AleSmith Old Numbskull | AleSmith Brewing Company

503 Reviews
AleSmith Old NumbskullAleSmith Old Numbskull

Brewed by:
AleSmith Brewing Company
California, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by xlperro on 02-14-2002

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Reviews: 503 | Ratings: 1,426
Photo of Sammy
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A superior barleywine. Well carbonated, tasty orange and some roast, and lovely dark colour. Fruit was apricot peach, and honey on the tongue, well malted, and mollasses. Booziness in finish. 2000 vintage. Bottle dark for aging. Full mouthfeel. Thanks Don

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.42/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a murky dark amber with a 2 inch foamy orange-white head that settles to a small cap. Random chunks of lace stick to the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, brown sugar, caramel, and lots of citrus fruits and citrus zest. Taste is of malt, brown sugar, caramel, toffee, citrus fruit, citrus juice, and citrus zest. A mild bittersweet flavor lingers on the palate after each sip. This beer has a medium body and is smooth on the drink down. Overall, this is a very good barleywine with a nice balance between sweet and bitter.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.04/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

a very american barleywine ale, as determined by its aggressive piney hop profile that is just as prevalent in nose and taste as the malt here, which is what english barleywines usually showcase. more of a balanced offering, but a massive one. beautiful red copper glow to this, high gravity for sure, under a khaki head an inch tall and thick as tar. lots of hops on the nose, bitter, which counters the sweetness of the grain well, and it transitions right into the flavor. but grain bill no doubt, caramel sweetness and a dried fruit complex, but the hops wake you right up and this finishes real hoppy and bitter. like all the foiled alesmith brews, the alcohol is brilliantly well disguised and this drinks far lighter than it really is. a scary bottle to finish alone, but i would be happy to try. nice example of the highly hopped american barleywine.

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Photo of Knapp85
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer poured out as a brownish amber color. The head is nice then it settles into a bubbly white film of the beer leaving some decent lacing. The smell is hoppy and malty, but there are way mote hops on the nose for sure. The taste is a little citrusy sweet with a good malty finsh. The hops really kick ass on this brew. The mouthfeel is smooth and yet has a great bitter quality. Overall it's a barley for the head head I think. Pretty Impressive brew it think.

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Photo of metter98
4.12/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is hazy amber brown in color. It poured with a thin off white head that died down and left a thin collar around the edge of the glass.
S: There are aromas of caramel malts and citrusy hops in the nose. The citrus becomes more dominant as the beer warms up.
T: The taste has flavors of caramel malts and citrusy hops along with some notes of alcohol.
M: It feels medium-bodied and a little thick on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation along with a little crispness from the hops.
O: This beer is quite hoppy, quite unlike other beers in the style. I think this would be a barleywine that would be enjoyed by hopheads because it tastes like a hybrid between a barleywine and an imperial IPA.

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.15/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Now that's a true American Barley Wine! Big on everything; from hops, to barley, to alcohol, to richness. Full of flavor and intimitating from beginning to end. Big barley, bready, hoppy aromas stare down over a dense, ruby colored brew. Leaving good head retention and lacing, evidence of great proteins. Overwhelming flavors of barley malt, taking on molassas and brown sugar proportions. Intense hop flavor casts a piney, citrus shadow on on the malt base. Well aged and melded into a bitter, earthy, malt sweetened beverage. Alcohols take on caugh syrup intensity and reach a light solvent evaporative sensation. Though thick and heavy on the palate, the beer finishes a balanced sweet / bitter ratio. As great as it is, I often have problems assigning very high marks to the extremely-hopped Barley Wines. Alcohols strength also keeps me from scoring higher.

