Sisyphus | Real Ale Brewing Company

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651 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

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Ratings: 651 |  Reviews: 324
Photo of HoustonTX
3.87/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5


Was lucky enough to grab the last bottle of the 2007 edition off the shelves at Downtown Specs. Been wanting to try this one for a while.

This one pours out nicely with nice ample carbonation and a nice fluffy white head. The body is amber in color, with shades of ruby seeming through.

Smell is spot on for the style. HUGE malt presence here, sweet extremely aromatic caramel, along with a huge phenolic toasted blast. Highly malty, and very complex.

Taste is quite balanced. Chewy, and full-bodied. Lots of caramel malt, a hint of roasted grains, a hint of citrus, along with sweet fruity phenols. Flavors all meld together well, and the 11.50%abv is not even noticeable.

A solid representation of the American Barleywine style. Very impressive display of malts. All while a sickly easy to drink, drinkability. Good stuff here Real Ale.

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Photo of stoutfiend27
4.25/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2007 and 2008 tonight both bottles sent by the ever so courteous ottovon..big thank you to him..


a-dark brass head which i expected...good bubbles..the carbonation held up well on this one...

s-sweet...malty and old and musty...different

t-starts off sweet like raisins or something then fades to a old ale type flavor....this beer is quite balanced..the alcohol is quite tame on this one...warms as it goes down but nothing rough at all

m-nice and thick perfect for a barleywine..oily and resiny

d-i actually like this beer i may not have more than one in a night but its not because i wouldnt want to..


a-brighter copper color than the 2007..better carbonation and a slightly better head 1/8 inch thick with some lacing..

s-fruity and hoppy in nose..a little alcohol here as well

t-sweet, fruity and malty the followed by a nice hop bitterness..alcohol more prominent than the 2007 as well and warms more

m-thick but semi slick and oily from the hop presence...nice

d-unlike the 2007 i wouldnt want to have more than one in a night....but it is very tasty

im gonna go out on a limb and say the 2007 is one of the tastiest barleywines ive ever had...age has done wonders to this beer imo but then again i havent had it fresh...kudos to real ale on both of these

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Photo of mjl21
4.15/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On cask at the Ginger Man in Fort Worth, TX. Poured into a 1/2 pint snifter. This is the 2008 version and according to the bartender, it is the only cask in North Texas. Didn't catch abv.

A-Pours a really nice amber that veers heavily towards the orange side of the spectrum. Has a very thin foamy off white head from the hand pump.

S-Orange juice. This is without a doubt the most citrusy barleywine that I have ever smelled. There is also sweet caramel malt going, but the oj smell dominates.

T-A whole lot like it smells. The citrus hits upfront and gives way to some sweet malt in the middle before it reappears.

M-Smooth and creamy due to it being on cask. A tad bit of booze, but not much.

D-Apparently previous version have come in around 11.5%. The alcohol was barely noticeable. Very good beer to sip on. Could have had two of these easily due to the fact that it is not overly sweet.

This was my first time trying this beer and thought it worked well on cask. As previously mentioned the high abv was well hidden and the citrus kick helped make this a great beer. Will have to search out the bottled version the next time I am in TX.

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Photo of jdoncbus
3.63/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4


Visiting sis-in-law in Austin and just got back from an excursion in San Marcos. Pours a burnt orange (makes sense) mild carbonation and smallish head. A few bubbles cling to the glass with little lacing.

Aroma is a sweet biscuit smell. Notes of sourdough, funk, apricot, caramel, and butterscotch. Faint pine.

Filmy and tart on the palate. A sweet, leathery flavor that leans into molasses, dark fruits, & sweet booze. It finishes with pine, bark, and warm burn down the throat.

A solid barleywine and a sweet offering. I would age it some more and see if the bite relaxes and the sweet mellows out.

