Old Backus Barleywine | Free State Brewing Co.

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93
outstanding
239 Ratings
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Old Backus BarleywineOld Backus Barleywine
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Free State Brewing Co.
Kansas, United States
freestatebrewing.com

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 10-29-2001

BEER STATS
Ratings:
239
Reviews:
91
Avg:
4.24
pDev:
10.85%
 
 
Wants:
196
Gots:
43
For Trade:
6
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 239 |  Reviews: 91
Photo of Texasfan549
4/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of jaydoc
3.86/5  rDev -9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Photo of spycow
3.25/5  rDev -23.3%

Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.07/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to DrAwkward82 for sharing this one at drewone's place.

Pours a murky brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to an oily film on top of the beer. Small dots and streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, brown sugar, caramel, toffee, and citrus zest. Taste is much the same with a semi-sweet finish. There is a mild amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and medium bodied mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with a great smell and a tasty flavor.

 575 characters

Photo of t0rin0
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of brentk56
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2003 Vintage

Appearance: Pours a cloudy dark amber color with a modest head; legs but no lace

Smell: Dark fruit dominates, with raisins, figs and dates most prominent; plenty of caramel, as well

Taste: Opens with rich caramel and dark fruit flavors, with a developing bitter balance to counter the raisins, figs and dates; after the swallow, the flavors meld together to provide a balanced, but layered finish

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with low carbonation

Drinkability: Amazing that a seven year old barleywine has retained some hop balance that blends to a complex flavor marriage with the malts; worth seeking out

Thanks, mreusch (from the other site) for the opportunity and to jmueller216, for the chance to revisit the 2015 bottling in 2016
c

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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.

 691 characters

Photo of emerge077
4.4/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Alex for sharing the growler, this was a highlight of the evening. Review from written notes.

Reddish copper color with nice head retention: there's a sticky halo of drippy lace all around. Really pleasant confectionary aroma of golden raisins, figs, and dates, some shortbread or sugar cookie also. Fruit leather and subdued flavors of dried apricot and other fruits. Rich and boozy feel (notes say 12%) yet the harshness of any alcohol is absent. Very full bodied with low to medium carbonation. A snifter of this would be my personal limit, as a perfect nightcap. A standout American Barleywine that's very fruit forward. Thanks again Alex for sharing this outstanding beer...

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Photo of largadeer
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks to Andrew for sharing this long-time want.

Murky, turbid amber topped by a thin crust. Barely translucent, lightly carbonated.

Fantastic caramel malt aroma. Brown sugar, dark ripe fruit, molasses. Quite a bit of hoppiness too, floral and earthy in character.

Fruity on the palate, jammy, like blackberry preserves. Heavy on the caramel and toffee. Full-bodied with low carbonation. This has a lot of hop flavor, too; fruity and floral, more earthy in the finish, though there's little bitterness, no perceptible alcohol. This beer impressed the hell out of me, it's brilliantly balanced and surprisingly drinkable for an American barleywine.

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Photo of zeff80
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured a cloudy, copper/burgundy color with a foamy, thick, long-lasting, off-white head. It left thick, sticky rings of lace.

S - It smelled intensely malty and sweet. Tons of floral aromas increase as the head settles.

T - It tasted very, very sweet. Malty sweet and boozy alcohol flavors dominate with a mild hoppy bitterness.

M - It was very smooth and chewy/bready. A full-bodied beer.

D - This is a great tasting barleywine. Very sweet and delicious however, a single 9 oz serving might be all I can handle at once.

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Photo of zestar
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of Thorpe429
4.47/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to rbald42 for sharing a growler of this at the Sexual Chocolate release.

Poured a dark amber with a pretty good head (especially out of a growler) with good lacing. The smell was pretty intense and complex, including caramel malt, toffee sweetness, hints of vanilla, some dark fruits, and a bit of alcohol. The taste is quite similar, with a beautiful malt sweetness coming through in addition to the characteristics of the nose. Very nice mid-to-full-bodied mouthfeel with good carbonation and outstanding drinkability for a beer of this size and complexity.

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Photo of ygtbsm94
4/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of Kurmaraja
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

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 wethorseblanket
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of billab914
4.33/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Growler shared by Siege06nd last night. Poured from a growler into my CBS snifter. It poured a dark caramel color and somewhat murky. A thin, sticky head formed after the pour. Nice color and nice lacing to it overall.

The aroma shows a lot of dark fruits to it with raisin, fig and a little cherry to it. It also has a little more of a crisp, almost apple like fruitiness mixing with some yeasty spices. I get some nice caramel and toffee sweetness to the malts as well as just a hint of chocolate. A good amount of hoppiness is also present contributing an herbal bitterness with a touch of citrus. The aroma had a lot going on, but I really think they brought it together pretty well.

The taste also has a pretty bold dark fruit component with cherry and fig both playing a decent role. The caramel and toffee maltiness is really good in it. Crisp fruits and some earthy spice are there as well. Some bitter hoppiness comes through in the finish with a slight citrus. It's a little leathery in the finish as well. Very balanced and well integrated for the style. So many American versions the hops seem to clash for me, but they really worked pretty well in this one.

