Olde School Barleywine | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

very good
2,642 Ratings
Olde School BarleywineOlde School Barleywine

Brewed by:
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Delaware, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 15.00%

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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Ratings: 2,642 |  Reviews: 1,074
Photo of davey101
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 vintage poured into a DFH signature glass.

A - Deep, dark red color. I gave this an aggressive pour and a decent sized beige head formed and later dissipated to a half finger head that stuck around for a while. Lots of great lacing and retention.

S - Tons of dark fruits and burnt brown sugar/caramel. Some spices, malt and booze. Not as complex as I would have liked.

T - Loads of raisins and dried plums, brown sugar, caramel, oak, and malt. Syrupy and sweet as all hell. Slight warming booze that isn't offensive or intrusive. Smooth mouth feel. This is pretty delicious.

O - I'm a fan of the big dogfish beers. 120 minute, raison d'extra, fort, and olde school all have this very sweet raisin profile. For such a high ABV this is dangerously drinkable. The alcohol is noticeable but it helps warm up the palate, which really compliments the dark and burnt flavors. This is isn't even a year old and it drank quite well. I think I may have liked it a bit more when it was fresh back around December, but I can't wait to try one with a few years on it.

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Photo of hdelavega
4.92/5  rDev +25.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

2007 Poured from a 12oz bottle to a snifter glass.

A nice ruby red with a slight tinge of gold. The pour rendered about a quarter inch of white head. Beautiful lacing!

A big nose of caramelized sugars, sweet malt, fruit, raisons, booze, honey. This beer smells awesome!

The taste is great, sweet and malty with a slight bit of hop bitterness in the finish. I get honey, grape, strawberry, raspberry, a bit of chocolate, and some rum soaked raisons (I read a review where last week someone used that descriptor so I soaked some raisons in rum and wow, try it yourself).

The feel is silky and warm, oh so good... The carbonation on this 07 brew is sitting really nice, it is medium, but the way it blends with the silky smooth feel makes this elixir exciting and subtle at the same time.

I traded an 09 120min IPA for this guy and I am glad I did. I tried a fresh Olde School a couple years ago and was not a big fan (however it was before I developed the taste for barleywines). This guy however was delicious!

Just an extra note: Last week I had a 2007 Fort and this 07 olde school gave me some serious de javu. Just a ton of faded pureed raspberries off.

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Photo of aleckpa
3.82/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2007 poured into my DFH Signature glass.

A- Ruby red, brown. No head, and small lacing after the pour

S- I smell alcohol right away. But, then come the raisins, plums, figs, caramel, and toffee notes.

T- A lot of flavors hit me all at once. Raisings, figs, alcohol, chocolate, brown sugar. I tasted a toasty, chocolate finish. The aftertaste in my mouth was caramel and toffee. Overall, it's a sweet tasting beer. However, there is the perfect balance, and the alcohol is not overpowering.

M- Full body. Syrup like, but not too thick.

O- After a few sips, I can feel some booze kicking in right away. But, this is a good beer. I'm not a fan of barleywines, but this was in the beer store for only $5 and it was already aged. Again, this is a 2007 so I'm not sure how this compares to others, I'd like to find out. My assumption is that the aging really helps balance out the flavors. I'm sure the flavors come out more once it becomes more room temperature. If I did have this again, it'd be a special occasion, or just something to sip on for an hour or 2 because of the buzz. In the end, I would recommend people to try this. I don't know if I would get this again, but I think it's a well crafted beer and I do enjoy it.

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Photo of Trilogy31
4.42/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Beautiful red mahogony with a thin offwhite cap leaving nice lacing. Notes of booze soaked raisins and figs, bourbon toffee, red fruits, cinnamon and baking spices - very nice. Taste really mirrors the nose adding bittersweet chocolate and a nice touch of warming booze that is well integrated and the beer is also beautifully carbonated for the style. A well rounded, complex barleywine that i look forward to with some more age on it.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours a cloudy copper-orange color with a finger of frothy off-white head. The head fades down fairly slowly leaving behind a bit of lace.

S - Aroma is a mix of strong rich caramelized malts and brown sugar, with a bit of dark fruit and spices, a touch of citrus hops, and a bit of booze.

T - Starts off with some rich sweet caramelized malts with some brown sugar and citrus hops with a bit of grapefruit. Through the middle, some dark fruit comes through alongside with a bit of spice. The finish is a mix of rich sweet caramel malts, brown sugar, a bit of dark fruit, and some booze.

