Olde School Barleywine | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

very good
1,063 Reviews
Olde School BarleywineOlde School Barleywine

Brewed by:
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Delaware, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 15.04%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
Bold, yet smooth! Fermented with dates and figs, this bone-crushing barleywine has a unique flavor.

85 IBU
ABV varies from 13-16%.

Added by UnionMade on 10-10-2002

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Reviews: 1,063 | Ratings: 2,614
Photo of harrymel
1.25/5  rDev -68.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1


A: pours apricot ale with a finger of off-white foam which falls quickly to a sheet of the same. cherry tones. near excellent clarity.
S: smells like all of DFH beers that are high gravity: sour grapes, acetone, other horrid esters.
T: sweet and alcoholic. Man, I'm really not disappointed, because I half anticipated this would taste similar to the others in the series.
M: thin, hi carb, semi dry.
O: this beer is shit. Gimmick. Never again.

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Photo of hellbilly
1.3/5  rDev -66.8%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

on tap at papago...

hazy brown amber with a small white head which fades to last as a film.

the aroma... well... bananas, bubblegum, caramel, piloncilla (presumably dates), more sugar and floral alcohol which actually smells like nail polish (confirmed by several).

i really had to work myself up to taste this... thing. it's the same... lots of hot floral cheaply manufactured booze with a starchy banana aftertaste.

the chewy texture and hot mouth feel just aren't going to get it done and certainly don't help the cause. yuck. 3/4/2/1/5/1.5

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Photo of Conserving_water_Aaron
1.99/5  rDev -49.2%
look: 2.25 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.75 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Old School ale has a good appearance in a glass and a nice white head. With the smell there's alot going on with the figs and dates. The taste is just too much, and by that I mean it's way bitter. Definitely only 1 a night beer. The abv is 15% wich is overboard and you can definitely taste that. I am curious what this beer would taste like aged for a couple years and I think that's all it's got going for it. Not a total disappointment, just another one for the craft collection.

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Photo of airohead2001
2.12/5  rDev -45.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 1

HUGE thanks to glazeman for this one!

A - Copper reddish/brown with no head. Really clear and light looking for a barleywine. I like it. No lacing.

S - Bubble gum, sugar, cotton candy, and flavored coffee syrup. This smells absolutely disgusting.

T - Booze, booze, booze, hard after dinner candies, and oranges. Similar to the smell, this is really gross.

M - Nice. Thick.

D - No way. Not a chance in hell. No drinkability at all. This beer is terrible. This is a fun beer just because it is so bad. Glazeman and I had a good time with this one.

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Photo of jampics2
2.12/5  rDev -45.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Totally filtered. Bummer. This looks to be a clear redish orange with a white head. Lacks character.

Smell is phenolic alcohol, sweet malt, sugar.

Taste is good at first. A great sweetness peaks into a plum and grape and sweet malt explosion. Then a breath of deadly booze comes to take your soul. This tastes like the grim reaper's beer belches smell. HORRIBLE, vile, sick - I've had the other insane ABV DFH beers, and this is hands down the worst. Each of the others had much more flavor depth to enjoy. This is a sugar booze bomb.

Mouthfeel is OK, syrupy but as expected for such a liquor.

Hard to drink. I want to say it has some merits, but this was quite frankly deplorable.

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Photo of darklordlager
2.17/5  rDev -44.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

A: Cracked open and thrown into a most appropriate DFH snifter.Crystal clear ruby/garnet colour with a moderate head that dissapates quickly. Little islands of bubbles struggle to stay afloat. Looks very nice the way the light strikes it.

S: I wish I could say that the smell is layered malt, but it comes across to me as more of a cough syrup. I can notice the malt underneath, but the nauseating sugary cough syrup smell is prominent, playing in with the monstrous alcohol presence.

T: Carmelized malt, cotton candy, and the cherry-esque alcoholic cough syrup taste. Hot on the finish, and a bit in the middle as well. I know the sweetness is to counteract the alcohol, but there is no depth of malt flavour, just the nauseating alcoholic and artificial sweetness.

M: Syrupy with low carbonation.

D: The closest description I can get to this is of candied cough syrup drizzled over cotton candy, with a bit of malt extract salted on. With every sip, I'm considering a drain pour. Really a let down from what I was expecting, and not worth the $4 I dropped on it...Drainpour.

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Photo of Gtreid
2.22/5  rDev -43.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 1.5

Vintage 2007.
Poured into a snifter.

A: Nice orange, caramel color with almost one full finger of sandy head that does not retain well.

