Olde School Barleywine
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Olde School BarleywineOlde School Barleywine
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American Barleywine
Ranked #72
Ranked #5,448
4.01 | pDev: 12.22%
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Delaware, United States
Olde School BarleywineOlde School Barleywine
Notes: Bold, yet smooth! Fermented with dates and figs, this bone-crushing barleywine has a unique flavor.

85 IBU
ABV varies from 13-16%.
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Reviews: 1,106 | Ratings: 2,711
Photo of GuyFawkes
3.75/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2012 vintage; drank 1/18/17 @ the Yarchives.

Opaque purple/brown appearance.

A rough pour yielded a small khaki head; decent lace.

Raspberry, plum, baking soda & mild leather notes in the nose.

Smooth, thick mouthfeel.

Raspberry, caramel & baking soda flavors up front; raisin & leather notes on the finish. Almost no booze heat.

Robust & drinkable; the baking soda vibes kept this from barleywine perfection.

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Photo of abnormal
4.09/5  rDev +2%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bottled on 1/18/17

Appearance: Poured into snifter. Murky ruby/maroon in color, a bit of faded orange peaks through when held up to light. Vigorous pour yields a thin cap of tan foam which quickly dissolves. No lacing. Alcohol legs are plentiful.

Aroma: Loads of brown sugar, raisins and dried cherries. Hidden in the back is some apricot. Not a whole lot of grain, really heavy on the dried fruit. Alcohol is up front in the aroma, but that's what I want and expect in a 15% barleywine.

Taste: Rich, sweet, boozy, dry. A whole lot going on here. Up front I get loads of sugary sweet dates. Figs become more apparent midway and make up the majority of the body along with a heavy dose of brown sugar. Bitterness is on the higher side but needed with such a sweet beer. No hop flavor detectable. Whole wheat bread, yeast, and dried apricot towards the end. I know there's no apricot in here, but that's what I taste. The finish is long but mellows things out. This is where the alcohol shines through to remind you that this is a huge beer. The alcohol itself is peppery and blends well with all of the other flavors. Like a good single malt Scotch I think the booziness helps lift the flavors and add some character.

Feel: Approaching full bodied but by no means an Imperial oatmeal stout. Carbonation is absolutely perfect. The bubbles themselves are tiny and tingly. Alcohol is more apparent in taste and aroma than feel. There is some warmth but it is gentle and enjoyable. Big and dry.

Overall: I've had this beer fresh and I've had it aged 1 and 2 years. So far I think 2 years is the sweet spot. The alcohol has mellowed a bit but I still get the same amount of complexity and wonderful mouthfeel as a fresher bottle. Recommended.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.14/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Purchased in Dubuque Iowa. No idea on the date, there's no bottle date but it had dust bunnies on it. At the very least probably 3 years old.

15%, poured into snifter.

Nice mahogany color with a thin sliver of butter colored head.

This nose. Wow. Nuts, mahogany, sticky caramel, hard toffee, red and white wine, scotch, tobacco, whiskey, and dark berry.

Flavor brings straight cotton mouth, followed by caramel, toffee, milk chocolate, red grape, hot whiskey, tobacco, leather, and old hops. It's heavy and intense, but still flavorful.

Feel is hot, hot, hot. Drying. Moderate carbonation. Mild stickiness.

Overall a very good barleywine, would like to run into this one fresh to compare the differences.

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Photo of Antichrist-Kommando
4.71/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Always been a fan of Dogfish Head. This is my second barleywine, but I can't recall what the first was. I loved it! It was an exceptional beer that really went well with my meal. I had it on draught. Great taste, feel, smell, and color. I'd have to try it again to go into a more in-depth review, but sadly it's no longer on the draught list.

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Photo of MaximalC
3.92/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

*Bottled 12/17/16

Pours a hazy tawny color with a finger's worth of fine, khaki froth. Sweet aroma smells of figs, dates, raisins, prunes, molasses, and brown sugar; and when I say figs, I mean the most distinctly fig character I've come across--like Fig Newtons in a bottle.

The taste features booze and raisins up front, accented by bitter, aspirin-like hops. Subtler notes of plum, dates, and figs round out the more overt aspects of the flavor profile. This brew is not for the faint of heart, as it tastes every bit of 15% ABV. Medium body and very slight carbonation make for a still mouthfeel that puts the burden of proof squarely on the taste itself.

