Old Backus Barleywine
Free State Brewing Co.

Old Backus BarleywineOld Backus Barleywine
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Style:
American Barleywine
Ranked #14
ABV:
10.5%
Score:
93
Ranked #1,627
Avg:
4.24 | pDev: 10.61%
Reviews:
95
Ratings:
256
From:
Free State Brewing Co.
 
Kansas, United States
Avail:
Winter
Wants
  198
Gots
  45
SCORE
93
Outstanding
Old Backus BarleywineOld Backus Barleywine
Notes: Bronze Medal Winner, 1997 World Beer Championships - Barleywines.

Old Backus contains just over 2,000 pounds of malt and 55 pounds of hops. The original gravity is 25.6 P/1092 which contributes to an alcohol content of 10.5% by volume. This is a tremendously complex beer that should be savoured slowly and in moderation. It will continue to change with age as it is served unfiltered.

This barleywine is named after Richard Backus, an old friend to the Brewery.
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Reviews: 95 | Ratings: 256
Reviews by BrownAleBollocks:
Photo of BrownAleBollocks
3.44/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep copper with red and brown. Head is off white and fairly small. Aroma is mostly malts with caramel, toffee, and some dark fruit. Taste follows the nose with only light hopping. Mouthfeel is medium and a bit more oily than I expected. Overall a fairly good barelywine that hides it's alcohol well.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of Sean9689
3.16/5  rDev -25.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Thanks, Mike. 64oz growler into snifter.

A - Pours a reddish/brown color, cream-colored head, thin ring.

S - Dark fruits, lots of booze, light caramel, no real sweetness. The heavy booze and lack of sweetness is a turn-off for me with this beer. I think this needs quite some time before loosing the booze.

T - Similar to the nose, harsh booze/alcohol, dark fruits, and overly oak'd. The booze is too much and actually turns this into a harsh beer to drink. The lack of sweetness and burnt sugars is terribly disappointing, as I was expecting so much from this beer.

M - Medium, good carbonation, creamy oak finish.

O - Not a top-notch barleywine for me. The booze is way too overpowering and the lack of sweetness makes this one too harsh to enjoy a decent pour. Would revisit with some age, but this is a growler, so no-can-do. Average, at best.

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Photo of JuicesFlowing
4/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a balloon glass.

Look: The body is a thick, syrupy-looking ruby mahogany color. The head is tan and recedes to a cirrus cloud wisp. Surprisingly good lacing coats the glass.

Aroma: Massive malt notes, bourbon, faint honey.

Taste: Very medicinal tasting up front with bourbon and a heavy malt bill. Somewhere in the middle, a touch of honey-like sweetness roams around. Bitter hops come in the finish offering a tangy, bitter balance.

Mouthfeel: Heavy, syrupy.

Overall: I've never had a beer that resembled cough syrup so much. I'm not sure if that's an insult or a compliment.

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Photo of kevanb
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle, 2014 on the neck, poured into a Brooklyn Brewery snifter.

The beer pours a medium amber color, hues of burgundy and caramel brown, light opacity though fairly clear with a solid finger of off white head, thick and foamy that has very nice retention, settling into a thick ring of film around the circumference of the glass while yielding nice swatches of soapy lace. The aroma is very heavy on the malted barley, caramel and amber malts, with brown sugar, toffee and a bit of dark pitted stone fruits but some definite piney and grapefruit forward hops help to balance this out. The flavors mirror the nose very well, lightly piney and bitter hops initiate the senses, while some grapefruit citrus plays well with the sweeter malts and brings out the richer more chewy flavors of toffee, molasses, raisin and fig though the bitterness from the hops and a bit of the fruitiness linger nicely. The mouthfeel is very nice, quite smooth and almost creamy with very low discernible carbonation, though just enough to prop the beer up, and a velvety finish.

Verdict: An excellent take on the American style barleywine. Definite hop presence that integrates very well with the malt profile and general sweetness of the beer. Complex, but not overly complicated and a very nice sipper that has great nuance as it warms, definitely a very under the radar beer.

