Hand & Seal
Brooklyn Brewery

Hand & SealHand & Seal
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Barleywine - English
4.32 | pDev: 7.64%
Brooklyn Brewery
New York, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Hand & SealHand & Seal
Notes: In the 20th season of his reign, the year Anno Brooklynius 26, our Brewmaster brought forth a new wonderment for the People. Barleywine-style ale, once the exclusive drink of British nobility, would be produced anew in Brooklyn. Linking together their twin brewhouses, the Brooklyn brewing team toiled a great many hours to create the most robust beer they had ever produced. Then it was set to rest for months in casks of Bourbon oak, and finally refermented in the bottle.

The result is one of the richest, tastiest beers to ever emerge from our brewery. The deep flavors of floor-malted Maris Otter barley shine through the layers of vanilla, coconut, toast and floral notes given by aging in Four Roses bourbon wood. Hand & Seal is complex without being perfumey, subtly sweet without becoming cloying. Its naturally gentle carbonation suits a contemplative drink. The size of the bottle connotes a spirit of generosity, for it is an ale to be shared with friends and family.
Reviews: 78 | Ratings: 363 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by thebeers:
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thebeers from Pennsylvania

4.09/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours ruddy brown with a thin tan head that maintains a wisp across the top and a decent crown.

Oak, caramel, vanilla and light earthy hops show in the nose.

The same elements carry over to the taste, joined by a little cherry, raisin and an alcohol bite.

Medium bodied, borderline slick, with fairly strong carbonation.

This is a very well-crafted beer. A strong wood profile and decent hop addition for the English style keep it from being overly sweet. Very enjoyable sipper.

Jun 27, 2020
More User Reviews:
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BEERchitect from Kentucky

4.2/5  rDev -2.8%

Hot on the heels of the retirement of Monster Ale, it didn't take long for Brooklyn brewers to hop back onto the barleywine bandwagon. But this time, a scales up English version meets and extended age with bourbon barrels for a decadent, savory and powerful taste to seduce and overwhelm the palate simultaneously.

Its hazy, rusty crimson pour catches the eye much like cask British ale, equipped with a lazily swirling creme of froth. With the nose diving in, strong toffee and maple aromatics ensue, carrying with them a masculine toasted oak and boozy note that's unmistakably bourbon. Its sweetness seeps upon the tongue with saturating barley sugars that are unapologetic with dense nutty, caramel goodness.

With the slow creep across the middle, the sweetness latches on even as the hop balance struggles for a foothold. Woodsy to start, aged sawdust, pine and spruce rise to complement the immensity of malt sugars to claim a bitterness that offers a faint semblance of drinkability to the full-bodied ale.

Its long and savory finish is suggestive of port and sherry in its intense flavors and warming effects. As it overwhelms the senses and the mind, a dessert-like satisfaction sets in and begs for strong stilton cheese and walnuts in accompaniment.

Oct 13, 2014
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maximum12 from Minnesota

4.82/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Didn’t even know what this was when somebody mentioned they were looking for it…despite the hefty $20 price tag, I bit. WhatcanIsay, I’m a sucker for barrel-aged barleywines. 750ML corked & caged bottle opened & delivered by my lovely, ex-waitress wife.

The pour looks like run-off from courts of the Swedish Open with a smattering of carbonation across the surface of the brew. The nose is thick vanilla & toffee; sweet malts clog the sinuses. I like.

Hand & Seal should not be mixed with heavy machinery. It drinks bigger than the advertised 13.3%, as the alcohol takes a big bite out of my already compromised liver enzymes. After the shock wears off, this is smoother than Astroglide. Massive caramel & toffee slips into a huge barrel presence that brings vanilla, bourbon, & dry, cracked wood. It’s hard to get at anything else after all that beauty, but there’s a bounty of brown sugar sweetness that’s a lilting soprano rather than sickeningly saccharine. Did I mention the smoothness? And simultaneously thick, slick, & full. Drinkable? How many letters are in Fuck Yes? Seven. Plus a space.

