Old No. 23 | Bristol Brewing Company

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Old No. 23Old No. 23
Very Good
73 Ratings
Old No. 23Old No. 23

Brewed by:
Bristol Brewing Company
Colorado, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.25%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 08-09-2002

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 73 |  Reviews: 56
Reviews by paulie:
Photo of paulie
3.85/5  rDev -0.5%
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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More User Reviews:
Photo of humanawho
4.79/5  rDev +23.8%
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 -11.9%
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 0%
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 Beaver13
3.4/5  rDev -12.1%
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 SkinnyElvis
3.85/5  rDev -0.5%
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 russpowell
4.02/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a hazed up orange/chestnut with 2 fingers of off-white head.
A little lacing & head retention

S: Huge breadyness, dates, plums, figs, but fades as this warms

T: Plums, breadyness & earthy hops bitterness, with tobbaacco up
front. Bitter chocolate follows, herbal hops smack down ensues as this warms, along with warming booze. Finishes super earthy hoppy & dry

MF: Chewy with low carbonation, as this warms it gets a little sharp from the hops

Drinks fairly easy, but just not as pleasing/balanced as prior versions IMO, still not bad at all!

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Photo of UncleFlip
4.34/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Big thanks to my dear friend Mr. Darden, who gave me this 2005 bottle on the night Comedy Central cut the Free The Hops segment from the Daily Show. :( (It ran the next night.)

Deep copper, almost a reddish brown. Thin to no head, even on an aggressive pour. Slightly hazy.

Smell is very deep, rich, and malty. It'sd a lovely smell, with a spicy hop overtone. Very nice.

Complex flavour right up front. Sweet and dry all at the same time. There's a strong, deep, velvety maltiness with fruity character to it. At the same times, a floral yet very sharp hop spiciness sings chorus in the background, sometimes taking a solo. Not perfect, but well done!

Thick liquid on the tongue- with a sharp but low carbonation that seems to go away quickly.

A bit heavy for a sessioner- unless you like barley wines in your seesions. I've done that b once or twice, and this one would be good for that. Complex enough to make me want more.

Be well

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Photo of stampfler07
4.5/5  rDev +16.3%

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.88/5  rDev +0.3%
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 jaydoc
3.71/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of Zorro
2.77/5  rDev -28.4%
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 gbontrag
4.4/5  rDev +13.7%
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 barleywinebrewer
3.85/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

thanks to mikeys01 for this via trade! Always love to try new barleywines I can't get here. Bottle is notched 2005.

A - Rich copperin color. For 80% of the pour there was no head at all. A bit concerned I poured the remainder a touch aggresive and that did the trick. Thin tan head that disappears but enough light bubbles coming up to confirm all is good.

S - Nice mix of rich malt, floral hops with a underlying heat.

T - Tasty malts, caramel / toffee interwoven with light spicy hops and a warm alcohol feel.

M - Medium / thick body. Enough carbonation to keep it on the right side of flat but by no means a standard heady pint.

D - Intriguing. One leaves me thinking another would be nice. Alas I only have one.

I would definitely buy a 6 of this and enjoy over a couple of years. Has some characteristics I'd like to see how they age. Cheers!

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

Reviewed from notes

Dark copper/amber pour with a finger of bubbly head. The aroma is biscuity malts with some caramel sweetness and a huge dose of floral hops. There is some waxiness present. The flavor is surprisingly low on the sweetness, and turns into more of an earthy hop and biscuit mix. The wax is still present. The mouthfeel is on the full side of medium and carbonation is normal for the style. This one was decent, probably not a standout but I would drink it again if offered.

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Photo of jwc215
4.06/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to bitterbill for this one!

Notched in 2007 (larger) and 2010 (smaller) - I suppose that it means that it was made in 2007 and best by 2010...not sure though...in any case -

Pours hazy/murky orangeish amber with some lacing. Pretty muddy-looking - head doesn't last too long, though it holds on a bit - lacing saves it some.

The smell is of caramel with pine/citrus and brown sugar. It has the classic American BW aroma - and quite robustly, at that!

The taste is of caramel and brown sugar with lemon, grapefruit and pine/resin. It's malty with a nice hop background, especially in the finish. Alcohol shows in a warming way.

Full-bodied, slightly syrupy, mildly carbonated.

This is a very drinkable, balanced BW - glad I didn't wait for closer to end of freshness year, as there is a nice hop touch. This has classic American BW written all over it - and is a nice one (other than mediocre-ish apperance) at that!

