Old Numbskull - Bourbon Barrel-Aged
AleSmith Brewing Company

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Barleywine - American
Ranked #10
Ranked #929
4.31 | pDev: 7.66%
AleSmith Brewing Company
California, United States
Notes: A West Coast style barleywine. A huge malt profile and a very aggressive dose of premium domestic hops give Old Numbskull a tantalizing complexity, from the aroma to the aftertaste. A year spent in bourbon barrels adds amazing depth and complexity.
Reviews: 101 | Ratings: 447 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Brutaltruth
Brutaltruth from Ohio

4.34/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From the growler via Jungle Jim's Eastgate-2016 vintage-and
enjoyed in a snifter. This mighty fine BBB (?!?hmmmm) pours a
dark red tinged mahogany with a decent head of off white foam that
settles to thick ring and light dusty film. Nose of bourbon, cherries,
brown sugars, vanilla, faint oak, and toffee. Flavors excel by an
excellent presentation of bourbon and vanilla notes that are
mellow and balanced with brown sugars, toffee, cherry, brandy
notes, and touches of leather and tobacco with wafts of toast.
Very nice mouth feel; medium body, light near faint carbonation,
and a rich warming finish that is subtly dry and sweet.

Overall, a true WOW of a brew......ahem...$40 a growler, but
it is worth it!


Apr 18, 2020
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rodbeermunch from Nevada

4.16/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a brown color with a tan head 1/4". Aroma transforms in the barrel, instead of hops, now its like it magically transformed to an Old Ale or English Barleywine. You get a good amount of malty otterness and bourbon in a rich way.

Taste packs a massive amount of toffee and caramel underneath a boozy undercoating you don't even have to ask your manager about. The year long aging in the barrel seems just right, the bourbon is strong, but not so strong itenvelopes everything else about the beer. Sweet tandem bike ride bruh. Starts to pull some dark fruit notes, I didn't see that coming. This beer really transforms in the barrel. Swear it seems like they made a different barleywine for this one. The hop flavor and bitterness seems to just vanish. Gonna be hard to crush the last bottle of this hiding away.

Jan 03, 2019
Photo of emyers
emyers from Illinois

4.41/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2016 vintage. 750 mL bottle poured into a snifter.

Pours brown color with a thin white head.

Nose: sweet caramel up front followed by oak, bourbon, and a bit of alcohol.

Taste: bourbon and sweet caramel up front. Finish is sweet with a touch of alcohol heat.

Feel: full-bodied, rich. Medium-low carbonation.

Jul 28, 2018
Photo of dafla67
dafla67 from Pennsylvania

4.5/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Drank at the brewery. Pours a deep red/amber color. The smell is of caramel and dark fruits. The taste is complex with the caramel, fruits, vanilla and bourbon at the end. The bourbon lingers nicely. The feel is pretty heavy and creamy.

Jul 06, 2018
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stevoj from Idaho

3.96/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Bottle from last night’s share. Thick amber body, small ring of bubbly head, Picking up all of the barley wine essences, but little of the bourbon barrel. Sweet malt, toffee, caramel in both aroma and taste. It doesn’t even present itself as that boozy of a beer. Some dark fruit, raisins, some vanilla

Mar 02, 2018
Photo of Treyliff
Treyliff from West Virginia

4.47/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2016 Vintage
750ml bottle poured into a snifter

A- pours a deep amber color with a thin foamy off-white head that has decent retention

S- tons of caramel and toffee on the nose, as well as leather, tobacco, plenty of wet oak and barrel juice

T- caramel & toffee follow the nose up front, with an immediate hit of barrel notes; wet oak, barrel juice and sweet vanilla. The finish is sweet with more caramel/toffee and plenty of bourbon on the linger

M- medium-heavy body with moderate carbonation leads to a foamy mouthfeel that leads into a creamy chewy finish

O- plenty of bourbon blends perfectly with the base beer, delicious

Jul 02, 2017
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BillRoth from Maryland

4.53/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 release; cellared and opened 6/24/17. Had a great 5 year sleep.
Beer had many of the scent and flavor characteristics of Alesmith BBAging. Warm and incredibly rich and satisfying. I believe the extra aging in the bottle removed any trace of higher ABV and could not have been smoother. Great medium mouthfeel; nothing sticky or cloying. Had been a little fearful because some times a BW ages into something too sweet and worse yet... syrupy.The caramel and vanilla were well pronounced without being obtrusive or distracting. All the wood, malts and hops were very well merged into a singularly excellent barrel enhanced version of the great Alesmith Numskull BW. Flavor was distinguished/outstanding.
Frankly...after many years...and many beers...there are now many good barley wines, and BBA is far from rare these days. Having noted that...it was really great to experience something really special and well crafted.
Highly recommend you grab one of the next releases and hide it way for a long while.