This is one of those beers that transcends the dull listing of tastes. It’s like one of those stupid movies where they try to hide the hot chick behind glasses – they always wear glasses, I love girls in glasses - & bad clothes. Don’t they know men don’t look at clothes & glasses? What was I talking about? Anyways – this beer kicks ass. An outstanding brew that even at the price, I am going to go out & find at least one more bottle of. Maybe two. Or five. Glasses. I love glasses.

Jun 24, 2015
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jzeilinger from Pennsylvania

3.98/5  rDev -7.9%

A - Pours a deep, clear dark garnet color with a slight foamy head which dissipates to a thick, even cream
ring of lacing and light carbonation through the middle.

S - Vanilla, bourbon, oak, and alcohol effervescence.

T - A lot of alcohol effervescence and booze forward with healthy amounts of bourbon and oak
followed by a touch of coconut, some vanilla, toasted toffee malt as an underneath base.

M - Full bodied, thick, sticky, slippery, and heavy alcohol warming on the way down which
eventually lowers to a moderate level once the throat adjusts.

O - Bought two bottles and plan to cellar the 2nd one to see how it ages. There are some nice
layers of complexity but the alcohol wants to tae a front seat to everything else and that, it

Sep 28, 2014
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metter98 from New York

4.31/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is very hazy caramel amber in color. It poured with a finger high off white head that gradually died down, consistently leaving a thin layer of bubbles covering the surface and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Moderate to strong aromas of caramel malts and toffee are present in the nose.
T: The taste very much follows the smell and is very malty, with lots of flavors of caramel and toffee. Neither bitterness nor alcohol are present. As the beer warms up, notes of vanilla from the bourbon barrel aging become noticeable.
M: It feels medium-bodied on the palate and coats your mouth, having a low to moderate amount of carbonation. Faint hints of alcohol warming are also present.
O: I really enjoyed this beer because the malty flavors that were present in the taste linger and persist through the finish. It is very drinkable considering the strength because the alcohol is well hidden from the taste.

Serving type: bottle

Jan 01, 2015
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ADZA from Australia

4.04/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Big thanks to MrKennedy for this lil number, pours a chestnut hue with little carbonation almost flat almost but nice for style and what u expect for an english style, smell straight out bourbon mixed with butterscotch candy I love heaven hill barrels they do amazing things,mouthfeel thick and chewy with minimal carb, tastes start off sweet but the more u get into it fades a little with heaps of butterscotch candy, toffee and caramel and I know it sounds funny but the bittersweet bourbon really adds a touch of balance to the already sweet foundation,overall glad I had now as probably only sweeten with time and thats not my thing very enjoyable cheers.

Jan 30, 2015
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CoreyC from Wisconsin

4.8/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

9/14 bottling so aged 2 years
A - red/brown/orange color with a quickly dissipating head
S - wonderful complex sweetness with the barrel coming through nicely
T - about as good as it gets - sweet smooth and balanced
M - nice and sticky
O - one of the best beers I've ever had - I was saving it for a special occasion and the Badgers beating LSU in the season opener was the perfect occasion!

Sep 04, 2016
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superspak from Ohio

4.35/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

3100th review! 750 ml bottle into snifter; Q3 2014 bottling, Blend #2. Pours lightly hazy dark ruby red color with a 1-2 finger dense light khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass, with some moderate streaming carbonation retaining the cap. Aromas of big raisin, plum, fig, date, pear, apple, caramel, brown sugar, toast, toffee, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, and oak/toasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of fruity yeast, dark malt, and bourbon barrel notes; with great strength. Some light booziness appears as it warms. Taste of huge raisin, plum, fig, date, pear, apple, caramel, brown sugar, toast, toffee, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, and oak/toasted earthiness. Light amount of bourbon/oak spiciness and herbal bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of raisin, plum, fig, date, pear, apple, caramel, toast, toffee, vanilla, coconut, bourbon, oak, and oak/toasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Incredible complexity and robustness of fruity yeast, dark malt, and bourbon barrel flavors; with an outstanding malt/yeast/barrel balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light carbonation and full bodied; with a very smooth, creamy, and fairly slick mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a small warming lingering after the finish. Zero booziness in the taste. Overall this is an incredible barrel aged English barleywine. All around outstanding complexity, robustness, and balance of fruity yeast, dark malt, and bourbon barrel flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the huge ABV. A highly enjoyable offering.

