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 #1,628
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
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.

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

Old Backus Barleywine is a rare treat when it's pouring from the FSBC taps in Lawrence. OBB pours up with a modest carbonation that creates a moderate creamish-tan head that nicely rings the snifter above the slightly murky, dark brown body. The strongish-sweet grainy aroma shows some grassy, herbal hops laced with a tinge of fruity esters (dried orange, grape seed, oroblanco) that barely escapes the huge toasty, burnt caramel maltiness. Lots of oaky goodness from the barrel with hints of dry sack sherry, cherry-vanilla, tobacco leaf, etc... as it warms in hand. Alcohol strength is noteable, but certainly not ditracting. The flavor is very multi-layered with the caramel sweetness upfront followed by a firm toastiness (crackers, flatbread) with a hint of chocolate. The hop bitterness is firm creating a balanced, but slightly astringent, cheek warming finish. This chewy, full-bodied barleywine drinks more English than American with an unsurpassed (almost scary!) drinkability for its strength. Lots & lots of goodness going on here. Here's to Old (Richard) Backus an his namesake barleywine from Steve Brandt & crew.

CHEERS! Beertracker

*Thanks to amateurbeerguy for sharing some of this magical elixir.

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Photo of Mebuzzard
3.75/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured in a 9oz snifter. Rich amber pour, with very little head. Looked a bit flat and port-like. Average looking, which isn't all that bad.
Sweet, candied apple smell. Malt was well balanced with the small sampling of spice and alcohol. It has high OG and IBU, but the aroma is rather tame.
Complex taste with sweet malt and caramel, a slight smidgen of hops and a good spicey overall feel to it. The IBUs doesn't quite match the description, yet it doesn't take away from the taste. Alcohol is well hidden, but it does come with quite a wallop.
Easy drinking, complex mouthfeel make this barley wine a must try.

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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 BigMcLargeHuge
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

According to eboats rating this appears to be a 1999 Vintage. Pours murky brackish brown with thin off white head that fades to nothing in about a minute. This beer has a huge aroma of dark fruitiness with sweet caramel around the back of the smell. Very nice. The beer has a nice thick syrupy mouth feel that's seems just right. The dark fruity taste is composed of smooth silky cherry compote to apricot to dates. There's also sweet malt and caramel that go very well with the fruitiness. Very enjoyable barleywine.

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

Growler.

Poured a medium and cloudy / muddy brownish color with a very small sized off white head. Aromas of caramel, dark fruits, and a little earthy. Tastes of caramel, dark fruits, toasted nuts, and brown sugary sweet. Alcohol content well hidden.

Notes from 2/29/08

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

thanks to goliath for the chance to try this gem from KS!

A - cloudy mahogany color with a nice off white head.
S - dark ripe fruits, brown sugar, slight abv note.
T - dark ripe fruits, molasses, burnt caramel, cocoa, cirtic hop bite.
M - full bodied, lighrtly carbonated, syrupy with a lingering roasted caramel and abv note.
D - nice sipper with a layering of flavors

reminds me in some ways of a local barleywine from VT. if this was in bottles I'd consider throwing a few in the cellar to see how this matures over time. If I was in town I'd definitely stop by for a pint or two!

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Photo of Zadok
4.62/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a deep brown in a small snifter. Had a light bubbly head. Somewhat of an apple cinnamon appearance.

Deep dark fruity aroma. Cherries, figs, chocolate. Smells very sweet.

Wow, amazing flavor. The balance of flavors is amazing. Figs, cherries and raisins. The hidden alcohol is a thing of beauty.

Very smooth and syrupy, low carbonation. Mouthfeel is of a mellow brandy.

Although I am somewhat of a barlywine newbie, this was without a doubt worth the trip from KC and then some. Amazing blend of flavors and textures, delicious.

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

Pours a dark brown color with some ruby hues. It's seemingly cloudy, and fairly opaque when the glass is full. One inch of light tan head forms on top and lingers with excellent retention (especially for a beer with such high ABV), and leaves some nice lacing.

The aroma is great. A slight hop presence showing some earthy and spicey tones. The malt profile by contrast is incredible. It's relatively sweet with notes of caramel, honey and various fruits. Figs and raisins dominate here. Just truly enticing.

