Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Old Embalmer | Widmer Brothers Brewing Company

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
very good
47 Reviews
Old EmbalmerOld Embalmer

Brewed by:
Widmer Brothers Brewing Company
Oregon, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by freed on 08-08-2004

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
Reviews: 47 | Ratings: 209
Photo of Whiteturtle
2.28/5  rDev -41.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 1.75 | feel: 1.25 | overall: 2

Widmer Brothers Old Embalmer '13- featuring x-431 hops

*This is not barrel-aged, as there seems to be some confusion with previous reviews.

Eyes: Pours a burnt sienna colour, with a minimal head- about 1 fingers worth (but is one finger ever really worth it?). A pretty hue, and quite transparent. Low carbonation, but bubbles remain prevalent.

Nose: Butterscotch, carrot cake, and vanilla hit the nasal passages hard. Followed by pine, allspice, and toffee. Smells reminiscent of my old retired favourite- smuttynose barleywine.

Tongue: Caramel, cherry, sherry, and peppercorns. An extremely light, earthy, and unfortunately watery taste to this beer. Heavy spices, with not a lot of malt to back it up. The malt notes that are there are fruity, maybe pearish? Tastes like an vienna lager to me- woody, munichy, and lacking in depth.

Cheeks: Way too light. The 10% is masked nicely, but with flavour being the primary sacrifice. The mouthfeel during and after each taste reminds me more and more of a vienna lager. And as I mentioned earlier, an unfortunate H20 quality keeps peeking through.

Overall: Extremely disappointed. I love Widmer Brothers, and when I saw this bottle chilling in my local store I thought I came across a hidden gem (and I have quite the affinity for barleywines). I honestly don't know how this beer can be called a barleywine. Usually barleywines either veer towards the american way of hoppy bittery goodness, or the english malty syrupy (and better) route. This tastes like a watered down amber ale. I'm really hoping I got a bad bottle, and the actual beer that was meant to be tasted by the public is out there for others to enjoy.

 1,672 characters

Photo of kojevergas
2.78/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Bottled July 18th 2012. Featuring Bravo hops. 10.2% ABV confirmed. 22 fl oz brown glass bottle with uninspired label art and branded pry-off pressure cap served into a stem-tulip in low altitude Minneapolis, MN. Reviewed live. Expectations are above average; I'm in the mood for a barleywine. Reviewed as a barleywine because the label clearly identifies it as such.

Served cold - straight from the fridge - and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: No bubble show forms as I pour.

Pours a half finger wide head of nice khaki colour. A bit thin. Poor complexion and consistency. Retention is poor - maybe 40 seconds at best. No lacing clings to the sides of the glass as the head recedes.

Body colour is a decent translucent quasitransparent amber red. No yeast particles are visible.

Overall, it's a bit too much of a clean amber for the style. I've never seen a good barleywine of this hue. I'm looking forward to trying it, but I'm suspicious given the brewery and colour. Not unique or special. No egregious flaws.

Sm: Toffee, caramel, light toasted malt, amber malts. Bread crust. Faint alcohol. Some pear/green apple - not really an orchard character, but enjoyable.

No yeast character is detectable. I'm not getting much hop character - if there is any, it's generic and fruity.

A pretty pleasant aroma of below average strength. I'm not horribly excited to try it, but it's average for the style.

T: Amber malts, light toasted malt character, toffee, caramel, and some very faint apple/pear. Generic fruity hops comprise the entirety of the hop profile. Balance is mediocre. Build is loosely cohesive but far from gestalt. Lacks complexity and subtlety - especially for the style. No intricacy or nuance at all. Not well layered. Below average depth, duration, and intensity of flavour. It just isn't that flavorful or tasty.

No yeast character comes through. Has some faint alcohol presence. I'm unimpressed. There's none of the rich malt foundation you'd expect in a great barleywine, and nothing about the flavour profile suggests it'd handle age well.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Full-bodied and thick without the diversity of flavour to back it. Overcarbonated. Unrefreshing.Okay presence on the palate. Suits the flavour profile okay, but doesn't feel custom-tailored to it.

Not oily, astringent, hot, boozy, gushed, harsh, or weak.

