Ballantine Burton Ale
Pabst Brewing Company

Ballantine Burton AleBallantine Burton Ale
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American Strong Ale
Ranked #67
Ranked #8,342
4 | pDev: 10.75%
Pabst Brewing Company
California, United States
Very Good
Ballantine Burton AleBallantine Burton Ale
Notes: Ballantine Burton Ale was first brewed in Newark in the 1930s and aged for up to 20 years in American oak. Designated a “Special Brew,” the beer was given as a gift to prestigious friends of the brewery, including the White House. We are excited to share the reincarnation of this rare brew. Like the original, our Burton Ale is sweet, strong, yet balanced by a robust hop character true to the Ballantine name. The oak essence and notes of toasted vanilla make it the perfect holiday treat. Season’s Greetings!
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Reviews: 64 | Ratings: 148 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by bshiban:
Photo of bshiban
4.02/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

More User Reviews:
Photo of LuskusDelph
4.7/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Sixpack of 12oz brown bottles, 11.3ABV, 75IBUs
Purchase price in central NJ: $11.99
A new revival/interpretation of Ballantine's historic and legendary holiday brew;
50+ years ago, the Burton was never offered for sale, but rathe was distributed as a gift to distributors, friends of the company, and some celebrity VIPs. The base for the original Ballantine Burton was brewed only twice...once in the early 1930s after the end of prohibition, and again in 1946 but it was treated as a kind of 'solera' version of an old ale/barleywine, where the initial brew was long aged and topped up with new ale each year.
Every year, after a portion of the aged brew was bottled, the remainder in the oak aging vats was topped up with a fresh addition of specially selected batches of the brewery's famous IPA. This process continued through (at least) the 1966 bottling of the 1946 brew.

My first bottle of this 2015 revival version of the Burton was poured (at ambient cellar temperature --in my house, that's roughly 58°F) into a wine glass. With an appropriately (and thankfully) subdued level of carbonation, the appearance of the ale under a small and rapidly dissipating cream colored head was an appealing starbright clear deep amber with some copper notes.
The nose was mostly rich malt with some fresh hop aroma and a hint of oak.
The palate of this ale is a superb balance of malty richness. but is not at all cloyingly sweet, possesing a medium body. Kudos to the brewer for not over carbonating this brew, allowing the rich malt character and ample hop balance and flavors to come through without the harsh flavor masking carbonation of most American beers. The high ABV becomes rather apparent but the "booziness", while apparent, is in no way overbearing or harsh. An important key to full enjoyment of this brew is to serve it no colder than 50°F. Served any colder, you will definitely miss out on much of the great balance and flavor of this fine "sipping beer".

It's a very impressive effort providing further proof that a big brewer can most definitely "do it up right", and stands as yet another nice return to form for the historical and once highly respected Ballantine brand (nowadays under the custodial care of Pabst), proving once again that great beer is not exclusively the purview of small brewers. Sometimes, the "bigs" can get it right.

While this new version of the Burton lacks the extraordinarily long aging and solera treatment that was given to Ballantine Burton 50+ years ago, the spirit of the original is there at 11.3 ABV and 75 IBUs, with apparently at least a few months of aging prior to packaging. This version (like last year's re-interpretation of the IPA) is definitely somewhat different from the original product, but stands on it's own merits.
Highly recommended.

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Photo of cavedave
4.14/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours clear cordovan color, with a finger of white foam that leaves slowly, but when it is gone, a bare cap remains. A swirl deposits some oily bubble legs.

Sweet and floral with mildest bitter hints. Toffee, caramel, and almost a honey aroma to it as well.

Add some alcohol spice to the flavors of the aroma, put some righteous rooty bitter at the end of the sip, and you have this beer nailed. Very clean flavors.

Med./full body, high viscosity, low carbonation, excellent finish, clean linger. What more could you ask?

Great beer. After having 11 of these in last 3 weeks this review finds me wanting to recommend this beer to everyone I know. As they say in Ga., get you some.

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Photo of puboflyons
4.42/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From the 2015 batch. Sampled ion May 20, 2016

Beautiful whiskey-amber pour with a modest tan head that fades fast but wonderful clarity.

The aroma is vibrant with Barley grains, dynamic sweet caramel malts, vague fruit, and oak wood. Booze is hidden.

