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Sisyphus | Real Ale Brewing Company

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646 Ratings

Brewed by:
Real Ale Brewing Company
Texas, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by aracauna on 12-18-2002

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 646 |  Reviews: 323
Photo of Dreadnaught33
3.63/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Got as an extra in a trade with OakedCanuck. 2009 vintage.

A: Hazy, amber-brown color with a small ring of off white head and mountains of lacing.

S: Classic prunish/sugary malt mixed with subdued citrus hops. Theres a definite pastry type of smell here, like a bunch of different sugary desserts smells mixed.

T: Not an overly big flavor. Candy coated raisin, malt, some citrus (faint) bitter at the end, leather, and definite lager malt/yeast tastes.

M: Medium, really bitter finish, smooth.

D: Not too bad, but hard for me to get through since it isn't the tastiest barleywine out there.

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Photo of redraider2323
4.07/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - reddish brown, fairly opaque, thick foam

S - raisins, dates, plums. Lots of dark fruit.

T - alcohol, plums, dark candy. It almost has a Belgian yeast character with all the dark fruit, even though I don't think they are using Belgian yeast with this beer.

M/D - pretty thick mouthfeel. Very flavorful and tasty, although the drinkability isn't great. A good beer I'd recommend though.

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Photo of seeswo
4.23/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This beer was thrown in as an extra. Pours a dark golden color with a reasonable amount of head. The nose is light hops, not much else. An initial sip reveals a mild, balanced barleywine. It tastes of hops and sweetness, but neither overpowering and definitely in balance. Lots of barleywines taste like they have thrown the kitchen sink into it, but this is actually subdued and dare I say, highly drinkable for the style. Maybe the world's only sessionable barleywine (until you fall off your stool)? It feels like this beer must have enjoyed some age, as though this is exactly the right time to open it to preserve the hop goodness, but put in harmony with the subdued (for a barleywine) sweetness.

I don't know if I lucked into the correct time to drink this or if this is just secretly a killer barleywine, but I highly recommend it. It does have a bit of a lower-key flavor, which I actually think is somewhat impressive in an almost 12% ABV beer, but some might call a bit bland. I think that is a harsh assessment, as my only knock is the very occasional, very slight rubbing-alcohol flavor.

Surprisingly really good. Get it and drink it.

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Photo of STEG
3.57/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2009 Vintage, courtesy of Jefferz5000, been looking forward to opening one of these for a while.

After pouring this beer vigorously, straight down into a portsmouth brewery snifter, it left a three finger off white, fine bubbled head which had some great retention and excellent lacing. It also has a deep orange color for the beer itself.

Smell has caramel dipped whole cone hops and a general almost musty, almost woody character about it.

Taste, surprisingly not a hop nor a malt bomb, very well balanced except for the alcohol heat. The taste begins with a salvo of citrus hops, lemon, grapefruit and lime rind are all present but fade extremely fast into a malty deep finish, that along with the alcohol heat lingers for a bit after each sip.

Granted this is 11.5%, the alcohol makes itself very well known on the tongue as well as the general mouthfeel. It's also sticky and syrupy on the lips.

I'd be more than fine with one of these and love to see what these will be like with some age on them.

Thanks again for this one jeff.

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Photo of lackenhauser
4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Somewhat "dusty" looking orange/amber color. Not much carbonation though seems somewhat lively in the glass. Poured like a sticky syrup. Heavy malt, trace of alcohol and a kiss of hops aroma wise. Big, big malty flavor. Dried fruit and a heavy caramel sweetness. Enough of an alcohol burn to be noticeable but in a good way. Sticky, resiny and gummy flavors. Same in the body-a sticky, smooth creamy quality to it that I love. Really stands up in the glass. really quite the US barleywine. Not the huge hopbomb like Bigfoot or Old Ruffian but damn fine. YUMMO!

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Photo of Pellinore1
3.87/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got a 2009 bottle of this in a trade with Mora2000.

Pours a medium, cloudy amber, leaving about a finger of very light tan head. This dissipates quickly, leaving some lacing.