Dr: Drinkable but very unremarkable. A forgettable barleywine from a downright mediocre brewery, Old Embalmer offers nothing of interest to the discerning drinker. I wouldn't get it again and I wouldn't recommend it to friends. Not worth the cellar space to put down. I'm not sure what Widmer thought this was bringing to the already well-saturated barleywine market, but its relatively low quality renders it quite mundane. Barleywine fans will be disappointed.

Low C

 2,921 characters

Photo of GarthDanielson
3.24/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

2012 vintage...not sure if there are any others, or if there will be, but there's a '12 on the bottle, so there it is. Poured from a bottle into a snifter, the beer has a very thin, light appearance on the pour. Light, bright, amber-copper coloring with a thin ring of film on the surface. Aromas of tropical fruit sweetness, with some fig and date sweet in the backbone, cherry highlights, and a fairly heavy dose of resiny hops the clean everything up. Flavors have a more roasty and woody characteristic initially, followed by cherry and old world fruit sweetness. Peppery spicings, with a molasses characteristic at the tail end of the palate. Very jumbled flavors jumping all over the tongue. The beer is very thin in mouth, with a sharpness as it nears the finish. The aftertaste has notes of pepper, tobacco, and very light hints of molasses. The finish is filmy and quick, almost watery. From start to finish I do not get Barleywine on this brew. All in all, it's not a bad beer, but it's not a Barleywine, in my opinion.

 1,029 characters

Photo of russpowell
3.4/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

2013 Vintage pours caramel/copper with a sliver of cream colored head. Good head retention & nice lacing, stays effervescent throughout

S: Breadyness, pears & little bit of woodiness, a bit of boozeyness

T: Dryness, woody hops, pears, boozey notes & a little caramel & green appleskin up front. Dryness, pears, booze & oakyness as this warms, plus some pine & citrus hop showing up late to the party, slight butterscotch notes. Finishes dry, piney, boozey & slightly fruity, plus a little bit of caramel

MF: Medium bodied, slight carbonation, actually thins out as this warms

A pretty run of the mill American Barleywine. Rough on the edges. I know these guys can do better. The barrel-aged one is better, but still nothing to crow about...

I am sure this will get better with age

 785 characters

Photo of BlurryVisi0n
3.57/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Served in a snifter glass. Embalmer '12 bottle dated Jul 18, 12-poured 12/04/2013.

Appearance: Thick bodied cloudy amber body with quite a few bubbles all over the place. An off-white head is quite thin with a vigorous pour rising to maybe 1/8".

Smell: Light rum scent that comes and goes. I am sorry to say but this brew has o potency when it comes to scent.

Taste: Strong alcohol flavors that remind you a bit of wood. It lacks complexity which is okay with with me. Barley notes that feel slightly fruity. That's really about it.

Mouth: Comes off a notch dry, feeling a bit toasty at the end. Is it sticky? maybe just a bit and it is what saves the "feel" rating of this beer.

Overall: Not a bad brew but considering it's price and the at least twenty other barleywines that are out there I would suggest skip. I am not knocking it, i just have had the pleasure of having quality over this brew, grab a glass and judge for yourself...Salud!

 951 characters

Photo of Danny1217
3.59/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours an orange color with an inch of white head that dissipates over the course of about a minute. Lots of lacing.
Bit hoppy aroma. Definitely smells like an IPA. Floral with some pine notes. Not too much else on the nose, but it's pretty nice though not too complex.
The taste is completely hop forward as well. Fairly bitter with some pine and floral notes. Bitter, floral, slightly spicy.
Medium bodied with lively carbonation.

Not a bad beer by any means, but it doesn't fit my definition of a barleywine. This beer is completely hop forward, so I can really only compare it to a double IPA. As a DIPA, it is a solid beer, but doesn't quite measure up to the competition out there.

 688 characters

Photo of Zorro
3.6/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Clear copper colored beer with a small white head. Looks awfully mild for a barleywine.

Scent is sweet malt and pine with a noticeable alcohol scent. Pine, wood, tea and scent of pecan.

Starts off tasting of toffee and caramel with a buttery after taste. A little sweet it is woody and nutty with malt candy flavors. Slight melon flavor.

Mouthfeel is good.

Mild tasting barleywine that packs a hidden punch. Consume with caution.

