Portsmouth Barleywine | Portsmouth Brewery

very good
32 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Portsmouth BarleywinePortsmouth Barleywine

Brewed by:
Portsmouth Brewery
New Hampshire, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
A deep amber, full bodied, intensely bold beer that is made to show off the true qualities of the malts used. Flavors of figs and dates and malt sweetness predominate with enough earthiness from the hops to balance this beer.

Added by Bierman9 on 09-04-2007

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
Reviews: 32 | Ratings: 57
Photo of jneiswender
3/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Got this beer at the brewpub. Served as part of a 10 beer 3oz sampler package.

A-ruby, purple-ish, brownish, no head

S-sweet, grapey,

T-sweet grape-like taste, maybe a little tail end bitterness


D-I have to admit, I don't drink much of this style. But for one of my few tries it not bad.

 302 characters

Photo of AgentZero
3.08/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

One of these days Portsmouth is going to make a beer that blows me away. Today was not that day.

A - Reddish brown color with a little bit of an off-white head that didn't leave anything on the sides.

S - Dark fruit, caramelized sugar, crystal malts, little bit of citrus. Something smells a little off on this one, might be the unexpected roast presence.

T - Taste is pretty much in line with the nose, and kind of dead. Caramel, dark fruit, blah blah. It's really just a boring, and not exceptional, beer.

M - Fuller side of medium bodied, soft carbonation, a little gritty.

O - As Ethan said, "Fool me 19x, shame on you..." I keep waiting for that awesome Portsmoth beer, and keep getting disappointed. Here's to next time.

 732 characters

Photo of rpstevens
3.15/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Picked up the 08 Barleywine at the store recently. Poured into a dogfish head signature glass.

The beer pours a dark ruby with barely any head at all. There is a slight oily lacing left on the sides of the glass.

The smell is all malty, sugary alcohol. There is a slight citrus hop scent in the background, but not much.

The taste is very sweet, there's almost no hop presence. A lot of sugared candy sweetness and malt with a very present alcohol flavor.

The beer is a bit too sweet for me at this point, I prefer it fresh with all the hops still present. The alcohol is still very present but the citrus character and dry finish are gone.

 644 characters

Photo of papat444
3.3/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

***2008 Vintage***

Thanks to mrretardedmonkey for this one. Used a bit to bake a sugar pie and split the rest with my wife.

Poured from a bottle (1 pint, 6oz.).

Appearance: Deep reddish-brown body with a tan head that reaches 2 fingers and holds steady.

Smell: Alcohol, malt, toffee and berries.

Taste: Sweet, toffee, dark fruits and ends in a berry fruitiness. Has a lactic finish to it that is not the best.

Mouthfeel: All right as it's smooth and a bit chewy but the body seems to have fallen apart a bit.

Overall: This beer didn't age gracefully but there are glimmers of a good beer do drink it fresh.

 613 characters

Photo of MasterSki
3.43/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle shared by Mike (AgentZero) - not sure why we're drinking barleywines on a hot summer day, but thanks I guess? Served in a Russian River tulip.

A - A finger of quick-dissolving light tan foam settles to a thin ring and some wisps, leaving tiny spots of lace. Partially transparent ruby-brown body.

S - Treacle, alcohol, light roasted grains, chocolate, and brown sugar. This is on the darker side of things for barleywines, with more roast and less overt sugary sweetness. The alcohol isn't very well-hidden, but otherwise it's a solid and interesting take on the style.

T - Taste is somewhat dull, but largely contains caramel, brown sugar, and light milk chocolate. Some obvious alcohol in the finish.

M - Medium-full body, creamy texture, lower carbonation, and some warming alcohol. Quite style-appropriate and pleasant actually.

D - It's a fairly average take on the style with a few redeeming qualities. Much better than the Uinta offering we had next to it, but not something I'd actively seek out either. I finished my glass, but chose to abstain from a refill.

 1,080 characters

Photo of JustinJTisdale
3.5/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Got this at the brewery and it poured with virtually no head. Whatever carbonation that was visible disappeared after a minute or so leaving no lacing at all.

The smell was good faintly fruity with the slightest hint of what could have been an oak smell.