A bit of caramel sweetness in the nose, perhaps a little fruit. Nothing really big here, but I have a slight cold that may be affecting my sense of smell.

The flavor starts with some smooth caramel and dark fruit, then gives way to some resiny bitterness, and alcohol warmth.

This beer is smooth and creamy. Not much carbonation, but just enough to keep it from seeming flat.

While this smells and feels like a high alcohol beer, I would never have guessed just how high. Excellent drinkability for the style and for the ABV.

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Photo of UTCengOwl
3.94/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Found a shelf of Sisyphus 2009 at Central Market. Had to try it out and see if I should go buy more of it. Poured from the bottle into a Great Divide balloon glass on 11/20/10.

The beer pours a hazy amber kith a nice white head that stays around for a while. Nice head retention for the ABV and apparent carbonation.

The nose has some sweetness and faint hops, but seems a bit muted. I don't think I have a cold or anything... hrm.

The taste is very nicely balanced. Smooth citrusy American hops flow into the big, boozy backbone. I'm starting to taste a pileup of pine in the back of my throat... but it's not as pleasant as the initial bite.

The weight of the beer in my mouth is great. One of my favorite parts of a good barleywine. I almost miss it when I swallow the gulp.

When I looked up the ABV, my first thought was "you're fucking with me". If that doesn't say good things about the drinkability, what would?

In all, this was a very enjoyable beer and I might have to pick up another bottle when I head back for groceries tomorrow night.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.4/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into my Duvel tulip. 2007 vintage. Received as an extra in a trade with SSW117; thanks Sam!

a - Pours a mahogany amber color with less than one inch of white head and very light carbonation evident.

s - Smells of caramel malts, dark fruits, sweet fruit and malts, and bready malts. Quite enjoyable.

t - Tastes of caramel malts, bready malts, dark fruit, and light alcohol. Tastes very watered down, which hurts it a bit. It doesn't taste bad at all, just watered down.

m - Medium body and no carbonation at all. Very smooth and creamy, unfortunately this beer is flat.

d - Considering this is 11.5% ABV, it is insanely drinkable. Not sure what happened to this one over the past 3 years, but it was somewhat flat and something seemed off in the taste; as I noted before, it seemed watered down. Would like to try a more recent vintage to compare it to, but probably wouldn't want to try a 2007 again.

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Photo of DavoleBomb
3.13/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured into a snifter. 2008 vintage.

3.5 A: Opaque brownish ruby red color. One finger of creamy white head with decent retention given the ABV and moderate amounts of lacing.

3.0 S: I let this warm up quite a bit because the aroma isn't very strong. Caramel and toffee. Slightly bready and light herbal hoppiness. Not bad, but too damn weak. Alcohol is hidden really well though.

3.0 T: Taste is like the nose, pleasant but muted. Alcohol is hidden well again. Moderate bitterness. Breadier than the nose suggests. Toffee is there, but the caramel is a bit weaker than in the nose.

4.0 M: Heavier medium body. Good moderate carbonation. Reasonably creamy and smooth.

3.0 D: Overall this is fairly boring. It's not bad, but could use an infusion of flavor.

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Photo of climax
4.22/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sisyphus 2008
Sampled 2010

This one, poured into a snifter, is a flat caramel, the head was relatively small, leaving a film and a few patches of bubbles.

The alcohol is hidden well in the aroma, at 11%, that's saying something. Sweet toffee and buttered biscuits are the most potent flavors, edging out fruity bitterness.

The flavor hides the alcohol very well also, exceptionally smooth. Ripe peaches and a bitter finish display a generous hop offering. The sweetness comes in the shape of cookies, toffee, and doughy biscuits.

The body had a real good heft to it, carbonation very mild, but it doesn't need anymore. The feel was real thick and creamy, almost to the point where it was doughy. Despite being as viscous as 10,000 miles worth of Pennzoil, it's brutally easy to drink. One must watch out, because Real Brewing does a noble job of sneaking quite a bit of booze in this bad boy.

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Photo of drabmuh
4.13/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sent to me by JohnQVegas I'm pretty sure. Poured into my DFH signature glass. Beer is thick and amber with a big off white head of small and medium bubbles that leaves a lot of lacing on the glass. Beer was mostly clear before I poured the sediment into it, then it got cloudy.