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Photo of bditty187
4.92/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Brownish-red in color, great depth to the eye with slight shade differences where the light danced off of it, somewhat murky. It was served with a finger of an off-white head that turned to a soapy cap halfway through consumption. Subsequent lacing was spotty, and as expected, not very prevalent. I must say the presentation in the smallish snifter was quite impressive and very fitting for the grand ale. The nose was simply awesome. Perfect. Lovely, complex with layers of maltiness that allowed sweet candies, figs, yeast induced fruitiness, and toffee to become prevalent. There was a kiss of hops at the far, far back of the bouquet, right next to the alcohol. This is a great smelling Barelywine. The palate was breathtakingly wonderful, I mean simply heavenly… I’ll be dammed if this was brewed in a brewpub in Kansas. The caramel-toffee maltiness, candied sugar, figs, dates, and spicy alcohol all interconnected into a well-rounded palate that had a long lingering aftertaste. It was almost impossible to set my glass down. The hops were noticeable at the finish; they lent just a smidge of bitterness and balance. The alcohol gleefully burned my throat as it slid down, while at the same time, numbed my mind and warmed my belly. This is a force to be reckoned with. Damn near full-bodied. The amount of carbonation was ideal, low and distant, in other words, hardly noticeable. It was also served only slightly chilled, kudos to Free State! Terrifically drinkable for how potent it is, which might be dangerous. No matter how many trains, planes, and automobiles it takes, you must get to Lawrence and quaff this masterpiece. Highly Recommended.

Via Free State Brewing website: 10.5% by volume

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Photo of russpowell
3.84/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Unreadable dating code, but it is a recently released Barley Wine, so I'm sure if anything, it's too young...

Pours an effervescent Auburn/chestnut color with a thin sand colored head. Middling head retention & lacing

S: Rich cakeyness, plums & taffy

T: Follows the nose, some woody hops, a bit of booze & grape taffy up front. Toffee comes through as this warms, dryness, woody/oak stave notes, a bit of masked boozeyness & even a hint of apricot as well. Finisihes dry, malty as hell with slight boozeyness & a touch of apricot or Pear Brandy, good complexity

MF: Chewy, moderate carbonation

Drinks a touch slow, a ponderous sipper here on display. Not sure it lives up to it draft/growler credentials, but I bet you this will age fantastic; straddles the American/English BW line with some aplomb. Get some!

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Photo of Kegatron
4.89/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

64 oz growler into a couple of snifters. Vintage 2009. Huge thanks go to JeepCop for helping hook me up with this long time want. Dale is a relatively new trader but I would wholeheartedly recommend doing business with him. Stand up guy.

This pours a deep and murky ruddy brown at first but letting this clear up and holding it up to the light actually reveals more of a dark ruby body on this. There isn't a ton of head upon first pour but this is one of those ones that takes it's time and just slowly releases carbonation until it ends up thin and creamy mocha colored head. This retains with mostly a thin foamy ring around the edges of the glass, leaving back just some light spotty lacing. The aroma really sets the stage for this beer and upon first whiff; I knew that I was in for something special. This is just so dense and full with flavor in the nose, including notes of brown sugars, molasses, cocoa, and toffee, while fading hop character puts off some earthy ripe fruit character and a bit of an oxidized sherry feel. There is no alcohol to this per se but it does sit in the nostrils with a beefy heft. Lush, sticky, and rich, this is about as good as it gets for the bouquet on an American Barleywine. I love it!

The taste brings it very strong as well, with caramelized burnt sugars, softer notes of sweet butterscotch and toffee, and a light creamy, almost vanilla like character. This is overall coming off to me as sweet, sticky, and malty in the mouth but the roasted undertones make sure that things don't get out of hand. Hops have more of a presence here (and controls things a bit more to) than they did in the nose, adding an almost herbal earthiness to the profile, as well as some overripe juicy citric fruit flavors. The finish is memorable, with lingering residual sugars, herbal and resinous hops and an almost dry tannic feel on the very tale end. The mouthfeel is full bodied and chewy with a moderate carbonation at first but subsequent pours yield much more of the thick and creamier feel that I would have expected. One thing that was consistent the whole way through my experience with this beer though is the RIDICULOUS smoothness of this for a 10-11% beer. Hell, there is barely much of a warming nature or hint of the ABV, except for the general fullness of the body and the boozy fog that slowly crept its way over my brain as I worked through multiple glasses of this. This just has a fantastic feel and drinkibility here for such a large beer.

Wow, this was just one of those beers that was a flat out experience and makes me glad that I'm in this hobby. The complexity, depth, and integration of the flavors (especially the hops) in this were something that I don't think that I've ever come across to such a degree in a Barleywine, especially one that was still this relatively young and not barrel-aged in any way. This is just a tremendous overall beer that definitely sits at the top of the style for me.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.53/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Randy (rlcnmeyer) for bringing my a growler of this brew. Served in me Surly pint glass. 2006 Vintage?

