Heavy Seas - Below Decks (Barley Wine Style Ale)
Heavy Seas Beer

Heavy Seas - Below Decks (Barley Wine Style Ale)Heavy Seas - Below Decks (Barley Wine Style Ale)
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English Barleywine
3.67 | pDev: 13.62%
Heavy Seas Beer
Maryland, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Heavy Seas - Below Decks (Barley Wine Style Ale)Heavy Seas - Below Decks (Barley Wine Style Ale)
Reviews: 347 | Ratings: 521 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Jadjunk
3.46/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

"An English style barleywine ale that can be enjoyed now or kept "below decks" as it becomes more complex as it ages." Brewed in the style of an English Barleywine ale. Available in 22 oz. bottles and on limited draft. Originally an annual winter release, discontinued following the 2012 season. I will review the most recent release (2012) alongside two older vintages (2011 & 2010).

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle to a snifter glass. Served above 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Appearance) Pours a creamy frothed light caramel tan head over a deep cherry cola body with caramel highlights and high clarity, little sediment and light, relaxed carbonation. Retention is average and lacing is light and spotty. 3.75

(Smell) Bready caramel, toffee malt, moderate grainy esters, some mild fruit syrups of raisin and plum, reserved sweetness and aromatic qualities in general. Potency is mellow. 3.25

(Taste) English malts with a touch of toffee sweetness, light caramel syrup character, light to little fruit profile and not much graininess, fairly shallow flavor profile, perhaps preferable to newcomers of the style who prefer a lighter-bodied barleywine, not particularly satisfactory elsewhere. Concludes with a reserved alcohol finish. 3.5

(Mouthfeel) Texture is slick, residual, lightly oily, mildly dry. Carbonation is mild, generating a light frothiness and a lightly crisp finish. Body is light/medium for an English Barleywine, medium/heavy overall. Balance is slightly grainy over sweet. Alcohol presence is moderate and there are no off characters. 3.5

(Overall) Below Decks comes off to me as a Barleywine ale that doesn't take enough chances to stand out as a reputable Barleywine against other choices. Notably light bodied, with little flavor development of the malt profile or the yeast character. The alcohol profile is certainly there, but without a satisfactory malt backbone, it comes off as forced. The alcohol could easily be dialed down a few percentage points and create an enjoyable and more accessible style but as a barleywine, this is not one of Heavy Seas' stronger styles. 3.5

Vintage Notes:

2011 (3.5 Years Aged): Creamy frothed head of same color but shorter lived, body is a touch more opaque and denser with slightly more sediment, same carbonation. Holds a bit more fruit sugars and molasses than the 2012 batch, although even less malt presence, despite an ever present graininess, shallow potency. The flavor generates some more tart fruitiness and a slight edge of funk over 2012 but suffers from the same level of malt body shallowness with not a lot of malt character nor sweetness to round it out. The texture is slick, residual, lightly creamy, moderately dry. Carbonation is moderate with light frothiness and a moderately crisp finish. Alcohol presence is moderate. While I find this vintage an improvement over the evidently shallow 2012 version, it is still a shadow of its potential in malt body and character.

2010 (4.5 Years Aged): Light foamy head of a softer tan color with the most visual body depth of all, thicker flaked sediment, same carbonation. A trained nose may discern trace caramel and toffee, faint fruit syrups, surprisingly shallow and not particularly potent. The flavor of 2010 has the most caramel and toffee backbone, much better and more thorough malt profile than either of its successors and a slight fruitiness, still incredibly easy drinking at 10%, arguably shallow flavor profile still, but the most satisfactory of all. The texture is slick, lightly sticky, modestly chewy, moderately dry. Body falls shy of moderate for the style, alcohol presence is modest. Compared to the following two years of Barleywines, I can only suspect that corners may have been cut to generate an inferior product in the years that followed, and I think this is arguably the best of the three Barleywine vintages I have tried tonight, although it is still a step behind comparable beers of its style. I do not think that the ingredients going into this beer would make it a good aging beer. I could not predict how well this beer would fare past four years.

Recommended vintage: 2010, or just avoid altogether

Heavy Seas Beer's
Below Decks Barleywine Style Ale

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Photo of jaasen64
3.19/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

2009 vintage, cellar aged and purchased off the shelf at a local store for $5.

