Olde Bluehair Barley Wine | Big Sky Brewing Company

very good
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Olde Bluehair Barley WineOlde Bluehair Barley Wine

Brewed by:
Big Sky Brewing Company
Montana, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
75 IBU

Added by JohnGalt1 on 01-24-2009

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Reviews: 128 | Ratings: 354
Photo of snaotheus
2.59/5  rDev -35.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

750ml bottle poured into an oversized snifter

I'm a little concerned about this bottle, there was almost no hiss when I popped the top. Don't know if it's normally pretty still, or if something happened.

Basically no head. Basically no carbonation. This detracts from the appearance. I know that barleywines are not usually that active, but there's nothing going on here. Color is a nice rich deep bronzey brown, maybe slightly cloudy. Smell is alcohol with a background of smoke and wood.

Taste is sweet and sour and smokey, alcohol comes out quite a bit. A little astringent.

Mouthfeel is flat, a little watery. Due to too much alcohol in the flavor and unpleasant flatness, I have not enjoyed this much.

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Photo of brentk56
4.33/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle #0007 out of 3000 (2010 bottling)

Appearance: This is a beautiful barleywine, pouring an ice tea brown color with a two finder head that leaves a smattering of lace around the chalice

Smell: Toffee, apricot, oak and some fusel alcohol

Taste: Toffee and apricots, up front, with an earthy hop balance developing by mid-palate, when the fusel alcohol arrives; after the swallow, the oak and vanilla add a complex dimension that lingers, after the swallow, along with the apricot malt

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with moderate carbonation; perhaps a little too thick

Drinkability: This is an extraordinary barleywine that is only going to improve with a year or two of age; while some complain that it is too sweet or lacks hops, I would point out that this is much more in the English style and is a superb example

Thanks, sholle, for the opportunity

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Photo of mdfb79
3.8/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 1/22/11 notes. Thanks to Lunch for sharing this one; thanks Paul, been wanting to try it.

a - Pours a mahogany brown color with two inches of frothy white head and moderate carbonation evident.

s - Smells of caramel malts, fruit, oak, bourbon.

t - Tastes of strong bourbon, roasted malts, oak, and caramel malts. Little bit too much alcohol in the taste; a bit harsh.

m - Medium to full body and moderate carbonation.

d - A nice barleywine but a little harsh in the taste. Probably would be better with some age on it. Would like to have again with some time on it.

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Photo of shir0043
3.98/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

2010 vintage poured into a standard pint glass.

The beer pours the color of maple syrup with a medium sized off-white head. The beer was slightly over-carbonated but when left in the glass for 10 min was perfect.

Smell is sweet malt, caramel, honey, alcohol, and oak. Oak dominates the smell.

Tastes is malty sweet, just the way I like it. Alcohol presence is sharp at the end. Oak also stands out a little sharp.

Mouthfeel is great for a barley wine. Not too thick, not too thin, and very smooth.

Drinkability is not high due to the sweetness which is OK because I don't plan on this being a session beer.

If your looking for a hoppy barleywine (bigfoot) then this is not your beer. However, if your like me and appreciate a nice malty BW, this is a great example. I'm glad I bought a couple bottles because I think this beer will be an A+ in 1-2 years. I'll update this review when I open another bottle.

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Photo of trbergman
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2010 bottling, poured into a cervoise.

A - Hazy auburn body with a tall, pillowy taupe head.

S - Rich caramel and toffee malts, fig, tobacco, vanilla, bourbon.

T - Sweet and malty, with toffee, fig and raisin, tobacco, and bourbon. Not very intense.

M - Starts off overcarbonated, but a little swirling and waiting take care of that. Slick, smooth, and surprisingly light. In the finish there's a gentle prickle of bourbon heat.

D - Very quaffable, but not terribly exciting.

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Photo of cmannes
4/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

1pt 9oz Bottle poured into a New Belgium Tulip

Appearance: It honestly looks like maple syrup. Dark amber color, little hazy. Thick persistant white head. Good lacing.

Aroma: Malty, yet a little sour. Some toffee & carmel.

Taste: Toffee, Malt, hint of the sour. The ABV is definitely there.

Mouthfeel: Syrupy, still reminds me of maple syrup.

Overall: I'm actually not a huge fan of Barleywines. But this one is good.

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Photo of kbutler1
3.19/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottle. #2062 of 3000. Poured into a tulip glass a murky orange, apricot color with a light tan head. Sweet aroma in the nose of fruit and slight citrus hops. Very subtle aroma for a Barley Wine. Sweet start wtih some latent hops. Pretty smooth but not extremely flavorful. Nice head retention though.