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Photo of atsprings
3.97/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to wagenvolks for the trade of both 2007 and 2008 bottles. Each one is poured into a Brooklyn tulip. '07 pours a quite hazy dark orange with a razor thin off-white head. '08 pours a tad less hazy with a slightly more well-defined head. Aroma is burnt caramel and brown sugar with '07 much more abundant than '08. The taste is loads of brown sugar with sweet fruits and as expected, the '08 possesses a more defined almost cloying sweetness that has greatly subdued in the '07. The beer is medium bodied, with '08 being a bit heavier. This one is a decent Barley Wine, but I have had better.

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Photo of bib4tuna
3.18/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

I was lucky enough to find both the 2007 and 2008 vintages at Specs this weekend. There really wasn't much of a taste difference between the two, though.

Pours into my Real Ale snifter with a deep reddish color. Smell and taste are solid, balanced hop and malt, but lack the depth I expect from a Barleywine. I just can't pick up on much going on here. Feels a little light for the style. This is definitely a more 'drinkable' Barleywine than some.

Maybe I was spoiled by having the incredible Lagunitas Olde GnarlyWine a few weeks ago, but this one just fell short of the mark. I had high hopes, being a Real Ale fan for years, but this just did not have the depth I was anticipating. Where is the character?

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Photo of PDXHops
3.45/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Thanks to goatgoat for this 12 oz bottle of the 2007 vintage.

A pour into the middle of a 22 oz snifter raises a substantial 2-finger head of small, tight bubbles. After a minute or so, the head reduces to a quarter inch that sticks around easily with a gentle swirl. The body is a copperish dark amber, and a bit hazy. Surprisingly, no real lacing.

Pleasant sweet smells dominate. Floral, honeysuckle aromas along with some vanilla, overripe oranges and sweet maltiness.

Quite a sweet-tasting beer. Honey, a bit of molasses, vanilla, a bit of yellow cake(?), malt, caramel. There's just a hint of hop bite in the finish, but a whole lot of sweetness. Wish there was a little bitterness, graininess or something to cut the sweetness a bit.

Mouthfeel is pretty nice. Although there was a substantial head, the actual carbonation is quite gentle. This brew is fairly thick and has a nice creaminess.

Drinkability is limited somewhat by all that sweetness, but still a pretty nice barleywine.

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Photo of thirdeye11
4.12/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: Poured a 2007 vintage example (blue label) from 12oz bottle into a snifter style glass.

A: Poured a beautiful amber color with hints of ruby when held near light. Nice carbonation and lacing from this one, but minimal head.

S: This beer smells amazingly good. Caramel sweetness is coming through nice and strong. No hop aromas here. Maybe some molasses as well.

T: Deliciously good and pretty deceptive of its 11.5% although not completely. This one has caramel written all over it and in a good way. Some hops are present in the taste that I could not smell so it helps with balancing this one. Still pretty sweet overall though.

M: Perfectly carbonated, nice and creamy in the mouth. No complaints at all.

D: I had 1.5 of them or so. For the ABV it's too easy to drink for me! This can be good, but bad the next day.

I love the fact this one is made in Texas and sporatically available. I will drink it again, and the 2008 is just now coming out and has a gold label.

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Photo of hiikeeba
3.81/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - pours up a clear amber with ruby highlights, and a huge, thick, creamy head that takes a while to dissipate.

S - Sweet malt background, almost syrupy aroma, with a nice hop bitterness punching through. No alcohol notes.

T - Rich, caramel toffee-like flavor with some hop flavor in the finish. Mostly sweet.

M - Full bodied, and well carbonated.

D - I would prefer a few more hops to cut the toffee flavor. It gets cloying as you drink it.

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Photo of TheMistler
4.02/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

In honor of the beer hunter's birthday, I cracked this beer, which I picked up while travelling. 2007 vintage.

Orange copper body. The poor was slow to reveal head, but I got a finger's width. Creamy, off-shite. Displays very nice spider web lacing.

Some juicy hops (largely citrus) linger behind a full, sweet malt nose. Caramel, brownie batter. Just the slightest, teensiest bit of spice at the end.

