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Olde School Barleywine | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

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very good
1,028 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

For Trade:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 1,028 | Ratings: 2,521
Photo of SomethingClever
4.71/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

12 oz poured into a snifter

A: color was not what I was expecting the clarity is amazing and a amber color...are we sure thus us a Barleywine

S: toffee, dates, figs and booze lots of booze actually has a very nice smell

T: this is borderline sherry but smooth no bitterness or even harshness from the booze you get just a lot of apricot,fig, dates, and jam flavors with deep toffee candy like tastes

M: not as viscous as you would think it's got a nice body but it's not cloying or thick

O: this beer floors me for 15% I remember having it on tap a year ago and thinking this is great. The bottle version had done nothing to change that opinion. It has tastes for days and the booze for being 15% is well hidden.

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Photo of treznor
4.37/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Still somewhat hot (though not all that unexpected for a 15% beer), the flavor was quite mellow (hmm... maybe mellow isn't quite the right word...) and malt-forward. The hops were there but not over-powering at all. All around, a very solid beer.

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Photo of briandaube
4.5/5  rDev +14.8%

My first shot at one of these, but I figured since I keep seeing people complain about those not reviewing beers and just "ticking" I'd try one out.

For an American barleywine I wasn't slammed with hops, which isn't a bad thing. Definitely picked up some of the fruit on the finish quickly followed by a nice alcohol warmth. I haven't had a ton of barleywines but this is already a favorite. I'm thinking ill pick up a couple to age.

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Photo of Poti0nseller
4/5  rDev +2%

The bold body accented with a semi-fruity flavor gave this beer a great overall profile. I personally found the aftertaste to be similar to that of honey...I love honey.

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Photo of TallSaint
4/5  rDev +2%

October 2nd, 2014

This bottle has been aged a year.

The sweet dates and figs fill the nostrils. Spice is evident as well. A slightly floral element appears in the background. Booze is here but it's restrained.

The sweetness of the malt shows upfront with notes of molasses -- the dates and figs quickly follow, bolstering the midpalate and transitioning to the sugarcane sweet backend. Booze, dark fruits and sweet wort finish off the beer. The finish is long -- the booze disappears surprisingly fast but the sweetness lingers forever. This beer has aged excellently; it is now extremely well integrated --the age has rounded the beer off.

This beer is dense and heavy on the palate. It is palate filling despite this and it costs the whole mouth. Carbonation is very light and is almost completely gone after drinking half.

A superb barley wine that has aged excellently. There is some oxidation late mid-palate that manifests as a metallic twang but it does not take away from the beer.

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Photo of yarnbomb
4.5/5  rDev +14.8%

At Hops in the Hills this summer, I had the first pour off a fresh keg. WOW. I usually age these bottles but that fresh one was just off the charts of incredible.

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Photo of Samp01
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vintage 2012. A honey colored hue on the pour, no head. Aroma is of sweet caramel vanilla woodsy essence, very fruity and yeast, some sweet alcohol esters as well. Taste is sweet caramel, honey and vanilla undertones, fruity, yeast and mild spiced hops, some dark intermingled fruit figs and dates. Palate is full flavored, creamy, smooth and nicely balanced wit good carbonation. The finish is a cornucopia of the aforementioned flavors and aromas, leaves a slight tongue numbing feeling from the alcohol, although it is well behaved. Aging seems to have mellowed it out, which I find enjoyable. Leaves a nice satisfyingly warm feeling. Overall a very good smooth and enjoyable brew.

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Photo of superspak
4.1/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 ounce bottle into signature tulip glass, bottled in 2010A. Pours hazy reddish copper color with a 1 finger dense khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass, with a fair amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of big raisin, plum, cherry, fig, date, pear, apple, caramel, brown sugar, toast, toffee, brown bread, light herbal, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Very nice aromas with good complexity and balance of big fruitiness and dark/bready malt sweetness; with great strength. Taste of big raisin, plum, cherry, fig, date, pear, apple, caramel, brown sugar, toast, toffee, brown bread, herbal, light pepper, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Slight earthy/peppery bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of raisin, plum, cherry, fig, date, pear, apple, caramel, brown sugar, toast, toffee, brown bread, and yeast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Damn nice complexity and balance of fruitiness and dark/bready malt sweetness; with zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a smooth, fairly crisp, and lightly slick mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a light warming present after the finish. Overall this is an excellent barleywine style! All around great complexity and balance of fruitiness and dark/bready malt sweetness; and very smooth to sip on for the big ABV. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of draheim
4.22/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12oz (2011) into a tulip. Pours a murky amber w/ a thin khaki head.