M - Full bodied with mild carbonation. It feels smooth with a slightly thick mouthfeel and a sweet and warming finish.

D - Very drinkable. Nice big and bold barleywine, but surprisingly smooth given the 15% abv.

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Photo of billab914
3.95/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2009 vintage poured from a 12oz bottle into my Dogfish snifter. It poured an orange brown color with a thin, spotty lacing scattered across the top of the beer.

The aroma has a lot of sweeter, caramel like malty flavor to it right off the bat. I get a little citrus hops to it as well, but it's definitely an afterthought behind the sweet maltiness. I get a good dose of alcohol to it, but it's not that boozy or harsh. Pretty appealing aroma overall.

The taste shows a little herbal, bitter, hoppiness to it at first. Midway some big sweetness starts to come out bringing caramel and toffee flavors along with it. Very nice malty, sweet, slightly fruity flavor to it. Some citrus hops comes back into play in the finish as well. The alcohol is also really evident in it, but like the nose doesn't feel that boozy or harsh. It does leave a bit of warming sensation in the finish though. Pretty nice flavors overall.

The mouthfeel is on the heavier side with carbonation being moderate. Overall I thought it was a pretty solid beer, a little hot in the alcohol department but also pretty flavorful and tasty. The caramely, malty flavors were very nice in it and gave it some great flavors without becoming too sweet. Very nice beer to sip on this evening.

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Photo of garuda
4.1/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz brown bottle, January 2011 vintage

A - Crimson, thin white head that retains well with spotty lacing down the glass. Impressive considering the abv.

S/T - Candied caramel malt, molasses, dark fruits... This is the first time that I've actually enjoyed the dark fruit flavors in a beer. For some reason, its just working here. Perhaps since its more of a fresh smell than dried. Maybe a little sweet in the end.

M - Medium body, low carbonation, a little thick. Abv hidden exceptionally well.

O - I can't believe how well the abv is hidden, even when I drank it fresh. The candied fruits really work well. I will definitely buy this again.

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Photo of ferrari29
4.09/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Beer poured from bottle into Chalice-shaped glass
Beer bottled in 2010

A - Beer poured with a hazy burgundy reddish-brown colored body; one finger beige colored foam; rocky and frothy in appearance; dissipated rather quickly; lacing was good and there was some syrupy stickiness that formed on the side of the glass; had "legs"; low amount of visible carbonation was present in the body of the beer

S - Cinnamon; sweet malt flavors; brown sugar; tense alcohol notes - bourbon; strong smells, which subtly overwhelming, but pleasant; raisin; figs & dates; dark fruit; sweet pipe tobacco

T - Sweet malt flavors, caramel; raisin & dates; classic barley wine taste; high alcohol finish; rinses the palate with a fine sweet malt & raisin flavor; bourbon; some parts, especially the front are slight oak; brown sugar

M - Slightly viscous and effervescent; stingy; there are strong barley wine flavors that overwhelm the palate at times and refreshes at the other moments of the sip; great balance of ingredients that allow the palate to experience multiple sensations

T - Great beer; would be even better if it was aged a bit longer; I like it and would highly recommend to other barley wine lovers

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Photo of bobhits
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

What a nice extra! Actually possibly the best I’ve received.

It seems this bottle was left in the ground or lost for a few years too many. 2006 bottle enjoyed in 2011, 4.5 years old.

Poured into a stone old guardian glass, this one is surprisingly light colored and pours a tall fizzy head. It has been a while since I had this last, but I don’t recall that much head or this extremely thin and faint head. As long as it has taken me to type this the head has fallen to a thin and rather unimpressive looking sheet of largish bubbles. Now that the foam is gone, I’m actually shocked at how clear this beer is. Clarity here is better than most barely wines fresh. My second pour of course is far less clear as the yeast how clouded and darkened things up. The yeast turns things more murky ruby colored. A rather nice color to be honest, but far different.

Sweet caramelized candies, perhaps a bit of oxidation if that’s even a smell, sugary sweet, almost starting to take on some characteristics of certain sweeter liquors. Absolutely no alcohol here what so ever. The second pour has yielded some deeper darker fruity notes, well a bit deeper and darker.

Caramel through and through, deep and bold as it can be opens this beer. The finish has a certain bitter note at the back of the tongue. Mix in some still very apparent though much subdued alcohol notes and you’re pretty much done here.