The taste had a little too much alcohol in it for me but the orange fruity finish was enough to keep me drinking it.

Not sure if I would get it again but it wasnt terrible by any means.

 443 characters

Photo of ffejherb
3.59/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to FooFaa for sharing a growler of this on 12/11/09.

A - The barleywine emerged from the jug as a deep ruby-colored liquid with a thin, off-white sheet on top that settled into a patchy retention and left virtually no lacing at all.

S - Sweet and boozy aroma with dark fruit notes, candi sugar and a hint of tobacco. An underlying citrus/orange character is also apparent, albeit more subtle than the other components.

T - Sweet, sugary and floral with a prevalent alcohol warmth. Dark fruit isn't as apparent in the flavor as the aroma, however. Orange oils and a citrus peel character is also present but subtle. Finishes with a moderate floral and perfumy hop bitterness.

M - Medium bodied with a slight bristly texture and moderate alcohol warmth on the palate. Slightly dry, bittersweet finish, although not overly hoppy at all.

D - I found this to be a little too sweet overall, but otherwise this was quite enjoyable. The alcohol remained fairly restrained despite the big ABV%.

 997 characters

Photo of NEhophead
3.7/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in a PB snifter.

Deep brown with a shade of garnet beneath a layer of creamy, light brown head. Delicate lacing with decent retention. Aged, vinous fruity esters: lemon, orange, plum, grape, red cherry. Pine-filled hops with a near intense nose of alcohol. Toasted malts that are soon overtaken by a pine and floral hop character. Assertive, young fruit flavors: plum, grape, and red apple that are overtaken by a sharp, acidic alcohol presence. The aftertaste includes whiskey, rough pine, and slightly unbalanced, aged fruity esters. Full bodied; somewhat smooth prior to a gaseously slick mouthfeel caused by the waves of young alcohol. Flavorful, but too young and aggressive to order another glass.

 711 characters

Photo of EnronCFO
3.73/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. pour into a tulip glass at the brewery

A: Very dark brown, slight tinges of red at the edges. In the dim lights at the brewery, looked almost black. Only a slight head. Beer really coats the glass.

S: Very sweet, hard to believe it's a 100+ IBU beer, almost no hops in the smell. Brown sugar and alcohol.

T: Similar to the smell, very sweet, no hop bitterness. Booze is very present up front, but the finish is syrupy sweet.

M: When it first hits your mouth, it's almost abrasive as you have to adjust to alcohol and sweetness. Even as it warmed, every sip required a second to hold it in your mouth to let the flavors overcome the alcohol. Leaves a pleasing coating on your tongue.

D: Could not drink more than one of these and be able to drive, so definitely takes a hit there. Really needs to warm up to be able to drink with any ease.

I had this the day after I tried Treblehook at Redhook. Treblehook is like a beginner's Barleywine next to this big boy. Looking forward to drinking some more, will be sure to let it warm up before drinking next time.

 1,069 characters

Photo of Slatetank
3.75/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to clockworkorange for sharing this growler
poured chilled into a 1/2 pint. The growler had been aged for approx 1 yr - so take it with a grain of salt

A - Ruddy brown, chestnut hued with good clarity and very thin head

S - Fruity, caramel, toasted malt and mild floral esters w/ subtle alcohol notes

M - A dry slightly spiced and strong feel, substantial body w/ sweet middle and mild bitterness. The sweetness is pretty prominent 1/2 way in w/ hints of tangy fruitiness from the yeast and caramel textured malt w/ mild residual sweetness

T - Taste is nutty, dry and slightly fruit tinged w/ toasted and caramel malt notes very dominant and mildly alcohol tasting w/ more stone fruit and toffee-like essence that lasts into the finish. The flavor has plenty of caramel sweetness and subtle berry effects from the yeast throughout

D - I appreciated sampling this barleywine, which is pretty tasty in small doses, at 11%+ you can't say it is highly drinkable, yet for the style I consider this a barleywine I wouldn't mind having again. It does suffer from a bit too much malt , but for those who enjoy malt bombs I recommend this

 1,141 characters

Photo of Flounder57
3.76/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

22 oz bottle was poured into a large snifter.