Aroma is mostly malty and mildly hoppy. Pine hops, smells good.

Beer is thick and surprisingly not very sweet up front. There is some heat at the back and it finishes mildly dry, but doesn't dry me out. There is some mild sweetness in the mid to late palate. Minimal hop presence throughout. The more I drink the more the taste creeps forward. Its a pretty drinkable beer for its size, I'd say its well above average, I'd have it again.

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Photo of mothman
3.56/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2008 vintage.

Poured into stone old guardian glass.

Pours a light layer of white head. Color is a burnt orange with a ruby hue. There are twigs in this beer.

Aroma: Sweet and malty. Caramel, toffee, bready. Has some dark fruit notes. Some spices. Light booze.

Taste: Very sweet. Toffee with bready and caramel malts. Grassy hops. Some raisins.

Mouthfeel: Sweet and smooth. Medium bodied with a medium amount of carbonation. Ends with a touch of booze.

Overall, a decent bwine, but not too hoppy. All sweetness and malty. Fairly drinkable.

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Photo of womencantsail
4.09/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 vintage courtesy of Michael.

A: The pour is a cloudy orange color with a very minimal white head forming from a vigorous pour.

S: Plenty of sweet caramel notes with some toffee and brown sugar. Some milk dark stone fruit notes as well as some citrus and pine hops to add a bit of balance.

T: Despite the rather sweet and caramel and toffee heavy base of this beer, there's a nice hoppy character. A moderate level of bitter pine and grapefruit rind.

M: The body is medium with a low-to-moderate carbonation.

D: Not overly sweet, though leaning that way, still a good bitterness and balance. This could be good fresh or with age.

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Photo of alleykatking
3.1/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured from 12oz bottle. 2007 vintage. This beer gushed out of the bottle as soon as it was popped!

A- Pours a hazy orange color. Three finger beige color head which shows medium retention. Ringing lacing on the sides of the glass.

S- Caramel malts right from the get go along with nose tingling alcohol. Some light darker fruits with a maple sweetness.

T- Nice big bitterness to them. Caramel malts with some light darker fruits mostly raisins. Some toffee notes with a medicinal alcohol in the backing. Short and sweet for a barleywine.

M- Medium mouthfeel. Carbonation is good for the style. Big malts left on the palate with alcohol in the aftertaste. Flavors were big and not well preserved I think. Alcohol very drying on the palate. Not clean flavors at times but there are times where it shines through.

D- This was a alright barleywine. I was expecting a little more from it but it was not a drain pour in the slightest. Maybe an infected bottle or maybe a over-carbonated bottle? I have a couple more bottles of this so I'm actually looking forward to them.

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Photo of kbutler1
3.28/5  rDev -16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottle of the 2008 batch. Pours a slightly opaque burnt orange color with a coastered offwhite head. The aroma is super matly with notes of dark fruit like raisins and plum, some spice notes as well that I can't put my finger on. Medium/heavy mouthfeel. Malty upfront with a transition to some bitterness and alcohol. Not a whoe lot going on in this one, pretty run of the mill.

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Photo of LacquerHead
3.98/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this on-tap at the Friendly Spot in S.A. Tx.
A: orange amber color with a white foamy head.

S: it had a musty hops smell mixed with fruity grain.

Nice hops upfront with a slightly sour and tangy taste in the background. It had a good malt profile. There was a nice sweetness but not to over powering. Overall it was well rounded and every thing worked together making this a tasty brew. Note: My sister said it smelled and tasted like Fruit Loops.

The ABV was well masked

Conclusion: very pleased with this beer and I would have it again. A good beer from the little town of Blanco.

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Photo of sdawson
3.98/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Received this in a trade from the incredibly friendly and generous wagenvolks. Thank you so much!