Zero carbonation in the mouth, thick syrupy body though certainly not on the thicker side for the style or for beers that pack 15% abv. The alcohol heat isn’t hiding here, but given the 15% I think the age has done a lot of work. Oddly my second pour is far harsher than the first. The yeast has brought with it changes in color, flavor, and kick. Odd.

I don’t recall the last time I bought this beer, but I’m debating getting a 4 pack and having 2 bottles around 2-3 years old and the other 2 maybe 7-8 years old. The start of this bottle made me think the beer was fading away. The second pour makes me feel like it needs a good bit more age. I’ve never experienced this, though I normally don’t open with such a small pour, but either way I’m not sure what would have happened if I used a larger glass that could hold the whole bottle. The flavors here aren’t overly complex, but they contain a great deal of nuance and subtlety beneath the high abv. Much like Immort Ale from Dogfish, this is a beer to age before even considering drinking it.

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Photo of claspada
3.5/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2007 extra thanks to hoppymcgee. What a treat.
Aromas of sugary sweet brown sugar and maple syrupy maltiness. Honey and toffee sweetness also become prevalent as it warms.
The tastes begin with heavy honey and brown sugar. No hops whatsoever here. Waves and waves is syrupy sweet maltiness.
The mouthfeel is super sweet and cloying unfortunately. A bit of hops would help balance this out. Overall a really good beer but to be honest I enjoyed this beer more with only a couple years of age on it compared to four.

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Photo of JAXSON
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2004 bottle, thanks Doug. Pours a peach pink color with a lasting white cap. Nose is abundantly sweet, full of raisins, grapes, peaches, caramel malt. Flavor is dry in comparison, still lots of fruit sugars especially an interesting peach quality. Not too heavy but syrupy enough. Some cardboard oxidation has crept in after seven years in the bottle. All things considered, this is probably better than a fresh bottle, though it's really heavy and hard to drink a lot of.

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Photo of Treebs
3.8/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on tap at Maria's Package Goods and Community Bar during Chicago Craft Beer Week.

A: Pours a nice amber color with a slight woody head that dissipates quickly into a little film.

S: Big figs are present followed by a nice little flowery smell. A slight burn hits the nose as well so I'm already anticipating the burn on taste.

T: Flowery sweetness with subtle bitter hops. Figs, dates and raisins all come out from depths to give it that dried fruit taste and burn at the end is very present, but not as bad as I was expecting from the nose. Fits very nicely with all the other flavors present.

M: Medium bodied and leaves an incredible creamy, oily film over the mouth. Leaves a nice fig taste that lingers after the burn.

O: You can still taste the burn, but at 15% this is a sneaky barleywine. I enjoyed the flavors of the dried fruits and the subtle sweetness was a nice touch.

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Photo of birdman200
3.68/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled in 09, drank in late 2010

A: Copper color, 1 finger off white head with great sticky lacing.
S: Huge alcohol burn immediately. Candied fruit, raisins. Kind of smelled like old life savers that are stuck in between the seats of your car.
T: VERY sweet, VERY syrupy. Huge maltiness, not very bitter. Any hop presence is overpowered by the sweetness. Note of cherries, with a bready character. Little bitter hop bite.
M: Super sticky - low to medium carbonation. Sweetness/syrup flavor disappears fairly quickly.
D: A little too sweet for my liking. Needs another 2 years probably. Could definitely feel the 15%. I usually like barleywines, but this one makes me uneasy about aging them, especially at such a high ABV.

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Photo of Gushue3
3.7/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- Looks deep red in the glass and orangy while held up to the light. not really much of a head or lacing on it

S- very sweet. candied sugars and dark fruits. really pungent.

T- VERY sweet. has a syrupy taste to it. mellows out toward the end and has a sweet bitterness. really sweet. this needs some time to sit. Very big flavor none the less

M- very smooth with medium carbonation. thicker mouthfeel, syrupy

O- big taste on this one, but definately follow directions on bottle of digging a hole and enjoy a year later after everything mellows out. Im gonna sit on the other one for a while

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Photo of WSB
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer pours a very bright amber/brown color. Head is thin but grabs the glass then dissipates.

Smell is complex- pungent- alcohol, malt, touch of hops, something sweet- its like a beer flower.

Taste- Surprisingly smooth. Lots of malt and very subtle hops on the palate.

