Olde School Barleywine | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

very good
2,651 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: 2,651 |  Reviews: 1,078
Photo of david18
3.88/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I had a twelve ounce glass of this at the Amsterdam Ale House on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This may be the strongest draft beer I've had. The bar strongly recommends taking a taste of the beer before having a full glass of it. I took both the taste and the glass and overall found it to be very good but not really great for sitting at the bar. More of an end of evening at home beer.

Color is a dark orange with a surprisingly large head considering the alcohol by volume and it stuck around for quite a while.

Aroma is very stong, featuring dark fruit, hops, malt and even some of the heat can be sensed from the nose.

The flavor had all the elements of the nose but, I have to admit, was a little unbalanced toward the alcohol.

This was somewhat difficult to drink and certainly difficult to drink before or after other beers. It is, however, very good if you just want one beer and you definitely want to feel it.

I like it under the right circumstances.

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Photo of SpdKilz
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 Bottle, bottled 2010.

Appearance - Pours into my Bruery Tulip with a nice hazy dark orange color with two fingers of fluffy white head that dissipate slowly leaving some nice looking lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell - Sweet and lots of alcohol. Caramel, dark fruits, and hops.

Taste - Similar to the nose. A heavily sweet beer, somewhat one dimensional. I don't get a lot going on here. Raisins and prunes, molasses and caramel, and slight hops.

Mouthfeel - Creamy, lower carbonation, nice mouthfeel.

Drinkability - Honestly, not as bad as I would have thought for being so "young" of a beer, and being 15%. Sure there is a slight taste of alcohol, and warming, but again, for being 15% this beer is as drinkable as you could imagine a 15% fresh beer to be. I have one in the cellar and can't wait to see what some age does to it. Despite being one dimensional overall, not a bad beer.

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

bottled on 11/21/08 (which is precisely two years after i opened my BA account!)....I have been looking forward to this bottle for a few years now.

a: poured from 12oz bottle into a Duvel tulip. Nice white head that sticks very well. crystal clear and dark amber in color. i'm impressed.

s: very fruity nose. notes of dates, figs and dried fruits. alcohol is certainly there and i'm also noticing a slight lactic acid smell. absolutely fantastic and not what i was expecting.

t: very sweet malty flavor. very strong taste. notes of dried fruits and possibly brown sugar. not too syrupy. i can state that this is one of the best barleywines i've had to date.

m&d: smooth mouthfeel; excellent drinkability;

wish i had more bottles of this stuff. people weren't joking when they said it ages spectacularly. well done.

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Photo of LOCAL
4.15/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

bottle date 11/21/08

poured into duvel tulip.

Pours a lovely dark orange/auburn with a half finger of head that fades quick but come back with a swirl of the glass.

The nose is sweet. Toffee and caramel mix with a blend of dark fruits. Alcohol... hello? Nope, time seems to have rendered it undetectable.

The taste is pretty solid. Rich malts combine with toffee and dark fruits for a smooth, pleasurable experience. Alcohol is only ever so slightly in the background.

Medium to heavy mouth feel. Coats very well.

Over all this was a very nice brew. I've never had this fresh, but from reading the reviews and second hand accounts, this beer is quite a chore to drink fresh... this was the opposite. Looking forward to enjoying the last two bottles of this in a year or two.

heres a video review of it that I did... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4dcfBgbzmk

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Photo of happy4hoppybeer
4.32/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bought in a 4pack carryout batch from my local Italian restaurant.Quite pleasantly surprised they had it, as I've been chasing this one down for a while.

Poured into snifter glass a dark cloudy amber-brown, with medium head, leaving a good trace of sticky lacing.Looks wonderful.

Some fruits, nuts, and heavy alcohol aromas come through the nose big time. Good heavy use of malted barley. Right off the bat, I can tell this going to be a BIG beer.

Heavy malts and booziness come through upon first sip. Little to almost no carbonation, which is a plus for the barley-wine style.Heavy body. This is most definitely a sipper. Makes an excellent after-dinner meal brew.

Outstanding. But the high alcohol and heaviness of this limits the drinkability, as well as restricting it to only one, no more than two.

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Photo of BamaViper1
3.6/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass. 2010 vintage.

The beer pours dark amber and opaque into the glass forming a quarter-inch thick white head. The head dissipates fairly quickly, and there is minimal lacing.

DFH's barleywine has an interesting array of aromas. There are hints of fig and dried fruit, wet soil, and even red grapes all surrounding a caramel and malt backbone. Additionally, the alcohol in this beer makes it's first appearance as well.

The front of the tongue immediately gets the fruit of the beer but is then overpowered by hints of hop dryness and caramel malt with the slightest hint of bread. Detracting from what could be a great overall flavor is the presence of the alcohol, and it sticks with the beer from beginning to end. The finish is long and mostly bitter although there is a round sweetness at the center.