A - Two fingers of dark tan foam with ridiculous retention and glass-coating lacing. It finally settles into a thick cap that doesn't really go away. The liquid is a dark cherry-red wood color that's slightly lighter at the fringes. I generally expect very little from high-gravity barley wines, so this was a shocker.

S - Dark fruits, berries, caramel, toffee, raisins, brown sugar, sherry, a touch of chocolate, roastiness, tobacco - this is possibly the maltiest thing I've ever smelled. There's little trace of the 10.5% at all. Intensely potent - it can be smelled from quite a ways.

T - The taste is more caramel & bread, but the other flavors are all still in the mix, and there's also a nice residual roasty bitterness to it. Again there's nary a trace of the high gravity.

M - Moderate carbonation, full-bodied, thick and chewy, with nice residual stickiness. It's what a barleywine should feel like.

D - The buzz creeps up pretty quick, but you can't taste the high ABV. The carbonation is moderate and the taste is delicious. Two pints is actually doable with this one.

If you like barleywines, this stuff is a must-try.

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Photo of bpfrush
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of Bobbydigi
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of Groenebeor
3.89/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Photo of stakem
4.53/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to Kegatron for sharing this growler. For being over a year old in a growler, this has held up mighty fine. Poured into a thistle, this brew appears a deep clear amber color with a finger of yellowish stained creamy froth atop. The cap slowly fades leaving a webbing of lacework on the glass. Rising bubbles of carbonation maintain a creamy film across the top. When held to the light, this brew really shows some ruby clarity through the body.

The aroma of this brew is sweet with a scent of caramel malt, toffee, biscuit and some fruity/floral hop accents. There really is a candy-like appeal to the way this brew smells and it covers almost all aspects of the burnt sugar spectrum. The alcohol is very well masked for 10.5% and it really only shows itself in the aroma with a support role to the fruity/floral character.

The taste is everything you would expect based on the aroma. Sweet toffee malt, caramel, biscuit, candy, molasses. There is a faint oxidized touch minorly like cardboard to this that blends into an herbal hop component. The alcohol is more pronounced the flavor than you would imagine based off the scent. The alcohol is a bit solvent but very well tamed for 10.%. It finishes with some sherry-like flavors that just scream barrel aging but from what I understand, this wasn't barrel aged. Fantastic.

This is a thick, heavier than medium bodied brew with a perfect level of light carbonation. It is a rock solid interpretation of the style and something I could myself craving again sometime when in the mood for a barleywine. It contains just enough alcohol presence to keep you in line and have to respect this brew for what it is. I found myself ripping through more than a glass much faster than I should have. Many thanks again Heath!

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Photo of AGoodStout
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Photo of sweemzander
4.36/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle poured into a snifter
(A)- Toasted caramel colored amber with some decent white froth
(S)- Some nice leathery sherry-like caramel and toffee
(T)- Nice toffee and caramel meets some sherry-like fruits and leather
(M)- Nice balance without being overly hoppy
(O)- Refreshing to see a great american style barleywine that isnt completely hopped to the gills. A really nice showcase of sweet malts and a smooth finish

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Photo of Rhettroactive
3.95/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

From 64oz growler to Portsmouth glass on 3/29/12
*From notes

-- Thanks, Siege --

Growler filled around Christmas 2011

A: Muddy cider in color. A standard pour yields a creamy one finger off-white head. It lingers for a minute and leaves a thick collar and moderate lacing.

S: Stodgy pine oil. Hints of sliced green apple and a touch of toasted malt.

T: Creamy malt up front. The mid is nothing if not a bit sweet. The hops then jump right in and bite the palate. It's more of a biting pine resin then fruity.

M: Decent. We're talking about a growler that was filled and driven all the way back from Kansas a few months ago, so it's not gonna be crisp. A bit oily and thin as well.

O: A nice take on an American Barleywine. Being as this is non-barrel aged, this instantly is put at a disadvantage, though having said that, this is still a solid beer. I'd recommend drinking it fresh, or waiting quite a while to get into it, as the hops here were a bit stale in my opinion.

Not quite up to the rDev or lofty status, and certainly not worth dumping your cellar for.

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Photo of woosterbill
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I couldn't make it to the bottle-share where my tasting group opened this growler, but they generously hand-bottled a pour for me to enjoy shortly thereafter. Poured into a snifter.