A- Pours a murky brownish with a golden hue, slight translucency, decent amount of floaties, almost completely flat with just faint carbonation here and there.

S- Light toffee and caramel muted by cardboard oxidation, not bad but not overly flavorful or aromatic, definitely showing it's age.

T- Light muted toffee, caramel, and butterscotch, just a very faint hint of tartness attributed by the age, finishes with light cardboard oxidation and very faint smooth caramel. Overall the age has smoothed this out nicely but the flavors are very muted with some definite oxidation poking through.

M- Very flat with some light carbonation here and there (doesn't completely ruin the beer though), booze is definitely present but fairly smooth for the age.

O- I've had my fair share of aged beers. While this wasn't terrible, for the style it could be doing a lot better. I've had beers aged 5x longer that have held up much better. While it was definitely worth the $5 to try, it's not something I'll be going back to try anytime soon.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.52/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2012 edition, big beer, and probably not the best choice on the first real hot morning of summer, but whatever, it was next in line. this beer is dark amber in color like good maple syrup, and happens to both look and taste a lot like molasses. some yeast particles, and still showing a nice rich cream head. aromas of burnt sugar and slightly stale caramel malt. plenty of sugar, and plenty of booze. almost has an oak aged mellowness to it, and the alcohol never really shows up, which is possibly a product of its age. its a little too sweet for me in taste, lost in the zone between english and american styles with a strange and out of place hop profile too, which was likely more intense when this was fresh. baking spices in the finish, very autumnal, we probably should have saved this one until fall. big body that just gets impassable as it warms up. cloying sweetness and an interesting high gravity ale yeast. it didn't really hold up super well though, as the grains are a bit skunked out. not a bad brew, but not the crown jewel of the cellar by any measure either.

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Photo of confer
3.98/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Vintage 2009 from the Miller Bier Keller
Pours a coppery brown with just a trace of head and lots of sediment.
The smell when it is first poured is a caramel and port wine smell.
Taste, again when first poured and probably colder than it should be, very interesting.
Deep flavors great sipper. It is surprisingly sweet. The taste will most likely change as it warms.
Low carbonation but not overly thick.
I am a fan, I need to get some more and start the aging process.

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Photo of secondtooth
3.65/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

It must be noted that this is a 4 year-old bottle (dated 2010).

Pours a dark ruby tone, with some sediment. Head is minimal, and lace is just a thin thread.

Nose is fruity, with dried figs, prunes, raisins, and fruitcake being the most prominent aromas I caught. Not bad, and pretty typical of aged barleywines, from my experience.

Taste is similar, with more dried dark fruit and sweet malty notes, and the hops have been muted, relaxed, and tempered with age. Even the alcohol content is slightly subdued. Enjoyable.

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Photo of jmdrpi
3.89/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle, 2009 vintage from the cellar, so at least 4 years old.

appears a deep fairly clear brown. mahogany colored highlights. not much head. boozy rich aroma, sweet toffee and raisins, nice. taste is all malty flavors, but not overly sweet. very smooth. lower carbonation, slick full body. appropriate for the style.

overall - the aroma is quite a bit better than the taste.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
3.06/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The booze is not hidden here at all, as it's got a super astringent boozy finish, with some syrupy fruitiness, and some hoppy bitterness. Barleywine is one of my favorite styles, and when done well, it's awesome. But there's also the chance, like here, that it ends up being a muddled boozy mess. Hard pass here.

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Photo of Apellonious
4.09/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

22 oz bomber from Lil Roberts in concord. 2012 version poured into a tulip glass.

A - ruby red with brown overtones. Thin head moves and dissipates quickly to a thin lace.

S - dark fruit, cherries, malt, baked bread, and the alcohol is no where to be found.

T - dark fruit, biscuits, malt heavy, but I can sense some dry English style hops on the finish.

M - carbonation on the low side , very creamy texture

O - I have had this on tap at Mac's before at a band gig and was quite impressed. This does not disappoint. Would like to pick up another to hold for the winter holidays, as this would be a great winter warmer.

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Photo of BlurryVisi0n
3.96/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Served in a 17oz. snifter glass. (2012 Batch, served 06/09/2013)

Appearance: A deep mahogany body that comes off semi-cloudy. After a vigorous pour the head rises to roughly 1/3" looking an off white with a slight tan to light orange head. Settles quick with even lacing.