This beer is medium bodied with with good carbonation. The alcohol has a severe drying effect on the mouth, however.

I'm not going to lie, this beer is pretty stout and drinking multiple would probably be a problem. That being said, the flavor and aroma of the beer is appealing, and with perhaps a little age, this beer could be phenomenal. Bottom line - I like this beer and will buy again. Good beer from Dogfish.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
4.34/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

(sipped from m' Delirium Tremens tulip/snifter)

Yeah, this may be a bit stronger than a barleywine needs to be. But I love it for what it is and what it does to me. And it's honestly quite tasty for its biggerness.

It even feels heavy in the bottle! Starts w/ 1/4" head - gone in a blink. Lovely deep orange/red - sediment in suspension. The color is certainly lighter than what's customary.

Vibrant, boozy, herbal aromas - creeps toward "barleyhooch". O'er the top slick/thick juiciness - is that raspberry? Malt syrup. Barley liqueur. This is what I want an American Barleywine to smell like! It ain't called barley-hop-wine.

All I'll say is the taste is magnificent. Plenty caramel-fruit-jewel (fruit roll-up? nah, that doesn't sound appealing). Super-concentrated ester malt oil.

Quiet-storm warming sensation builds up. I would think 12-13% here - but 15%?! No way. Soft, silky, silent. Only knock is the slightly dry or bitter or alc sting in the end. Gets hot with the last few sips. Carbonated motor oil.

Winner! Intoxicating in more ways than two. What faults it has in feel I think are more than made up with the flavor. A little over the top all-around, but DFH isn't a modest brewery. Sip slow! Savor.

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Photo of ColdPoncho
3.85/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage

A - good off-white head, thins to a ring. Body is a semi-translucent amber/red.

S - a big smell, with a bit of booze, vanilla, lemon, sweet malts, and wood notes. Very interesting, quite complex.

T - Kind of weird. Tastes like raisins. mostly sweet. Makes me wonder: is this raison d'extra?

M - Heavy, medium-robust body. smooth.

D - Definitely a sipper, but pleasant to drink.

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Photo of bs870621345
3.6/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

2010 vintage into a Duvel Green tulip

Pours a deep amber color with a half inch of white head that fades quickly. Doesn't leave any lacing down the glass.

Smells like alcohol, cinnamon, plums, raisins, and a little wine like.

Taste is mainly plums and raisins, with alcohol, citrus, and spice in there too.

Mouthfeel is nice, not too carbonated and nice thick mouthfeel.

Drinkability is not good. Too much alcohol on the end and almost fusel like.

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Photo of dsartwell72
4.01/5  rDev +2%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2008 Vintage poured from a 12oz bottle into an oversized wine glass.

Appearance- Pours a murky orange color. Very small amount of beige head that returns with a swift twirl of the glass. Small dots of lacing stick to the edge of the glass.

Smell- Great aroma. Smells sweet with fruity characteristics coming through. Alcohol hotness comes through subtly.

Taste- Much smoother than I was expecting. Very impressed with my first sip. Taste is not overly sweet at all. Alcohol is detectable but definitely doesn't feel like 15%. Can't detect much for hoppiness, but I can tell they used to be there. Overall taste is quite inviting.

Mouth/Drink- Medium bodied beer, incredibly drinkable for a 15% barley wine.

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Photo of CuriousMonk
3.05/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured from 750ml bottle into snifter glass. Pours clear dark orange with a thin beige head. Aroma of brown sugar, figs, a touch of citrus and some alcohol. Full body and fine carbonation. Boozy taste. Not a surprise given the ABV and youth of this beer. This beer is too hot to be particularly enjoyable.

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Photo of bubseymour
2.65/5  rDev -32.6%
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 Ty1erC
3.89/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

*12 oz bottle poured into a snifter glass.*

a: it's orange-amber in color. maintains the faintest amount of head.

s: the smell is very boozy. there are faint scents of candied fruit and raisins.

t: it tastes of alcohol and sweet, sweet malt. this particular bottle i let age for about 4 months, and i find it noticeably more boozy than the other bottles. the hop and fruity flavors seem to have mellowed out a lot, leaving a more pronounced alcohol flavor. perhaps i should have been patient and let it age longer...

m: very thick and full, with enough carbonation to get the job done.

d: i think it's delicious, but i wouldn't ever have more than one in a sitting.

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Photo of Duhast500
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into an over sized wine glass.

The color is a clear orange/amber with two fingers of foamy white head and some thick lacing.

The smell is malty with some sugary aroma. There is candy like aroma that mixes with some tart fruit in the nose.

The taste seem to pop with sweet malt flavor. Some strawberry flavor hits at first and the pulls malt a bit with a smoother, less aggressive malt. The back does have a small hop bite of bitterness tat there then gone.