Sisyphus poured into my snifter as a warm, red amber topped with a large pillowy head of foam and a small amount of lacing. To the nose it was quite candy-like -- sweet honey, candied citrus fruit, and the barest trace of a hop tang in the background. On the tongue, the effervescence yields to a strong brown sugar note and syrup, which is kept interesting by the addition of a bright zesty flare of hops. As others have said, this brew is quite skilled at concealing it's gravity, and is definitely on the sweet side for easy consumption, but if you're looking to savor something slowly on a night meant for relaxing it's quite fitting.

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Photo of AdamGarcia
3.57/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

2009 vintage served in SN 30th snifter.

A: One finger of foamy white head. Orange-ish copper body. Somewhat cloudy. The head quickly shrinks to a thin ring.

S: Very sweet. Carmel, vanilla, oak, and sherry. Maraschino cherry. Slightly estery.

T: Similar to smell. Sweetness is nearly overwhelming. This seems closer to an English style BW, but not a good one. Not terribly complex either. Fusel alcohol. A little tobacco. Certainly gets better the closer it gets to room temperature. Finishes with an unpleasant astringent character.

M: Slick and sticky. Low carbonation is good for style.

D: Low. Definitely a sipper.

My first offering from Real Ale. Sisyphus isn't bad, but there are so many better options in this segment.

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Photo of aggiearcher13
4.1/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2008 bottle that I've had in the cellar for a little while.

A: Reddish amber, hardly any head, just leaves a wisp on the surface. Leaves moderate lacing. Pretty normal for a barleywine.

S: Smells fruity and sweet. Booze is restrained but it's in the nose.

T: Tart cherry and some orange notes. On the lighter size for barley wine, but certainly not out of style. Pretty darn good flavor. Bitter and drier than the nose would suggest. A hint of toffee.

M: Medium-light body, a little more viscosity as it warms. Middle of the road carbonation, quite nice.

D: Great beer, this could probably age for a several more years and more malt flavors would emerge, it would even benefit from a little oxidation. Overall, very enjoyable and drinkable.

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Photo of burnerfinger
4.6/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

bought myslef a single bottle of this having no idea what I had found:

A: poured from the 12 oz bottle into my new belgium goblet. Thin yellowish head leaves, well, heroic lacing. nice oraange-amber hue - noticable sediment at the base of the goblet

S: HMMM! nice, sweet malt (caramel?)

T: (think of Mr. Burns) Excellent! Nice tart showing of hops, with a huge malt backbone.

M: lots and lots of body here. easy on the carbonation - almost no ABV burn.

D: this is the best example of a barelywine that I have found!! really, reallyl great. But I cant honestly give it hi marks for drinkablility - what with the hi abv and huge body this is just too rich for sessioning.

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Photo of TMoney2591
4.32/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Devil's Backbone willibecher.

Big thanks to Hophead101 for this bottle!

2009 Vintage. Reviewed blind as part of the Blind Beers BIF. Here we go: It pours a cloudy amber, closer to the browner side of the spectrum, topped by a nice finger of creamy foam. The nose comprises mandarin oranges, caramel, honey, orange peel, biscuits, and a touch of rye bread. The taste starts with a nice bite of citrus and pine, followed quickly by rush of heavy caramel and toasted biscuits. The body is a solid medium, with a lightish carbonation and a feel that borders on the chewy. A very tasty ABW, one I wish I had access to on a regular basis.

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Photo of Ryan011235
4.05/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter on 6/16/10

2008 vintage

Courtesy of mhewes

Sisyphus is a nice crimson-amber color; there's a little bit of cloudiness. An inch of foam was manifest, though after several minutes it has dissipated to a skim of bubbles, leaving pretty good lace. Swirling revives a good bit of foam. Lacing thins over time.

There isn't a shortage of sweetness in the aroma. Toffee, caramel & brown sugar are all in abundance. Stray notes of candied malts. Faint notions of butterscotch. Hints of toasted bread are seated in the back. After swirling, effervescent notes of rum-soaked raisins creep in, adding a slight booziness.

Grittiness greets the tongue, a ghastly apparition of hops since faded; certainly not a bad thing for the style (not to mention age). Sweet notes of toffee, brown sugar & caramel are prominent but never cloying. Subtle hints of raisins way in the back. Toastiness is apparent throughout; in conjunction with the grit, it gives the flavors something of a rough edge.

