
For Trade:
3
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 95 |  Reviews: 42
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.

 876 characters

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 spycow
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of SocalKicks
4.4/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of largadeer
4.97/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: M sits in the glass with a dark but clear chestnut colored body and a finger of tan head that slowly settles into a thin disc. An unusually beautiful barleywine.

Aroma: Spicy oak, cinnamon and nutmeg upon first smell. Caramel, tobacco and leather come out more as it breathes, along with a hint of earth and soy sauce-like oxidation. Rich and complex but not terribly sweet.

Taste/mouthfeel: Big oak flavors up front; spicy and leathery with a nice tannic backbone. Plenty of sweetness in the form of brown sugar, figs, dark chocolate and vanilla. No heat, no trace of alcohol whatsoever in fact. For such an incredibly complex beer, this is neither too rich nor heavy; the balance is impeccable. Finishes earthy, woody, chocolatey and semi-sweet. At over 4 years old, oxidation is present but very subtle, lending a hint of soy sauce and sherry. I can see this beer aging gracefully for many more years. Thanks for sharing the bottle, Stephen.

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Photo of zestar
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%

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 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 drewone
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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 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 imperialking
5/5  rDev +6.8%

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.

 2,536 characters

Photo of Gonzoillini
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

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.

 1,345 characters

Photo of DoubleJ
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of yourefragile
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of Halcyondays
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of HopHead84
4.97/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer was brought to our tasting on 7/25/09-7/26/09 by a very generous Stephen.

M appears very dark in my snifter, nearly black. The creamy one finger toffee head lingers atop the liquid for a long time. The retention is good, and when the head finally recedes it leaves creamy swirls in my glass of various shades of brown. Some scattered lacing sticks to my glass.

The aroma is truly remarkable. I stuck my nose in the snifter and kept it there for 10 minutes before finally taking a sip. The aroma opens up with a complex interaction between sweet Belgian candied sugar, bourbon, and chocolate. The candied sugar is permeating, at all time lending a perfect level of sweetness to the beer. Beautiful notes of caramel dance across my olfactory with vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon following close behind. Molasses is present, as well as tobacco and a leathery quality that goes hand in hand with the earthiness of the beer. The alcohol is almost completely hidden. Fruit notes are evident in the form of dates and figs.

The flavor of this beer was a difficult one for me to describe. There was so much going on I couldn't possibly capture it all with a mere pen and paper, and for a split second frustration washed over me when I came to that realization. I took small sips with a blank note pad before me for many minutes before I finally began writing everything I was experiencing.

The flavor is initially of sweet Belgian candied sugar and brown sugar, with some strong oak and chocolate notes. The chocolate falls somewhere between dark and milk. It's too dark to be milky and too milky to be dark. It's just like this beer to simulate a chocolate flavor I can't adequately describe. The spices I smelled are present in the flavor, playing off the oak, along with a lesser vanilla character. Earthiness accompanies leather, rich toffee, and caramel. Bourbon is ubiquitous, and I taste a touch of soy sauce as well as a hint of tobacco. The fruit component of the beer is of the dark persuasion, simulating raisins, plums, figs, dates, and grapes. I see the bottle says 11.6% ABV, but I taste no alcohol. The finish is rich and seems to sum up all the flavors I've experienced on my journey through M, finally choosing to linger on my palate for a long time until I take my next sip.

M is full bodied with a complimenting low level of carbonation. The mouthfeel is soft and smooth on the palate, almost silky at times. Other times it's chewy, creamy, and sticky.

This beer far exceeded my expectations. This is in my top 5 of all time. At 4 years, this beer is remarkable and shows no signs of going downhill any time soon. Get your hands on this at all costs! This is near perfection.

The doubt as to whether or not this beer would be in the lineup, and the anticipation that it might be plagued me for over a month. First it wasn't going to be there, then it was, then it might be, then it wasn't, then it was again, then we heard nothing two hours into the tasting, and then it finally showed up at my door. I can't thank you enough Stephen. It's safe to say I would have never tried this beer if not for your generosity. For me, this was the highlight of the tasting.