The feel of the beer is full bodied, a big barleywine that does have some punch then is softer going down. A warming blanket like feel as this goes down gives some indication as to how high the ABV really is.

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Photo of Lukafer
4.08/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 2010

Pours a very hazy orange with two fingers of orangish tan head.  Smells sweet, with some alcohol, caramel malts and almost an orange smell.  Taste are caramel, golden raisins, sweet malts, some vanilla and a drying hop/alcohol finish.  Mouthfeel is sticky and heavy. Drinkability is really high for a beer of this ABV. My fiancée walked by, picked up my snifter, took a big drink and said wow, this is good, that's how drinkable it is. I can't believe this was the first time I've ever had it, good stuff!

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

Bottled 11/21/2008
Consumed 10/15/2010

Rich amber with a thin creamy beige head. Dissipated rather fast. No laces, they just fell back down into the glass.

Toasted barley. sweet caramel/toffee. Some earthy apple. Booze, vanilla, raisins, wood.

Toasted barley. caramel apples. splash of medicinal cough syrup. Booze, vanilla, raisins, and wood. Earthy and spicy herbal hops give a nice medium punch bitterness.

Thick, rich, boozy and hot. low slow carbonation. Smoother than fresh, but still not exactly smooth. Full body, somewhat chewy.

This bottle was almost 2 years old, and I think it could easily improve with some more age. hot and boozy. but nice flavors and aromas. drinks like a whiskey. For the most part, what you'd expect from a 15% barley wine.

I enjoy this one fresh and aged. But dont buy it really often because I usually prefer my barleywines younger with some more hop punch. This one is good fresh, but a bit too boozy to consume often.

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Photo of tjsdomer2
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Awesome carbonation that suspends in the red-orange liquid. Extremely thick and very interesting and unique. Not a whole lot of head, but some nice lacing. I give this very high points for the red glow (and a warning sign of what's to come...).

Smell: Basically smells like pure ethanol. Really strong, and I mean REALLY strong. I wouldn't call this exceptional, but it's ver unique and potent.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Some strong rum- or whisky-soaked fruit, possibly pear or apple that comes across a bit like caramel, but that's only very vague. Some strong pine hops as well. Mouthfeel is out of this world, with exceptional thickness. This stuff's liquid fire.

Drinkability: The alcohol strength is high, but this is really pleasant. Takes a really long time to nurse.

Overall: Basically a 5 for 1 beer deal.

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Photo of Radome
4.54/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Duvel tulip glass.

A - 4.0 - Color is a deep gold to amber with red and orange highlights. It is clear but not brilliant. The head is off-white, creamy and made of miniscule bubbles. It maintained a thin layer across the beer and Belgian lace until the beer was gone.

S - 5.0 - The aroma is delicious. Port wine, malt, sweet sugar, yeast and alcohol. The sweet note is a familiar aspect of other high gravity Dogfish beers.

T - 4.5 - The taste is dominated by the malt. It is warm and bready, reminiscent of German malts, but the brewer obviously used a ridiculous amount of malt because the high alcohol is immediately evident. The sweet smell has a matching sweetness in the taste, along with dark fruits. There is sufficient hops bitterness to offset the sweetness, but hops are not a huge part of the flavor profile.

M - 4.0 - Body is heavy, thick and chewy. The sweetness and creamy carbonation leave a definite sweet sensation in the mouth.

D - 4.5 - A delicious beer. It is thick, chewy and malt-forward, just the way I like barleywines to be. It is definitely of the English type. A little too sweet and mouth coating to encourage more than one at a sitting, but that one is VERY enjoyable.

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Photo of Kakaraht
3.79/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: It has a deep orange color with fluffy white head that has good retention

S: It smells like a strong malty highly alcoholic beer.

T: It is more like a whiskey than a barley wine in that it is focused on mostly the alcohol. It has a very barrel like flavor with limited hoppiness. There is a faint fruit flavor, appel or pear, but it is weak. the alcohol is the dominent flavor

M: Very thin with good coating properties, not very carbonated.

D: It is OK not my kinda barleywine, I like them malty, but still a really nice beer.

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Photo of vandemonian
3.91/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

DFH Olde School Barleywine has a dark brown colour and a good head. The smell is of strong alcohol with a hint of raisins. The flavour was creamy with raisins with some alcohol warmth. It was very nice, but the alcohol was too noticeable. This beer had a very creamy texture in my mouth but didn't have much noticeable carbonation. A very nice (and strong) barleywine.

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Photo of ebby82
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a honey hued color into a snifter. The aromas are very fruity, and they remind me a bit of DFH's Immort Ale.

Taste is again fruity, sweet, with touches of honey.