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Photo of brentk56
4.25/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a hazy rust colored body with a beige head that declines to a ringlet but does leave some lacing behind

Smell: Surprisingly hoppy for a barleywine (but knowing the source, not too big a surprise), I pick up some fusel alcohol, a touch of caramel, and loads of piney hops

Taste: Swirling it around my mouth, I get a full taste of nuts and caramel; aftern the swallow, a number of fruits make an appearance - peaches, orange pith and a bit of coconut; only later do the hops make their presence felt, and the piney/pithy hops do it with a vengeance although a touch of sweetness remains in the finish on the tip of the tongue

Mouthfeel: Medium/thick bodied with relatively low carbonation

Drinkability: Having been to the AleSmith brewery, I understand why they bottle in 750 ML bottles; however, that is a barleywine to consume and I wish more brewers would bottle their high gravity beers in 12 oz. bottles

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Photo of kojevergas
3.11/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

750ml brown glass bottle with standard pressure cap served into a Weizen glass in low altitude Orange, California. Reviewed live. Expectations are very high given the brewery and the style.

A: Pours a two finger head of very appealing smooth glossy cream, great thickness, and very impressive retention (especially considering the 11.00% ABV). Colour is a dark auburn.

Sm: Surprisingly, it's a floral hoppy aroma. Cream and pleasant malts. A pretty strong aroma, and certainly an enticing one.

T: Nicely hoppy and balanced, with undertones of the nice malts. The hops cut out near the finish leaving the bare malts, which isn't particularly enjoyable. Other than that naked finish, I quite fancy the build. There's not too much bitterness from the hops, and no alcohol comes through in the flavours. There's not even any alcohol warmth in the stomach. It's nicely creamy up front, but this might be a touch overdone. The citrusy notes don't really fit into the flavour profile well, but they're tolerable.

Tastes nothing like any barleywine I've ever had.

Mf: Smooth and wet, with a fair amount of cream as well. It suits the flavours generally. The thickness is awkward; it's too heavy for the citrusy vibe but too thin for the malts of a barleywine.

Dr: Very drinkable - especially for the high ABV. It'd definitely be better aged, which is a strange thing to say considering how hop-centric it tastes. I don't know that they've fully resolved the battle between malts and hops for control of the focus, but this remains an experimental and bold brew that seems to challenge the conventions of the style.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3/5  rDev -27.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle (Courtesy of Hogtownharry): Poured a clear medium brown color ale with a small foamy brown head with minimal retention. Aroma of sweet caramel malt is dominating without being too sweet though. Some floral hops are discernable but nothing overwhelming. Taste is also dominated by sweet malt but I can’t find any complexity of dry fruits characteristics that I usually enjoy. Some hops provide a slightly bitter finish but nothing to overshadow the rest of the beer. Body is defiantly too thin and watery for my liking and alcohol is well hidden. Even do I usually enjoy English style barleywine, I cannot say that I was overly impressed by this one.

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Photo of zeff80
3.97/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, copper color with a one-finger, tan head of foam. It left some sudsy trails of lace on the glass.

S - Sweet caramel malt aroma with some boozy notes. Slightly floral, too.

T - It tasted very sweet. Lots of caramel and some boozy notes. Not much of bitter hop presence to speak.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium to full bodied brew with a somewhat sticky mouthfeel.

D - This is a good barleywine. Big and sweet.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.07/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Reddish copper with some nice head and lacing.

S: Somewhat hoppy and a decent amount of malty sweetness. Some dark fruits and sherry notes as well.

T: Malty sweetness and some mild earthiness alongside some pine and citrus hops.

M: A little hot, but overall not too bad. It's medium bodied and could definitely use some aging.

D: A nice sipper that improves a lot as it warms up, but still a little too much alcohol.

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Photo of nickfl
4.17/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - One finger of off white head, settles relatively quickly, leaves spotty lace. The body is amber-brown and clear.

S - Spicy, citrusy hops. Notes of pepper and lemon backed by sweet caramel malt and a hint of coffee.

T - A big, spicy wallop of hops up front, tempered by thick malt. Spicy notes in the middle; mustard, pepper, cumin, and basil. Toasty notes of toffee and caramel continue into the finish, where they balance the pungent bitterness and fade into a mildly carbonized roast quality.

M - Heavy, oily body, medium carbonation, and a sweet finish with lingering alcoholic warmth.