The taste does not disappoint. Again, a nice hop character showing some nice bitter notes of pine and citrus. Again, the malt profile is great. Sweet malts, raisin, figs, caramel, and bread. A bit of alcohol warmth as well. Complex and fulfilling.

Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with a relatively light carbonation. However, the carbonation seeming light still gave me a decent tingle. Some welcomed alcohol heat as well (very tame).

Drinkability is high. Regardless the high alcohol, it's an incredible beer. A sipper for sure, but the flavors are there and the alcohol is apparent but not obnoxious. I could only imagine how great this could be with a little cellar time. Too bad they don't bottle.

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Photo of weeare138
4.55/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Much thanks to hopdog for this...
Appears a dark opaque brown with crimson highlights. Small bubbles slowly rise to the top of the glass. A small, light tan cap fades into a mild film and hearty collar of batter-like bubbles. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of heavy malt, raisins, toffee, cocoa, figs, tobacco, brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, sugar cookies, ripened dark fruits, mild hints of black cherries. This is what I've been craving.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with a sugary blend of fruit, raisins, vanilla, and an array of gourmet cocoa, molasses, and toasted nuts. Hot damn! This is a definite winner that I'm proud to say I've had the pleasure of drinking.
Mouthfeel is full bodied, chewy, smooth, mildly fruity, creamy, syrupy, with a touch of heat and rum soaked raisins lingering along the palate.
Steve, Tom, and Eric...thanks a bunch for saving some of this delicious nectar. This was truly a treat! This could possibly be one of the best barleywines that I ever recall having.

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Photo of Boto
4.58/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Draught @ Brewpub: I was quite happy to see a 2005 vintage of this up on the day I visited. It is served in a small snifter. It pours a hazy, ruby tinged, brownish amber color. There is a good sized off-white head on it. It left a bit amount of lacing. There are notes of caramel, toffee, dark fruits and chocolate to the nose. The taste is excellent. Full bodied, a hint of bitterness, very complex. Hints of dark fruits. Very nice!

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Photo of jokelahoma
4.17/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This one was served in a small snifter.

Came out a deep, deep garnet red, almost purple. There's hardly any head whatsoever.

The nose is very vinous, very much full of dark fruits. You really don't pick up much hop, but it would be hard to discern hop aromas in the face of this malt wallop. Nice and appealing!

They didn't advertise this as being on cask, but I'm starting to wonder now. The little tiny bit of head, and now, when I take the first drink, I notice it's at cellar temp. Nice! The taste is surprisingly subdued and understated, if one can truly say that about anything having to do with a barleywine. It doesn't give you that heady sensation with the aroma wafting up the back of your nose that way many highly aromatic brews are wont to do. This is a sweetish barleywine, with the hops staying well in the background. They serve only to keep this one from tasting like syrup, with just enough bitterness to make it palatable. One can detect plums, prunes, raisins, apricots, and tropical fruits in this at various stages of the drink.The aftertaste provides the first real clue this is a strong beer, as the tiny bit of alcohol burn is felt. It stays more in the roof of the mouth than the back of the throat, though, which makes it far less invasive than other strong beers I've had. The oily malt sweetness lingers in the aftertaste, going on and on and on, coating your mouth with a very nice taste.

Mouthfeel here is pretty viscous, heavy and chewy. That seems to be expected from a beer this big, and really adds to the perception that you're drinking something formidable.

This barleywine is sweeter than I usually prefer, but it's very good and well made. If you happen to be fortunate enough to stop in when it's on tap, definitely give it a shot. You'll be glad you did.

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

Appearance
Deep burgundy, almost as dark as a stout, with a fantastic quarter inch head that was extremely creamy and whipped-like. It was served in a mini snifter, probably eight ounces or so.

Aroma
Really nice fruity, sweet smell coming off it. Not a lot of hops, but certainly a sweet maltiness.

Taste & Mouth Feel
There’s an upfront sweetness, followed by a very tasty and hearty maltiness, followed by a good hop presence. Nothing over the top hop-wise here, but the balance is really nice. I would say there’s not a strong aftertaste, but what is left is very enjoyable, so no fault there. Another strong point is the alcohol, and lack thereof presence-wise; I never got an inclination it was a high ABV beer.