Appearance: This beer poured an off white head that reduced to a thin layer. It is a dark ruby brown color with no clarity, but small by bubbles can be seen coming up the side of the glass.

Smell: Caramel and toasted malts, dark fruits, and booze.

Taste: Caramel, biscuity, toffee, boozy, tingly, dark fruits, some banana, and tingly hops.

Mouthfeel: Silky smooth, full bodied, boozy, medium carbonation, and nice and warming.

Overall: Pretty solid barleywine that I have enjoyed on draft and bottles. I love stopping by here on the way through Portsmouth on the way to OOB.

 625 characters

Photo of cleeze
3.82/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had it at the brew pub.

poured s beautiful ruby/amber color. With barely any head but it had nice lacing

smell was kind of sweet and malty. Great combo!

Taste was sweet at first which I loved! Sweet up front , maybe grapey. Then followed by a pleasant warming sensation from the good ole 11.5%! With a good bitter hoppy after taste

 334 characters

Photo of Kegatron
3.85/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

64 oz growler into several glasses. Thanks go to ClockWorkorange for bringing this to a recent tasting.

Pours a deep hazy amber, with a thin covering of off-white foamy head. Retains with some fizzy wisps across the top, leaving a good bit of spotty lacing behind that coats the sides of the glass. The aroma is deep with fruit and bread, and caramel sweetness. This was aged for approximately one year, so the American hop profile has been reduced to some lighter herbal accents. There's a stiff waft of heat as well but it doesn't seem too overpowering considering that this has a nearly 12% ABV.

The taste is thick with roasted malts but is off-set nicely by some much sweeter accents of toffee and molasses. Some fruity notes and herbal hops work themselves in as well, giving this some earthy background character. Warmth and roast linger well in the finish, with a good bit of leftover stickiness hanging around as well. The mouthfeel is full bodied, with a chewy and viscous nature to that falls right in line with the heftier flavors that are involved in this. The heavier ABV is present to a degree but this is one of those ones that is more workable with one's palate in smaller quantities.

Even with some age on it and the hops having faded a good bit, this was still some tasty stuff. Lots of depth and richness here, with a pretty good drinkibility on it for such a large Barleywine.

 1,402 characters

Photo of rayjay
3.85/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

straffordmilitia hooked up this as an extra.

If this is an American Barleywine, I'm Miles Davis. This is a sticky, sweet, British style concoction. Very malty with lots of carmel malt. Viscosity does remain very in-check for the amount of unfermented sugar in this guy (think hummingbird nectar). Extremely similar in style to Old Nick. Aroma is straight up carmel, Christmas fruit cake with extra dates and apricots, mild alcohol and phenols but no real booze, and hops hanging on for dear life and shouting to try to be heard. No Chico yeast here...British esters are all over this one. So much so that I really wish it was made with floor malts for the full effect. Chewy. One thing is (thankfully) missing that really should be here: heat; a testament to the commitment of the brewers to hold beer in a tank extra long and crowd precious capacity. Just for the sake of this beer. I'll drink to that. The fallout is an epic battle over bitter vs sweet, the point when the hops finally start to show too. It peaks, the bitterness eventually fades, and sweetness lingers; the whole aftertaste experience lasts over a minute and really is where the beer shows it's elegance. The boldest statement is the aroma, powerful like a cigar.

Thanks and cheers!

 1,255 characters

Photo of drseamus
3.88/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was a good beer, but it wasn't among the best barleywines I've had. The body was dark red with a bit of white lacing on the surface. The aroma isn't very strong at all with a slight amount of sweetness and some slight bitterness that because more apparent as the beer warmed. The flavor is pretty sweet and very malty overall with only a slight bitterness to balance. There are good caramel notes. It is a bit light bodied for a barleywine but it still fits. I'd definitely drink this again but it's not the best I've had.

 527 characters

Photo of portia99
3.93/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle purchased direct from the brewery. Poured into a Portsmouth goblet. Sorry Chris...couldn't stare at this in my fridge any longer and had to crack it open...