D - Fairly drinkable for such a big beer. The alcohol is readily apparent, but not unpleasant. The hop character is the dominant flavor here, but it is kept in check by the huge malt presence. An interesting, and distinctly American, take on a classic English style.

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Photo of oberon
4.18/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep amber color near brown with a white tight sticky head that is gone pretty quickly.deep vanilla aromas mixed with a generous hopped piney aroma intermingled nicely.Wow what a combination of sweet caramel and alcohol with a generous amount of grassy piney drying hop very balanced and indredibly flavorful barley wine big time winner here I wish I had more what a flavor combination with a big alcohol punch.A little harshness in the mouthfeel dept. kept it from being off the charts.

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Photo of superspak
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750 ml bottle into snifter; no bottle dating, but was purchased in late 2011. Pours hazy deep ruby red color with a small dense khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lasts. Light soapy lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of big caramel, raisin, apple, orange zest, floral, brown sugar, pine, molasses, toast, orange rind, brown bread, and floral earthiness. Damn nice aromas good balance and complexity of dark malt and fruity/earthy hop notes; with good strength. Taste of big caramel, toffee, orange zest, apple, toast, floral, pine, orange rind, brown sugar, brown bread, chocolate, light roast, and floral earthiness. Fair amount of floral/pine bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, toffee, orange zest, orange rind, light fruits, toast, light chocolate, brown bread, brown sugar, floral, pine, light roast, and floral earthiness on the finish for a while. Fantastic balance and complexity of deep malt and hop flavors; with a nice bitterness/sweetness balance, and hardly any cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and very full bodied with a creamy, slick, and fairly sticky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a small warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is a fantastic well aged barleywine. Fantastic complexity and balance of deep malt and hop flavors; and very smooth to sip on. A highly enjoyable offering.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.35/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just the basic green bottle - no year listed, but it's from 2004... about a year old.
It pours a hazy amber-orange body beneath a short head of creamy, 'yellowed-parchment' colored head. The retention is good, and it leaves some initial rings of lace about the glass.
The nose is malty sweet, and loaded with caramel and fruit as well as a touch of alcohol.
In the mouth it's malty without being chewy, perhaps thinned a bit by it's alcohol; but still medium-full bodied with a very-fine-bubbled moderate carbonation.
The flavor is malty as well. It's honey-ish with the same 'caramel-drizzle' and alcohol the nose suggests, but with more fruitiness (dried apricots, a touch of cocoanut, light peaches, subtle papaya, and a waft of dried cherry) amidst a brisk slap of piney hops. The alcohol becomes apparent once it warms, but it's not obtrusive.
It finishes almost seamlessly, with all of its flavors slipping away at once into a lingering finish.
It's a very nice barleywine with some limited complexity; but overall it's kind of obtuse.

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Photo of chinchill
3.65/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

On tap at BrewDog's Aberdeen pub.
Ruby-copper body with a creamy tan head. Particularly good head for a barleywine.
Boozy feel but alcohol is partly hidden in the taste.
Medium-full body with near medium carbonation.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.08/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a clear, mahogany-hued body with a small, though creamy-looking, off-white head.

Smell: Sweet-smelling, sugary pine resin scent followed by dried orange peel and then a bright aroma of tropical fruit medley. Some notes of brown sugar sprinkled on toast as it warms a bit.

Taste: Sweet caramel maltiness with a hot, clean booziness on its tail. A touch of pine. A taste of brown sugar blended with simple syrup and a variety of fruit juices. Strong, earthy hop bitterness, though it allows the malts to do most of the work. Everpresent, underlying yeastiness. Bittersweet, warming finish.

Mouthfeel: Slightly above medium-bodied. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: A delightful barleywine fresh (you certainly can't say that about all of them) and one that I suspect ages quite wonderfully.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.03/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Glowing tangerine-vermilion with diamond-like clarity. Old Numbskull is an absolutely stunning color when backlit with late afternoon sunshine. The pale orange-ecru cap is an impressive three fingers in size despite the double digit ABV, and is wonderfully sticky in the bargain. Even without all the thick, soon to be crusty lace, this would be a fantastic looking beer.