A: Did not like this. Astringent, and white board marker smell took me back. There were some sweet malts, and earthy, pine hops, but... As close as I can come to discribing this smell is, the purple scented marker you would use in grade school.

T: Not much better IMO. I did get some nice honey, and piney hop tones, as well as some sweet malts, but, I'm afraid the alcohol overwhelms this brew.

M&D: Medium to full body, the mouthfeel was actuauly quite nice and creamy. The drinkability, on the other hand was not. At 15% ABV, very strong, too strong. Not a good example of an American BW. Maybe I got a bad bottle? Will not be searching for this again. Skal.

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Photo of charlzm
2.23/5  rDev -43.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Consumed 04/22/08.

Cloudy, dark honey hue. Good lacing, though not much of a head.

Aroma is sticky sweet and boozy.

The first thing I noticed when the beer entered my mouth is the flavor and heat of the alcohol. It's a big, big beer. Some acetone character as well. And sweetness. Lots of sweetness. Maybe honey?

Despite the powerful flavor, I am unable to pick out anything other than alcohol, acetone and sweetness. Perhaps I drank this too young (I bought the bottle only three months ago), but I must admit I am disappointed in this one.

Mouthfeel is thick and coating, a little cloying.

As is, not terribly drinkable. I'm glad I split this bottle four ways.

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Photo of frazbri
2.23/5  rDev -43.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Olde School Barleywine poured ruddy red with a short white head that seemed to regenerate around the edge of the goblet. Aroma had notes of orange, lemon, sweet tart candy, and banana. Flavor started with banana nut bread and licorish. There was a lemon cake flavor in the middle, but the finish was alcohol and bitterness. The mouthfeel was fairly thick and a little bit chewy, while the carbonation was a little on the high side for a barleywine.

I struggled with this one. Some of the flavors just didn't mesh well for me. The alcohol burn was over the edge, too. Olde School was a chore to finish, much like homework for this beer drinker.

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Photo of JAStheAce
2.24/5  rDev -42.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

A - Bright blood orange with no head whatsoever

S - Fruity, piney and reeks of booze and alcohol

T - Very bitter and extremely strong on the alcohol. This stuff is really strong and the booze is masking any other flavor. It is warming me up though. I can barely take it down but do feel it will help put me to sleep.

Overall, I am not a fan of this beer. It overwhelms the tastebuds with alcohol and as being only my second barleywine, I am starting to crave me some Bigfoot and am beginning to understand how truly great it is.

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Photo of craytonic
2.29/5  rDev -41.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Appearance: Ruby-amber pour with a nice head that quickly fades, minimal lacing

Smell: Raisins, figs, alcohol

Taste: Way too sweet - raisins, plums, figs, maple syrup and an overpowering alcohol

Mouthfeel: Creamy and buttery but thin

Drinkability: Too much alcohol and too hot

I get the impression the goal here was a high ABV, not a good barleywine. Way too sweet and sugary, perhaps to cover the ABV.

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Photo of mlazzaro
2.36/5  rDev -39.8%
look: 5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Every time I drink this beer I find it unbalanced and a complete booze bomb.

It says to age proper for a couple of years on the label. I have had a freshy, a two year old, and a four years old example, (all cellared properly), and they were all sweet, boozy heavy, and generally unpleasant beers.

It never seems to smooth out. Super boozy and prone to headaches.

However it looks great, solid head and a clear beautiful color. That is really what it has going for it in my honest opinion.

One is better off with a old ruffian, a hog heaven, or a bigfoot.

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Photo of AdvocateFan
2.4/5  rDev -38.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Murky darkish amber. Pours with an admirably sized head for a beer of this ABV. The nose is hugely sweet, but sharp, almost spicy from the massive alcohol content. Big sugar alcohols. Mead-like. Some notes of baked apples. Solvent-like. Acetone (yes, nail polish remover.) The booze actually burns the eyes as the vapors rise. Dark rum-soaked raisins. Cherries. Flavor hits with a rush of hot booze, like ultra-octane apple cider, dark cherries, fig jam, vodka-infused plums, tej/honey-wine-like notes... Shit... this is boozy in all kinds of ways. Spiked maple syrup... There's a late tannin-like astringency that sticks all over the tongue and ushers in the finish, which wraps things up with grape skins, chewed lemon seeds, blonde tobacco, and alcohol burn/heat, and an indefinitely-lasting acetone impression and burn. No lie, this is like nail polish remover in the aftertaste. This batch was bottled November 2008. Reviewed 11 months after bottling. Still very, very hot. I will wait at least 2 years before trying my next bottle. I've had vintages from 2006 or so, when they were still young, and I recall enjoying them much more than this one. Interesting for the shock factor, but this was not a pleasurable experience. There's extreme, and then there's mischief. This beer seems to be headed toward the latter. An odd juxtaposition with the vintage imagery and "olde school" reference in the name--this is not olde school. Nor is it new school. This is out of control do-it-yourself "home school" where you spike your beer with liquor to create a homebrew beer cocktail (while your girlfriend takes off her nail polish...)

