Alaskan Barley Wine (Pilot Series) | Alaskan Brewing Co.

297 Reviews
Alaskan Barley Wine (Pilot Series)Alaskan Barley Wine (Pilot Series)

Brewed by:
Alaskan Brewing Co.
Alaska, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.70%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Alaskan Barley Wine is a full bodied ale, deep mahogany in color and brewed with an array of complementing malts to achieve its high original gravity. Multiple hop additions in the boil and dry hopping during fermentation provide contrast to the big malt character resulting in the smooth balance that distinguishes this specialty brew. Like many fine wines, Alaskan Barley Wine may be aged in the bottle and gains deeper malt complexity and smoothness over time.

Added by John_M on 03-18-2007

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 297 | Ratings: 613
Photo of Svejk
4.9/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5


Alaskan Amber was the beer that introduced me to craft beer back in the early 90's. Over the years, I have moved on and very rarely will drink the beer that helped me make the jump. I did try their smoked porter several years ago, but for the most part I didn't drink very much Alaskan beer in recent years.

The other day, I stopped in at Uber in Seattle, and they had this on tap so I decided to give it a try. It pours a dark brown with a good head with reasonable retention considering this is a very big beer. As far as the smell and taste go, it is a sweet beer, and shows it, but it isn't cloying.

This is a really impressive beer. I've recently seen that it is available in bottles, so I'll be enjoying this one at home.

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Photo of olympuszymurgus
4.9/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A 2008 bottle, room temperature.

A deep ruby red, dusk over the ocean and long lost jewelry, this beer glows under its white head. Aroma pops with caramel, hints of banana and dried fruits, dark burnt sugars and earthy malts. Fuck, this smell is perfect. I am enamored, and then I taste. Sweet and thick, no hops to speak of, just a warming swell of grains and melanoidin sugars. Hints of yeast, earth, banana, smoke and plums all greet the tongue, the beer just rolls.

Carbonation is perfect, bouncing the robust liquid across the mouth. It is a big beer, and thats the only hinderance to this nearly perfect score. I am in love, and this beer is the one who earned it.

Alaskan- I regret ever making fun of you. Three cheers.

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Photo of Mdog
4.88/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Red, purple highlights, big head, good lacing. Basically perfect looking.

Smell: Very nice dark fruits, more caramel in later sniffs.

Taste: Dark fruit, rich darker caramel, hint of citrus. Very balanced and very tasty. Awesome.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: Feels great, no alcohol burn, extremely tasty.

Wow, this beer is off-the-charts good in my book. I usually like to age barleywines but this one would not last in my fridge. Just excellent look and taste. Highly recommended!

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Photo of yemenmocha
4.85/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Enjoyed mid afternoon on tap at Humpy's, Summer 2008, in Anchorage, AK.

Key differences to bomber version is that the draught has a creamier body, with flavors that flow together more "seamlessly". Finish is less tart & less alcohol is perceived.

Pours deep brown with suggestion of amber, tan head that is thick & luscious. Retains well.

Aromatics are pleasant with fresh bread dough, clean malt, walnuts, vanilla icing, & melted caramel.

Palate starts off with gentle, sweet malt, seeping through a creamy body/mouthfeel. Raisins and dark fruits are present, followed by lighter citrus tartness as it leads to the warm alcohol finish. Cherry cough drops come to mind, in a very good way. Alcohol is modest for this example of the style.

One of the best barleywines I have sampled.

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Photo of ropatch24
4.84/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Stumbled upon a 2008 bottle in my local bottle shop.

Pours a nice coppery color with lots of floaters. This smells extremely malty, and sweet like burnt sugar.

Wow this is such a phenomenal barley wine. I am getting such a balanced brown sugary taste, nice malts with a smooth finish, some caramel notes, and a delicious lingering sweetness. When I open a barley wine, this is what I want it to taste like...what a gem!

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Photo of JohnGalt1
4.7/5  rDev +14.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz from Liquid Solutions.. pricey for sure but don't remember. shared with Steven.. mine in a New Belgium snifter.

Beautiful.. light yellow head.. some spotty lacing.. dark brown brew when you hold it to a light.. very nice.

Thick malty aroma.. dark caramel with floral hops and a touch of grapefruit.. toffee and raisins.. dates? Fruity yeasty notes..

Amazingly smooth.. silky malt off the top.. thick caramel.. with more than enough chocolate.. pine and grapefuit hoppy flavors are drawn out from the sweetness.. this BW is a lesson in PNW big beers... dark fruit.. prunes and figs.. balanced beyond compare.. almost certainly the best BW I've ever had. finish is long and layered.. hops.. intermingle with the caramel notes... Steven says it has a :30 finish... I agree. Thickness hides the booze very easily.. spotty carbonation makes for a silky palate.