Apr 18, 2015
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Jugs_McGhee from Louisiana

3.3/5  rDev -23.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

BOTTLE: 1 pint 9.4 fl oz brown glass with gorgeous label & label art and a branded gold hood-and-wire cap over a branded cork. Acquired earlier today at a local Austin, TX bottle shop and served cold into a snifter.

Reviewed as a bourbon barrel aged barleywine per the label. "BQE Q3 2014." 13.30% ABV. Allowed to come to room temperature over the course of consumption. Expectations are high given the brewery and description. Cost was $23.00 USD plus tax. "Blend #3."

No bubble show forms as it's poured.,

HEAD: None whatsoever. No lacing.

BODY: Dark shallow red with peach orange hues. Has a translucent glow when backlit, but otherwise it's quite dull. Nontransparent. No yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible.

Not a great look for a barleywine.

AROMA: There's some definite bourbon character - vanilla, oak wood sugars, caramalt, toffee, English biscuit malt, faint coconut, light cherry, and other assorted vague fruits. Definitely on the sweeter side; low attenuated yeast is obvious. Has a distinct English malt backbone judging by the aromatics. Has a light hop character which is primarily floral. As it warms, the vague fruitiness starts to give way to more distinct notes of plum, light raisin, and a kiss of fig. I also pick up on a hint of marshmallow.

It's got some definite alcohol warmth and presence, but it's welcome here - at least here in the aroma.

TASTE: The base beer is quite fruity for a barleywine, with sweet caramelized notes of plum, cherry, fig, raisin, and treacle. The bourbon barrel character enhances the base beer, but does slightly overwhelm it, bringing faint notes of light vanilla, depleted coconut, neutral oak, and barrel sugars. I hoped for some rich oaky toastiness, but none is present. I do wish the coconut was stronger. It's not real bourbon-y, vanilla notwithstanding. Hints of maple.

It's certainly on the sweeter side overall, which in my opinion makes it imbalanced - though this may change as it ages. Its English malt backbone feels out-of-place here; an American malt build would likely be more suited to the barrel notes - even if the purported bourbon is wanting.

It's by no means the most complex or intricate barleywine build out there - especially considering the fact that it's bourbon barrel aged, but I do like it and the subtlety of the coconut and cherry is nice. Has a loose cohesion, but it doesn't feel like a gestalt whole.

I crave more coconut, bourbon, vanilla, and some toastiness.

Sweet as it is, it's never cloying, and it's not as rich or deep as the best bourbon barrel barleywines out there. Flavour duration and intensity are average.

TEXTURE: Smooth, wet, thick, lightly syrupy (or at least heavily caramelized), well-carbonated, viscous, and heavy. "Full-bodied" is an understatement. Has ample alcohol warmth.

Not oily, gushed, hot, harsh, astringent, scratchy, rough, or lumpy.

This texture is fine for the style, but isn't an ideal companion to the taste, and doesn't elevate the beer beyond the effective aspects of its flavour profile.

OVERALL: Certainly not worth its unreasonable pricetag, and far from a great or world-class brew in its style. I expected better from Brooklyn, and while I'll enjoy polishing off the bottle, I'd caution friends from picking this up at its current price and wouldn't buy it again myself. It can only get better with age, but I can't see this blossoming into anything special. It's worth sharing with friends if you split the cost, but I wouldn't want to take down another bottle alone. She's a sipper - as much for her sweetness as for her boozy warmth - and will take me a good 40 minutes to polish off. I'm disappointed.