 433 characters

Photo of freed
3.62/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Had this at Widmer's Gasthaus.

This ale has a surprising clarity to it - and a rather thin amber look to it. You'd be expecting their oktoberfest just on its looks.

However, as soon as it gets within olfactory range - you know its a barleywine. The brazen spicy aroma seems almost too aggressive, and almost masks the malt. I had to let the ale warm a bit before the aroma became so aggressive, but it wanted to get out.

The taste is also quite boisterous with spices. Molases, cloves, ginger, cinnamon all come as a bit of a shock compared to is somewhat sparse body, as does the somewhat excessive alcoholic content.

I really ought to try this again come winter - I might be more appreciative of its directness. Now though - its a bit too much on the decorations without having a satisfying bready body.

 818 characters

Photo of Vierenner
3.64/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I once again tried a beer with the hope it would be surprisingly good ... not this beer. Lesson learned is to check Beer Advocate first ... I wouldn't have purchased this one. I prefer and have had more maltier barleywines, so I was hoping to find that quality in this one ... not the case.

Just a hoppy, high potency beer.

 324 characters

Photo of csiewert
3.65/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Very sweet barley wine that gets the job done. Pours a nice red color with very sticky white foamy head. Smells very sweet and fruity. The taste is thick with fruity flavors and malty sweetness. Almost a little too sweet for my liking. Mouthfeel is a little harsh but finishes with not much harsh aftertaste. This beer is a good change of pace.

 344 characters

Photo of Pencible
3.7/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: This poured a cloudy copper with some off white head.
S: It smelled like orange and copper hops, with sweet caramel and earthy bread crust.
T: It tasted like sweet caramel and earthy bread, with some bitter citrus and copper hops. It had a bitter and waxy aftertaste.
M: It was somewhat thick with lots of carbonation. Fairly lively body.
D: This was a decent barleywine with average scent and taste and body. The finish was a bit harsh, and the alcohol was noticeable, so it was not super easy to drink. Age would probably help, but this will likely never be great.

 569 characters

Photo of biboergosum
3.73/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle, the '12 version, mit 'Bravo' Hopfen.

This beer pours a slightly hazy, medium copper amber colour, with one fat finger of weakly puffy, loosely foamy, and generally bubbly ecru head, which leaves some melting snowbank lace around the glass as it speedily abates.

It smells of semi-sweet bready caramel malt, candy sugar, reduced apple compote, dark orchard fruit - fig, date, and prunes, mostly - and still heady earthy, leafy, and floral hops, with more than a soupcon of bristling booziness. The taste is gritty, grainy pale and caramel malt, weak toffee pudding, a certain musty, been stored way too long red wine fruitiness, further fig, date, and cherry cordial notes, a mildly clammy yeastiness, a faintly acerbic woodiness, some late-arriving drupe esters, a touch of wet tobacco, and understated weedy, leafy, and floral hops - the north of 20-proof alcohol doing well to remain in the shadows.

The bubbles are fairly underwhelming in their middling, pithy frothiness, the body a decent medium weight, but like the aforementioned yeast, kind of clammy in its stab at smoothness. It finishes off-dry, as the grainy caramel malt starts to apply itself towards the English side of things, given the turtling behavior of the purported Yankee Doodle Dandy hops here.

Yeah, two years (+) on, and the hops are not peppy and do not get all American on my palate, you say? Big fucking surprise. Anyways, the teetering towards British quarters is thus duly understandable, especially given the otherwise well-rendered, and enjoyably drinkable maltiness, one which is easily quaffable, with the only caveat being that, damn, girl, this is one boozy mo-fo, once you get up close and suitably tight with it!

 1,722 characters

Photo of BeerAdvocate
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%

From BeerAdvocate magazine Issue #70 (November 2012):

This years version is brewed with a relatively new hop (Bravo) for the aroma addition. Very intense both in hopping and alcohol, there lies the conundrum. Do you age this one to mellow out the alcohol and hope the hops don’t wither too quickly or throw caution to the wind and drink it fresh now. We can say that drinking it now was well worth it though have a spare bottle to see where this one goes.