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Photo of caskstrength
3.9/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Another bourbon barleywine, a style I generally like. . 2010 bottle. 2000 something out of 3000.

Holy carbonation! Too much, but an aggressive pour and lots of swirling gets it normalized. Bottle conditioned, not sure if that ultimately helps this beer or not.

Nice dark orange appearance. Head all over the place. Smells boozy, spicy, fruity. Hops if you're looking. Young, I think.

Tastes fruity (apricots, yellow raisins) and boozy. Hops at the end. Some oak. More "in your face" booze, less of the vanilla/wood complexity that's in the best barrel aged brews. But it's still there, a little.

This beer needs some time alone.

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Photo of oberon
3.87/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

2010 bottle number #1976 of 3000.
10.5% ABV.
Poured a fizzy brass tinged medium brown,again a rather fizzy one finger off white head atop.Toasty oak and vanilla aromas with a bit of caramel,mainly all barrel aged aromas here,flavors are toasty with heavy vanilla and caramel,just a slight drying earthiness in the finish.As the beer warmed more malt nuances came into play like dark fruit and some cakiness.Its a bit sharp in the mouth but not to annoying,its pretty good but a little one dimensional with the barrel aging really taking over the beer.I dont think its worth the big price paid.

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Photo of zhanson88
4.39/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Note: 2010 version is 10.5% ABV.

Appearance: Olde Bluehair pours out a dark ruby color with a full 3 fingers of beige colored head. I can see a lot of carbonation rising to the top. Retention is pretty good, though the head seems to give way very easily. Resulting lacing is more of a film.

Smell: Caramel, malts, oak, vanilla, and some dark fruits (fig, raisin, maybe apricot). There is a lot going on in here, very nice.

Taste: Caramel maltiness right off the bat, with barrel flavor in the middle -- oak and vanilla. Finish is fig and apricot, with just a hint of booziness from the bourbon barrels. This really is a phenomenal example of the barleywine style.

Mouthfeel: Body is right on medium, with quite a bit of carbonation. As it warms the carbonation mellows out a little and it gets smoother drinking. It is very easy drinking for the style, even though ABV is 10.5% it seems like less. This is hands down my favorite example of a barleywine that I've had to date. I definitely want to have a couple of these on hand for a while to see what age does.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.1/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 1497/1800. Dark caramel brown with apple red and Sunkist accents when the glass is backlit with the rising October sun. The khaki colored crown is more a loose collection of unsticky bubbles than a creamy slice of foam, which is a fairly common occurence when it comes to higher-ABV, barrel-aged beer. In all fairness, the head becomes melty-creamy in the end and stays at the thick disk stage for a prolonged period of time.

The nose is classic caramel malt barleywine (pale, crystal, and chocolate), with wonderful whiskey notes from the American oak bourbon barrels. More hoppiness would be nice, but this Limited Edition ale has been chilling out my cellar for the past year or so. Maybe the hops will make an appearance on the palate.

Barrel Aged Olde Bluehair Barley Wine tastes exactly like it smells... which is a very good thing. It's on the gentle side for the style, thanks to the original 75 IBUs being countered by mucho malt, and the ABV being 8.75% rather than double digits. That doesn't mean that this little old lady lacks punch. On the contrary.

Pale malt offsets chocolate malt, and caramel-crystal emerges as the winner. Having said that, pleasant hints of cocoa nibness are easily identified, more so than in most American barleywines. There's a ton of medium-dark fruitiness and the bourbon influence is right on the money. Caramelized sugar, oak and vanilla bean tantalize the buds with each sip. Thankfully, the beer isn't the least bit boozy.

The next highest taste score is tempting, but Bluehair doesn't have that extra gear, that extra certain something to get it over the hump. No qualms, though, about bumping the drinkability score. This stuff is disappearing more quickly than is advisable if I want to remain coherent enough to finish this review and still make sense.

With respect to mouthfeel, think aged English barleywine or old ale. In other words, it isn't thick and chewy and it isn't as creamily carbonated as your typical Belgian ale. No matter, because the beer's size and laid back bubbles work fine in combination, which increases (ease of) drinkability even more.

In my humble opinion, Big Sky is one of America's most underappreciated breweries. They have gotten more of my money (thanks to their outstanding IPA) than anyone else in this country over the past several years. Barrel Aged Olde Bluehair Barley Wine may not be transcent beer, but it's a delicous and drinkable effort that is well worth the purchase price.

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Photo of tpd975
4.35/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a nice amber with a small tan head. No retention or lace.

S: Aromas of light bourbon, vanilla, caramel, toffee, and rich sweet fruit.

T: The barrel is there in a mild way. Light vanilla with hints of coconut. Sweet fruit with loads of caramel and toffee. Rich sweet and good.