The body is medium to better than medium and creamy smooth.

Warming caramel malts and barley grain mash in the flavor with a red grape juiciness and a mildly bitter finish. The alcohol is well integrated into all of the other flavors and aromas. This is a lovely beer and I congratulate Pabst for bringing back these classic decades old recipes for all of us to enjoy. This would age wonderfully.

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Photo of Wiffler27
4.43/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

pours a dark ruby, nearly red-brown color. thin head as well.

smell is sweet but subdued. has a nice sweet malt aroma.

taste is fantatsic, very clean tasting. almost like apple juice. nice and sweet, this is like candy. CANNOT believe this is 11.3%. so smooth and easy to drink.

way too smooth to drink. 11.3% and tastes like apple juice? deadly! glad i got a 6pack of this over the winter because this is really good. my only "complaint" is that this is unlike any barleywine i've ever had. it is much sweeter than any other barleywine i've ever had.

very good but very sweet. will definitely buy more of this next winter. sweet and thin bodied, not bad but unique.

Currently drinking the 2016 version on 8/9/17:
-looks exactly the same, dark ruby with a thin head
-smell is sweet
-flavor is straight apple juice and finishes with a strong apple juice flavor
-damn good beer, certainly unique in that it doesn't fit the bill of an IPA/dIPA or Barleywine. it's a beer in its own style. I'd say if you like sweet barleywines then this is the beer for you

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Photo of dbl_delta
4.13/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from an undated bottle into pint glass. Beautiful clear deep amber with a durable off-white head.
First impression at fridge temp - probably 40 degrees or thereabouts: caramel sweetness, but not overwhelmingly so. Very smooth - the alcohol is quite well hidden. Hops are present, but well-behaved and subservient to the malt sweetness. Finish is sweet but slightly chemical, which is the only downside for this offering.
In my former life I used to drink PBR exclusively. Then I discovered craft brews, much to my wallet's chagrin. Ballentine Burton is, for me, sort of a sentimental journey. Who knew Pabst was capable of this kind of excellence??? (I sure didn't!!) It's not your Daddy's PBR, but it's definitely worth exploring.

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Photo of atget57
4.84/5  rDev +21%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

My first review on Beer Advocate was for the re-introduction of Ballantine India Pale Ale in 2014. The last sentence of that review asked for Greg Deuhs & Pabst to resurrect Ballantine's Burton Ale. Less than 14 months later, here it is. Suffice to say that Greg D. has done it once more. A luscious full bodied recipe. Pours thick & rich with an opening of sweet oak & vanilla. However, this is not a melt your teeth sweetness. Rather, it is just present. The high alcohol is disguised well & allows for the long, ever so slight hoppy finish. This is a complex brew that is best sampled at cellar temperature by a roaring fire. Congrats all around. Cellar some for future years. Pabst has put away 500 cases just for this reason. Slainte!

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Photo of tkolterman
5/5  rDev +25%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

12-23-15. Great tasting beer. OMG you have to try to find it.
Bought 5 bottles in NJ, can't find any distributor in Buck/Mont county that has it.
Supppppper beer.

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Photo of Marraybay
4.21/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Overall: A leftover from my large Xmas 2015 bottle haul, that I'm finally nearing
completion on. But as can unfortunately be the case when loading up on seasonals,
you can often encounter a true gem during the post-season catch-up tastings, when it's
by then too late to do anything about it! (This is the case here.)

Look: Nice amber color with a white head: Looks a little like a DIPA.

Smell: Sugar, syrup, fruit cake, Xmas! ;)

Taste: Wow - This is "the bomb." (Malt Bomb that is!) Just waves of sugary/syrupy/vanilla/
fruit cake sweetness, that even the preview in the nose failed to adequately foretell. The large ABV
is nicely showcased here, but doesn't overwhelm; Definitely screams Christmas/celebration
etc. A fairly hefty IBU at 75, which does again steer this in the direction of a DIPA--DFH 90 minute
comes to mind-- but in all honesty, any real bitterness is pummelled into submission by the sugar!

Feel: Warmth; syrupiness, Christmas!

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Photo of woodychandler
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dang! I had every intention of drinking this beer during the Christmas holidays, but as usual, time & the Bottle Backlog here at Chez Woody got away from me & I missed my window of opportunity. I am making up for lost time at this point & my progress is n=both noticeable & measurable.