Overall, the sweet, juicy foreground offers much to get excited about, but the hot, bitter back end puts something of a damper on it. At the very least, this is a bold beer that challenges the palate and gives you something to negotiate as you slowly drain your glass.

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Photo of chitoryu12
4.99/5  rDev +24.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Look: More like brandy than beer. Crystal clear ruby without a hint of head, just a few off-white bubbles.

Smell: Like the inside of a bakery! Sweet, freshly baked bread and toffee.

Taste: Following the nose, sweet bread straight out of the bakery. A hint of bitterness with little to no hop flavor. Some alcohol flavor and a tiny bit of noticeable spice.

Mouthfeel: Thick, with a very slight sparkle on the tongue. Considering the alcohol content, this could easily be alcohol burn rather than carbonation.

Overall: Brilliance. A triumph of brewing rarely matched.

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Photo of jkblr
4.01/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12oz bottled 1/18/17 (18 months ago) poured into a DFH branded teku glass at fridge temp. Label says 15% ABV. The beer pours mostly bright with a good bit of yeast sediment. Should have been more careful. The color is a deep red, orange amber with pale tan colored head. The aroma is caramel and dried fruit masking a hint of alcohol at fridge temp. The taste is sweet caramel (burnt sugar), alcohol and dark dried fruit. Hop bitterness is there but doesn't seem to impart any taste or aroma. The mouthfeel is full bodied, but well carbonated. The finish is mostly dry and medium plus in bitterness. Honestly, at 15%, it's hard to separate the booze from the bitter. There are no cloying notes to my palate. Overall, very good. A big, bold barleywine that gives you something different with every sip.

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Photo of Lembeh
4.73/5  rDev +18%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

"Make you wannna slap yo momma" good.

This is a home run. What else can you say about a 15pct Barleywine. It will put a smile on your face while you slowly sip this little beast.

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Photo of jvgoor3786
3.75/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a hazy deep amber color with a short white head.

The smell is caramel, vanilla, and dark fruits.

The taste is very sweet brown sugar, caramel, dates, raisins, and still pretty boozy at 1.5 years old.

The mouthfeel is slightly fizzy and thick.

Overall this is very sweet and heavy. It will take a long time to finish.

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Photo of TreyIsWilson
3.92/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a murky dark amber with a thin off white head. Nice amount of soapy lacing.

S - Aroma is burnt sugar, caramel and figs.

T - The taste is brown sugar, raisins, figs and caramel. Touch of alcohol burn in the finish.

M - Medium body with medium carbonation. Soft mouthfeel with a dry finish.

O - This is a big beer. Flavors are rich and boozy. Definetly a slow sipper.

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Photo of BenHoppy
4.82/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

This is one bad ass monsterous barley wine. Was not too big a fan fresh with its harsh vodka flavoring but now aged just shy of 18 months this is one amazing beverage.

Poured into 2 snifters and shared with the Mrs.:

Look is scotch, amber, caramel

Aroma is of candy sugar, dates, figs, and caramel

Taste is of caramel, figs, dates, candy sugar while still boozy hot yet much smoother than fresh

Feel is heavy smooth mouthfeel of slow sipping boozy deliciousness

Overall one of the best barley wines I've had.

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Photo of Brew_42
4.14/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours cloudy and dark brown. No head really.

Smell is big booze and notes of dark fruits and a hint of chocolate.

Taste is candied sugar, figs, and raisin with a heavy helpng of booze. Tasty AF.

Mouthfeel- Heavy bodied and warming booze throughout.

Overall this is one of the better barleywines I've had. Somehow highlights the ABV withut being overbearing.

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Photo of Treyliff
3.77/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

2012 vintage
12oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- pours a murky deep amber brown color with a one-finger off-white head that has short retention and leaves just a touch of lacing behind

S- initial aroma is of tomato soup, followed by malty notes of dates, fig, raisin & burnt caramel. Still plenty of booze left, enough to burn the nose. Hints of brown sugar

T- booze has definitely mellowed out in taste. Initially, this drinks more like a Belgian quad, very malty with sweet notes of brown sugar, dark bread, caramel, fig & date. Mid-palate stays sweet and adds more date and fig. The finish falls off a bit, leaving mostly booze and generic malty sweetness

M- thick and viscous body with moderate carbonation, warming creamy finish

O- some nice malty notes throughout, but a bit rough around the edges. For 6 years old, I was surprised at how much booze was lingering around

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Photo of ChickenHeadCandy
3.56/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured a 12oz bottle at 50F degrees into a room temp snifter. Bottle date 1/18/17

Appearance: Pours a clear medium amber copper with no head leaving no lacing as the glass lowers

Smell: Bubble gum, Concord grape, exotic fruits (assuming dates & figs), and BOOZE!