 3,189 characters

Photo of kscaldef
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of CheapBeerBuzz
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of DefenCorps
4.97/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Stephen really took the You Bring the Cheese to the next level with bottles of this and the 2005 Berserker. Thank you, Stephen, this is one of those I never thought I'd see.

A: Very dark brown, rather surprisingly so for a barleywine with a thin beige head. Brownish highlights. Retention isn't great, but this is an attractive beer nonetheless.

S: Insane depth and complexity. Oak and bourbon apparent at first with a lot of brown sugar, toffee, cocoa, slightly charred caramel and vanilla. Mildly nutty, with a skin-like bitterness, mild oxidation, just beautiful. The Belgian yeast character is noticeable (but not whelming) with a mild spiciness, with nutmeg being the dominant component to my nose. By far the most complex beer I've had.

T: 600+ reviews in, this is the first time I', having a hard time describing a beer. Most of my reviews deconstruct a beer into 3 or 4 segments - opening flavors, what follows, a mid-palate and a finish. This beer doesn't fit that mold, and gives me a very hard time.

Needless to say, the immense depth on the nose was only a sign of things to come. Very, very complex, but also incredibly well integrated. A complex blend of sugar, honey, toffee and a mild coconut, bourbon, vanilla and oak dance around the palate, with cocoa and more toffee. The finish is outstanding, incredibly long and flavorful. Truly exceptional

M: Big in body without being syrupy, soft carbonation that enhances the velvet-like character of the beer and an incredible finish with a complex blend of brown sugar, toffee, bourbon and tannins. This is the second beer that I'd give a 6 for the mouthfeel (after Pliny the Younger)

D: This is one of the most drinkable beer out there. I would trade a kidney for this. Worth it's weight in gold. Stephen, I can't thank you enough for a truly religious beer experience

** March 28 2010. I got to try this again at the Most Epic Fucking Tasting You Wish You Were A Part Of. Thank you, Trey. **
I'm going to have to up the appearance, it looks great with nice lacing and great head retention.
The nose is as excellent as I remember it being. The spicy alcohol character is present, brown sugar and bourbon being a little more forward. A touch of oxidation is also present, with raisins and dates. More molasses, is present.
The palate opens with plenty of molasses, dark brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, caramel, buckwheat honey. The spice character is excellent, I'm getting a little nutmeg and mace, and that complements the alcohol really well. This beer is perfect right now, if you've got one, drink it now.

 2,579 characters

Photo of BDeibs
4.12/5  rDev -12%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of cosmicevan
4.81/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

big thanks goes out to GrumpyOldTroll, jbuddle, Sean9689, SpeedwayJim, AgentZero, dtmets84 for sharing in the greatest day of beer that i have ever been a part of. huge thanks to mike for providing this bit of unobtainium.

notes from 1/12/2013

consumed from a midnight sun tulip.

a - looks just like dave (that i saved for some side by side comparisons)...deep purple, but has a thin head and spotty lacing.

s - smells like purple grapes. i definitely get some belgian sweetness. plum, dark fruit...like a barleywine crossed with a belgian strong dark.

t - flavor is simply awesome. nutmeg and chocolate. dark fruit glazed in some booziness, but extremely balanced and just truly excellent. i have heard that there is a lot of bottle variation and many people that i'm sharing this bottle with have had M before and they are all saying that this is the best bottle they've tried so far.

m - SUPER easy drinking. light carbonation, but a great feel.

o - overall, i really didn't think that this beer could possibly live up to the hype and i have been heard the tales of the age and oxidation and bottle variation, but this bottle was spectacular. i was blown away by this beer mostly because it exceeded my expectations and really lived up to the hype. one of the true highlights of a day where it was hard for a beer to stick out as a highlight.

 1,352 characters

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M Belgian-Style Barleywine from Midnight Sun Brewing Co.
4.68 out of 5 based on 95 ratings.
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