From the bottle: "Special Brew"; "Purity [-] Body [-] Flavor"; "Ballantine Burton Ale was first brewed in Newark in the 1930s and aged for up to 20 years in American oak. Designated a 'Special Brew', the beer was given as a gift to prestigious friends of the brewery, including the White House. We are excited to share the reincarnation of this rare brew. Like the original, our Burton Ale is sweet, strong, yet balanced by a robust hop character true to the Ballantine name. The oak essence and notes of toasted vanilla make it the perfect holiday treat. Season’s Greetings!"

First, my young 2016 vintage bottle. I began with another Pop! of the cap & simply conducted a slow, gentle pour. I am coming to realize that with bottle, this is generally the way to go since I can always perform an in-glass swirl afterwards. This action raised just over a finger of foamy, light-tan head with modest retention that quickly fell away, leaving nice lacing in its wake. Color was Deep Amber/Light Copper to Copper (SRM = > 13, < 17) with NE-quality clarity. Gorgeous! Nose smelled like the earlier English Barleywine with notes of leather, dried figs & dates, bready malt and a light heat. Mmmm. Mouthfeel was medium, but it felt like there was the potential for it to thicken over time, There was a LOT of available sugar in there, kind of like a burnt or browned sugar, but very evident. The taste was a little unfocused, but this was again probably indicative of its youth. I was getting the leather, dried Mediterranean fruits, burnt sugar but along with them was a slightly medicinal taste, evocative of the taste of my late maternal grandparents' Geritol that I snuck as a kid. Ugh. It still gives me the shivers. This taste gave the beer a sharpness that will undoubtedly smooth out over time, but in the interim, it was not to my liking. Finish was dry, but sharp and unfinished. It had a cheesiness that will also smooth out over time, but for now, I was ready to try the next-oldest vintage.

A 2015 bottle on Su, 02 April 2017. Another Pop! of the cap, followed by a gentle pour. I am getting smarter as I grow older, wiser and slower. A vigorous in-glass swirl raised a finger-and-a-half of foamy, soapy, light-tan head with low retention that quickly reverted to wisps. Color was a Coppery-Brown (SRM = > 17, < 22) with NE-quality clarity. Nose was much improved, much less sharp and leaning towards a bready sweetness. Now, the leathery quality was from=nt and center and the fruitiness had become more like dried dark fruits as opposed to Mediterranean fruits. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full, becoming bigger and stickier on the tongue, but still with a lot of potential. The taste was very evocative of Summit's English-style Barleywine with a malt-driven leatheriness and a dark bready, dark fruitiness that simply lingered and filled my sinus cavity with a waft of alcohol heat. Finish was dry, but left my lips sticky with its sugariness. I really liked the way that the leathery taste was becoming prevalent. I have more of 2016, but this was it for 2015. Awww.

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Photo of Ranbot
4.24/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Malt lovers rejoice! This beer was made for you! It's decent looking beer with a nice white cap over the orange-gold-brown beer. There's some some toffee, barley, and wood in the nose, but nothing overwhelming. The taste is very malt-forward with toffee, vanilla, wood, and bit of stonefruit. There's a earth and pine bitterness that just barely rounds out the beer so that it's not cloying, yet doesn't distract from the main show being the malts. There's a bit of alcoholic heat around the edges as expected for the ABV/style, but it's well hidden. The smell and flavor opens up more as it warms. A nice slow-sipper to savor by the fire.

Although not related to the flavor I suggest people research the history of the beer too. Whether you call Pabst craft or not, I really do not care, because with the Ballantine brand Pabst is making some truly unique beers (see also Ballantine IPA) that pay homage to American brewing history, and I applaud them for that.

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Photo of Schmidts
5/5  rDev +25%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a deep dark Amber. Smells of Bourbon Fruit Cake with a small touch of sweetness. tastes Amazing so glad I was given this bottleTastes of Malts Bourbon Whiskey, Caramel and and sweet Cherry's and dark rich bread. This Brew is awesome, shows the Big boys can make great Beers. I would be willing to say this is truely a great copy of the original Burton Ale. Feels creamy and smooth in your Mouth. So much wonderful flavor PBR you Hit a Home Run! Overall I give it a 5 and I don't do that often but this tastes amazing.
I highly Recomend this Ale give it a try! After drinking 4 Bottles before and after Christmas I have to go all the way in my Rating this is World Class! Starting my second case the Beer rep found me another one Love this beer! Just an Update on Burton Ale it is so good I got a friend in the beer Distributing to search and find left over Cases and He Found me 5 cases from 5 different Beer Distributors which I bought I am drinking the first case of the 5 and He is still looking! This Beer is SO GOOD!