The nose is composed of caramel malt, orange liqueur, cherries and white rum. It's immensely powerful without necessarily relying on alcohol to make it so. Although my bottle isn't vintage dated, I'm pretty sure it's from 2005. That's plenty of time for things to have come together into a neat and tidy, fruity, boozy bundle.

I questioned the English barleywine classification prior to opening the bottle and I still question it after drinking several ounces. Reading AleSmith's website (where they use phrases such as 'a West Coast style barleywine' and 'domestic hops') and listening to my palate, I think this is an American barleywine without a doubt.

The dominant flavors are the same as the dominant aromas. Stickysweet caramel and orange oil are still in the spotlight. It's a shame there isn't more resinous hoppiness, but I guess that's to be expected after almost two years in the bottle. I hereby resolve to drink my barleywines fresh rather than aged from now on.

The reason I like Old Numbskull rather than love it is because of the still too-prominent alcohol. More hop bitterness would have masked it more completely; yet another reason to load up on the humulus lupulus. If you like your American barleywines to be on the sweet side, and like them tongue numbingly boozy as well, then this is the beer for you. It pains me to say it, but I expected a little more from one of my favorite breweries.

I've had bigger, stickier, chewier mouthfeels. However, this one is more than adequate for the task at hand. Increasing both malt and hops by at least 50% would have improved this big ale in any number of ways. I feel like I've been taking small sips, but I'd better slow down even more because my skull is beginning to feel numb.

As noted, AleSmith is one of my favorite American craft breweries and is a permanent fixture in my top-10. As a result, my expectations for Old Numbskull were stratospheric. In the final reckoning, it isn't one of my favorite barleywines, but it's still good beer and should warm me nicely well into the night. I'm guessing that I'll sleep like a baby too.

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Photo of russpowell
4.78/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Had this one time (thanks Dauss) during a pretty intense tasting/drinking session; let's see how this holds up to a fresh pallet!

750 ml bottle pours a chill hazed caramel with minimal sand colored head into my Bush tulip glass. Average head retention & lacing

S: Rich oaky, boozey, plumy notes

T: Jammy fruit, raisins, boozeyness & a bit of smokeyness up front. Piney hops come to the fore as this warms, along with much fruittyness & a bit of boozey heat. Finishes with leafy hops, caramel, leafy hops, Finishes, dry, chewy, figgy & oaky; with a touch of vanilla; yum!

MF: Chewy, syruppy, fairly balanced for the heft, with just a trace of carbonation

Drinks a bit slow, despite all the goodness, a very nice AMERICAN (IMO) style BW, their ABW might just rip your lips off. My favorite Cali brewery, now. Stellar offering!

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Photo of mikesgroove
4/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got a chance to crack open this 2007 bottle the other night for a decent nightcap, well a little more the decent we will say. Served in a goblet at cellar temperature. This one was consumed on 09/06/2008.

The look was very nice with a rich and very cloudy amber color being evident straight away. Lots of carbonation be seen streaming up to the top of the glass at first and this was converging into a nice one inch high head of white foam that did its best to hang out as long as possible. Some nice web like side glass lacing was also fairly evident.

The aroma was very hoppy, much more then I thought it would be to be honest. Nice notes of a very floral and pine like hoppiness that seemed to just build with time. Nice bready and bisuit like middle was dashed with some light fruits and a decent overall touch of grain. The flavor was more of the same, definitley a hoppy barleywine for sure with a good healthy dose of piney hops that dominated most of the profile. A good touch of bisuit in the middle and an almost grape tasting after taste doninated. Nice blending out of the alcohol, though this was still a beast, especially to finish on my own. A rich, feel, chewy with a medium body that was very coating and quite nice.

Overall I thought this was solid, though I liked the BA Version much better, but can you really blame me! I would defintly get this one again though as it was very well done and a very solid beer overall.