It's pretty viscous stuff, and it certainly isn't a quick drinker.

I was expecting this to have a hop tastes, because my limited exposure to Barleywines have been hoppy. However, it dispelled my expectations, which is always a great thing. That being said, it's extreme alcohol content prevents it from being an easily quaffable brew.

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Photo of beersensei305
3.51/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3


A- Pours a clear brownish copper with a nice white head with even lacing

S- Malty sweet tinge of grapes? I can't get much other than the ABV

T- Fruity & Tangy, malty, alcohol bitterness

M- Smooth and Sticky

D- Very high ABY this brew will sneak up on you.

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Photo of Elendinn
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Venti's -- served in a tulip glass.

Pours a completely translucent, appley bronze, like Treetop apple juice -- acquires a red hue when the light is low -- with a thin layer of off-white head that clings temporaneously to the sides as it dissipates. Looks fruity, refreshing, and remarkably like apple brandy.

Smells like it looks -- malty, with ruby port-like grapes, some moderately-sweet apples, pears, and, perhaps, a bit of strawberry. As the glass warms, some subdued hops present themselves. The 15% is noticeable, but not offensive. The aromas are slightly difficult to discern, but I'm sitting next to a kitchen, so I'm going to write it off as interference.

The alcohol is definitely more noticeable on the tongue, but still not as prominent as I would've expected. Apples and pears return, supported by a nice malty backbone; there are other tart fruits in there, as well (cherries, grapes), creating a very well-balanced experience. There's some piney, hoppy bitterness in the finish, but it's very subtle. All-in-all, great flavors, reminiscent of apple brandy, ruby port, cider, and/or a semi-weet white wine.

The beer borders on syrupy, but the carbonation is lively enough to prevent it from crossing that threshold.

Olde School is smooth, fruity and crisp, like a cider or an enormous, malty imperial IPA -- certainly an atypical barleywine and one of Dogfish Head's most palatable big beers. That being said, while the alcohol is masked deceptively well, especially given the beer's freshness, you can't help but submit to its will (I felt light-headed after my first taste), which makes it a sipper. A slow, slow sipper; in fact, it's probably best shared. With some age on this, I'd expect great things -- I've got one cellared and am anxious to revisit this brew in a year or two.

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Photo of ryanonline
3.52/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

extremely clear and very thin looking. reddish brown. head is non existent, ergo lacing is difficult to trace.

hops are light, and the malt is difficult to define. overall kind of grassy and grape like.

wooo, a bit more sweet (almost champagne like (brut)) but the hops are more pronounced. the drink has the same kind of, for lack of a better term, paste like taste that the super high abv dfh brews have.

FULL bodied and very dry in the finish. creamy and yet juice like in its consistency. dry alcohol finish. dry...dry.

i am so full after one...no more.

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Photo of Rguardian989
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz. 2009 release bottle served into one (not two which in retrospect, i should have listened to the bottle) snifter.

Appearance and Smell - burnt orange with a nice white head that sticks around like a frat guy the next morning. Some american hop citrus with malty sweetness. smells a LOT like red wine to me and i kinda like it. wow.

Taste and Mouthfeel - american hops like in the nose but not as strong. apples. alcohol and fruit on the back end with a light lingering bitterness. Nice full mouthfeel with a good level of carbonation.

Drinkability - only gonna need one bottle of this stuff. this is really kicking my ass and im only half way through it as i'm up to this part of my review. each sip however makes my tongue beckon for the next sip. Still scores a 4

Other Notes - not my favorite barleywine but that being said i really am enjoying it . i cant wait to see how it vintages over the next few years. This is a very good beer. if you can find it, get it.

Vertical Review 1/3 - 2009 bottle on 1/13/2011 into a snifter.

wow this is a totally different beer. ill just write scores next to each point

A&S - dark ruby with a decent lasting head. Smells like dark fruit, burnt caramel, and a little alcohol on the back end, definitely lost its hop character and now is nice and malty. its completely lost its wine quality in the smell. definite improvement on smell. A-4.5 S-5

Taste and Mouth - dry dark fruit (figs?) with still some alcohol punchy on the swallow. burnt caramely/molasses sweetness is definitely there. mouth is still very full and carbonation evened out and became more appealing. taste-4.5 mouth-5

Drinkability - i count drinkability in the want to take another sip rather than wanting a whole nother bottle because clearly thats a bad idea. i'd say this is good drinkability but not the best. its richness makes it so strong that i can wait to take another sip but each sip is very good while its in my mouth.

Notes - this beer clearly benefits hugely from age and it's become even better with time. its complexities have only become more for lack of a better word...complex. I look eagerly to a year from today when i get to open my next bottle of this beer.

TD/LR Get this beer and age it for later.

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Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.93 out of 5 based on 2,651 ratings.
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