Jun 29, 2017
Photo of GreesyFizeek
GreesyFizeek from New York

4.29/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2016 vintage, on tap at Alesmith Anvil and Stave in San Diego, CA.

This one pours a dark rusted looking brown, with a small head, and no lacing.

Smells like caramel drizzled brown bread, dark fruit, piney hops, figs and oak.

Despite the extended barrel slumber, this still has some vestige of hop character left, which was cool and surprising. It was piney and slightly bitter. It may have added some fruitiness, but the base had a figgy fruity flavor anyway so it's hard to tell. There's also raisin, and a nice caramel sort of brittle flavor. This is quite nice, and usual with Alesmith- quite complex.

This has a surprisingly crisp mouthfeel, with only slightly syrupy feelings.

This isn't Alesmith's pinnacle of BA beers, but it's still quite competent and delicious- gets the job done.

Jan 23, 2017
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gibgink from Missouri

4.35/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Shared at SP bottle release. The barrel aging made this more like an English style barleywine. I did not pick up on the hops, but that didn't bother me. Poured a light reddish/brown, with strong caramel notes on the smell and taste. Was glad I got to try.

May 29, 2016
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imonhiatus from New Jersey

3.98/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2012 vintage enjoyed side by side with a 2013 brandy barrel old numbskull. the nose is nice on this and the flavor is also nice but for a bourbon barrel aged barleywine this isnt as good as many of the other BA barley of similar ilk. the brandy barrel is also far superior to this one. good, not great.

Feb 23, 2016
Photo of Mitzvahman72
Mitzvahman72 from California

5/5  rDev +16%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

With a dark, bold mahogany color, this is a very well made barleywine with a complex, malty taste that’s one of a kind! Also boasting wonderful dark raisins, some vanilla and a fantastic aroma, it has just the right amount of booze without being overdone! As we get to the bottom, especially when it’s aged, some peppermint hues start to appear in the palate. Throughout the entire tasting, it has a fantastic mouthfeel. This sipper is worth every penny and waiting in line with the ticket to buy the bottle!

Oct 30, 2015
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Davepoolesque from Massachusetts

4.08/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark brown almost black in color. Cherry, oak, vanilla, toffee and caramel. Good boozy dryness. On the thin side. Lacks a true depth of flavor, but overall still pretty good.

May 18, 2015
Photo of rudzud
rudzud from Massachusetts

4.49/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Shared this beer during a little cellar cleaning party with JLindros and friends. 2012 vintage. Reviewed from notes.

A - Poured into a Kate the Great tulip a hazy dark bronze with a thin tan head. Decent legs.

S - Aromas of caramel, toffee, vanilla beans, rich bourbon, barrel. No noticeable booze.

T - Taste is similar to the nose. Loads of caramel and vanilla courtesy of the barrel and bourbon. The bourbon is rich and mellow. Incredibly harmonious.

M - Mouthfeel is very smooth, almost silky, with no discernible alcohol.

O - Overall this beer really held up nicely. Age made this barleywine super mellow and drinkable without a hint of the ABV. Tasty.

Serving Type: Bottle

Apr 23, 2015
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Jwale73 from Rhode Island

4.25/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I believe the vintage was 2014. Color on this beer is lovely - caramel apple with a loose, cream-colored head that dissipates into a cluster of bubbles around the shoulders. Nose expresses a bready quality, figs, buttery notes and a trace of vanilla. Taste follows nose; however, some bourbon notes comes through in the flavor profile along with caramelized sugar. Mouthfeel is light-medium in body, but closer to the medium side of the spectrum, with a mild, barely detectable carbonation and a slightly oily texture. Overall, I'm very impressed with this beer - it's been a long-time want and I wasn't disappointed.

I also had the opportunity to try a 2002 vintage side-by-side. It was still and slightly oxidized, but quite good nonetheless; however, I have to say that I enjoyed the more recent vintage more.

Apr 03, 2015
Photo of jlindros
jlindros from Massachusetts

4.19/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 thanks to rudzud

No head, hazy reddish murky color.

Taste big sweet malts, toffee caramel, syrup, juicy, big sweet candy malts, little oxidation, light vanilla barrel and faint bourbon.

Taste brings sweet candy, smooth caramel, nice toffee, velvety smooth soft malts, complex, nutty, chewy, little nougat, nice vanilla barrel faint bourbon, touch of oxidation.

Apr 01, 2015
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kojevergas from Louisiana

3.74/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

1 pint 9.4 fl oz brown glass bottle with black foil-ed over unbranded pry-off pressure cap purchased at the brewery in 2012 or 2013 and served cold into a goblet at low altitude in Austin, TX. Reviewed live as a bourbon barrel barleywine. Allowed to warm over the course of consumption.

