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Olde School Barleywine | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

very good
1,026 Reviews
Olde School BarleywineOlde School Barleywine

Brewed by:
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Delaware, United States | website

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: 1,026 | Ratings: 2,514
Photo of Rastacouere
3.99/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Clear amber, not much head. Extremely enjoyable aroma, I didn’t see that one coming. A fine cigar, a campfire and a deep immort ale like maltiness with all this caramel and maple syrup richness and even some kind of meaty goodness going on. Feels 10% or so, great job there! In mouth: melon bubblegum, soothing oily hops, piney, vegetal which develops sip after sip into a larger and larger tongue-coating bitterness. Nevertheless, those huge malts never miss a meeting, it remains very sweet (caramel.. smoked maple), just very bitter at the same time and in good proportions. Oily fuelic body, fair amount of carbonation. Adopt an hypercaloric beer today.

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Photo of carln26
4.28/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This came from the bottle into a snifter a deep copper color. Many DFH beers have this copper tint, but this is just a shade darker. It had a full rich white head the receded quickly, but several champagne bubbles tried to renew the head from the bottom of the glass. A swirl of the glass or a tip to drink left a thick sheet of lace. I get lots of fruit on the nose; a hint of citrus, but maybe some apples (from the malt perhaps?). The taste has more of the citrus/apple flavor, but it also introduces some floral/pine character of the hops in the front of the taste, malt after that, with just a touch of candy, and a very mild hop bite along with just a touch of alcohol bite. Surprisingly light mouth feel. This has a big alcohol kick, but is very drinkable despite that. One of the best if this style I’ve had from a bottle.

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Photo of ngandhi
3.53/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Why the British have no teeth.

With beer classifications developing constantly, I won't bother to iron out the Americanness of this beer. What it clearly is, however, is a barleywine -- an extreme exhibition of malted barley in every possible way.

Sharply "acidic" from the hops, sweet, and alcoholic, Olde School -- even before it can be tasted -- begins with a central mission of eroding my entire face.

The alcohol is spicy and mentholated on the upper gums while the malt is pure toffee. The beer's stubborn structure and exagerrated power puts it squarely beside all things British and old.

At 15%, there's no getting around the alcohol, a territory that is almost by definition Dogfish Head. Unlike the stouts and 120 Minute IPA, however, the alcohol here carries a much more classically distillate character. The smooth, cognac and lowland scotch fume is grapey and plummy, however lightly so, and melds lightly with malt that seems sweeter and more cloying than it ultimately is.

Oddly, the greatest thing about this beer might be its carbonation which, with the cut of Global chefs knives, buttresses its few but forward parts, yet goes otherwise unnoticed.

12 oz.

Relax, relax.

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Photo of Kookiekwan
3.7/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

This beer was golden/orange and hazy in its apperance. It had a strong fruity/hop aroma and a slight alcohol scent. The flavor was extremely sweet with some hints of apple and maple with a spicy hop finish(which is the only time you can tell the 15% abv). The mouthfeel was syrupy thick and rich, as far as the drinkability goes it went down easily but it would be hard to drink more than one a night.

Reflection: If you know someone who has tried a Barley Wine and didn't like the style, this would be a great beer to get them to try. Its not your average Barley Wine and its a really great beer.

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Photo of alexgash
3.55/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Got this little monster in Superior, WI. A pleasant surprise.
Medium-copper/orange body with a sticky, off-white head.
Nose consists of tropical fruits, butterscotch and alcohol. Big, but not overly complex.
Taste is very sweet: honey dipped, tropical fruit candy. Turns to butterscotch rum. Hops come in but are quite modest. Sweetness overpowers bitterness in this showdown. Alcoholic finish. Warming. A little cloying, butterscotch sweetness. Syrupy, big body feel. Interesting BW, but maybe a little too sweet for me.

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Photo of freed
4.06/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

The label and story on it were both quite amusing. And once poured, it was surprisingly light and hazy. This is a barleywine? ok...

The aroma was very pleasing. I'm probably in the minority here, but the aroma of barleywine often reminds me of breakfast. Think malt-o-meal with molasses on it. Anyway, the aroma is very breakfast - fruit pastry of some sort - apple turnover - with cinnamon too.

The taste is very raisin and apple heavy, and makes me think of of the instant flavored oatmeal packs, which I'm quite fond of. This barleywine also has a really nice warming sensation, again instant breakfast.

Drinkability? There's something taboo about drinking first thing in the morning. And I don't think I'd want too much of this beer.