M: Full bodied, rich, sweet, smooth.

D: Awesome, Love this one.

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Photo of kaseydad
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 Vintage

Great beer name. Snifter pour and an amber colored ale with burgundy streaks is produced with a small off-white foamy head. Aroma consists of hoppy goodness with some candy and malt in the mix. Very hoppy taste for a 2008 and though it lists the IBU's at 75 this tastes much more hoppy than that. Maybe the age intensifies it. Hmmmm. Malty backbone blends the two tastes perfectly. Full bodied, chewy mouthfeel. 11.8%? Couldn't even tell it was this high. Smooth drink and highly recommended. Wish it was distributed nation-wide. If you find it, let it age some to really get the most out of it.

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Photo of neorunner
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2004 Vintage 750ml bottle poured into 4oz tasting glass.

This was the second bottle opened at a recent charity tasting put on by the NoVA Homebrew club and Jeff's amazing cellar. This charity event was to raise funds for the Boyscouts.

The beer poured a clear copper with nice fine carbonation bubbles. Aroma was typical of a barley wine but very muted and mellow. Time has done wonderful things to this beer, it is very nicely balanced bitterness and malt wise. The malt is not forward at all and tapers off towards the end. There is also a dark fruit / plum flavor present. Reasonable carbonation with small bubbles cleanses your palate as you drink it. I definitely went back for seconds on this one.

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Photo of barleywinefiend
3.5/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a deep amber color with a small dirty white head, not much carbonation going on. Nose is faint but I did find some dried fruits, brown sugar, oak, bourbon and caramel.Taste is dried fruits, vanilla, oak, bourbon, dried fruits, brown sugar. There was an off, astringent like taste, ABV is very tolerable keeping iot very drinkable and not masking the flavors. Mouthfeel is nice creamy, coating and sugary.

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Photo of gford217
4.3/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750mL bottle poured into a tulip.

Pours a deep mahogany that shows clear copper when held up to light. There is a small creamy beige head that recedes to a small collar leaving little in the way of lacing.

The aroma is sweet with caramel malts and vanilla leading the way. There are some dark fruits, raisins especially. and a little bit of sherry coming out as well. The bourbon is very muted in the nose.

The taste is even better for me with all the same caramel malts, vanilla and dark fruits as in the aroma. But it almost tastes like a bit of chocolate sweetness in the there as well. The finish is sweet but the bourbon is extremely subtle.

The mouthfeel is slick with good carbonation and maybe on the lighter side of medium for overall mouthfeel.

This is an excellent barleywine with an understated bourbon presence which really leads to a very drinkable barrel-aged brew.

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Photo of Deuane
4.52/5  rDev +13%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Bottle 1349 of 1800. Thanks to Kegatron for sharing this one!

A-Deep copper with a thin light tan head that hung on strong and left decent lace.

S-Sweet caramel, bourbon, vanilla and toasted coconut meld together into a sniff inducing intoxicating aroma.

T-Initial sweetness with nice bourbon notes a touch of earthy hop and a nice spicy bite in the finish. This one is very tasty. Notes of apricot and honey emerge with warming.

M-Medium bodied, super smooth and luscious. Good lingering flavours.

D-At 8.75% could this be deemed "light" for a barleywine? Well, no matter it is packed full of tasty flavours and an outstanding smoothness. I could enjoy this one all night long beside the fire!

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Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.28/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Picked this gem up in Albuquerque at Jubilation. $15 for a 750ml bottle. Bottle #270 of 1800.

A: Brown with lots of red highlights, enormous cream colored head with incredible retention. Dense and rocky with amazing lacing. Slightly cloudy. Really an attractive beer.

S: Huge malty caramel profile, some notes of oatmeal, bourbon, slightly vanilla and oaky as well. Very strong smells, but surprisingly just a hint of booze. Smells delicious. A little more of a hop profile would be nice though.

T: Caramel malts, bourbon, vanilla, and wood. Has a surprisingly strong hop profile that is absent in the nose. Very malty and sweet. Slight alcohol astringency as well as a clean slightly citrus hop profile. The whiskey notes aren't overpowering but just enough to let the drinker know that there was some definite barrel aging. Incredibly balanced and tasty.

M: Creamy body, light carbonation, alcohol warmth is nice and warming, very dry alcohol and oak from the barrel aging. Excellent here.

D: Entirely too easy to drink, this goes down dangerously easy. Excellent flavors and a nice balance of oak, whiskey, and malt. This is a very well made beer and I'm glad I got the chance to try it. If I get the chance to try this again I definitely will. Highly recommended.

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Photo of brian23456
2.84/5  rDev -29%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle #1183/1800, poured into a couple large snifters.