Doughy, bread malt up front, with citrus and pine hops following. Finishes with some warming and alcohol drying, but overall the ABV is very, very well hidden. Some piney hops intermingle with the alcohol to linger on the palate.

Great feel, lots going on, much of it seemingly conflicting. Syrupy, but also light bodied. Cream carbonation feel, but also with a carbonated juice-spritzer note, though fleetingly.

Not my favorite barleywine, but quite nice, and I truly dig the feel. Lots of lip smacking. I've liked (more than the BA average) many Real Ale beers, and this is no exception.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.6/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz single, not sure who sent this one over to me...

cellphone notes

appearance: light apricot body, very different from other flagships of the style

smell/taste: grassy hop, lacking the body/depth of a bwine, fresh hops with a touch of spice, a touch of fresh lemony cleanser, grapefruit/tangerine

mouthfeel: nice light body, no booze...nowhere near as strong as other barleywines

drinkability: good, just not memorable

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Photo of Traquairlover
4.04/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to brandoneast for this bottle.

12-oz bottle poured into a tulip. 2007 vintage.

A = Hazy dark copper, very little head quickly resolving into thin foam cover on surface.

S = Chocolate caramel, fudge, maple syrup, light butterscotch. Quite good, I haven't had this more fresh, but it's hard to believe it was better than this.

T = Slightly watered down walnut infused maple syrup, good balancing bitterness especially at midpalate and into the finish.

M = Medium body, good mouthcoating, decent carbonation but not overpowering.

D = This is definitely a sipper, but one to which I will happily return.

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Photo of jujubeast6000
2.92/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reviewed 8/11/2008 (2007? bottle):

Pours a light brown colored body. Had to work to get the head. Off-white color, good lacing, not very lasting. Somewhat lacing. Strong hoppy aroma, sweetness. Some dustiness, some syrupyness. Some malts. Dusty sweet taste. Not as strong as a typical barley wine.

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Photo of Oxymoron
3.97/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Rock and roll? 2007 vintage. Pours a slighty hazy darker amber color with a copper hue through out. A soft off white head that was fizzy at first but after a swirl become more consistent. Ok retention, with help, and no real lacing.

The nose is malty with some alcohol notes. To start there is a generic malty note with some minor caramel and toffee smells. Nothing really distinct but a good malt billing to back up. Some minor hop notes but ok considering the vintage. Some noticeable alcohol and fusel notes that is offsetting considering the age. There is some oxidation but more sherry notes that paper.

The taste is mostly clean. The malt is still there but the caramel/melanodian notes come out a bit more versus the nose. Some almost chocolate malt note but light. The alcohol/fusel notes are lighter versus the nose but there is a very distinct fusel note that comes out. Some light esters, rose and plums mostly. But more the most part very clean. No real hop notes, would like a bit more even for it's age. Some minor metallic notes but mostly good.

The body is big with a good warming effect. Carbonation is very light. Would like a bit more balance here. Some sweetness in the finish but ok versus the alcohol notes. Overall reading other reviews this beer seems to age well over time. Would suggest to age a bit longer than I did.

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

Small bottle, stored many months, gotten in a trade with the tradeable Texans. Barnyard alert! And a superfoamer. After that, medium yellow with white head, and lot of lace. But barnyard smell and somewhat dishrag and hops taste. Understated carbonation. 2007 edition.Drank most of it, for mouthfeel.
2010 edition shipped from Augustgarage was much much better. Smooth mouthfeel, better drinkability, though smell just OK.

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Photo of EnojysAnyBeer
4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Orange-brown color. Fairly transparent. Looks like soap. Think head and rim stick around

S- Lots of caramel/butterscotch sweetness along with herbal aromas of citrus and pine

T- Best part of this beer. Mostly sweet like the nose, but with hints of hop and ale yeast flavors. Alcohol is covered

M- Smooth and sticky. A bit flat for my liking

D- Very drinkable for a >10% barleywine

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Photo of jwc215
3.62/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to armock for this one!

