M Belgian-Style Barleywine | Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

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97
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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 jbuddle
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of ChrisPro
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of MordorMongo
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of spycow
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of Halcyondays
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of DoubleJ
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%

Photo of BdubleEdubleRUN
4.5/5  rDev -3.8%

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.

 1,537 characters

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.

 1,118 characters

Photo of Butterworth
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of whartontallboy
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of AgentZero
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.

 929 characters

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 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.

 696 characters

Photo of BrewBoone
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%

Photo of imperialking
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of capra12
5/5  rDev +6.8%

Photo of kundog18
5/5  rDev +6.8%

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.

 619 characters

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.

 760 characters

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

 1,248 characters

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.

 1,491 characters

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.

 1,114 characters

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!

 1,077 characters

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