Expectations are high given the brewery and bourbon barrel aging.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

HEAD: 1 finger wide. Whie colour. Creamy and smooth. Retention is subpar - about 1 minute - though that's understandable given its age and 11% ABV. Leaves no lacing as it recedes.

BODY: Dark auburn-brown. Translucent. Not real vibrant. No yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible.

Appears aptly carbonated. Not unique or special looking, but apt for a barleywine. Looks good overall.

AROMA: Smells sweet. Vanilla-forward; the oak has receded. Marshmallow, toffee, English dark malts, crystal malts, treacle, cream, white oak barrel sugars, and caramel.

Aromatic intensity is high. It's on the sweeter side, but it's certainly appealing.

No yeast character, overt booze, or off-notes are detectable.

TASTE: Subtle refined bourbon barrel character replete with vanilla and slightly toasty oak. Ample barrel sugars. Marshmallow. Treacle. English dark malts, sweet amber malts. It's sweet, yeah, but the barrel just melts into the base seamlessly. Great overall balance. Good depth of flavour. Average flavour duration and intensity.

Some might find this too sweet, but I think it really works - especially with the soft marshmallow. I've had more complex and intricate beers in the style (e.g. King Henry), but when you're forced to compare a barleywine to beers in the ilk of King Henry you know they're doing it right. Tasty stuff from Alesmith.

The marshmallow steals the show. This isn't the most subtly executed brew, but boy is it balanced.

TEXTURE: Soft and creamy, with a shockingly sleek silky feel and a great overall presence on the palate. Comforting without being boozy or syrupy. Complements the taste really nicely. It definitely elevates the beer.

Not oily, gushed, hot, boozy, astringent, harsh, or rough.

OVERALL: Highly drinkable for its 11% ABV. This is a definite improvement on the base beer, and the bourbon barrel - while not the most intricate in character - seamlessly melts into the beer. Really tasty stuff. I'm glad I cellared it as long as I did, and I'll plan on cellaring my other bottles a bit longer; she's only getting better. More proof Alesmith is one of San Diego's best breweries. A very good barleywine.

High B

Mar 07, 2015
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breadwinner from California

4.43/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Excellent barrel-aged barleywine that doesn't seem too have many flaws. Just a nice showpiece for deft employment of bourbon barrels. Had this one on draught and didn't get any of the hotness some others have noted. Just a really good BA barleywine with a bit of decadence.

Jan 19, 2015
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Alieniloquium from Florida

4.16/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a wine glass. 2013 bottle.

Appearance - Deep murky ruby body. Nice khaki head. Thick collar.

Smell - Bourbon is strong. Very oaky. Vanilla. Nutty malts. Smells a bit oxidized.

Taste - Sweet caramel. Nutty. Bourbon builds. Very oaky. Bitter in the back end. Oxidation is a mixture of sherry and bitter cardboard.

Mouthfeel - Medium heavy. Boozy. Well carbonated.

Overall - Fantastic barrel. The wood permeates and some oxidation goes a long way in this beer.

Oct 26, 2014
Photo of Etan
Etan from Wisconsin

4.09/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750ml. I think this is a 2013 bottle.

A: Pours a monstrously thick mahogany with reddish hues and a small off-white head.

S: Aroma brings thick raisins, citrus pith, caramel, figs. Smells of sweet overripe dark fruit.

T: Taste brings more fig, mild tannic bourbon, orange peel and a bit of lingering leafy hoppiness, dense cooked sugar, molasses, maple.

M: Thick-bodied, very viscous, light carbonation.

O: This is a very good BA barleywine that retains some hoppiness and isn't very barrel-forward. Certainly a bruiser but more restrained than I was expecting.

May 15, 2014
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Stevedore from Oregon

4.37/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750ml bottle, 2012 vintage. Poured into a brandy snifter, 5/2/2014. Updated the previous Hads which was from a beer fest.

A- Caramel brown body, neither light nor dark but certainly substantial and slick appearing. One finger off-white head, minimal retention, not much lacing.

S- Delicious caramel glaze, melted toffee mixed in with a shot of whiskey and a heaping dose of barrel-contributed vanilla and oak. Has a slight but distinct melted marshmallow character hiding behind the whiskey.

F- The whiskey seems to cover up the caramel and toffee malt beneath more than in the nose but this still has a very nice vanilla contribution. Caramel, nougat, toffee with the whiskey barrel contribution. Very good.

M- Medium body, good carbonation for the style which is to say on the lower side, but still plentiful to keep things interesting throughout the palate. Finish is a bit hot, but not too hot.

O- Very nicely done BA English Barleywine. Not anywhere near the best, but it's definitely better than the vast majority of the other BA English Barleywines out there.