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Photo of RoyalT
4.2/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance – This one is light-colored for a BW. It’s orange and hazy with a moderate head.

Smell – This DFH offering has a light, fruity aroma that reminds me of a pear-based white wine that I had once in Temecula. It’s very delicate but hardy at the same time. The ABV is huge at the nose.

Taste – The malty white wine flavors come out more so at the taste. This one has a lot of raw sugar to it as well. It’s very sweet with a solid, helpful malt base. The big grapes and fermented sugars rule the roost of this flavor profile. There’s a typical DFH hop balance that signs the brewery’s name to this ale.

Mouthfeel – This is medium to full-bodied with some actual carbonation, which is unusual for the style. It has a nice, fluffy mouthfeel.

Drinkability – This is a big ABV monster in its rawest form, although I would guess that this would diminish with cellaring, which is probably highly recommended. In its purest form this one will give you hop burps and a hangover.

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Photo of aracauna
3.57/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Medium amber/tan body with a light foam head that fades to a weather pattern. The aroma is heavy on the overriped bananas. Combined with the bit of caramel and other malt aromas, it’s like smelling a batch of fresh-baked banana pudding. I’m not picking up much on the figs, but I do get a bit of date action in the flavor. Very fruity. Edges on being too sweet, though. Very interesting beer, but being interesting is never a problem for Dogfish Head.

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Photo of Suds
4.25/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 ounces, served at room temperature, from a goblet. I couldn’t find a vintage date on the bottle. The beer is light-orange color with an appropriately small, white head. A slight haze is notable due to bottle conditioning. An intense maltiness and alcohol aroma are immediately detectable if your nose is anywhere near the beer. The smell is really something: intense sensations of alcohol steeped fruits (plums, apples, berries, figs), molasses, sugar, grain. Hop aromas are present, but restrained (East Coast Barleywine?). Although the smells are strong and agreeable, they lack the depth and smooth layering that some barleywines present. Instead, they seem rough-edged and jumbled together. Sweet, thick, syrupy, spicy…very nice taste. It’s certainly mouth-coating and heavy. Also, the alcohol is at a point where it can almost become tongue-numbing. Finish is moderately hoppy and bitter, but restrained for the style…the alcohol plays a notable part in the hind-taste. I really enjoyed this brew….I want to see what some aging will do to the aroma.

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Photo of NEhophead
3.98/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz brown bottle.

A thin white head that remains as a sheet throughout the glass. Ringed lacing with a lot of strength. A hazy peach appearance with some yeast floaters scattered at the base of the glass. Plenty of noticeable carbonation.

Faint fruit aromas: pear, apple, and cherry; hints of honey and a strong alcohol presence.

A honey, vanilla sweetness drives this barley wine. Apple and pear tones that provide a slight tartness. Very complex alcohol component that is noticeable but extremely well masked. The bitterness is not as powerful compared to other barley wines due to the sweet and sour qualities.

Very smooth; the honey sweetness coats the palate. Still a bit thick but given the 15% abv, quite light on the palate.

This guy is trouble. Very tough to believe it's 15% abv. I'd grab another pint or two, but I'd probably be put on my ass. A treat and a must try if you like the style.

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

Poured a cloudy copper-orange color with a thin white head that had good retention, and leaving a little lace. Noticable carbonation streaming from the bits of sediment. Aroma was very sweet, much like an apple cider. Sweet malts and a bit of alchohol blend perfectly with the very fruity nose. Flavor is much like the aroma, but with a richer bouquet of fruit aspects which range from apple and concord grapes to a darker, plum-like malty finish. Slight warmth on the throat is the only sign of the very high ABV, which is attractively higher than many other barleywines that I have tried. Mouthfeel is heavy and syrupy, and this aspect is balanced nicely by the high level of fine carbonation. I'll be damned if I am not hugely tempted also by the label's suggestion to bury a couple bottles to allow them to age - that would make for an exciting little time capsule. One of the best barleywines I have ever had, hands down.

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Photo of AllThingsNinja
2.85/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

I had high hopes for this high octane barleywine but was disappointed by the beer's lack of complexity. While I'm certain that it took a fair amount of skill to veil the 15% abv it seemed although the resulting brew was rather lackluster. The golden brown ale formed a fair amount of head but seemed a bit light in color for the style. The aroma was dominated by alcohol and citrus notes. The flavor was built on a creamy sweet malt body with a cloying amaretto hop presence and a noticeable (but not 15% noticeable) alcohol presence. It was a medium bodied, slippery and slimy brew. A passable brew, but not outstanding. I have a few in my cellar that I'm going to try to age, but can't imagine that much interesting will come from this lackadaisical brew.