Overall
This is one of the more striking and tasty Free State beers I’ve had. Definitely worth tasting each time they offer it.

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Photo of HardTarget
4.84/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Aroma: Raisins, rum, and an earthy tobacco. All in all, perfumed, sedate with west coast hops adding a crisp note. Late in the glass I got some soft chocolate notes.

Appearance: Brown snifter that glows blood red in the candlelight. A thin tan collar lasts, but fails to lace.

Flavor: Maple syrup and sweet dark malt is firmly balanced by fresh tasting citric hops and an alcoholic soothing quality. All flavors fit together nicely to give a complete and complex character.

Mouthfeel: Luscious. Soft and full with a short lived finish that quickly dries.

Overall Impression: Masterful! One of the best barley wines I’ve wrapped a tongue around. Almost worth the drive up, if you’re in Kansas, you owe yourself a trip out to Free State if just for this brew. One of the best beers I’ve ever had.

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Photo of dreadnatty08
4.33/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to the Free State and their anniversary celebration, I was able to taste the 2000 bottling. The hoppiness is gone and this beer goes down incredibly smooth, sweet and amazing. Served in a snifter at proper temperature. Bartender was excited to pour and seems as though many others were getting a taste at this one. Really would like to see how a fresh one is, but impressed to see how well it ages.

Update: They recently brought out the 2004, with a dramatic change from the 6 yr old brew. Hops are in the forefront, and I believe I like it more this way. Sweetness isn't as dominant as in the older, and it's more balanced. Have to give it up to Free State for doing something like this!

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Photo of amatuerbeerguy
4.09/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reddish brown color, although hazy. Some head dissipated quickly no lacing, or other indication of head. Aroma of malt, some sweetness, fruity, with alcohol warming the nostrils. Flavor of chocolate, fruit, malt sweetness, caramel toffee. Slight hops appear for a delicate bite in the back of the throat. Alcohol is apparent but not overwhelming. Definite winter by the fire drink. Full-bodied although quick dissipation of head ( I believe do to the improper seal of growler, cap was not on tight, leaked a little). Very nice beer, Free State hats off. Can not wait to go back to the brewery.

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Photo of Quaffer
4.22/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This was a lovely barleywine, served in a proper snifter and at the proper temperature at the brewery in Lawrence.

Smell: The aroma was perfect and made my mouth water from the second I raised the glass to my nose. Strong malt, a nice hop kick, and all the complexity that one expects from a beer of this style were all present.

Taste: Whether it had been aged or not, I don't know, but this barleywine came across like one that has been around for awhile. Heavy malt and a strong (but not too strong) raisin component dominated the flavor. There was no heavy hop bite that accompanies many young BWs. There was just enough present to balance out all the malt and add a little "umph" to the character.

This beer came across as big and complex, but was very drinkable. While I only had one, I could have easily drank this beer throughout the entire evening. I wasn't expecting much when I ordered it, but ended up being very inmpressed. Keep in mind that I am very hard on barleywines when it comes to reviewing. A 4.15 is high on the list in my book for this style of brew.

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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 marc77
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Murky chestnut hue. Thin, but tight rim of beige bubbles mananges spotty lace. Toffee and pronounced caramel dominate in aroma, with secondary mellow diacetyl and hints of nutty, toasted malt. Butter laced caramel sweetness leads into a slightly roasty, deeple toffeeish malt profile. Ample aging has diminished the hop bitterness significantly, leaving it overshadowed by residual malt sweetness. Subdued citric hop flavor. Sweetness becomes candyish late, lending an impression of caramel coated apple. Viscous, velvety, supremely dextrinous mouthfeel. Lightly carbonated. Finishes with suggestions of nougat and bittersweet chocolate. Delicious. Old Backus is an outstanding barleywine. With more hop bitterness to balance malt sweetness this would be phenomenal. It's not unlike a J.W. Harvest Ale, albeit a touch more tame and with a subdued American hop character. Worth travelling for.

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Photo of maxpower
4.15/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep clear dark amber-copper, small head foamy off-white head, sweet fruity aromas of apples and pears. Sweet and malty like a good barleywine, sweet slick finish, very smooth and full bodied with a full and syrupy mouthfeel, this is a damn good barleywine.

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