Mouthfeel- Ale like, thick, smooth, numbs the tongue on the way down.

overall- A great brew, very complex. This one was aged 6 months and was superbly smooth for a brew with 85 IBUs

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Photo of grittybrews
3.95/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2010 bottle opened May 2011. Poured a luminescent ruby-orange into a tulip with a finger of quick-receding off-white head. Very hot, brandy-like aroma of sweet grapes and sugar cookies.

Moderate carbonation and a surprisingly light mouthfeel. Immediate alcohol warmth followed by more sugar cookie, grapes, cherries, a hint of raisin, and tart apple mixed with a muddled hop bitterness on the finish (and of course more alcohol burn).

There's probably some potential with this one and I have a couple more bottles in the basement, but even if this develops nicely I don't feel compelled to stock up on any more. Some interesting flavors going on, and it really does have a brandy-like character, but the sugary sweetness is just a little overbalanced for my taste. It does improve as it warms...or is that just the booze talking...?

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Photo of RSchaeffer
4.02/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review #7
12oz - 2004 vintage (thanks Plenum!!)

A - Pours a deep orange, bit murky. Slight bit of head that quickly recedes, leaving no lacing around the glass.

S - Very nice aroma, sweet and rich. Dark fruits, toffee, hint of butterscotch and a trace amount of alcohol.

T - Quite sweet and exceptionally smooth. I know this beer is 15% ABV, but I would never guess it. As it warms, I pick up on the alcohol more, but still it's balanced so well. Amazing what age does to a beer. The taste matches the nose nicely, lots of caramel and dark fruits, mainly raisins and cherry.

M - Medium bodied, slight carbonation. This beer, with this age at least, is very smooth, coats the mouth with sweetness.

O - This is a fantastic beer with some age on it, I really enjoyed this. Will certainly acquire some bottles of this to cellar on my own.

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Photo of HosP
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured 12oz bottle into Delirium Tremens snifter.

A- Nice amber, deep red in color. Very little head to this, what is there is a nice white color.

S- Nice sweet smell to it. A little musky aroma with some sugary, tart smells coming through at the end.

T- Sweet fruit tasty, some candy sugar flavors coming through at the beginning and middle. There are a lot of flavors and tough to separate all them. Some bitterness to the end of the drink, that balances out the sweet flavors nicely.

M- Medium body, low carbonation. Pretty hot from the high ABV.

D- Took a while to enjoy this, with the high amount of alcohol to it. Got much better as it warmed too. Enjoyable drink, but only one bottle for me at a time. Glad to try this though.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.75/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

First had: on tap at Monk's, Philly, PA

Strong and surprisingly smooth. Poured orange-brown with some white head that disappeared pretty quickly. Smells of sweet malts and sugar. Caramel malts in the taste, with a perusing sweetness and alcohol bite. Some dried fruits in there. Smooth and flavorful, medium-thick mouthfeel. Not highly drinkable, but still worth a swig every once in a while.

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Photo of Krakistophales
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a bubbly, dark orange with about a finger's worth of cream colored head that dissipates into a thin film atop the glass.

S: Cherries, caramel, malts, alcohol, slight hops.

T: Raisins, plums, cherries, grapes, sour apples, slightly hoppy bitter aftertaste.

M: Thick and syrupy, huge ABV, warms nicely, good carbonation.

O: I like this one. It's sweet, tart, and has some nice flavors. However, it isn't quite as complex or balanced as I'd like, so I'm going to keep trying american barleywines.

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Photo of andrecrompton
4.08/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this on Tap at Iron Monkey in Jersey City and drank out of a tulpit glass about a 10oz pour. This is super sweet full body barley wine.

Appearance: An orange red color with a faint white head. PERFECT

Smell: Fruity and Sweet with a strong alchol overtone.

Taste: Carmel sweet, not very hoppy but the 15% ABV gives it a bit of a kick. Smooth none the less.

I have to put this beer in my top 10.

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Photo of gkunkle
3.75/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a rosy orange color with a thin off white head. Not much visible carbonation. Smell is of sweet fruit and a touch of alcohol. Taste starts slightly bitter when it first hits my tongue, but is quickly overtaken by a mixture of sweet fruit tastes, I think I catch apple and raisin. Mouthfeel is where it should be for a barleywine. Overall, a very impressive beer, hides the 15% ABV very well.

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Photo of PEBKAC
3.76/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

An approachable 32oz growler fill from New Beer. ;)

Baby Duvel tulip. Gorgeous, clear, cherry/amber color. Just a faint wispy ring of off-white head.