STYLE: American Barleywine
ABV: 10.2%

LOOK: Deep copper hue, crystal clear, showy lacing display

SMELL: Spicy, citrus rind, passion fruit, pipe tobacco, marmalade, estery, catty, evergreen, fresh grass

TASTE: Incredibly smooth, creamy, full bodied, bitter throughout, pungent, citrus zest, grainy, brown sugar, ripe peaches, boozy warmth, leafy, hop resin, pithy, drying finish

 863 characters

Photo of BigMcLargeHuge
3.76/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled at Toronado 2009 Barleywine Festival.
Pours clear deep gold with copper core and nice off white head. The mild aroma has notes of dark fruitiness, some sweet malts and floral hops. The taste is very much to English barleywine style to me with rich chewy dark fruity esters coming from prunes, cherries and ripe plums. It slowly takes on sweet malts and a hint of caramelization. Nice brew that is right on the mark now.

 427 characters

Photo of puboflyons
3.78/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

From the 2012 batch. Dated July 19, 2012. Sampled on April 20, 2014 so not quite two years old.

Drinking at about 55 degrees. Lovely mahogany-amber-reddish pour leading up to a lingering, lacing off-white head. Invites me in.

Even after almost two years the aroma is still bold and forward with sweet roasted barley malts, a touch of fruit, and a mildly earthy hop sensation.

The body is a little under medium but it is smooth.

The taste also brings out all those barley malt characters and a low bitter finish. The 10.2% ABV has not faded all that much. This still has plenty of alcohol punch but not so much in the taste.

 629 characters

Photo of jellikit
3.8/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: A semi-cloudy, amber ale with little to no head.

S: fig. Caramel. Flowers.

T: figs and raisins. Caramel. Alcohol. Bitter at the end but not too much. Sweet'ish.

M: Medium carbonation. Big body.

O: pretty solid Barleywine. Would buy again.

 263 characters

Photo of Cylinsier
3.87/5  rDev 0%

22 oz bottle

Pours a clear amber color with a yellowish white head, fine and about a quarter inch thick, retains well and dissipates to a lacing.

Smells of rich caramel and apple malts along with fruity and piney fresh hops.

Taste is of caramel and sweet crisp apple mixed with piney fresh hops and a hint of maple.

Full body with stinging carbonation on the roof of the mouth. Warms a bit going down.

A good but not quite great hoppy barleywine. Definitely worth a try for fans of the style or for hop heads, but there are better barleywines out there.

 570 characters

Photo of CalgaryFMC
3.93/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasting notes: Initial impression is quite floral, woody. Recalls an extra-strength English IPA with some added leafy American hop character. Some peach and mango-like fruity notes. Tea-like. A little soapy. Some cherry and walnut esters. A whiff of allspice. Brandy-like booze is well-concealed and sneaks up a bit. Everything is well-integrated, smooth, almost creamy. Deep malt backbone that recalls bran muffins. Low key carbonation. Initially understated barleywine that packs some heat as one wades through a snifter.

 523 characters

Photo of metter98
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: The beer is clear amber-orange in color and has a light to moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a quarter finger high off white head that died down, leaving a large patch of bubbles in the center, a collar around the edge and some lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: Light to moderate aromas of caramel malts are present in the nose along with some faint hints of floral hops. Notes of toffee also become apparent as the beer warms up.
T: The taste is similar to the smell and has flavors of caramel and toffee along with hints of sweetness and a very slight amount of bitterness from the hops.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation with notes of warming from the alcohol.
O: I found this barleywine to be quite drinkable compared to other beers in the style because it's not overly sweet or cloying and it also hides the alcohol very well from the taste. If you let the beer warm up, it will become a little more complex and start exhibiting aromas and flavors of toffee.

Note: 2012 vintage

 1,068 characters

Photo of jmdrpi
3.95/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

22 oz, fresh 2013 vintage

rusty copper orange color, thin off white head that fades to a whisp of a covering. smell is a bit boozy, and strong hop flavor - fruit and pine flavors. taste has a good hearty caramel malt flavor to hold up the bitter hops. slight alcohol taste, good balance. thinner body, but slick oily mouthfeel, moderate carbonation.

overall - a little bit hot, but solid barleywine

 401 characters

Photo of IceAce
3.95/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750mo bottle Labeled 'Annual Employe Meeting ~ April 1, 2004

Well, this 10.9% ABV beauty has been aged for almost 1½ years and autumn-like weather has brought out my thirst for a big, bad, barleywine...let's see if this one qualifies.