This is the first time I've had the "Big Nugget".. It won't be the last. Damn it.. why and the hell did we not get this brew in Idaho.. there is a definite market for big barleywines.. and this would almost certainly be the best.. I would buy a case if it weren't for FedEx and LS so much over the price fo the bottles.

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Photo of Shawnadams330
4.69/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2010 bottle, opened Jan 1 2017, dark fruits, raisin, sherry aroma. Awesome. Taste follows aroma, more sherry as it warms. Warming alcohol, pleasing. Finishing dry! Held up incredible well for a 7 year old beer. Please make it again!

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Photo of yuriruley
4.65/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 vintage, see the 2008 floating around all the time, finally decided to buy one.

Appearance - Nice cloudy red and brown color. Good creamy tan head with decent retention, and good lacing.

Smell - love the smell, has that great bready barleywine smell that I love. On top of that there are notes of dark fruits like plums, and nice hints of alcohol, not over the top though.

Taste - Dark fruits, brown sugar, little bit of spiciness to it, but can't pin it down. Nice sweet flavors balanced with malt. Hints of alcohol on the finish, but overall well balanced.

Mouthfeel - Pretty thick, but not super syrup thick. Perfect amount of carbonation, and creaminess.

Drink - Excellent, not too much alcohol, goes down easy. Could drink much of this if I felt like it, unfortunately that would be very expensive and probably get me quite drunk.

I think this is an exceptional beer. This vintage reminds me a lot of Sunturn Brew, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. If you have this vintage near you I'd recommend grabbing it. I really want to see what this years tastes like. Good to see both the Alaskan breweries I like making awesome barleywines. This beer has aged very well thus far.

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Photo of sommersb
4.64/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasted On: 08-27-2012
Freshness: 2011 Vintage
Packaging: 22 oz. brown bottle, pry-cap
Glassware: Snifter
Purchased: Single from Colorado Liquor Mart, Denver

Pours a deep mahogany brown, with a tan head of a finger or so. Features an OK amount of lacing and retention. Fantastic, rich aromas are both malty and hoppy, with pine, oak and sweet dark fruits.

Tastes strong and flavorful, well-balanced between the malty sweetness and bitterness of the hops. Seems less hoppy than other American barley-wines I've had, which is a plus in my book. This might be due to the fact it was bottled in January of 2011 according to the Alaskan website. Nice alcohol warming is present as well.

Body is thick and full, with medium to high carbonation levels. Smooth mouthfeel, with a rich finish that's both sweet and bitter. Seems to improve as it comes up to room temps.

Overall an exceptional barleywine -- one of my favorites in the style and highly recommended in my book.

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Photo of C20Percent
4.64/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2011 Vintage

Finally broke this out of the cellar, and HOT DAMN is it good.

Looks pretty -- darker than I expected. A dark amber color.

Aromas of dark fruits -- dark cherries -- vanilla.

Flavors of toffee, dark fruits, butter -- wonderful flavors -- beer shines like crazy here. A little smoky.

Feels oily, buttery, velvety.

Not sure that this is the Barley Wine standard, but it's pretty close. Excels at every aspect. Glad I purchased it on a whim -- highly recommended!

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Photo of abc3
4.63/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Wow, this beer is Amazing!

Thin brown head dissolves into dark caramel color, which carries into both the beer's smell and taste. The alcohol adds complexity without overdoing it. Certainly a sipping beer, buying an entire 5 gallon keg of this will get 2010 off to a great start!

Those guys at Alaskan know what they are doing!

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Photo of hardy008
4.63/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Clear dark brown with a 3 finger beige head with good retention and lacing. Looks sensational. Smells very nice with caramel, raisins, and dates.

Tastes much the same as it smells. Caramel, raisins, dates, cherries, and a little citrus hop bitterness, which adds nice balance to the sweet flavor.

Medium to full bodied with soft carbonation. The alcohol is well hidden, especially for 10.70 % abv. This is a very underrated Barleywine in my opinion. One of the best I have had.

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Photo of whatthehull
4.62/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2011 edition


A - A really nice translucent blood red, half finger tanish head and some sticky lacing

S - Tons of sugar up front, malty, really nice red blend nose, very sweet fruits (plums, guava, nectarine and such), a nice wheat note, booze, molasses, candy sugar, grainy bread yeast, caramelized apples, jasmine, some wood and nice mineral notes

T - It amazingly enough tastes just like the nose, not quite as pretty but still very nice. The booze is toned down in the taste, but the sugar, malts, fruits and flowers are all there. So crisp and refreshing with an awesome bitter end

M - Full bodied, well balanced, just enough complexity, low acidity and long beautiful finish

D - This is one for the books, lovely nose, great taste and very refreshing! If you like barley wines or ale that is more malty and sweet, check this one out. Oh and if you want to age this one, please buy 2 because this is just so fresh and crisp, wow

Final thought - Alaskan, you made a wonderful beer, full of flavor and life and I want a case, please? 11% and $8 a pop, pick these up for sure!

