Old No. 23
Bristol Brewing Company

Old No. 23Old No. 23
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American Barleywine
Ranked #224
Ranked #16,419
3.91 | pDev: 11.51%
Bristol Brewing Company
Colorado, United States
Very Good
Old No. 23Old No. 23
Notes: An annual Bristol tradition, Old No. 23 revives an English farmhouse brewery practice of making a complex ale to set aside for special occasions. Our version, while painstaking and time-consuming to brew, rewards the connoisseur with an ale that has the depth and complexity of a good brandy or single malt scotch. Massive quantities of malt and hops, a long aging time and limited availability make this a special ale worthy of its reputation.
Reviews: 57 | Ratings: 78 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by StonedTrippin:
Photo of StonedTrippin
3.97/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a monster barleywine, actually pouring lighter jack daniels color in the glass, with almost no head, just a dab of white foamies. smells like charcoaled whiskey, vanilla, and grapenut cereal. alcohol nose too. taste matches, very potent but mellow, like an old ass glass of scotch. this has all the same vibes. mouthfeel is nice and smooth, but only a tiny bit of carbonated spunk. overall is nice barleywine, and it wouldnt take many to be wallaby ted's brother either. not bristol's best, but this would be outstanding in any other state

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More User Reviews:
Photo of humanawho
4.79/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

fresh 2008 bottle
A - very dark for a barleywine, deep dark ruby red; with a strong cream colored head

S - great balance of the piny flowery aroma with sweet caramel aroma

T - again great balance, not overly sweet, but great candied fig flavor, the hopes come through but just in the background, nice light caramel flavor

M - nice medium-heavy body fits the beer well

D - for me this is too drinkable

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Photo of Traquairlover
3.41/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Bitterbill for this brew.

12-oz bottle poured into a tulip.

A = Deep red brown with pretty good clarity, forms a firm creamy-buttermilk yellow head with decent retention, light lacing as it recedes to a thin layer of foam over entire surface.

S = Not as much to this as what I would like. Some underlying pine and earthy hops notes, up front smells of biscuits and sugar cookie dough, a slight herbal, vegetal smell that is not quite to my tastes.

T = Tastes make up for the smells somewhat. This is a pretty simple example of the style. Fair balance slightly peppery, spicy hops mixed with syrup flavors. Decent balance for the style.

M = Medium to medium-heavy body, good mouthcoating, not overly carbonated though the alcohol is noticeable on the tongue.

D = Decent, I really do not want more than one, but I can finish it easily enough and would certainly happily have one on another ocasion.

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Photo of minterro
3.87/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Bought at Little's Wine and Liquor store. Vintage 2012 store cellared (about a year and 3 months in the bottle). Poured into a snifter, paired with honey roasted peanuts.

A&S: Dark burgundy colored beer, almost opaque, no presence of carbonation or unfiltered elements. Off-white head appears in a thin layer when vigorously poured, dies very quickly. Spectacular aroma initially consisting of: tons of candy sugars, dried apricots, . No real sense of alcohol.

T&M: Upfront very sweet. Midway through I'm getting pipe tobacco and the sweet become a bit more bitter. From the aroma and initial taste I figured the finish to be sweet, however surprising, there is a mild bitter/earthy hop tone to the finish. Ridiculously undrinkability even without considering it's > 11% ABV. On the flat side in carbonation. Heavy body but not chewy.

Overall: Good beer for the price, sitting at sub 4 bucks a bottle it is a pretty good barleywine for it's price. This one sitting at plus 1 year was surprisingly a bit too mellow, would like to see what it is like at 6 months.

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Photo of Dentist666
3.4/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of htomsirveaux
3.92/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle tried 7 Sep 2010. Served in the 0.3 L Unibroue snifter. 2009 vintage.

Small brown head, medium carbonation. CLoudy reddish brown with a lot of floaties. Boozy, sugary, rum and caramel aroma. Fairly sweet. Lots of dark fruit, brown sugar, molasses and ethanol. Silky mouthfeel. Medium to heavy body. Lots of legs. Nutty and toasty. Aftertaste is a lingering sweetness, vanilla and warm rum, light bitterness and a touch of candied orange peel.