2007 vintage, poured into snifter:

Pours hazed caramelish orange with a thin wisp of a head and a ring. Small dots of lacing stick.

The smell is of caramel, fruity rum-soaked dates (a hint of coconut?) with a piney/resiny/citric touch.

The taste is of caramel, fruity rum-like booze (touch of coconut?) with herbal notes. It has a growing bitterness, though this has been aged. Sharp finish, a bit chalky.

The feel is lighter than expected, though sharp and fairly coating. Low carbonation. I had left this one out to warm to room temp, hoping for more body - it grew a bit. On the syrupy side, though not too sticky.

A sipper - herbal bitterness mixes in as it goes despite the aging. Alcohol shows, but doesn't dominate.

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Photo of ThirdLap
3.62/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had my first Sisyphus ('07) courtesy of BA Macktbone. Thanks man! Served from a 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass at the proper temperature.

A - Pours a thick cloudy amber... this is one of the most viscous appearing beers I've ever encountered! Minimal off-white head after a relatively vigorous pour, and minimal lacing remained.

S - I get raisins, vanillla, old citrus (if that makes sense), and malt.

T - Lots of malt and caramel, hints of dark fruit, minimal hop bite. The alchohol is well hidden, but the sweetness almost has me calling it cloying.

M - As the predicted by the relatively thick pour, this is a medium to full-bodied beer. Carbonation was relatively low, reminiscent of a cask pour.

D - The one that I sampled was enough for me. Not that I didn't enjoy it... it's just a definite sipper.

Not my favorite barleywine, but a fine example of the style.

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

12oz bottle (2007) into a Delirium snifter.

Sisyphus pours how a high ABV barleywine should--viscous, with a sluggish carbonation level. The body is clear and bright copper-orange in color, and the paperboard-tan head diminishes quickly to a wisp of tiny bubbles. Aromatically, this beer shines. Rich notes of caramel-toffee malts and floral hops balance perfectly, while a sherry alcohol note adds a kiss of sweetness and booze to the background.

The flavor doesn't exactly make Sisyphus stand out as a top 10 barleywine, but it drinks nicely and masks the 11.5% extremely well. Starts out with a blast of grassy, citric hops and quickly succumbs to sweet boozy sugars, toasted caramel malt, and a nutty graininess. Not a hint of hotness to be found. Hops linger throughout the finish, adding a nice bitterness to complement the syrupy, medium-thick body. All in all, a tasty barleywine that I'd gladly purchase again. In many ways, Sisyphus reminds me of Elysian Brewing's Cyclops barleywine, but with a bit more malty depth. I think the 2-year mark is about perfect for this brew...not too hot, and the hops are still in effect.

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Photo of maximum12
3.05/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Thanks to pepsican for sending this 2007 label bottle to me a few months ago & helping to feed my happy affair with the b-wine.

This one looks standard enough, red, amber, et al. Smell is sweet molasses.

A sip reveals a barleywine leaning more English than American, & heavy on the malty sweetness for my tastes. There are some hops thrown in for balance, I presume, but...hmph. This tastes more like an IIPA that's just started to turn south than a barleywine. The sweet nose belies the taste, dominated by the malts rather than a more fruitish, sweeter, lighter taste that I personally prefer. If I scored to style, this one would flunk, but as it is I don't really get what this brew is going for.

Mouthfeel is lively for a slightly aged barleywine, but drinkability isn't great. I can already feel the weight of the beer beginning to weigh my midsection down, & I hate that. Ugh.

Sorry to say this one wasn't much more than mediocre for me. This is the second Real Ale I've tried & neither was notable at all. Lots of far superior barleywines out there.