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Photo of Southernbrew
3.87/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours orange-brown witha small, quickly dissapating head.

Nose full of bitterness, dark fruits, caramel and alcohol.

Full bodied, with almost no noticable carbonation. Very syrup like, mouth is coated. Weak bitterness blends with dark fruits and rum flavors. An alcohol burn is present but not overpowering. The sweetness becomes more pronounced then finishes with an apple flavor mixed with alcohol.

For 15%, the alcohol is pretty well hidden. I'd like to see a bit more bitterness but this is pretty good. I think a little aging could help out.

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Photo of Todd
3.7/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz brown bottle. Packaging date is unreadable. Beer pours bright copper-ish, initially, topped with a very tight white foam head that settles to an even lace with stick along the glass. Appearance quickly becomes cloudy due to unfiltered dregs in the bottle.

Candied fruits, toffee, diacetyl and apples in the nose.

Extremely smooth as the first sip coats the palate with a near syrup-like texture. Bold ripe dark and candied fruits punch out with notes of apricot and raisin. Notes of orange, too. Spicy alcohol stings the palate with an immediate warming effect and vodka-like presence. Sweet with toffee and a sugar-like presence. Loads of apple-ish flavors and feel on the palate with pear and pear skin beneath. Finish dries up a bit.

Alcohol is a bit over-the-top and assertive, but other than that it's a fairly solid Barley Wine. Definitely worth a try.

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Photo of mzwolinski
3.8/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

This is probably one of the lightest-colored barleywines I've ever seen -- sort of a hazy orange, with just a thin, finely-bubbled head.

The aroma is strong a solvent-like, with an aggressive piney hop character.

The taste, however, has a much stronger malt character than one would expect from either the aroma or the color. Fairly rough in the mouth. Strong, sharp alcohol esters and powerful hops help to balance the malt, whlie still leaving an overall syrupy impression in my mouth. The finish is resinous, sweet, and slightly spicy.

The alcohol here is definitely detectable, but not too bad for 15%. Not all that drinkable right now, but I must stress that I drank this pretty fresh. I think it would benefit greatly from a year or two worth of cellaring.

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Photo of lou91
3.7/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Dull clear golden color with a potent alcohol nose. Yummy – great alcohol warmth with a sweetness perfectly maxed out. There is little by the way of complexity. There are elements of an ice bock, mai bock and mead blend. The label instructs you to bury it in the ground and drink it in a year. I don’t think this has long-term aging potential but one year aging may cool the alcohol burn. Foodery in Philly.

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Photo of Billolick
3.98/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle, with "bottled in" dating. Was gonna cellar this one for awhile, but had nothing in the house to review,so I broke down...Alas I need to go beer shopping...This is a sweet, and strong BW. Not very hoppy, mostly sweet fruity notes, alcohol present, but well hidden for 15 %. If yiou love mellow big beers this is a must. high quality sipper, seek and enjoy!

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Photo of GreenWBush
4.3/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

$4.99/12 oz. No vintage listed.

DFH Olde School pours into the glass a copper with gold highlights. A tiny fizzing head that only appears with vigourous pour action. One distinct lace ring is all the beer could muster.

Heavy apple and plum notes on the nose. Hints of long-mulled cider. Layers of bready/biscuity English malt layers. Some critic and veggielicious hop tones float up on further investigation, and only the slightest bits of booze can be detected.

The taste is "immacuately orchestrated" as noted in my beer-pad. More of the winey-bitey cider character noted on nose. Earthy hop/yeast interaction tickles and delights the taste buds. Major tummy warming. Where the hell is the alcohol? I would never believe the 15%, and still really don't. Nothing is over-wrought or forced here.

Mouthfeel is like drinking slick rich liquified toffee. Along the lines of the 120 in mouthfeel without the super oily hop grease.

Art in a bottle.

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Photo of bigbeerdrinka
4.03/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a cloudy dark amber with a good inch of bubbly white head which recedes rather quickly without much of a lace.

Smells of white and dark grapes, along with other such estery aromas like fig and possibly plum. Some light malts are present along with apples, and a slight alcohol tone. Not a bad scent but i'd expect to smell a little more malt in the nose.

Taste: This beer tastes of smooth fruits (white grapes and plums) with a spicy hot aftertaste with just a minor amount of bittering towards the end. Hops are present just at the end along with tastes of bananas and a warm alcohol, which adds and nice finish to the beer.