Taste: I'll say it again... BOOOOOZE!! Taste profile includes what it smells like, plus anise, cherry, golden raisins... and
BOOZE! One more time... BOOOOZE!!! Reminds me of my time in West Virginia... lotta 'shine 'round them parts

Mouthfeel: Medium body and light carbonation, which is probably the most appealing aspect of this brew at this time. It has a HOT tingly finish that is MEDICINAL! I woke up today with a slight head cold... doubt I'll still have any trace of it tomorrow after drinking this tonight.

Overall: I wouldn't call this a barleywine, there's just a bit too much going on... and not enough brown-sugary toasty caramel malt sweetness or trace hop in the finish to fall into typical English or American barleywine territory IMHO. This is a cognac-like brew in its own category and strictly a sipper! Hoping this will improve and chill out with age, 'cause this is pretty hairy stuff when fresh.

Final thoughts: Read the bottle and follow the second set of directions... as in, bury it out in the woods somewhere for awhile... a LONG while!

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Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
3.44/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Pours a slightly hazy dark ruby body with an off-white coarse head that fades. The nose is dominated by raisins and purple grape skins, with additions of burnt brown sugar and wood pulp. The taste could serve as an introduction to cognac: what seems to be burnt grape skins mixed with burnt sugar, figs, and a touch of booze. It's sweet, but not like straight-up sugar or orange juice. It's more akin to a juicy red wine. I'm impressed that the alcohol is so well hidden, but the tradeoff is that this beer lacks nuance, and the flavors that do make it out of this monstrosity aren't particularly enjoyable, in either an eager-to-chug way nor a contemplative sipping way. The body is is of middling weight, no doubt the product of the battle between the super high gravity and the thinning effects of the super high ABV.
Beers like this are usually polarizing. They either crumble under the onslaught of alcohol and are nigh undrinkable, or they navigate the payload masterfully and deliver a delicious trojan horse of intoxication. This was neither. The journey to the buzz was mildly enjoyable, but you were well aware that this was an earned destination. I'd prefer two 7.5%'s next time.

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Photo of Lingenbrau
4.28/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Big thanks to this 2014 bottle from Craig…

Olde School pours an appropriate and beautiful rusty orange color. It's almost clean, but shouldn't be clean anyway… it's Olde School. A thin khaki foam hugs the coast of the glass, and has a thin, frosted window coating across the surface.

There is no question about it, this is a Barleywine. An intense sugary goodness pummels the nostrils with fig, golden raisins, and Werther's Original caramel candies. An expected blast of alcohol, and a mild woody, earthy, and spicy hop presence carry it on.

Once again, fruit sweetness dominates this jam. Fig and raisins are dusted with brown sugar. Caramel, nuts, booze, and real maple syrup follow along. A pleasant, yet faint nutmeg and cinnamon like spice end the flavors on a high note.

Obviously this is a sticky beer, however it still manages to seem smooth and relatively light feeling. A stalky alcohol warmth is surprisingly not as intense as I was expecting considering that 15% disclaimer. But wow does that taste and feel claim its spot, and that spot is everywhere this liquid touches.

This is the first time I've had Olde School in I couldn't even tell you how many years. But you know what...this is my kind of barleywine. It's friggin intense! No holds barred, in your face, don't give a shit, good luck having two, barleywine. I want more. Why the hell didn't I make this a regular when available? I will now.

Cheers, and thanks again Craig!

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Photo of spav
4.45/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

No head no lacing, but beautifully still. Aroma is rummy and familiar, sweet and boozy. Taste follows but much more fruity. Little burn at the end but it's still buttery smooth, bottled on 12/2016 btw. Overall great beer to sip on

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Photo of grover37
3.79/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle w Lisa at home.

Jet fuel with Sherry notes. I think this was a year old (date rubbed off), and it was still super boozy. Thin, not much depth for such a big beer. Wanted to like it, but did not at all.