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Photo of Rizalini
2.4/5  rDev -38.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle, fresh off the store shelf, into my Deschutes tulip...

A - Pours a very clear ruby red color, with almost no head, even with a very aggressive pour.

S - This smells like an absolute alcohol bomb! It smells warm and yeasty... nothing else. The smell kinda reminds me of their 120.

T/M and O - Wow... this is extreme for sure, but I'm not sure if that's a good thing. I can't pull anything outta this besides alcohol. Not really sure what they were trying to do with this barletwine, but Olde School has none of the characteristics of a barleywine. Well at least none that I've ever tried. I'm gonna try to finish this one, but I doubt I will. I'll age the other with hopes that it really transforms over time. I hope to revisit this one in a year or so, but for now...

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Photo of kencarman
2.41/5  rDev -38.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Boy am I going to out of whack here with the rest of the reviews. Pours yellow/gold. Head fades fast: expected. Nose? About right but a bit light. The taste and mouthfeel is where it falls. Too little malt. A raisin/apple sense: acetaldehyde? Definitely sour. A "sour" barleywine? Maybe I got a bad 4 pack? I am going to age it and see what happens and maybe I'll be back. Unbalanced and the apple/sour sense problematic.

I love barleywine, have received awards for barleywine and brewing barleywine like brews. And I'm a big fan of most of what Sam does, despite the recent hoopla. Have met Sam: nice guy. (But hey, Sam, it should be called BrewMASTER... no "S," if we're just going to promo just one brewery.) But this one just plain misses the mark. Guess I'll just buy 120 from now on if I want something more barleywine like from DF.

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Photo of Thy_Philosopher_King
2.44/5  rDev -37.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

This just isn't my beer. Maybe it's hint of wine, or the fig and date brew, but it just isn't feeling like the type of brew that accomadates the palate of this guy. It's striking and pretty, but the kick is that of a tequila shit. Which I'm not too fond of drinking when I'm having my mind set in in drinking beer. It has a cool bottle, and a beautiful look, but the feel (besides the drunk) isn't all too spectacular.

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Photo of mrasskicktastic
2.48/5  rDev -36.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

A - Hazy reddish copper with about one finger of head. A few speck of lacing too. Considering the abv, that is a miraculous achievement. Addition of the yeast makes it very cloudy and more orange than red.

S - Vanilla, bourbon, apricot, caramel malt, faint pine hops and alcohol. The vanilla is really strong. It defines the odor. The alcohol quickly dominate as the beer warms a bit.

T - Rather disappointing here. Extremely boozy. A bit of sweet malt and a light fruitiness, like a mx of apricot and cherry flavor, can be decerned through the alcohol. The aftertaste has bitterness to it from pine hop, but this is still overshadowed by a boozy alcohol.

M - Thin, and astonishingly smooth considering the alcoholic taste. It tastes a bit like it should go down as smoothly as a shot of Vladimir Vodka, but it actually created no sort of feeling on the throat. The taste is still ruined of course. It is refreshing on the throat, but a little drying on the front of the mouth. Addition of the yeast gives the beer a thicker texture.

D - Pretty bad. Everywhere except for the taste is good on this beer. It is absurdly boozy, even compared with Raison de Extra or WWS. This alcohol completely ruins the beer! I don't care how high the alcohol is, it should NOT mask the other flavors of the beer. This is a serious disappointment. Too strong to session (obviously). It is also not exactly inviting me back for another. I remember having this two years ago, perhaps when my tastes were less refined or the recipe was different, and I adored it. I might buy this again if someone I trust tells me that this years batch is not as boozy. Otherwise, I'm done with Olde School.

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Photo of LarryV
2.51/5  rDev -36%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Pours a hazy orange-amber color with a fairly lively head. Sweet/sour aroma. There's some fruitiness in the taste, but the taste is dominated by a cloying sweetness. Alcohol is very noticeable and gives this a boozy quality. I really didn't like this beer, it's far too sweet imho. I put the remaining bottles aside to age for a year or more, hopefully it will improve with age. At $13.99 a 4 pack, this isn't a cheap beer and I expected a lot more from it.