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Photo of flexabull
4.59/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 bottle.

Pours a dark amber color with a slight white head.

Aromas are wonderful. The best beer I've smelled in a while. Hard candies, booze, with a general woodiness.

Taste is very nice. Light hoppiness, some resiny pine flavors up front. Beer then settles into some nice wood and sweet malt flavors, also some hard candies as well. Finish has a nice alcohol warmth, with hints of booze, and a hint of brown sugar.

Mouthfeel is great, very full and thick, yet not too heavy.

Drinkability is up there. This is one of the best barleywines I have had in quite some time. I'll buy a bottle the next time I see one. Excellent beer.

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Photo of GClarkage
4.59/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

02/14/09- Purchased at Ledgers in Berkeley, CA.

Presenation- 22oz bottle, 2008 vintage. Poured inot my St. Bernardus chalice.

Appearance- Deep copper-caramel colored pour. About a one fingered head upon pour. Ultra slight rim of head remains. Really no lacing found, but that is common for such a style.

Smell- Very rich scent of equal caramel roasted malts and pungent grapefruit hops. Can't really beat the nose per style.

Taste- About a even split flavor between the '07 winner from Toronado and an '07 Bigfoot. Has a nice sweet caramel malted base reminescent of an English Barleywine, but has a nice hop punch of an American. Well balanced, even kinda fruity with a light cherry taste.

Mouthfeel- Medium carbonation, just a touch fizzy. Even though, pretty smooth and sticky sweet.

Drinkability- If I wanted a hybrid English-American mix, this would be my go to beer. I will always be more fond of the English style, which the '07 version was, but this is quite good. One of the best Barleywines, not considering style, that I have had.

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Photo of jdklks
4.58/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A- Dark amber body with a perfectly colored tan head to compliment it. leaves its tracks with a thick lacing down the glass. this one is pretty.

S- smell is malt dominated, but there is a hint of hoppiness. also a brown sugar sweetness and apples.

T- WOW! punch in the mouth overwhelming. not sure what to think of it yet, give me a second... it is very sweet, seemingly sugary, which i am not usually a fan of. however, the malt flavors balance out the sweetness up front. the aftertaste is reminiscent of apricots, and still very sweet. i usually dont like overly sweet beers, but this one manages to pull it off quite well. this beer is very, very, inexplicably complex. i desperately want to give it a five, but i cant quite figure it out, so it gets a 4.5 for now. very good.

M- there are few adjectives to decribe just how smooth this beer is on the palate. perfectly carbonated for the fullness of its body.

D- this is my first one, so i am not entirely sure how it drinks all the way through. suffice it to say that i will stick to one bomber of this in a night, considering both abv and the $8 price tag. edit: just finished and the drinkability gets a .5 boost, all i want is more of this, there is really no other beer on my mind right now.

overall, an excellent and recommended barleywine.

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Photo of bamadog
4.57/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I've been dying to crack into this one - review is from notes taken on 9/6/2012 and poured from the bottle (2010 vintage) to a snifter.

Appearance: Pour is a solid mahogany color with some deep caramel brown notes; starts with a fair 1/4 finger light tan head that fades quickly to a thick ring around the surface and a thin island of skim; body is dark, pretty murky so that it's fairly difficult too far into it; tiny strands of carbonation are present near the sides; a few spots and random swaths of lacing stick around.

Smell: Nice citric hop notes -- some grapefruit, perhaps orange peel; some nice big caramel maltiness is in there too bringing about a nice touch of sweetness -- reminiscent of a candied orange when it blends with those hops; touch of booziness but it seems pretty well blended.

Taste: Fantastic -- nice bitterness that's big and not entirely tamed by those big malts, but fairly well balanced by them; flavors match the scent profile to a T, but the only difference is the alcohol has a much more pronounced presence here, but at nearly 11%, that should expected, and welcome.

Mouthfeel: Between medium and heavy in terms of weight; a nice, thick and sticky coating is left all over the palate; carbonation is still plenty strong and brings life to the body but allows it to be smooth; tingling on the roof of the mouth from the vaporous alcohol, and it also leaves the belly a little warm.

Overall: I would be happy to have this in my fridge every damn night. Great hop presence keeps this one on the American side of the pond when it comes to the Barleywines, but it's not too over the top and has a pretty good overall balance. Bit of a sipper with the big body and ABV, but I'm not going to have any problem polishing it off on my own, and I might be hesitant to share such an awesome offering.

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Photo of Kuaff
4.57/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I enjoyed this fine specimen of a beer at cellar temperature in my snifter.