May 03, 2014
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BMMillsy from Florida

4.19/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Rating #1,100!!! 2012 bottle from trade. Thanks dude! Pours dark reddish amber with a small yellowish khaki head. Aroma of hard candies (like the kind on the outside of candy apples), brown sugar, toffee, biscuits, a small bit of vanilla, oak, and some whiskey. Flavor is very similar to the regular version up front: hard candy, toffee, biscuity sweetness. But the finish provides something new: notes of vanilla, oak, and bourbon. The difference from the regular is rather subtle and maybe that's because this has been in the bottle for 2 years or so. Slick and thickish bodied, low carbonation, but not quite syrupy. This is a very good beer, but I must say, I am a bit disappointed at the lack of barrel influence here. I was expecting a big oaky vanilla infusion here that I didn't really get.

Mar 25, 2014
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Sumdeus from Indiana

4.5/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2012 Vintage on tap poured into a snifter.

A: burnt amber but clear. Very little head with some lacing.

S: malty sweetness. It's decently subtle but so e oaky/woody underneath.

T: malt heavy and glorious at that. The alcohol is hidden very well. Sweet caramels and burnt wood.

M: moderately bubbly in the mouth, it coats the mouth well but doesn't outlast it's welcome.

O: Numbskull is great to start out with, the barrel aging makes it even better. Well balanced malt and sweetness forward with some smooth finish.

Mar 22, 2014
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timc100 from Illinois

4.81/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2013 Vintage (though released in April 2014) aged a year since, enjoyed 07/2015

Aging into something darker, maltier and more complex than I thought this beer could. The '12 vintage I had with a year on it expressed some of the lighter barrel nuances with lighter fruits and malts as well, the fresh 2013 vintage was too sweet with bright fruits and almost thinner feel. This, was quite different and incredible.

Going in the direction of Sucaba, but with more prominent dark fruits. Has the BA alesmith 'must' that I find on their barleywines and old ales - like a dank attic. Tons of rich dark fruits, chalky dark chocolate, thick caramel, oak, and some bourbon sweetness. Incredibly full, almost sticky. Great booze heat on the finish.

2012 vintage, enjoyed Christmas Eve 2013

Huge, incredibly well balanced and interesting aroma - hard to find a place to start. Burnt brown sugar, bourbon - caramel, oak, vanilla, oak - wet oak. Then there is another layer of vinous red grape, booze soaked raisin, tobacco and leather. The hops have fadded quite a bit giving an old-caramel note. Amazingly well balanced - each flavor in tune with one another. It tastes fantastic as well, but not as outstanding as the nose. Caramel, brown sugar, toffee, bourbon. booze, and oak dominate. The tobacco and leather come through as well - lesser fruits and sweet vanilla and coconut. I'm not sure how best to describe this, but there is a musty/old-feel to it - like an attic. Full, smooth mouthfeel - appropriately bereft of carbonation.

This is truly outstanding.

Dec 24, 2013
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sweemzander from Illinois

4.47/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750mL bottle poured into a snifter. 2012
(A)- Pours a deep mahogany brown color with minimal tan froth.
(S)- Kinda dry but with some rich dark fruits. Deep oak and vanilla with some boozy fig and caramel.
(T)- Same from the smell. Smooth boozy fruits with oak and vanilla. Good caramel.
(M)- A well balanced barrel aged barleywine. Not overly hoppy but with some good fruits and barrel profile.
(O)- One of the better BA barleywines out there. So happy this is not overly hopped. Some time could only improve this, though this was one pricey bottle

Nov 11, 2013
Photo of zhanson88
zhanson88 from California

3.22/5  rDev -25.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Sampled at the Alesmith taproom. 2013 version.

Appearance: Pours a nice clear auburn color. Decent off white head which reduces to a pretty nice ring around the glass. Looks pretty nice.

Smell: Smells of caramel and strong hopping with a good level of barrel as well. Rye whiskey and wood. Lots going on here, overall it contributes to a bit of a muddled overall scent.

Appearance: Caramel malts and heavy hopping presence up front. Initial impression is that it tastes buttery, and I could not shake that throughout the duration of the beer. The barrel is fairly subtle. Oak tannins and rye whiskey stand out.

Mouthfeel/Overall: Under medium bodied with pretty high carbonation. Okay mouthfeel, probably a little thin for my tastes. Overall, I wasn't a huge fan of this BA version of Numbskull. As I mentioned before, I could not shake the impression of buttery flavor and that pretty much sealed this beer's fate for me. Definitely would not be opposed to trying this again at some point to give it another shot.

Oct 06, 2013
Old Numbskull - Bourbon Barrel-Aged from AleSmith Brewing Company
Beer rating: 95 out of 100 with 447 ratings