Low B-

Oct 11, 2014
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BEERMILER12 from Maine

4.56/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a deep mahogany color with a tiny head that fades down to nothing

S: Very malty, with notes of the barrel and some toffee. The barrel imparts some nice sweetness and vanilla, as well as hints of oak. Dark fruits also come through, such as figs and raisins. Alcohol buried underneath the malt and barrel notes

T: Incredibly complex and layered. The malt comes first and opens up with some sweetness and dark fruity notes. The barrel comes next, lending vanilla, oak, and bourbon. Dark fruits round things out, mostly with notes of fig and sweet golden raisin. Alcohol is barely noticeable underneath the deeply complex maltiness. Finishes with a light lingering sweetness and a hint of the alcohol

M: Medium-full bodied with low-moderate carbonation

O: The layered nature of this brew is very nice and it's unbelievable that the alcohol doesn't come through more than a slight bit in the finish. The malts and barrel compliment each other extremely well and makes the drinkability even that much greater. It takes some patience not to drink this down quickly, but you might find yourself on your ass quickly if you don't take your time and sip on it. Very well done by Brooklyn. A truly stand-out beer that will likely slide under the radar. If you're on the edge because of the $20 price point, don't hesitate. This is one purchase you won't regret

Dec 01, 2014
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StonedTrippin from Colorado

4.33/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

not a style of beer i usually gravitate towards, but this one is supreme in its class, maybe the best i have had since sucaba, no joke. thanks to thebrewo for procuring this one and bringing it out to me here in colorado. looks the part, super hazy and thick, short khaki foam head settles in a couple minutes, and the aroma just blows my mind. its not the least bit hot, which for this strength is insane, and the bourbon on it is enormous. the vanilla is there, and there is a maple sort of sweetness, but its not over the top. the grain is layered in there beautifully, like some of their other strong beers, it comes in waves and its different in taste and feel from any other. melting toffee, warm vanilla custard, sweet oak, maple candy, golden raisin, dried date, and buttery crumb topping. this beer is amazing, with the bourbon finishing it long and mellow. usually big barleywines arent my thing, but this one is really remarkable. cant say enough about it, and how they continue to impress me each and every time i have a new beer from them. one of the best breweries in the country i have always said, and this is further reinforcement of that notion.

Mar 11, 2015
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gr0g from New Jersey

4.48/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Hazy caramel-colored appearance. Specks of lacing are left behind from a head composed of very fine bubbles. Unmistakable characteristics of Bourbon barrel on the nose. A little bit boozy, not over the top, with woody, vanilla-rich notes. Sweet toffee and candy apple notes.

Sweet with just enough balancing bitterness. Extra ripe dates and raisins factor in the flavor. Strong hints of vanilla and bourbon. Carbonation is a bit too aggressive, but on the other hand, it doesn't fade to flatness either. Big, intense flavor that mellows toward the finish.

Hand and Seal is a great barrel-aged barleywine, a better example of its style than Black Ops. It's pricey at $20+, but I'm glad I picked up a bottle.

Oct 26, 2014
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Lovely85 from Florida

3.99/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

May 02, 2015
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SourAddict from Wisconsin

3.85/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Jan 03, 2016
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reyna311 from Delaware

4.35/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Mar 13, 2015
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innominat from Ireland

3.67/5  rDev -15%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

May 17, 2015
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mportnoy from Pennsylvania

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

Jun 21, 2015
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BurgeoningBrewhead from Pennsylvania

4.52/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Jan 01, 2015
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lupercmda from North Carolina

4.43/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

May 15, 2016
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clay23 from New York

4.36/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Feb 19, 2015
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spoony from Colorado

4.19/5  rDev -3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Apr 05, 2015
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MattGrimley from Massachusetts

4.4/5  rDev +1.9%

Oct 19, 2014
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mcsauter82 from New Jersey

4.7/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

May 28, 2015
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fredmugs from Indiana

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

Oct 17, 2016
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kirchy from New York

4.24/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Jan 11, 2015
Hand & Seal from Brooklyn Brewery
Beer rating: 95 out of 100 with 363 ratings