Pours an orange / brown body with slow CO² streamers rising from the chalice bottom. The thin white foam cap rapidly dissipates. At first glance, the nose resembles bigfoot...sans hops. As it warms, however, the aroma is ripe with candied fruits,figs, and dates.

Entry features light carbonation on the front of the tongue and the midtaste steals the show with a caramelized sugar starter followed by the taste of dates and ripe figs. The finish is fluffy candi sugar and the full warming effects of previously undetected alcohol.

While this bottle was a limited edition, the draught version lives every winter at the Gasthaus in Portland, Oregon. This is highly recommended is you shoould be in the area.

 954 characters

Photo of TheSixthRing
3.97/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewing Old Embalmer '12, bottled July 18th, 2012.

Appearance - Pours a hazy, orangish amber color with a white, finger width head. Average retention. Lacing is spotty at best.

Smell - Loads of caramel notes on the first whiff. Moderate bread. Minor hints of astringency. Faint chocolate.

Taste - Predominant caramel and toffee notes. Hints at berry sweetness. Finishes sweet with a touch of heat, and a lingering moderate citrus bitterness.

Moutfheel - Full-bodied, with light, but tingly carbonation. Sticky on the lips, but goes down like a beer with lesser body.

Overall - At this stage, reminiscent of Mendocino's Eye of the Hawk, with a bit more kick. Loads of caramel flavor backed by strong fruity ester character. Still has a touch of hop character, even with 5 months of age on it. At $4 a bottle, I must have purchased it at a closeout discount. Hopefully there's still another bottle or two, because I'd love to get a good year or two of age on this thing.

 975 characters

Photo of mactrail
3.98/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The old Embalmer is back for 2012. Bottled July 19, thank you Widmer for a clear date. Something about that golden light brown color is quite appealing. Poured in my Crooked Line 1/3 litre tulip. Not a tall head but a nice cap of foam and loads of fine prickly carbonation on the tongue.

For a strong beer, this is extremely pleasing and highly sippable. A nice balance between the inevitable sweet malt, the hot alcohol, and some bitter hops. It is not as bitter as Bigfoot, say, nor as sweet as the typical Barleywine. If you don't like Barleywines, try this one. It borders on being acidic, but with the spritzy mouthfeel and dry, fruity finish, it's a winner. Just a whiff of raisins and canteloupe, a nutty taste, and the long malty aftertaste prickled with those hops.

This is more like a mixed drink, some kind of dry whiskey liqueur and club soda. "This year's version features Bravo hops that lend earthy and floral qualities..." according to the label. Bravo, which I had never heard of, are described as a "super high alpha variety."

 1,046 characters

Photo of tdm168
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A - caramel amber with a soft lacing of pure white head that fades but leaves nice lacing on the glass.

S - bready, caramel, candy sugar; intensely malty aroma

T - bread, caramel, candy sugar, some citrus, bitter finish, some underlying sweetness in the finish as well; spicy alcohol that warms the throat

M - warm, a bit thin at times, medium to full bodied

This is a decent barleywine. Just as advertised it showcases "copious amounts of malts". The bravo hops in this '12 edition offer a big bitterness similar to a vegetable-like bitterness and some citrus notes throughout. My only complaint is that this beer is a bit thin and alcohol is a bit intense. I wish I had another bottle to age for a year or two. Once this beer blends and mellows, I bet it would be fantastic. Even relatively fresh (5 months old) it's pretty decent.

 837 characters

Photo of lordofthewiens
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter, this beer was a cherry amber color, very bright. It had a thin white head that left a little lace.

Aroma of sweet fruit and earthy hops. There seemed to be a little oak also.

Nice taste of cherries and some plums. Still sweet. Mildly hoppy.

Nice beer. I'm writing this review while drinking a 2012 Bigfoot. Old Embalmer is milder, smoother, and less aggressive. Very enjoyable.

I think it would be worth cellaring.

 441 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
Old Embalmer from Widmer Brothers Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 209 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • 10 Years of BeerAdvocate Magazine

    We're celebrating 10 years of BA mag with $10 print subscriptions for US residents!