Seems to lean a little more towards a British barelywine.

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Photo of shippos
2.52/5  rDev -35.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Poured with no head whatsoever just a thin skim on the surface, did finally get one after swirling in the glass a bit. Hazy deep red-orangey hue. Very sweet aroma, a little honey I think - no a lot of honey. Very syrupy mouthfeel with a slight hop bitterness in the aftertaste. Not exactly one of the best barleywines I've had but what the hell it was only $2 a bottle anyway.

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.41/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from bottle (room temp) a cloudy dark amber with a small head of foam that... remained throughout my session

The smell is very strong of malt sweetness....I'm hoping that this doesn't translate to an overly sweet taste.

The taste is very malty up front but in the background, some hop bitterness is noted and prevents this BWSA from being too sweet. As I take more sips, I find that this is one very well balanced and smooth tasting brew of the style and the drinkablity is *very* good considering the abv. Yum!!

Bottom line: I'm glad I bought 4 bottles of this stuff (2 are going to Nutbrown as part of a huge trade)cuz I find it to be a wonderful example of the style; my next trip to Ft Collins, I'm buying more if there's any left!!

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.22/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sampling thanks to prAna! LAbel is nothced at the 2002 mark.
Poured a chilled sample into a BruRM Bunghammer snifter.
The beer pours a rich mahagony color with a beige surface layer of head. The head fades to nothing slowly. Aroma is rich and fruity. I get plums, raisins, brown sugar and maple syrup. Very light almost non-existant carbonation. Thick robust body.
Flavors are intense, very sweet with molasses and borwn sugar up front, also a raisiny hit here and there. The flavor flows to a slightly bitter finish, which I am attributing to the alcohol, due to the warming in my belly. The beer is still very smooth and easy to drink, just not a session beer. Very enjoyable and tasty if you like bigger brews.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.88/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of Beerandblues2: Poured a dark hazy amber color ale with a nice medium foamy head with average retention and good lacing. Aroma is quite hoppy with some citrus notes but is well balance with some sweet malt. Taste is less hoppy then the aroma was suggesting with a good presence of sweet malt. Light presence of dry fruits such as figs and prunes could be accentuated in a bit more. Body was above average with some medium carbonation and no alcohol was discernable. Overall, I thought this was a good barleywine tending more toward the English style then the American overly hoppy style.

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Photo of paulie
3.85/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle with cutout identifying "2002" vintage.

Pours deep, deep amber with almost no carbonation or head. Aroma is all caramel, and lots of it, with almost no hops. Mouthfeel is full but not chewy. Strong caramel flavor with balancing bitterness in the finish but little hop flavor. Despite all the malt flavor, the sweetness is completely under control. A bit of alcohol bite, especially in the finish, but not so much that it gets you in the throat. Way too drinkable for its alcohol level.

Overall, this is a very drinkable barleywine. Not nearly as much hop presence as you'd expect in an American bw, but strongly flavored and very smooth.

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Photo of mentor
3.67/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle notched on the 2005. Pours a half finger cream-tan colored head that falls rather rapidly. The beer is very cloudy and orange brown in color. Smells of soured caramel. A hint of citrusy hop spice and some drying malt character. This dry is faint and I can't tell if it's chocolate or biscuit malt. Taste is smooth creamy malt sweet with lingering bright fruity esters. Caramel. A hint of alcohol and a hint of chocolate are detected through the sip. The aftertaste is a charge of piney hops. In further tastes, I find that this beer contains a woody character that is the same flavor I get from maple syrup that I've boiled down from sap. Perhaps a bit smokey. The flavors in this beer are not 'in your face' like many american barley wines. I would describe the flavors as tame or delicate. The alcohol is definitely under the wet of this beer. I predict that a year would mellow what little alc roughness I can find to make this a malty treat. The beer is md-light in the mouth, but does have a dextrinous thickness.