A - Pours a dark brown color with attractive amber highlights around the edges and a thin half finger of cream colored foam that falls quickly to a thick layer and collar - both of which never disappear thru the glass. Some sparse, loose lacing decorates the glass too as the beer level sinks to the bottom.

S - Rich caramel aroma with some light molasses. Some light citrusy hops that fade out and a bit of bready, maybe a touch yeasty aromas too. Aroma is on the low side in intensity...really need to get your nose down in the glass to appreciate it.

T - Molasses and dark caramel are very much out in front of the flavors. A bit of fruitiness (I'm thinking cherry, but not sure) with a slightly tart touch come next. Nice touches of brown sugar, a quick hit of alcohol flavor and warmth, the smallest hint of vanilla kicks in too...and as it warms I think I'm tasting a bit of coffee too. Hop bitterness is really nice in this one. The bitterness is at a medium level that really blends nicely with the sweet, sugary malts at the base. It provides a good offset to balance things out but doesn't interfere with the malt flavors at all. You can catch all of the malt complexities without them getting lost in the hops.

M - Medium bodied...not as thick or heavy as I expected (and maybe desire in a barleywine). There is enough thickness so the beer sits on the tongue and coats the mouth nicely with all of the various sweet, caramelly, sugary flavors found in this one. Carbonation is on the light side, which fits perfectly here. Slightly foamy at first, but resulting in a smooth, creamy feel. A bit of alcohol warmth to round things out.

D - Really liking this barleywine. Lots of complexity in the malt flavors...nice balanced and complementary hop presence. After nearly completing the bomber of this, I'm feeling it a bit (not complaining tho), but the alcohol really gave just the right amount of presence...I really knew it was there, but it wasn't hot or distracting...really just enhanced the flavor and feel. Overall, very nice barleywine...gotta get a growler of this next time it shows up at the pub on tap.

 2,298 characters

Photo of JohnGalt1
4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 bottled from tap. Received from CooperEllis. John says he thinks this is an "oaked" variety that wasn't available for too long... I don't have the chutzpah to enter this in as a "new" beer... but I will certainly review it as a damn fine Barleywine.

Clear deep amber... long lasting off white head... plenty of caramel and something that I perceive as vanilla... good bitterness up front... nice hints of toffee and even some cocoa.. some pronounced dark dried fruits make me think of sweet cherries... minor citrus hoppiness shows mid-late palate and lingers to meld well with a bit of brown sugar essence... body is about perfect for the style... carbonation seems a tad lacking, but no real complaints.... this honestly reminds me of Full Sail's Old Boardhead with a solid year in the bottle.

If somebody at Portsmouth is reading this and can comment to the "oaked" character, please message me... I would love to hear from one of the professionals.

Thanks again John... I thoroughly enjoyed this one... That said, I am keeping it on my wants... I want another or 3.

All 4's... but probably deserves more.

 1,115 characters

Photo of Deuane
4.02/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to FooFaa for sharing his GAtM booty---->from the "Maine" man Joepais!

A-Deep reddish-brown with some ruby highlights along the edges. A small off-white head disappears to a whisper of a veil and leaves spotty lace.

S-Sweet caramel and toffee with brown sugar all smothering a bowl of fresh cut oranges.

T-Brown sugar covered oranges with a lovely underlying toffee/burnt caramel roastiness. Some astringency from dark fruit in the drying finish.

M-Medium-heavy bodied and VERY smooth! Nice lingering flavours with a candy like effect.

D-I like the heavy handed orange flavour pairing with the toasted caramel. Like a Christmas cookie in a glass!

 662 characters

Photo of MrMonkey
4.07/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Enjoyed on tap at the brewery.

Pours a really deep mahogany with some brighter red highlights. No head initially, but after a couple of sips and some gentle swirling a one finger off-white head forms that faded slowly and left a thin cap. No lacing at all.

Nose of fruity esters, some caramel, toffee maybe?, and some dark fruits like raisins or plums. Definite alcohol presence.

Taste is moderately sweet, with some caramel/toffee malts up front followed by sweet dark fruits and a slightly sour finish. A big alcohol warming in the finish, but it just beckons for another sip.