Aroma is fruity and herbal with tons of sugary caramel malt and floral hops. Toffee, vanilla, spice, dried apricots, and booze.

Taste is sugary sweet, warming. Caramel, dried fruit, toffee, floral hops. The warmth of the alcohol is there, but not so much the flavor. What alcohol presence there is complements the bold flavors.

Mouthfeel is sticky and chewy, but carbonation keeps it drinkable.

Overall a really nice sipper of a barleywine.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.1/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 poured into an oversized wine glass.

A- the pour produces a thin khaki-colored head that quickly dissipates. The body looks like butterscotch and/or caramel and also seems to have the thickness of these.

S- Oaken, raisiny, port-like, brown sugar. These flavors all waft in and out along with a boozy aroma.

T- Huge caramelized sugar flavor with the continued port and raisin. It tastes like a dessert digestif. The alcohol has completely disappeared from the taste.

M- Smooth, silky, and without a trace of carbonation. It's sweet but not cloying and has a bit of dryness at the finish.

Again, this is a dessert beer. But a tasty one.

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Photo of Juuroumaru
4.42/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours a burnt orange with a nice light tan head. Head retention doesnt hold for very long.
S- I get dark fruit which obviously comes from the figs and dates. if it wasnt for the label i might say currants.
T- Seriously smooth for 15% with a great dark fruit finish. Sweetness from the caramel malts but a good sweetness.
M- Medium bodied with a great coat.
O- Awesome what they did with this beer. so strong but yet so well balanced.

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Photo of LambicPentameter
3.84/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Reviewing from notes after drinking on 4/19/14. Enjoyed out of a 12 oz brown bottle with a bottling date of 10/9/13, so this one is sitting right about at six months of age. Poured into a large 22 oz snifter glass.

Appearance - Pours a rich carmine red with vermilion highlights and darker notes of brick where the one finger of khaki foam shades the body from the light source with small, tight bubbles save for a few smatterings of larger bubbles resulting from the froth of the pour. Retention is moderate to slight, with the head slinking away to leave a film of head and a thick ringlet around the edge of the glass. No lacing to speak of.

Smell - Woo, the time this one has sat certainly hasn't done much to the booziness, unless this beer started out as a ethanol bomb. Admittedly, the sweetness from the malt and figs is seemingly working to draw out more of the characteristics of the alcohol. With some time and warmth, the aroma calms down a bit to reveal notes of caramel and molasses as well as candied fig and medium fruits. There are also some hints at hoppy bitterness, but really the malt dominates the smell.

Taste - Similar to the aroma, the ABV is not hidden in the slightest--you taste every bit of the 15%, but oddly it works well with the sweetness from the malt and figs. There is some definite heat to the taste--and no I don't mean spicy heat. The finish has notes of bitterness where I didn't get it before. That's the first sign of the hoppiness that one might expect from a beer that styles itself "American" barleywine. Really, the booze far too overt in this beer for it to be one that I really latch onto.

Mouthfeel - Medium-bodied with a certain thickness to it, almost viscous, along with low carbonation and a burn in the chest after you swallow, like you might expect from a distilled liquor.

Overall, a good enough beer, but one that clearly needs some age to be enjoyable. I'd heard this one was hot if you drink it fresh, and based on my experience at six months, I'd have a hard time disagreeing. I wish I had another bottle to sit on a bit longer and see how it was drinking after a year, but for the time being, it's a decent beer. I'd also change the classification, only because the figs add a sweetness that reminded me more of the English style than the super hoppy, bitter American style.

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Photo of dbauer78
4.65/5  rDev +18.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A. almost no head, cloudy, a deep red mahogany in color
S. very boozy, the figs and dates definitely come though as well as a nice sweetness
T. sweet on the front end and the booze kick you later on. can taste some carmel malts as well as some dark fruit flavor, and a very slight bitterness.
M. thick syrupy, light on the carbonation
O. its a huge barleywine, big on the booze and everything else. At 15% its definitely one that good to sip on after diner, wouldnt want many more than that.

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Photo of Davepoolesque
3.97/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Olde School(2012) by Dogfish Head. Earthy, fruity, brown sugar, toffee, cinnamon and oak. It's dried out a but in the last few years. It's pretty damn good.

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Photo of dar482
4.11/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

The beer comes in an amber red.

The aroma is big amounts of brown sugar and caramel sweetness.