A: Warm brown body; cloudy, but nicely translucent. No head, but gorgeous legs. I didn't expect any carbonation given the treatment this sample has received, and for what it is it looks nice.

S: Rich toffee, nuttiness, sherry, marshmallow, and some dark fruit. Very complex, very pleasant.

T: Dark fruit, caramel, toffee, sherry, and lovely hints of tobacco. Dark chocolate and nuts on the long, bitter finish. The sweetness up front + bitterness on the back end balance beautifully. Booze is present, but restrained. Delicious.

M: Thick, slick, and smooth. Not too sticky. Carbonation is low but present.

O: This is a terrific beer, and has held up great for a while (I was told this was a growler from 2010, but I'm not entirely sure about that). I do know that I'd love to try it fresh some time. Terrific stuff.

Cheers!

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Photo of nuggetnectar01
4.97/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Had this on tap and taken from notes

Served in a snifter

Pours a dark amber color with an eggshell color head. Good head retention and lacing. Aroma is dominating of dark fruit and malts. Plums, figs, toffe, caramel, vanilla, dates, and cherries. Taste is of caranel and toffee, dark fruits with cherries, plums, dates. Bit of bitterness pursues with a sweet finish and aftertaste. Full bodied with good carbonation. Excellent beer and definitely the best barleywine I have tasted.

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Photo of mikeincharleston
4/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of beerwolf77
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of tewaris
4.27/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Ryan! The growler fill was from a 2009 keg I believe.

A deep mahogany brown colored beer that is relatively still as it should be in my opinion. I do observe some legs. Aroma is slightly alcoholic with notes of toffee and dry fruit. Not too sweet on the taste with notes of wood and roast. Hop bitterness works well. Vanilla and even bourbon like notes although this is not aged in barrels. Medium body and low carbonation. Tastes good, kicks ass; one of the better American barleywines I have had.

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Photo of AgentZero
3.31/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

64 oz growler from kansascitytrader. Cheers! Shared with the rest of the Rejects.

A - Hazy brown beer. Very brown, looks like a bit of a purple in there. It's a very dark and big looking barleywine. Decent sized brown head.

S - Smells is not the greatest. It's quite boozy, needs some time to cool down. Very heavy on the dark fruits, particularly figs and maybe prunes. Lots of caramel malt.

T - Taste is better than the smell, with a little bit more burnt sugar. Still loads of dark fruits, figs, etc. Quite sweet, with a bit of toffee and some caramel. Quite heavy on the malts for a barleywine, in my opinion. It's not bad, but I was really expecting more.

M - Pretty close to full bodied with moderate carbonation.

O - I was expecting good things, particularly as MasterSki was glowingly speaking of it. I guess his batch was from a few years ago, maybe that made a difference. It's above average, but nothing that is worthy of the top 100, at least not fresh.

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Photo of BdubleEdubleRUN
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of ratedz
4.67/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2010 vintage, literally the bottom of the barrel. I went in for growlers today and got one filled and another was about half full when the keg kicked. This growler was the half filled one.

A - Pours a thick, hazy brown with a very thin ring of bubbles around the glass.

S - Very complex. Some caramel, toffee, dark fruits such as figs, and piney hops are most noticeable. A slight hint of alcohol is also present.

T - The sweetness of the malts comes out first, but it isn't overly sweet. Toffee, vanilla and a hint of oak dance on the tongue before a slight hop bitterness appears on the finish. A plethora of flavors and the alcohol is well hidden. Very easy to drink.

M - Thick, smooth, and creamy. Light carbonation, which I prefer for the style.

O - Am amazing beer. So complex with it's array of scents and tastes and more of both become noticeable as the beer warms. It reminds me more of an English barleywine than an American barleywine because of it's sweetness, but this is a must try.

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Photo of IPA1978
3.93/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of oline73
3.97/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the growler into a tasting snifter.

Appearance: Pours a cloudy reddish amber with a small amount of off white head that goes away rather quickly.

Smell: This is really sweet and full of caramel and grain. I'm getting a lot of dark fruit along with a mild banana note.

Taste: This is a really sweet barleywine. Lots of caramel like malt. The mild banana shows up here as well. A strong dark fruit note here along with the sweetness. The finish is sweet, but there is a solid hop presence as well.

Mouthfeel: The body is syrupy with a few tingles of carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: I would say that the main story here is the sweetness. I'd have more if it was offered.

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Old Backus Barleywine from Free State Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 93 out of 100 with 256 ratings