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Photo of SABERG
3.71/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a chalice.
A - Light mahogany colored, gentle carbonation feeds a thin cap. A slick coating follows the pour to the end.
S - Toffee, leather, clove, alcohol, and bits of oak round out the aromatics,
T - Sweet, malty, bits of warmth, the flavors run in a tight range.
F - heavy body, slick and quite nice.
O - A pleasant surprise, I have read a bit about the offering, nicely executed and worth the effort to find.

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Photo of DrDemento456
3.67/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - The most shocking thing is the head takes forever to dissipate which makes for some great lacing. By this I mean it doesn't fizz out like a cheap malt liquor. Beer is a honey orange color clear with no sediment.
S - First sniffs are great hops and fruity ones at that. Revisit with Some oak and caramel sweetness.
T - Slight copper is kind of off putting but it does have a sort of herbal quality like an English Barleywine. Sweet fruits and caramels round out with a bit of hops that leaves the palate with no bitterness.
M - Best part is its very smooth for the ABV somewhat syrup like.

Overall I may have this again but to me it seems somewhat lacking still I am glad I picked up a single for $2.50 instead of throwing 4 or 5 dollars at this brew.

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Photo of tone77
3.74/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a chestnut color with a 1 inch head. Smell is of fruits, malts, sugar. Taste is malts, sugar, some fruits,light spice, alcohol becomes more pronounced as it warms. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is an enjoyable beer.

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Photo of keithmurray
4.07/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - red orange body with white head

Smell - orange peel, toffee

Taste - toffee, candied orange peel, orange marmalade, pine, bit of oak

Mouthfeel - heavier side of medium bodied, medium carbonation, sticky, slightly sweet upfront, a bit hoppy in the finish

Overall - i was pleasantly surprised by this offering, nice balance on this beer, I would drink this again

Price Point - $ 2.19/12 oz bottle

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Photo of IRNCAL
4.18/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

On tap poured into a pint glass. Feels like it must have been aged for at least a month as it was smoother and hid the alcohol better than other high abv barleywines. Amber on color with the sweetness that is expected with a barleywine. I was truly impressed with a product from pbr satisfying me as well as a true craft brew. Don't pass this one up.

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Photo of Lingenbrau
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A one year old bottle. Very much reminiscent of a traditional English styled Barleywine in every facet. Big, beautiful and bold beer. Overall, a very good strong ale that I would always welcome. Cheers!

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Photo of 57md
4.16/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a bright reddish copper with a half finger of head. The nose is an array of fruits from apples to bananas to prunes. The mouthfeel is rich and the flavor is malty sweet with the strikingly subtle essence of dark fruits and holiday spices. There is a semi-dry hop finish to this fantastic offering.

Update March 2018: Had a cellared 2016 vintage and it was almost as good as a freshie. The holiday spices diminish and this already sweet offering seemed to get sweeter. I'd give a slight edge to fresh but one year plus of age certainly has not tainted this gem. Who says the big boy brewers can't make a tasty beer?

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.93/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an absolutely stunning copper color. The head is a finger high and off-white in shade. Retention is low, which doesn't surprise given its high gravity. However, a nice ring of lacing is left behind. This is one beautiful-looking beer.

Smells pretty strong, but in a good way! This definitely hints towards an American (hoppy) barleywine with its hop presence - I'm getting plenty of pine, tobacco, and earth. And yet, the ale esters are extremely prominent, bringing powerful cherry, fig, and raisin notes. Oak aging appears subtly with twinges of vanilla. Oh, wait, I forgot to mention the massive malt presence! This is also loaded with caramel, brown sugar, leather, molasses, and toffee. The aroma is as complex as it needs to be: every aspect I searched for (malts, hops, esters, oak aging) exists in this offering.