A- Starts with a big head as far as BW's go, dies down to a thin ring. Reddish brown color, not much for lacing.

S- Caramel, brown sugar, raisins, alcohol and a very tiny amount of bourbon. All the smells are very faint though, actually not much smell at all.

T- Hmmm.. I may be tasting everything I smelled. But its hard to tell because the flavor is just as muted as the smell.

M- Light body, low carbonation and some warmth.

D- Goes down easy, very unoffensive and well-balanced.

A little dissapointing overall but definatley not bad. Just really plain and forgetable.

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Photo of Viggo
3.82/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Foiled 750ml bottle, #1575/1800. Big thanks to ritzkiss for bringing this rare one to the epic barleywine tasting.

Pours a lightly hazed reddish brown, some orange, thin off white head forms, settles down to a thin ring, a few lace spots stick.

Smell is nice, caramel and brown sugar, big sweetness, buttery, oak, vanilla, bourbon, some citrus, very fruity, raisin and alcohol, barrel character is quite nice.

Taste is nice too, vanilla and wood jump out, bourbon, caramel/toffee, brown sugar, raisin, lots of dark fruit, lots of alcohol, a bit of a rough wood character, but nice stuff.

Mouthfeel is medium to light bodied with low carbonation, some warmth going down. A pretty enjoyable BA barleywine. Thanks Preric!

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Photo of bobsy
4.17/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

One of only 1800 bottles made, and a damn good one at that, so big thanks to Eric for bringing this over.

Pours a rich ruby with an off-white head that soon dropped to a collar. Not much in the way of lace or retention. Woody nose, with evident oak character. Vanilla and caramel make for a pleasant combination, though its lighter than I thought it would be. Great oak character to this beauty, and a good example of how aging should be done. Wood and vanilla are present throughout as well as some light bourbon picked up along the way. Brown sugar, raisins and lightly floral hops round things out before a mildly warming finish. Body is lighter than expected, which makes it more drinkable, but less true to style.

I liked it - a rare treat!

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Photo of ritzkiss
4.15/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle 1575/1800, 750ml with golden foil, picked up in Spokane and brought to Rob's great barleywine tasting!

Pours a dark ruby, lots of sediment in the glass on the first pour (might have gotten a little shaken up on the way over that night), a few big bubbles around the collar but not much carbonation.

Nose is light caramel malts, hints of vanilla and wood, pretty light and smooth.

This is a well balanced, more-ish barleywine. Nice woodiness and vanilla from the barrels, very faint hints of bourbon, still a faint hop bite in the finish, raisins, plums, candied sugar, caramel, light alcohol burn in the finish as well. The only downfall on this one is the body which is a little light, almost watery, for a barleywine. Makes it more drinkable perhaps but you might want a little more bulk to brink out some of the flavors. As is, pretty drinkable - don't worry about opening the bottle by yourself!

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Photo of Derek
3.59/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Chestnut with a touch of tan head, no retention or lace.

S: Plenty of wine/dark-fruit, caramel & raisins with a boozie alcohol aroma.

T: Raisins, caramel, brown sugar, balanced bitterness, fairly boozie for its strengh.

M: Light residual sweetness, modest carbonation.

D: A decent drinker.

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Photo of MasterSki
3.96/5  rDev -1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to joe1510 for sharing this bottle. #886 of 1800, served in a snifter.

A - Pours with a ridiculous amount of tan foam that takes forever to dissipate and leaves a good amount of lacing. Transparent fuschia color with tons of bubbles. Really unique and impressive for a barleywine.

S - Burnt brown sugar, roasted caramel malts, some faded hops, and some light bourbon and oaky barrel notes as well. It's nice, but nothing unusual for a bourbon barrel barleywine.

T - The taste is a lot sweeter, with a lot of the burnt sugar character and tannins in the finish. Caramel, brown sugar, light vanilla and oak notes. Not much of the hop presence that I initially smelled.

M - Surprisingly well carbonated - medium body, fairly sticky, a little heat at the back end.

D - The alcohol isn't all that well hidden - I thought this was more than 8.75%. The tannic bite in the finish also makes it a little hard to drink a lot.

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Photo of BigMcLargeHuge
3.53/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled at Toronado 2009 Barleywine Festival.
Pours clear deep copper with thin tan head. The modest aroma has notes of prunes, figs and sweet crystal malts. The taste starts rich and sweet with malt, fig raisin and plum sweetness. Midway and to the finish alcohol chemical notes show up along with a layer of pine hop bitterness. Could use some more age to mellow a bit. It does have a mildly drying malt roastiness into the finish.

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Olde Bluehair Barley Wine from Big Sky Brewing Company
4 out of 5 based on 354 ratings.
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