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Photo of Crosling
3.88/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Copper color. Brown sugar, dried fruit and caramel in the aroma. I find the flavor to be very rich and well balanced, although it isn’t as expressive as you would think it would be, considering it’s an 11% barley wine. It has a very nice and well balanced vanilla, mocha and caramel flavor and the hops are pretty subdued, for the ibu’s and hops used. The body is creamy and provides a nice mouth experience. Gotta say I like this beer. Wish another store besides Liquor Max stocked it, so I could stock up the cellar.

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Photo of Beaver13
3.4/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle, dated 2007. Pours a murky brown with a thin head that quickly dissipates to a thin collar.

The aroma is sweet caramel, dark fruits, molasses, melon, pine, and some spicy alcohol.

The flavor is surprisingly subdued - sweet cola and vanilla with some bitter burnt medicinal alcohol at the finish. The mouthfeel is is fairly full with a washed out watery texture.

Overall, it's not bad, but the lack of flavor and watery texture was disappointing.

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Photo of CisPiece88
4.13/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Photo of filabrazilia
3.38/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazy dark copper with an off white head that lines the perimeter of the glass. The head leaves a pattern of dotted lace on the glass as I drink.

There is a smell of bready caramel and alcohol in the nose. The aroma is not as complex as I would expect from a barley wine. This is okay but not great.

The taste is remarkably sweet, almost like a thin maple syrup. This is countered by an astringent finish. A tad too sharp for my liking. The flavor is interesting but not particularly memorable, except for the cherry note in the finish.

This is a full bodied beer that is really thick and chewy. The hops are pronounced in the finish to take the bite out of the sweetness.

This beer was a little disappointing to drink. It's not bad but not what I expect from a barley wine. I guess I'll have to have that Thomas Hardy that is beckoning to me from the fridge. Can I hold out 'til Christmas.

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Photo of Fish113d
3.77/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Note: bottled in 2002...

Pouring into a pint at room temperature from a 12 oz. bottle, it pours an amber and ruby color leaving a 1/2" thick, foamy, sustaining head with lots and lots of cling on the glass! Very hazy appearance as well, as not much light gets through.

Aroma is very appealing. Caramel brown malts are accompanied by a fruit aroma (apples and berries), along with some grassy hops that seem to take over the aroma just a tad. I like the aroma but rate it not so high for the style.

Taking a sip, lots of caramel brown malts come through to my palete, along with a very sweet plum flavor. The hops seem to jump through to my tongue toward the swallow, along with some mild alcohol burn...Especially mild for a 11%-er!

Carbonation is rather light, and the body is very full and smooth. The alcohol burn, which is not TOO big, helps make this more drinkable and enjoyable. I was suprised that the ratings so far have not been so good for this one...I seemed to enjoy it very much!

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Photo of Zorro
2.77/5  rDev -29.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Sampled due to the kindness of gbontrag.

This pours a thick syrupy medium brown hazy beer with absolutely no head formation at all.

Smell is sweet malty and spicy. Abundant Malt-O-Meal odor and pineapple hop aroma. Lesser scents of soy sauce and walnuts.

Taste is neutral VERY malty and nutty at the beginning. Thin flavor with a malt hit that just isn't compensated for by the amount of hop bitterness. Big malt hits followed by hop bitterness that just can't clean the palette between sips.

Mouthfeel is certainly thick.

This is a beer without any real drinkability to it. This hides the alcohol level well but the malt level is just plain cloying. This is pretty much thick malt liquor.

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Photo of ColoradoBobs
4.14/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Murky dark copper color under a scant light tan head that immediately fades to a bit of foam.

Smell is sweet malt, caramel malt, dark apple cider, pears, nutmeg, burned cherries. If this was warm I would swear it's spiced cider.