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Photo of TheGent
4/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine 2016

Bottled on 12/17/16


Murky burnt sierra. Minute, streaming bubbles along the side of the glass. Beige head.


Big piney and resinous hop aromas. Sweet alcohol note. Figs, dates, raisins, purple grapes, dark bread, sourdough bread, fresh pumpkin, Burnt sugar, caramel, hint of tawny Port wine, ripe banana bread.


Huge hop profile of pine. It's resinous. Very bitter. Lots of dark fruit on the flavor profile as well, but this beer is not overly sweet thanks to the hops. Lingering, warming heat finishes nicely with a prominent hop bitterness. No notes of oxidation or really any unexpected flavors.


Moderate level of carbonation. Smooth.


This is a very nice American barleywine. I generally don't like this style. I prefer English Barleywines. In this case, the main contribution from the hops is a piney bitterness and I think it works nicely. For 15% the beers drinks easily and theres enough to offset the bitter hops.

Overall an enjoyable drinking experience but there is still too much of a dominant bitter hop profile for me so I'll hold onto the remainder of these and try one again in another year. The alcohol, which I would no longer describe as "hot" will probably mellow out even more in the next year.

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Photo of craigbelly
4.2/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark amber. Apricot, plum, and orange with sharp, peppery spice. Smooth caramel sweeps the tongue while hints of leather and dark fruit. Mid-sip, the beer’s alcohol catches up, drying the mouth before hitting the back of the throat. Though it displays little hop flavor, it posses bitterness, which combines with the alcohol to quiet the finish with a little warmth.

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Photo of beergoot
3.83/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Dark, cloudy, orangish-copper body with a one-finger thick, creamy head. Caramel and oranges in the aroma. Deep malt flavor with some pert bitterness, all pretty much overtaken with a strong boozy taste; some indeterminable fruity esters in the background. Heavy body; coarse and raspy on the palate; very dry with the alcohol.

At 15% ABV, the alcohol seems to overpower this beer, but perhaps if I'd let it warm-up a bit, more variety and depth in the flavors and mouthfeel might make themselves known. Still very appealing as is...

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Photo of Jonoesh5
4.52/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Clocking in at 15%(??) here goes a 12oz from a 4-pack bottled 12/17/16. A very minimal head sits atop a deep cooper brown body. Smells just like rum haha! This is gonna be a doozy...

First sip is so deep and complex—red fruit, fig, brown sugar, baked bread, and whiskey. Definite alcohol warmth throughout, but this is to be expected for the style. Pretzel notes open up as the beer warms. I’m really impressed with the hop/malt balance for such a heavy hitter. A lovely barleywine! Mouthfeel is creamy and easy-going. Alcohol warmth aside, this beer feels like a sessionable porter or brown ale. Very smooth.

Overall, I love this style. It’s an annual experience for me every winter, perfect for cold nights in solitude. Not a beer I would consume frequently, as this style asks a lot of any beer drinker—forcing the consumer to sit down (for their own good) and experience beer crafted for appreciation. Bought this 4-pack for $18 and it was so worth it. Look no further than Dogfish Head for their faithful interpretation of barleywine. Cheers!

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Photo of Thankin_Hank
4.31/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Excellent head. Rich caramel color. Fabulous aroma. Great tasting with the fruity flavor of dates and raisins. The alcohol is strong and excellent. A nice sipping beer. Mouthfeel is alcohol strong. Overall this is some of the nectar of the Gods. From a crowler purchased from The Craft Bar, Destin, Fla. dated 8/22/17.

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Photo of Nfkraemer
4.5/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Go for it!
Great example of the style done right.
Great balance between sweetness and strength resulting in a very smooth kick.
Be sure to share at just the right temp.

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Photo of quindog
4.49/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I should preface this brief review by saying I'm drinking about a 8-10 year old bottle that has been in my fridge since the day I bought it. No expectations, and I must say it is fantastic. Very smooth, with no burn for 15%. Carbonation is perfect, and flavor is a sweet, but not overly sweet, malty beverage. Notes of raisin and other similar fruit. In closing, this beer ages very well, though I'm not sure how good it is fresh. I don't drink a ton of barley wine, but consider sucaba and bourbon county to be the gold standard. This beer is up there with them, minus the bourbon barrel. Though I must say, I don't miss the barrel much in this 10 year old version.

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Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Beer rating: 90 out of 100 with 2711 ratings