Medium-bodied and smooth with light carbonation; it coats the mouth a bit, but without being overly sticky or syrupy.

Pretty drinkable for such a big beer. I could enjoy a couple of these at home, but one is enough given the ABV and the fact that I need to drive home.

 852 characters

Photo of claspada
4.09/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2008 bottle I believe from my memory; sampled Spring 2013.

Pours a deep copper color with a medium sized off white head that recedes rather rapidly to leave some spotty lacing.

Aromas begin with sweet caramel maltiness, dark fruits (figs and dates), ripened red fruits and a slight red grape vinious note which emerges more as it warms.

The tastes begin with the same sweet caramel maltiness, ripened red fruits, toffee, brown sugar and some lingering, slightly oxidized sherry character.

The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with moderate to low carbonation. Finish is farily sweet thanks to the substantial age. and a touch of bitterness to the finish.

Overall this was a very quality American Barleywine. At this point it reminds me more of an English style because of the lack of hop character but that is to be expected from the advanced age. Reminds me a great deal of an aged Alaskan Barleywine, which is great praise because I think that is the best American Barleywine on the planet.

 1,001 characters

Photo of oberon
4.1/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Brought this home from my trip to New England earlier this month,poured into an oversized wine glass a deep burgundy/brown color with a thinner but pretty well sustained white head.Deep fruit in the nose like prune,raisin,and sweet cherry some sweet alcohol and a passing whif of leather,bid and sweet up front with that dark fruit and brown sugar coming through that leather component is more pronounced on the palate a decent dose of resiny hop finishes it off.It packs a malty punch it made me sleepy like alot of the style do,I liked the hop punch it gave in the finish,pretty darn good.

 591 characters

Photo of brewandbbq
4.12/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2007

Pours mahogany with crimson hues and a half inch head of off-white. The humble layer of suds retreated quickly leaving barely a trace on the surface and zero lacework.
Aromatics are malty, figgy, and caramel stuffed.
Tropical fruit lay underneath a massive malt presence, and layers of toffee, wet leather, and nougat rise up as it warms.
Very much in the English vein in the nose.
Creamy, sticky and chewy mouthfeel. Substantial.
Raisins, plump malt, chewy caramel, toffee and alcohol lead off the pallet.
The throat warms as residuals and a firm bitterness linger and ripe fruit pulls through.
Finishes with a blend of resinous pine, boozy alcohol, and leathery malt.

This bottle at cellar temperature is superior to the draught version served fresh and cold.

Not even close to peaking.

 804 characters

Photo of Bicyclette
4.2/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

It's Decadent on a cool, damp eve...

Portsmouth has a cask of Barleywine Ale on Bourbon Oak that they're pouring from one of the downstairs casks. Personally, I am *so* partial to Bourbon finishing...

Lots of Bourbon fragrance. Lightly acidic with a lightly syrupy mouthfeel. Bold but not overwhelming malt. Little chocolate instead of the frequent burnt toast. Just enough hops to balance the flavor a bit.

Finish is warming, spicy and mellow at the same time.

Head was a billowy while foam with reasonable lasting power. Chestnut brown in color and nearly opaque.

On cask for maybe a couple more days... Maybe it'll still be here when it rains next.

 657 characters

Photo of barleywinefiend
4.2/5  rDev +8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2007 Vintage: Poured a nice golden amber color with good carbonation and a dirty white head.Nose is toffee, booze, caramel and chocolate. Taste is a whirlwind of flavor with chocolate being up front then caramel, toffee,booze. Mouthfeel is nice, balanced but still hot after 3 years. Good bwine indeed!!!

 304 characters

Photo of johnnnniee
4.26/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a cloudy brown with murky red highlights when held to light. Smallish off white head dissipates quickly. Smells of dark dried fruit, caramel, toffee slight alcohol. Taste is sweet, a bit hot, syrupy dried fruit and caramel. Aftertaste of alcohol and a slight hop bitterness. Mouthfeel is syrupy Body is thick, carbonation is ample. Great sipper Still my favorite brewpub!

 377 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
Portsmouth Barleywine from Portsmouth Brewery
3.89 out of 5 based on 57 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.