Medium-full bodied. Carbonation is rather low; pretty much spot on. The aforementioned grittiness is definitely a plus in my book. Not too much in the way of appreciable alcohol heat. Toasted, sugary malt residuals linger.

Sisyphus is a heck of a barleywine, especially as far as drinkability is concerned. It's engaging enough to be a fully enjoyable drinking experience & a quick one at that, since it isn't particularly intense. Good stuff.

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Photo of NefariousR
3.98/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from 12oz. glass bottle into a pint glass. 2009 vintage printed on green label.

A - Rich amber-orange; very hazy with some sediment present. A short-lived, small white, creamy head formed upon pouring.

S - Zesty citrus-laden hops along with malty sweetness and a hint of alcohol at the rear.

T - Very sweet with both the malt and hop notes making themselves extremely present. I read somewhere that this beer packs 480 calories per 12oz. bottle, and it shows.

M - Sticky sweet, close to syrupy. Not much carbonation, but if there was much more you could chew it.

D - One of the more drinkable barleywines I've tasted, which is a bit tricky considering the sky-high alcohol and caloric counts. Enjoy in moderation!

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Photo of Bmoyer0301
3.79/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5


I pulled out my trusty Unibroue tulip and went to town on a healthy straight on pour and really did not get much head at all. It was a short lived one finger thick cream colored foam which laid on top then quickly faded away. This beer pours a orangy honey color with a slight amount of haze when I hold it up to the light. I gave it the typical swirl around the glass and did not see much of a lacing at all it and appears to be rather thin.


Well this beer warmed up quite a bit because I was messing around looking for my digital camera for about 20 minutes before I could even get a chance to raise the glass to my nose, so I'm hoping that all the aromas are pungent and satisfying by now. As I take the first whiff I'm getting a large amount of hops which seem to be a bit faded due to the age. Typically you expect a huge bouquet of citrus, bright, piny hops but these are fading. Still very noticeable and pleasant but have muted quite a bit over time. I'm also picking up some honey notes and plenty of caramel malts and chewy goodness.


Remember I said the smell resembled muted fading hops ? The taste doesn't match that at all, there surprisingly is a large amount of hops right on the front of you tongue that resemble pine sap. There inst as much of the dark fruit taste as typical in many barleywines which leads this to be 100% American styled. I would almost want to categorize this a double IPA, because it really packs a punch on the IBU scale. I'm almost pulling out a warm toffee flavor and something slightly buttery but not too overpowering, in a strange way it plays into the complexity of the beer. On the finish I'm pulling some orange peel taste with a slight note of the heat alcohol.


As far as the style goes, its pretty good. Nothing to write home about but yet its not bad by a long shot. Barleywines are one of my favorite styles so in my opinion there has to be a lot going on for me to rate it world class. With that being said its a solid well made American model and if you are ever down in Texas and come across this I'd recommend you grab one because who knows when you might see it again and also it might be worth wile to lay down in your cellar for a few years to see how it develops. Of course you might disagree with me completely and that's why its called taste and opinion.

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Photo of nickd717
2.71/5  rDev -31.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Someone threw me this as an extra in an in-person trade late on DLD. Who? Hell if I know, I was shit-faced beyond shit-facedness. I probably traded a Cable Car vertical for this for all I know. I forced this on largadeer, bring, chswimmer, Nanoslug, Nick3, and Bubba83 at a tasting, despite cries of, "NOOO! Please don't open that god-awful concoction!"

Pours a great clear amber color with a nice lacey white head.

Aroma is sweet. Lots of caramel, sugar, and some hops.

Flavor is very sweet caramel and brown sugar. The sweetness overpowers just about everything else.

Average palate for the style, but the sweetness gets to you.

This was listed at 480 calories for the bottle, which is insane. You can feel every last calorie too in sugar and in alcohol, packing pounds on you as you down each drop. Decent, but not worth it if you're on a diet...or if you're not. Just drink an aged Bigfoot, like I did right afterwards, which was way better.

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Sisyphus from Real Ale Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.94 out of 5 with 646 ratings
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