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Photo of ChadQuest
2.55/5  rDev -34.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Amber color, minimal head retention but nice lacing.

Fruit, so much raison, very sweet, a hot one for sure too, not so much hops for being "american", but they are ever so slightly present for a bit of citrus, and toffee is here also.

Slick and syrupy mouthfeel, and drinkability is...well it's 15% and a sipper.

Better as a pairing then on it's own. Pair it with something savory to help balance the sweetness. Gorgonzola and Rye crackers were brilliant with it.Let this one warm up alot, and sip it. It wont get easier to drink, but it will taste better. It's just really too sweet alone.

Sweet Sweet Sweet.

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Photo of womencantsail
2.56/5  rDev -34.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

The pour is a slightly cloudy amber color with a finger of off-white head. Pretty brutal aroma. A bit of rubber cement and rubbing alcohol. There’s a little bit of candied citrus in there and some caramel. The flavor isn’t quite as brutal as the aroma...at first anyway. Lots of booze, some rubbing alcohol, and more booze. Caramel and citrus flavors are also present, but they give way to the less desirable ones as it warms.

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Photo of Jdiddy
2.62/5  rDev -33.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

While I am a huge Barleywine fan, I just do not like this beer at all. It is sickening sweet. Color is a nice amber with a small foam white head. Smell is that of Apricot an fruit. The taste is very fruity, some yeast and no hop taste to be found. Tastes like something went wrong with this beer. I have tried it twice to make sure I did not get a bad batch and it was the same. Would not try again.

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Photo of MaineBirdMan
2.63/5  rDev -32.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bought one 12oz bottle.
Poured into wine glass.
A: Ruby red, a little cloudy.
N: Slight candy scent.
T: Extremely sweet. Heavy on the candy.
M: Full bodied not much of alcohol present (even though it's 15%). Little carbonation.
D: I couldn't stomach more than one. Way to sweet.
I wish I would have read the label first. I would have buried the bottle in the woods and waited for a year to dig it up and drink it. I guess I can still do that once the ground thaws.

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Photo of jizfiasco
2.64/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 5 | smell: 1 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

12 oz to English pub glass. Beautiful crystal walnut color with fine pencil line cream head. Smell is pretty terrible like glue or adhesive maybe nail polish remover. Taste follows a bit with some very tasty malt notes and burnt sugar and heavy prune but that chemical taste dominates. Alcohol is high but bearable. Ok and different but I wish I didn't buy a 4 pack. Will put the rest away for like 5 years, this brew needs a hell of a lot more time to sit.

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Photo of bubseymour
2.65/5  rDev -32.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This was the first time I've sampled a barley wine so I'm sure my pallet is just in shock at the moment. I'm not going to bother with the usual format of my review.

The good - the appearance and smell is ok. It leaves a nice warm feeling in your tummy. It actually does seem like a beer/wine hybrid drink in some ways which I'm assuming is primarily from the alcohol level being more in the range of wine than beers (except high ABV RIS).

The bad - well...sorry to say this tastes like cough syrup to me. I've had about 10 sips now and it just isn't getting any better at all. I'm glad I only bought a 1 12 oz bottle, because unfortunately I'm going to have to dump about 9 oz of it down the drain. I just can't go any further into this beer..the struggle to enjoy is unbearable. If I need a high-alcohol warm winter option...I go with either a RIS or a port wine. Barley wines just must not be for me.

Revised review March 2017 - So thougth after several years and a more sophisticated pallete that I'd enjoy this one a second time around. It seems my tastes as a noob are still on par with my thoughts today. This beer is a sweet hot mess, and reminisent of cough syrup. And I've hadmany Barleywines now that I've loved. I'm also a big fan of DFH brews but this one just didn't work for me.

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Photo of Agold
2.65/5  rDev -32.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottled In: 2011 101

This beer is a dark caramel red-brown color with a just off white head. About 2 cm which recedes to a film shortly. Spotty lacing. Aroma is caramel, molasses, burnt sugar and fruit forward. A bit of heat, but very nice. Unfortunately this beer really doesn't deliver. Acetone, burnt sugar, heat, solventy, and figs. Sweet and solvents are the two words I would use to describe this beer. Mouthfeel is somehow worse. Thin, hot, mid level carbonation. If it was going to be that thin it needs to be less carbonated, and it needed a lot more body. Really not a good beer.

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Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.92 out of 5 based on 2,614 ratings.
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