Hop notes wash over the palate initially. The bitterness doesn't even come close to overpowering the malt presence - in fact, it kind of cowers under it. As I swish this around the mouth, I pick up subtle oak and vanilla. Malt flavors appear near the back end. Think caramel, pumpernickel bread, and toffee, like many barleywines. Some hoppy notes also show up here, including some citrus flavor. Nuanced and deep, certainly. It could have a bit more nuance and depth, but it still hits the spot beautifully as a winter warmer.

The palate presence is treacly and thick - I mean, what else could this have been? Thin and nimble-bodied? On the plus side, its hop presence keeps it from being too syrupy, just. There is a warming sensation (perfect, considering the weather in Maryland decided to be cold suddenly) after the swallow - and at times a mild burn - though nothing ridiculous for something over 11%. Carbonation is low, adding to the aforementioned 'treacle' vibe.

For Pabst to completely, totally, and utterly step out of their comfort zone with a beer like this is awesome. While this isn't perfect by any stretch, it's a complex and enjoyable brew nailing all the aspects I expect from the style. And it'll be even better with a year or two (or five) of age on it. This is certainly the best beer Pabst has ever brewed, by a wide margin at that.

3.93/5: A damn good barleywine that will get even better with age

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Photo of muchos
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Picked up a single bottle.
Bottled 11/10/15.
Enjoyed 11/05/16
360 days in the bottle.
L. Clear dark amber to brown. Small head of small bubbles.
S. Smells sweet. Light molasses, honey, biscuit, brown sugar, dates, figs, smoke, slight brandy.
T. Full of flavor. Caramel, molasses, oak, vanilla, coconut, dates, butter toffee, caramel apples. Aftertaste of Milky Way and booze.
F. Full bodied, smooth, low to moderate carbonation.
O. A real treat. I'm going to try to find more of this beer this year. Cheers!

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Photo of RacerX5k
4.44/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Wow. This is really good, just finished my first 6, glad I have another. Pretty color. Nose is caramel, vanilla, and a gorgeous cinnamon spice that's just perfect for the holidays. Very complex taste, caramel, apples, figs and dates yes like a fig newton drenched in apple cider with a little oak. The hops keep the sweetness in check, providing the balance required in every great beer.' Mouthfeel is bold, rich, lush. spot on. One of those rare beers that gets better the more you have it, like all my favorites. Really tough to find a flaw here.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.48/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottle purchased at Nathaniel Square Corner Store in Rochester, NY.

This one pours a clear reddish brown, with a small wispy head, and a few streaks of lacing.

Smells great, some bitter grassy and slightly fruity hoppiness, orange marmalade, raisins, plums, and toasted bread.

This tastes really great, and it's super enjoyable. Bitter hops up front, with a toasty and oaky middle, with a finish that reminds me of plums and raisins. There's a little bit of vanilla from the oak-aging. Whatever style they call this one, it's super enjoyable and I'm glad they brought it back from the dead.

This is medium bodied, with a crisp mouthfeel, and a moderate level of carbonation.

I really enjoyed this one.

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Photo of hopflyer
4.44/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 11/10/15

Pours rich copper, amber color with one finger head which recedes quickly. Limited lacing. No visible sediment or haze. Good clarity.

Heavy on the apple initially in the nose and blends with vanilla and caramel.

Taste follows on que with sweet/tart apple and a pleasant caramel-toffee like sweetness. Light vanilla notes backstage. Not much in the way of bitterness given the 70 some IBU's but some is definitely there to balance the sweet maltiness. This certainly is a big sweet barleywine. As it warms, some dark grape flavors come thru with sweetness and tartness similar to the initial apple. Alcohol nearly invisible.

Medium body with a syrupy texture. Odd that it has this texture, but the body isn't overly heavy. Low to medium carbonation and seems just right. No alcohol heat and the lingering flavors are in no way overbearing.

Really impressed by this one. I'm not a huge barleywine fan but this one is certainly the best I've had and makes me want to go after more beers of this style. The sweetness and tartness blend is seemless and the finish is semi clean for such a big brew. Highly recommended!

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Photo of NolaHopHead
4.08/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle. Deep Amber pour, thin white head leaves a ton of lacing. Caramel candy aroma, boozy. Sweet caramel taste, sugary, wood notes, plenty booze in the finish. Powerful brew, sweet slow sipper.

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Ballantine Burton Ale from Pabst Brewing Company
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 148 ratings