This has a great, stunning, pure, deep, dark ruby color that matches the aurora illustrated on the label. The one-finger tan head dissipates to a nice frothy ring with a patch in the middle. Lovely.

It's aroma is a splendid mix of cherries, raisins, vanilla, caramel, and an accent of pine.

The taste is terrific and offers just what I like in an American barley wine: a harmonized balance of sweet caramel-like maltiness and bitter but juicy hoppiness. Some definite dark fruit flavors are there as well. The aftertaste has an awesome leathery, dank hoppiness to it.

As befits a barley wine, the feel is thick and substantial.

This is simply a superbly-brewed barley wine that's robust in all the right places.

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Photo of lackenhauser
4.55/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Deep copper/burgundy color. Very good looking beer. Heavy sweet aroma. Very full, sweet malty goodness. Nice vanilla notes. Great, great full malty flavor. Warming, treacle like taste. Maple and vanilla highlights. Not the full frontal hop assault like a lot of US barleywines, though has a mellow lingering bitter finish. Nice, viscuos body. No alcohol for the high abv. A great barlewyine for sure. Thanks tayner for this "free" sample-very enjoyable!!!

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Photo of jampics2
4.55/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle I've cellared for a bit.

Reddish brown, great looking barleywine style beer ;)

Smells like malt and plum. Tropical fruit. Baked caramel bread crust. Nice!

Sweet wood, vanilla, citrus, malt, and a wonderful toffee dominate the taste.

A perfect mouthfeel, one of the best feel of a beer ever. It dances and sings across the tongue with a blanket of malty deliciousness.

Great barleywine. A classic. Perfect with a year and a half of age.

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Photo of EricCioe
4.54/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This pours a super deep burgundy with a nice two finger cap that melts away with a hint of lace. On the nose there are caramelized figs and dates with a huge component of floral hops that compliment it perfectly. It took warming to coax this out but this nose is outstanding. In the mouth there is a huge sweet component melding with just a bit of warming, tamed by a slightly bitter floral note. The body is medium full with a bit of stickiness, maybe a bit too much, with a long, warming finish.

Overall, this is an outstanding beer, in my mind one well worth seeking out if you like sweeter barleywines.

EDIT - 6 Feburary 2012: Just had a glass of the 2008 vintage on draft, and it was godly. The nose was absolutely incredible.

EDIT 2 - 20 March 2012: Somehow that 2008 keg is still on and I've had probably a gallon of it. Absolutely incredible aged.

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Photo of Beersnake1
4.54/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2010 vintage poured from fridge temp to snifter. Pours a beautiful burgundy/dark brown. Looks like a nice English barleywine. Smell is full of caramel, vanilla, and some dark fruit. Amazing. Taste follows the nose perfectly. Super smooth and the rich malty taste of an aged American barleywine is coming through. Lots of caramel and sweetness. Smooth finish, and great mouthfeel. Incredible and highly recommended.

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Photo of drpimento
4.53/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Excellent brew! Served at a good temperature and with a nice, light tan, thick, foamy head and plenty of lace. Color is a clear, dark red amber. Aroma is malt, hop, fruit, taffy. Flavor is like nose, but with a lot more going on - malt sweet is on top with plenty of hop and yeast bitter under, then a little carbonic tang to complete the experience. Body is full and lush but with ever so slight bitter points. Carbonation is spot on. Finish is just as it should be for the style: long, boozy, and satisfying. One or two would be just right. Very well crafted product.

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Photo of wspscott
4.52/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

22oz bomber in large Reidel wine glass

2007 batch

A: Dark ruby color with medium tan head and some lace
S: Toffee, light chocolate, earthy, no real hops presence
T: Rich heavy malts, raisiny, dark caramel, toffee, lots of bittering hops but no aroma hops
M: Rich, mouth coating, medium carbonation (a little too much carbonation for the style)
D: Slightly warming, not much alcohol flavor/presence. An English style barley wine with an incredible number of layers (my wife commented on the depth/complexity in one sip and she doesn't like barley wines). World class beer and highly recommended.

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Photo of phishsihq
4.51/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2008 Vintage

The beer pours a murky, reddish-brown with some great ruby highlights around the edges. A tight beige head is well retained and provides a curtain of lacing as the beer is consumed. Lush, rich malt aromas provide the senses with hints of cherries and plums. Piney hop aromas also join in with some caramel and a touch of booze to round out this wonderfully aromatic brew. This Barley Wine ages with beauty and grace! The malt complexity is much more defined, with the dark fruits taking the lead with caramel and toffee sweetness playing an important role as well. Generous hopping has helped to maintain some of the piney profile and cover a bit of the alcohol burn. Medium-full in body, this 5 year-old brew is lower in carbonation.

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Alaskan Barley Wine (Pilot Series) from Alaskan Brewing Co.
4.12 out of 5 based on 613 ratings.
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