The burned cherries dominate the taste. Malty warm, with a notable alcohol presence in the back of the throat. Then the dark chocolate (dark chocolate!? Oh yeah!) comes roaring to the front as the beer warms a bit. Interesting. In the finish is where the hops come in: floral, pine, bitter. Pretty complex flavors.

Mouthfeel is okay for a barleywine. Not as thick and syrupy as I would like.

Drinkability? Well, it IS 11.25%, so what it is is strong. But, for such a strong brew, it seems easy enough to drink. Mind you, this is a "stand-alone" beer, and it demands your full attention.

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Photo of SkinnyElvis
3.85/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to babydoc for this beer from my Wants for the BA Anny club. 2006 bottle. Pours with almost no head. Smells very sweet with a bit of cherries. Taste is also sweet and a bit boozy. Not a ton of flavor but it still is tasty. Mouthfeel and drinkability are affected a bit by the booziness. Pretty good barleywine. Since the flavor is a little tame, I don't think I would age this one.


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Photo of woodychandler
4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I have no idea how I acquired this bottle, but I know that it has been hanging around for a while and even made the move to my new digs a couple of years ago. The notch on the label indicates a 2006 vintage! Holy Old, Batman.

From the bottle: "Hearty, warming, slightly eccentric. Enjoy!"

I went with a nice, gentle pour so as not to disturb the mound of lees at the bottom of the bottle. This resulted in mere wisps as far as head was concerned. Color was a deep ruby/garnet red with NE-quality clarity, reinforcing the importance of leaving the lees for the end. Nose was extremely malty sweet, like caramel. It is quite warm in the mouth, although not outright hot as it may have been in its youth. It starts out with a caramel sweetness, but gives 'way to a dark fruitiness, like black cherries and plums. Wow! Say, it seems to have some sort of hypnotic effect also as I am getting sleepy, very sleepy. Finish was warm, sweet, narcotizing. Man, I don't know that I was ready for this. It was very pleasant with the age on it, but I wonder what it would be like young. I may not want to find out.

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Photo of brentk56
4.17/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a clear dark amber color with a head that quickly disappears

Smell: Dried fruit and woody aroma

Taste: Starts with a prickly flavor of dried fruits such as pears, apples and peaches; mid-palate, an earthy hop bitterness flashes in; after the swallow, the residual sweetness returns and carries through to the finish

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied with prickly carbonation

Drinkability: A very accessible barleywine with a number of sweet and bitter tastes going for it

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Photo of gbontrag
4.4/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

smells like a beer secondhand store: Barrels of fermenting fruits, hops spilled across old wooden tables with beer stains...
Tastes sweet, tart and strong - filtered through charcoal. A total delight. There's not a few caramels wrapped in herbal tissue there's pots of caramel bubbling over, and bowls of ripe grapes, apples, and citrus. Glorious. Lightly colored drink, with lacing, but little froth. This isn't a great review, but it's the fastest I've ever drank a barley wine. It's spot on, and delicious.

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Photo of hopdog
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle acquired in trades with Kevin and snowtiger (thanks!). 2006 vintage.

Poured a medium brown color with an averaged sized off white head. Aromas of caramel, chocolate, dark fruits, and citrus. Tastes of caramel, roast, chocolate, toffee, and lighter dark fruits.

Notes from: 12/31/07

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Photo of ddarden
4.25/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Picked this up at the brewery back in October. I poured this into a pint glass and it was deep reddish brow with a thin white head that fell very quickly. It had nice lacing and low carbonation. Old #23 smelled great with floral hop smell and very nice malt aroma. The taste had a good hop flavor on the front end that quickly balanced out with malt. The aftertaste had good bitterness with a pleasant alcohol warming. The hops linger on the tongue for a while, but this is on the thinner side of barley wines as far as mouthfeel. The overall drinkability of this beer in very good...maybe too good for a barley wine at 11%. Would definitely recommend trying this if you get a chance.

PS: I guess Uncle Flip and I had the same impression due to our scores.

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Old No. 23 from Bristol Brewing Company
Beer rating: 88 out of 100 with 78 ratings