The flavor follows with earth, pine, wood, lots of sugary sweetness with a woody and earthy finish.

For the alcohol, a well made American barleywine style brew.

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Photo of KYGunner
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This poured with a silky brown color and a right thick head of immense foam.

The nose was subtle but varied with a tad boozy scent. As it warmed the booze subsided and a chocolatey fudge and dried dark fruit became more apparent.

The flavor was so interesting as it changed many times as it warmed. I got a lot of dried fruit at the front but it became more chocolatey as it went. Caramel and toffee began to mix with raisin and prune. Fig than became prevalent near the end as the wine properties came across.

This has a nice thickness, very smooth, but it does thin as it warms.

I really enjoyed this as it became something different at every sip plus its 15pct ABV and made me feel good.

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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 stephenjmoore
3.99/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage

A- Transparent amber body with a ruby tint. Head is not existent, with just some tan bubbles on top.

S- Sugary sweet caramel, bready malt, hints of dark fruit.

T- A blast of sweet malt, toasted bread, raisins, dried figs. Big, deep, complex and sweet. Oh and some booze, but the aging mellowed it some.

M- Heavy and syrupy, a sipper for sure. Medium-low carbonation.

O- A big, gargantuan Barleywine that benefits vastly from extended aging. Huge flavor, but very sweet.

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Photo of Abe_Froman
4.11/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a snifter.
2013 bottling.

Pours a hazy golden honey color. A little of white head that dissipates quickly.

A sweet nose with hints of alcohol

Tastes of fruits, mostly fig, and honey. A strong alcohol after taste.

The flavor lingers the sides of the tongue and leaves pleasant hints of fruit after the alcohol bite fades.

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Photo of teromous
2.86/5  rDev -27%
look: 5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

12oz bottle

A: Very nice clarity on a burnt-umber colored body with a thin white foamy head that resides to a ring, leaving a white halo of lacing on the glass. Very good head, especially considering the high ABV.

S: Not an extremely pleasant scent to say the least. Alcohol, some green apple, and a a slightly musty scent kind-of like wet dog. I tried for a good two minutes to find another word for it but that's what it reminds me of. It isn't persistent on the nose, just after not smelling the glass for a bit and revisiting it will the dog arise.

T: Alcohol, then a bit like cardboard. A slight note of caramel. Not a very complex beer but not a bad one either. No hop flavor or noticeable bitterness.

M: The mouthfeel of this beer is truly outstanding. It's smooth and full without being heavy or syrupy.

O: Overall I found the beer a bit hard to drink because of the very awkward nose. It has a wonderful appearance and mouthfeel, however the taste is quite bland for a Barleywine of any type, but especially for one that boasts "figs and dates" on the label. A lone date has more flavor and complexity than this beer. I rated the flavor as "okay" because it's a decent tasting high alcohol beer; just not one I would boast about. I won't be buying the beer again.

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Photo of buschbeer
3.84/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 fl. oz. bottle
Served in a snifter
Bottled in 2010, 15% abv

A - It is the color of a blood moon. It is clear with less than an inch of beige head.

S - It has a fruity aroma once I get past the alcohol smell. I has a fig and date thing going on. I get some sugary sweet aromas, too.

T - The taste is similar to the nose. It tastes like fruit soaked in alcohol. The alcohol taste diminishes after it warms. It has a candied sweetness. The figs and dates comes through at this point.

M - Moderate and smooth.

O - It is pretty good. It is a little too sweet, but that is to be expected given the abv. It makes for a nice sipper on a chilly spring evening.

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Photo of inlimbo77
3.92/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12oz, 2013
DFH signature glass

A: Pours a deep orange with reddish hued color. Half finger of slightly off white head. Lots of carbonation streaming from the DFH logo. Sticky lacing.

S: Getting a good amount of fruit right up front. Definitely those figs and dates. Some hops even.

T: Typical DFH yeast. Pulling that date and fig character. This beer might be really nice in a BA version. Sweetness in the mid palate. Finish had long lingering stale fruity flavors. Some dryness.

M: Medium bodied leading to full.

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Photo of magictacosinus
3.72/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Had this a little while ago in Arcata - I usually see 30 proof beers and beyond as liqueurs, so I split one 12oz bottle into a tulip glass with some friends. Paired with homemade spicy curry and naan to help cut the anticipated sweetness down a bit.