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Photo of Slatetank
4.3/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to imstillthegman for sharing this bottle of the 2000 vintage at the Phatz barleywine tasting. Decanted cool into a snifter.

A - A murky med brown w/ a ring of tan head. The ale has reddish highlights and leaves a film of lace.

S - Smooth and creamy malt odor w/ a sweet fruit note and slightly caramel like smells.

M - Moderately effervescent w/ a subtle hop and English malt feel. Lightly bitter aspect and a warmth of alcohol in a subtle way.

T - A very well balanced barleywine w/ caramel malts, sweet nutty notes that seems relaxed from the aging, the abv is noticeable -just nowhere near what an 11% beer tastes like fresh. I found the flavor to be very well blended and just the right amount of bitterness in the mix.

D - This is a fine example of a traditional Barleywine w/ plenty of english malt traits and sufficient abv to make it a satisfyingly drinkable brew.

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Photo of billab914
4.01/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml bottle into my Dogfish snifter. It poured caramel brown in color with a big, fluffy and frothy off-white head to it. A thin, frothy layer remained covering the beer well into drinking it and left some great lacing as well. Exceptional looking barleywine overall.

The aroma has some big citrus notes to it with pineapple juice and grapefruit being the most prominent. As it warmed more of the malty, caramel like flavors really started coming out.

The taste shows more of malty, caramel and fruity flavors more prominently than the aroma did. The citrusy, grapefruit like flavors show through enough that you wouldn't mistake this for an English version though. The bitterness and sweetness really seem to balance each other out pretty nicely. Very flavorful beer overall.

The mouthfeel is on the thicker side with carbonation being below average, but I wouldn't call it low. Drinkability is good, it was a very nice barleywine to sip on this evening. The hoppy, citrus flavors went pretty well with the big malty and caramel flavors and really balanced them out as well. Very good beer overall.

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Photo of smcolw
3.92/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Foamy lace that leaves extensive lace on the glass. Copper red color and clear.

A surprising amount of hop aroma in this beer. Solid malt base. In two words: well balanced.

An interesting mix of powerful, alcohol heavy malt and strong hop. Thick, almost oily mouthfeel. Decent carbonation. Spicy finish from the hop, but the aftertaste has a powerful alcohol component. This is a pleasant, but a strong beer. I only notice the strength in the swallow. Easy to enjoy, easy to overindulge.

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Photo of Jason
3.93/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: 750 ml brown champagne bottle corked and capped with a vintage year of 2000 on the label.

Appearance: Lucid yet mildly chill hazed tawny sunset hue, bone coloured lace creeps up the side of the glass.

Smell: Faint solvent within a ripe figgy aroma, sweetness and spicy alcohol clash but in a good way.

Taste: Smooth with a mealy, thick and creamy. Mellow alcohol for its strength, alcohol has melded well with the malt, faded hops and ripe fruitiness. Fruitiness rages up front with the middle being juicy and full of malt sweetness, hops and alcohol draw a line for balance. Finish is more of a twang from the alcohol and a ghost like wet paper flavour.

Notes: A touch of age has hit the brew, it seems to be at its peak if not passing it so this holiday winter season of 2002/2003 is the time to pop the 2000. Impressive and a good go at the Barleywine style.

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Photo of womencantsail
4.42/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Alesmith

A: The pour is a dark amber color, bordering on brown, with a fluffy off-white head.

S: A fresh citrus hop aroma, primarily grapefruit. In the background (and the essence of the beer) are great notes of brown sugar, toffee, caramel, and perhaps dark fruits.

T: The flavor opens up with great sweet malt, caramel, and toffee. This is followed by a grapefruit citrus flavor and a piney bitterness on the finish.

M: The body is definitely on the full side with a smooth and moderate level of carbonation.

D: I'm not always the biggest barleywine fan, but Alesmith has a proven winner with Old Numbskull. I especially enjoy it fresh, but with some age (or from a barrel) it's delicious as well.

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AleSmith Old Numbskull from AleSmith Brewing Company
4.14 out of 5 based on 1,426 ratings.
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