The mouthfeel is somewhat creamy but also feels a little thin for the style. The low carbonation works pretty well for it though.

Overall, I thought it was a really good beer of the style. It was surprisingly balanced which helped it be pretty smooth and drinkable. I don't think it compares to some of the best barrel aged beers of the style, but for a regular American Barleywine I think it's a very good beer.

 1,589 characters

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 drewone
4/5  rDev -5.7%

Photo of mikesgroove
4.88/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer simply put might be one of the best, if not the best BA barleywine I have ever had. I am soo gracious to the kind BA who sent this one my way. Served chilled and pourd into a pint glass, this one was consumed on 04/24/2009.

The pour was fantastic. Deep, dark caramel brown with no light making its way through except a small amount on the sides and the bottom. A really nice head of tan rose up to a height of two inches before it settled down to a nice inch layer and huges amounts of clumpy and sticky side glass lacing. The aroma was unreal, rich vanilla, tobacco, loads of caramel malts and a bourbon like smell that was just too good to believe. As it warms lots of oak notes start to come through. I go in for a taste and this is like heaven. Smooth, subtle flavors all wrapped up perfectly. Lots of vanilla, tobacco, and oak flavors. Big malt bill here left a nice sweetness underneath of everything. Creamy rich, beautiful. Really hard to put into words just how good this beer really is.

Overall I am blown away by this one. I did not even see it coming but this was elixer of the gods material here. easily one of the best beers i have ever had.

 1,167 characters

Photo of womencantsail
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A huge thanks to Dale for helping me out and sending me a growler of this! It's a fill of the 2009 vintage.

A: The pour is a dark amber color with a pretty decent sized tan head (considering the time spent in the growler).

S: Smells like a good barleywine. Lots of caramel, toffee, and perhaps a touch of butterscotch. There's some nice dark fruit aromas to it as well, and some earthy hop notes.

T: There's a good hop flavor, but not really all that bitter. Toffee, molasses, and caramel provide plenty of sweetness to the beer. Some dark fruits like figs, plums, and dates are present too.

M: The body is medium to full with a relatively good amount of carbonation.

D: A very solid barleywine, and amazingly easy to drink for a beer that's over 10% alcohol. Very glad to have tried this.

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

Big thanks to Kegatron for sharing this one with us all at Stakem's Fish Fry. This growler is over a year old.

A - Pours slightly hazy dark amber with a nice one finger tall light tan head leaving thin strings of lace down parts of the glass.

S - Smells amazing right off the bat. Lots of brown sugar, caramel, toffee, butterscotch, and a bit of dark fruit at the end of each sniff.

T - Starts off with a big dose of sweetness - mostly toffee, caramel, butterscotch and a bit of molasses - slowly giving way to a bit of dark fruits and some dulled hop bitterness. Very little, if any, booze is present but there is definitely a touch of oxidation in this one but, like the booze, it never gets in the way.

M - Big body with a smooth, creamy feel with moderate carbonation. The feel works extremely well with the flavors to create an easy drinking yet potent barleywine.

O - Damn, this is one fine barleywine. I have had some great barleywines in my travels but this one is one of the best. Simply awesome stuff, hope I get to try it again some day.

 1,053 characters

Photo of Huhzubendah
4.78/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Growler shared by drabmuh. Thanks Matt.

2006 vintage

Merry Christmas!

The beer is a beautiful copper ruby hue. Crystal clear appearance with a thick, whipped merengue head. The head displays excellent retention and coats the pint glass with lacing. A superb appearance.

The aroma brings an array of scents, including toffee, caramel, oak, malt, booze, fruit.

The flavor Is phenomenal. Ridiculously smooth and easy to drink. This beer hides the alcohol about as well as any beer I have had. Toffee, caramel, vanilla, oak. A slight leaning toward an English style barleywine, with some candy sweetness, though never cloying. The beer is so soft and mellow, surely aided by the hands of time, yet tastes so fresh and clean. Fantastic stuff.

Perfect carbonation level. The feel is so fresh and clean on the palate. A dangerous beer, it would be easy to get ahead of myself and consume this too rapidly. Perhaps the most quaffable barleywine I have ever had.

Overall, a world class example of the style. Two pints was perfect. This is the only American barleywine that tempts me for a second serving. Highly recommended.

 1,122 characters

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.09/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

12 oz. bottle poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Clear amber body. Almost no head. Very thin collar.

Smell - Grapefruit hops. Fruity caramel malts. A little bit of apple.

Taste - Even hoppier here. Grapefruit. Sweet caramel. Fruity and apple-y again.

Mouthfeel - Medium low carbonation. Medium heavy.

Overall - Meh. It's decent. Very fruity, but not a very interesting barleywine.

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Photo of Zaphog
3.77/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

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Old Backus Barleywine from Free State Brewing Co.
4.24 out of 5 based on 239 ratings.
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