Smell is cherry pits upfront, followed by toasted malt & orange oil. Ugly aerosols soon follow.

Mildly sweet, slightly caramelized malt. A woody/barky note. Appropriate oxidation I think. Soapy, more so then rindy hops. Light sour cherry & notes of fruit peel. Bitter, dried out finish helps me endure till the end.

Slightly, slightly syrupy, but lots of carbonation & bitterness to keep things flowing. Not terribly difficult for the quoted 15%ABV, but it doesn't feel that far off. No warming effect. I'd guess 12%, based on DFH's notoriety for being inaccurate.

It's missing that extra note, but it feels & drinks much better then most other American barleywines in my opinion.

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Photo of Pahn
4.64/5  rDev +18.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Rereview: 12oz bottle into a snifter, at DFH Pub in Rehoboth, DE. Bottled 2007, drank 2011. (numerical scores from this bottle)

A: Careful pour leaves a 1/3 inch tan head, that dissipates quickly. Pours red orange, leaves mild lacing.

S: Raisin, sweet caramel, mild effervescence. Some smoke, some grape, molasses, BBQ sauce. Grows and changes with time. Deep.

T: Caramel, raisin, brown sugar, sweetness, booze, all in amazing balance. Warming alcohol, but no trace of solvent. Chewy, refined, nutty, beautiful. Just enough fig and raisin. 4 years turns this into a world class barleywine.

M: Medium bodied, mildly sugary but smooth. Low carbonation.

O: I've been talking shit about this beer since I tried it a year and a half ago. Those who told me to age it were right. It's world class with age; the sweet, dark fruit and malt depth of a great English barleywine with the adventurous hops and sweet caramel flavors of all the best American barleywines. Fantastic.


12oz bottle into Duvel tulip. Bottled in 2009 (doesn't specify month). Drank 1/9/10.

Appearance: Aggressive pour yields a nice, fizzy 3/4 inch white head that dissipates quickly. Semi-opaque amber with bubbles rising in the middle. Head and sips leave arches of lacing that disappear after a minute or so. (4.0)

Smell: Grape lollipop, pear, apple, and a strong hit of alcohol. Prune hits as the beer warms. Honestly, I find the Jolly Rancher aroma kind of disgusting, but I'm giving it a high rating for the deep complexity of the aroma, and how it changes over time. (4.0)

Taste: Up front, apple juice and grape juice, hot alcohol, then a nice roasted malt finish. While the occasional interplay between the alcohol and the bready malt in the finish is very nice, the fruity beginning gets cloying, fast. Characterless hop bitterness only serves to exacerbate the unpleasant hit of what tastes like mixing apple juice, grape juice, melted apple Jolly Rancher, and Bacardi 151 together in a vat. Tastes way too much like cheap red wine. (2.5)

Mouthfeel: Full and creamy. The unmasked ABV could be a problem for some, but it's fine with me. Shame the taste isn't better, because the mouthfeel is good. (4.0)

Drinkability: Giant ABV, cloying flavor, over the top tartness and bitterness... I don't even want to finish this bottle. (2.0)

In short, barley wine shouldn't taste like bitter fruit juice mixed with hard liquor and several spoonfuls of sugar (actually, I don't think *anything* should taste like this). There's definitely some good aspects of this beer... but I don't think any of the huge problems would be solved by aging. It's a shame, because the finish is (sometimes) really nice, the mouthfeel excellent, the IBU decent (but hard to appreciate among the sugar shock assault), the smell full and complex (if itself too hard candy for me). Overall, I wouldn't recommend this beer to anyone who doesn't regularly steal sugar packets from coffee shops and wash them down with vodka. (original score: C)

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Photo of Bitterbill
3.19/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottled 2010A and courtesy of THECPJ. Thanks Shane!

It pours a brilliant reddish colour with over a 1 finger head of foam and brings some nice lacing.

It smells..kind of weird. I get some caramel malt and a bit of hop bitterness but what I'm smelling the most is a tartness that varies at times from sour cherries to vinegar. Is this how it was intended? A strange brew.

Medium to medium full bodied, fairly brisk carbonation, the mouth feel is fine.

I'm finding it a tough one to sip on; the alcohol is pretty much in my face and I still can't get over the tart element that Old Horizontal brings to the table. As always, I'm most appreciative for any beer I get the chance to try but this one does not work for me.

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Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.93 out of 5 based on 2,642 ratings.
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