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Photo of stephens101
4.17/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I have thoroughly enjoyed all the previous Real Ale brews I've tried, and I approach this one with much anticipation. This 2007 vintage pours cherry red with some orange hues. The head grows to almost one finger in heighth, but not until the very end of the pour, and it recedes quickly with some disorganized spots of lacing left behind. The smell of very sweet caramel and resiny hops mix as some dark fruits, yeast and grain move around underneath. A faint musty earthiness is detected. The hops don't hit upon the first sip as much as they linger throughout the palate. There's a good amount of fruity tanginess and bready sweetness which balances things perfectly, and doesn't keep the barley and pine resin from surfacing toward the end. The body lies toward the medium to heavy end, but it's goes down smooth, without much alcohol (11.5%) being noticed, and without weighing too much on the stomach. This is an exceptional barleywine that doesn't seem as extreme tasting as it's alcohol content would suggest, and whose components work in concert without individual extravagances.

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Photo of damienblack
3.13/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Thanks to HopsAreOverrated for this bottle.

Pours a bright, cloudy amber with thin head and a bit of sticky lacing. Smells of big sweet malt, a little yeasty, but kind of an indistinct blur - nothing really sticks out.

A smokey, boozey, hoppy barleywine. A bit of initial sweetness, but not much of it makes it to the residual stages. Slick and buttery, some toffee. Has a deep, smokey booziness like a scotch almost, reminds me of a harsh old ale in that respect. These factors are the big detractors for me. I didn't like that taste in Founder's Curmudgeon, and though a different style, I really don't care for it here either. Mellows out a bit as the beer approaches peak temperature, but definitely not the easiest drink in the world. Finishes with a bitter hop flourish, a very hoppy barleywine, whereas I prefer them on the sweet side. Seems pretty well made, but has a few different aspects that don't seem to agree with me.

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Photo of pants678
4.03/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Very interesting brew. I feel that it's necessary to preface this as being my first barleywine. It was much like a belgian strong ale in my opinion, but who knows, maybe my tastes are not refined for this type of thing.

It reminded me a lot of Maredsous #10. Very strong, very sweet but also very hoppy. Not usually up my alley, but there was a smoothness and a maturity that twisted it my direction. God, that sounds so snobby and like such b/s...

Nonetheless, it pours a very nice orange/beige and again had no head mainly because I believe that I poured it wrong. But the taste is delectable, not worth $10 for the glass though, that was the real b/s. Damnit, that's two meals for me. Oh well.

The mouth feel is fine, it's perfectly carbonated for what it is. It goes down very well and very fine and tastes like a mix of carmel and sweet fruit. Doesn't go down much better than your average craft brew, but the best thing I've had from Real Ale, w/o a doubt.

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Photo of coldmeat23
3.55/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

GLASS: Snifter
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 50 degrees

Pours a nice caramel color. Slightly hazy and with a light rose tint. Minimal head appears and disappears quickly. Slight filmy foam remains. Lacing is foamy and lightly sticky.

Big notes of toffee and malts. Big nose of sweet dates. Slight hint of spices.
A very mild nose, overall, but if you give it a little attention, you can find some nice scents.

Very butterey taste. Caramel taste is subdued, but there. Hints of dark fruit notes, rise and fade. Hop spice, but not much bitterness.
Very interesting, and quite light.

Medium body. Kind of light for a barleywine. This is actually a fairly good thing, though. Smooth, with a nice touch of creaminess.

One of the more drinkable barleywines I've come across. Light and easy drinking. Not overpowering.

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Photo of goatgoat
3.9/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2007 12oz.

A: Toffee with golden highlights. A slight head forms late and dissipates quickly. No lacing.

S: Thick with alcohol, sweet and a little perfumy.

T&M: Start is smooth, with a little hop bite. Hop characteristics are hard to pick out and have probably mellowed quite a bit with age. Flavor then moves to a slight sweetness that almost starts to cloy but then is cut by more light bitterness and the astringency of the alcohol. This has excellent balance at one year out.

D: Obviously not a session beer at 11.5 abv, but very nice for what it is. Which for me is an inauguration celebration, Congrats America!

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Sisyphus from Real Ale Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.94 out of 5 with 651 ratings