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Photo of crobinso
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of woodychandler
4/5  rDev +3.4%
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 hopdog
4.27/5  rDev +10.3%
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 BradC
4/5  rDev +3.4%

Pours a thick dark reddish brown. Bottle from 2009, about 5 years old. Not much aroma, maybe a sweet smell. Tastes sweet, a burnt raisin, toffee flavor, tobacco notes, just enough bitterness to balance it out. Very light carbonation and pretty easy drinking. All in all, held up well for bing 5 years old.

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.22/5  rDev +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 allforbetterbeer
4.3/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2009 vintage poured into a stange glass.

Pours with two fingers of creamy tan head which slowly recedes down to a very thin layer of the course of five minutes. This process leaves a wonderful crust of lace on the glass. Body is clear and dark crimson.

The nose is formed primarily of faded hops and strong sweet malts. Subtle yet vibrant. Vanilla (smells oak aged) and wood are present on the side. A touch of leafy hops and some caramel show up with some swirling.

A wonderful melding of roasted malts and sweet caramel blend to make the bulk of this flavor interesting and complex. The flavor is well rounded and formed, presenting in more of a singular fashion than in a way that takes the palate through twists and turns. The beginning of the flavor is similar to the middle and end, and it is all good. Whatever hops there were have faded some and yielded the typical juicy sweetness, wich pairs alongside the roasted malts in a pleasing way. Caramel and a little vanilla is present as well. The aftertaste is a little lacking, and amounts to a slightly bitter malty feel.

Full bodied and carbonated to smoothness, the mouthfeel of this beer is very close to spot on. Drinkability is excellent considering the high ABV. Very well hidden alcohol, I am truly impressed. I have had beers with almost half this ABV that tasted and felt more alcoholic.

Conclusion: My favorite beer from Bristol, and I like some of their beers quite a bit. I was really hoping this would be good and it is better than I expected. I can see many people on this site not being impressed because it doesn't smack you in the face the way so many American beer drinkers desire. This beer takes slightly more appreciation to enjoy than that...

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Photo of kojevergas
2.43/5  rDev -37.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.25 | overall: 2.5

12.6.14: First impressions below. Full review to follow.

2014 vintage 12 fl oz brown glass bottle with a branded pry-off pressure cap served into an Odell tulip. Expectations are average given the brewery.

Served cold and allowed to warm over the course of consumption.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

A: 1 finger wide. Off white colour. Pretty average for a barleywine across the board.

Body colour is a depleted pale red. Not a solid or strong colour. Translucent and transparent, but not vibrant.

Appears well-carbonated. It's not a great looking barleywine, but there are no egregious issues.

Sm: Heavy on the fruity esters. Cherry dominates. Biscuit malt. Caramalt. Supple fruit. Fruitskin. Red apple skin. Syrupy and sweet - perhaps evoking malt extract. Red malts. Amber malts.

No yeast character, overt alcohol, or off-notes are detectable.

T: Fruitskin/apple skin, fruity ale esters, fruity hops, amber malts, red malts, malt extract, and dominant cherry. Candied sugar. Okay balance. Sweet - perhaps overly so. It's surprisingly fruit-forward for a barleywine, with virtually none of the notes I'd look for in paragon of the style: no vanilla, caramel, toffee, brown malts, dark malts, marshmallow, traces of oxidation, etc. I can't say I like it much, but it's not a poor beer. Largely uninspired. Shallow, to boot.

Mf: Smooth, wet, crisp, clean, full-bodied, lightly syrupy, thick, and sticky. Has a boozy warmth.

Dr: It's downable but forgettable. A pedestrian and shallow attempt at the style which lacks inspiration. In line with my memories of the other offerings I've had from Bristol - definitely below average. Aside from drinking the remainder of the four-pack, I wouldn't want to try this again.


Age likely won't help it much.

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Photo of ColoradoBobs
4.14/5  rDev +7%
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 mactrail
3.32/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Sharp, grainy, alcohol bomb. Murky is the word. Sweetness touches the lips but departs with a raspy edge. Best feature is the aroma of hot roasted malt, like barley popcorn. Thin and sharp with a harsh alcoholic flavor. Rather bitter, accentuated by the dry mouthfeel, like the malt evaporated.

Bristol is my one of my least favorite Colorado breweries and this doesn't do much to improve my opinion. Still it has some interest and

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Old No. 23 from Bristol Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.87 out of 5 with 73 ratings