Pours an orange amber color that's deeply cloudy with a surprisingly large bone white head that's frothy and thick. Granted, it doesn't really stick around for very long, nor does it leave behind any sticky lacing clinging to the glass, but a ring persists throughout. If it weren't for the ring, this would look like a cloudier Amontillado Sherry. Viscous as all hell, and pretty much up there with one of the more monstrous beers I've seen to date.

As expected, this smells intensely sweet and boozy, although luckily a lot of fruity and spicy aspects do come through. Figs and dates soaked in honey, as well as raisins, plums, and a toffee/butterscotch covered sweetness that follows. Some floral notes, ranging towards violets, as well as some brief peppery flavors that soon become overpowered by the sugar and booze. Spices such as clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon are also present, but more fascinatingly enough is the brief banana yeasty funk that's at the finish, combined with a toasted buttery flavor. This slightly stings the nostrils, but it's nothing incredibly harsh - only quite demanding, even at this point.

Yeah, they weren't kidding about this being an extreme offering! Enormous sweetness from the fruit coats the palate, with caramelized dates, figs, prunes, and raisins all swirling around with extra sweet notes of burnt toffee, butterscotch, and a brief buttery sensation at the finish. It's a little bitter and spicy at the center, but the sugar eventually becomes predominant at the finish, as does the alcohol. A citrus buzz, maybe one of orange peel, miraculously makes its way through, although there's nothing more in addition to it. Extremely sweet, with a slightly warming afterglow, but never super boozy or syrupy overall. Carbonation is decent, but it does lose itself over time, which promotes a sludgy feel. Granted, my serving portion was perfect, as was the food pairing of super spicy food to cut the sweetness, but it's definitely intense and ridiculous.

This folds the envelope for American barleywines, and becomes a liqueur-like fruit concoction with its high emphasis on the fruits and sweet aspects of the malts. I usually do not like American barleywines as much, but this highly resembles its English counterpart with its extra sweet, fruity malt profile. If they could somehow throw this in some kind of barrel (I'm thinking rye whiskey or Sherry), this would only further reveal its obvious liqueur leaning qualities. Cheers to DFH for experimenting as always, although maybe they should consider packaging some of these strong beers in 6oz bottles for practical purposes.

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Photo of vic21234
4.1/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle poured into a snifter. Bottled on date is 11/21/08, this was one of the first beers I put down to begin my cellar.

A- Pours a murky mahogany color, with remnants of what looks to be an amber color along the sides of the glass. 5 years of sediment was also very apparent on the pour as expected. Tons of lacing along the sides of the glass.

S- Tons of alcohol notes on the nose still, as well as a sweet maltiness. The alcohol really dominates the aroma.

T- Starts very sweet with some dark fruit and raisin graininess before giving way to the alcohol. The malts are apparent at the back of each sip and the hop character when fresh is definitely muted.

M- Medium bodied, low carbonation, still drinking rather hot with a warming sensation after each sip.

I'm happy overall with my 5 year aging experiment on this one. I remember it being very hot fresh, and though it may have toned down a bit, it still lets you know that its 15% ABV with each sip.

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Photo of JamesMN
4.23/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottled on 10/9/13.

Appearance: Semi-translucent copper/orange color with a thin off-white cap of foam. Initially poured a decent head, surprising given the 15% ABV.

Aroma: Drunken figs and a ton of caramel malt provide an enticingly sweet aroma. Surprisingly no alcohol present here.

Taste: Huge swelling of flavors from the first sip. Starts with smooth heat and moderate hop bitterness. The heat never lets up but supplies a wonderful robustness to the overall flavor and the palate adjusts to it with alarming readiness. The hop character is sweet orange nectar (which I've found to be a staple of the style) and the bitterness probably clocks in around 80 IBUs but the malty caramel sweetness keeps everything in check. This is a pretty fresh bottle as far as high ABV beers are concerned but it tastes like something that's been aging to perfection for some time. The added figs and dates come through in a sweet kick before a last trickle of bitterness takes over and transitions into an aftertaste of long lasting orange hop bitterness. Really well done.

Mouthfeel: Full in body but not cloying and only moderately sticky. Very smooth carbonation, given a somewhat vigorous pour. The shocker here is the great drinkability, though it is a sipper at heart.

Final Thoughts: Olde School has reminded me of why I like the barleywine style in the first place, huge flavor and delicate balance. I was nearly turned off of the style after initially enjoying it because of the many poorly made brews out there. Make no mistake, DFH brews the real deal. Would I drink it again? Yes.

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Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
3.92 out of 5 based on 2,521 ratings.
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