Mouthfeel: This beer is slightly chewy but extremely smooth. A nice body to this beer, with minimal carbonation.

Drinkability: This beer is shocking for 15% alcohol. I cannot believe it, what a super smooth beer. Goes down like your typical IPA, which can be a bad thing if you try to tackle on more than one.

Overall: The taste was not overwhelming nor out of control (which I was expecting for a dogfish head brew), but overall the smoothness of this beer was quite amazing.

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.37/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This is a 2002 vintage corked and caged 750.
I am sampling this brew as part of a recent barleywine tasting with some southern CT friends.

The brew pours a bright orange color with some cloudiness present. The head is minimal with only a faint beige colored edge layer on my wine glass.
Aroma is light and fruity with apples and some grapes coming out. I also notice a bit of buttery scents.
First sip reveals a rather full bodied, slightly syrupy brew with a very faint gentle rolling carbonation.
Flavor is very sweet with some toffee, sugary hints, and fruit with figs, apple again and perhaps some maple syrup. I dont get any hops but they may have faded over the past two years. I get a very light alcohol warmth on the swallow, not bad for 15% abv.
This brew was quite a treat and would be great with dessert.
Wonder if the newer years are as good??

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

With the greatness of DFH’s other huge beers I was excited to try this and picked up a few 12ozers. This poured a nice deep orange color with a huge frothy head that dropped quickly to a bubbly collar. There was decent lacing left in this as I drank it. HOLY SWEETNESS, the nose is strong with a fruity malt sweetness that almost completely dominates the smell. Even after warming the only other smell I could detect was the slightest hint of alcohol. Taste is much the same as the smell, extremely sweet with fruity malts a little too much so even. Slight earthy hop notes can be found as well, but the 15% sure stays hidden in this one. A nice slightly bitter finish is present to try and tame the sweetness. Olde School has a very full and rich mouthfeel that coats your mouth with sweetness. Insane drinkability for a 15% but the sweetness was starting to be a little much for me by the end of the glass. Overall an excellent barley wine from DFH, I will see what happens with the other bottles in a year or so.

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Photo of 99bottles
4.03/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is an odd barleywine, yet I am still glad I found it. It pours a dark copper with a decent inch of yellowish-off white head that has moderate retention. The initial smells are of sweet malted barley and light alchohol. The taste is much sweeter than a "normal" barleywine, and tastes of vanilla extract and corn syrup / maple syrup with the faintest touch of hops in the finish. Carmelized sugar and some fruity esters of peach and pear come through. The alcohol content sticks out, but not in way you might expect (like fumes burning your nostrils). It lightly warms and makes this immesely filling. The mouthfeel is rich and yet thin, giving the most telltale signs of the high abv. But 15% ? I've had harsher 9% barleywines. Drinkability is very good, but after one bottle the sweetness and the alcohol were getting to be too much. It does go down easily though. I'm very impressed at this offering, and would certainly seek it out again.

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Photo of connecticutpoet
4.15/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was a nice, deep yellow beer that poured with little head. I got it in a 12 oz. capped bottle, not corked.

The aroma was very complex... light aromatic hoppiness, some tangy citrus, with rich malt undertones. It held much promise.

The flavor was rich and smooth malt, but there was a little too much prominence on the alcohol... understandable, given the high ABV of this one. Just a little too much for my taste. Still, a very worthy brew.

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Photo of GuinnessSmurf
4.38/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dogfish Head makes such great beers, don't they? I was really excited to taste their take on barley wine.

The beer pours a nice cloudy brown/yellow that sticks and clings the glass any way it can. There is heavy sediment at the bottom of the glass.

The beer smells sweet like white grapes and also has the scent of dark alcohols.

The taste begins sweet and sugary but then there is a hoppy flavor that drys up to a strong alcohol finish. The beer really accomplishes a lot here. It is a very smooth, gradual transfer between flavors and sensations - great pacing! The aftertaste is long and appropriate. It gives you time to think about the journey.

Overall the mouthfeel is right on. It has a very big, thick texture that is filling and inviting. I think that it could probably replace a meal.

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Photo of cbl2
3.63/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5


Medium brown with small white head that has good retention.


To be honest, I had been drinking quiet a while at the Dogfish Head Brewpub before I got to this one, so it is difficult to discern anything in particular.


Bursting with sweetness and carbonation, this one warms as it goes down. Alcohol is present, but I would never have guessed 15% when I consumed this (very deceiving, be careful!). An overall well balanced brew with tropical fruit and maple syrup overtones.

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Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
88 out of 100 based on 1,026 ratings.
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