Smell:Has a strong whiskey like scent, but goes in and out in a few seconds. Smells good but definitely lacking potency.

Taste: Has a heavy caramel feel, with a deep wooden barrel finish. It feels sweet, almost like butterscotch meets rum with a huge dose of malts.

Mouth: Medium carbonation at best, feels a sticky as gum with a nice sweet finish feeling like melted toffee.

Overrall: Honestly i don't see the knock on this beer, I feel like this is one of Heavy Seas best brews delivering incredible flavor and a huge punch. Too bad this is a seasonal, I picked this up a few months ago and honestly would love to have it again. Grab a glas and drink up....Salud!

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

A red-hued medium-dark brown with some thickness to it but still somewhat opaque, this beer manages a thick cap of head that reaches just over one finger. It shows good retention, only fading slowly to a thick foam that offers good stick and quantity as it lays down a ring followed by patching.
Malty and sweet, this is definitely an English version of the style. Sweet breads make up the bulk with hints of ripe plum and raisin alongside caramel and toffee sweetness, but a floral hops note offers enough for good balance. Alcohol is warming and certainly noticeable at 10%, but never gets to be too much.
A thick and rich full-medium body isn't too filling but offers the support needed for a big brew. It's got enough crispness to be lively without biting too hard for a malt-heavy beer and enough smoothness to make for good drinking.

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Photo of DrinkSlurm
4.18/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured 2012 year from 22oz bottle into crooked stave snifter. $4.99 at total wine in Norwalk, CT. Pours a deep maple syrup looking brown with red hue. Super sweet toffee and dried fruity buiscuity malt aroma. Some alcohol stings the nose...
taste is sweet biscuit malt with lots of sweet dried fruit, caramel, and molasses with a hint of tobacco bitterness. this is very very sweet...but still pleasant and the (assuming) noble hops really balance the sweetness with a nice bitter finish without an overpowering hop flavor or aroma. Its a big beer for sure...and just what I was in the mood for on this chilly rainy day.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.31/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

22 oz bomber (2012 vintage) into a tulip. From notes.

A: Pours a clear dark burgundy color. The head is a one finger light mocha shade. Nothing too noteworthy here, aside from the clarity.

S: Sweet. It's about as sweet as I expected, with many of the expected notes - caramel, raisins, figs, currants, and even a touch of bourbon. Aromatically, it should seem generic, but I find its sugary nature to be very enjoyable here.

T: There is a ton of dark fruit sweetness to start, later supplanted by a chocolaty, caramelly sweet finish. It's fairly uneventful with no real complexity - and no real flaws either. Just an average barleywine designed for dessert purposes.

M: The palate doesn't carry the sweetness that well; it only has decent viscosity and lacks the soft creaminess that would have given it a decadent feel otherwise. The gentle carbonation actually gives it reasonable drinkability.

O: Aside from the aroma, this one is average. I can't complain about it being overly sweet, as it's a pure dessert beer...I can complain about its lack of depth and middling feel, though. In addendum, the one I drank this with REALLY enjoyed it - then again, he isn't a fan of barleywines. Take that however you like.

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Photo of stephenjmoore
3.84/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2011 Vintage

A- Very dark amber body with virtually no head, just a ring of white bubbles around the edges of the glass. Light comes through the body slightly.

S- Big sweet toasted caramel malt. Some sweetness comes through along with big bready malt aromas. Pretty much on par for an English barleywine.

T- Huge malt presence, mainly caramel malt flavor all the way through. The sweetness comes in towards the middle and leaves a pleasant sweet bread flavor. Finish is somewhat boozy, which is surprising for a beer that has been aged for about a year and a half.

M- Somewhat syrupy, but overall pretty good as a sipper. Drinks better as it warms up.

O- Pretty good barleywine. Nothing spectacular, but I enjoyed this one as much, if not more than the variants.

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Photo of davey101
3.89/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

2011 vintage, 22 oz bomber into a DFH signature glass.

A - Pours a clear burnt red/brown color with a finger of light tan foam which fades away quickly. Average lacing.

S - Toffee, caramel, raisins, and some brown sugar. Light alcohol heat.

T - Similar to the nose with some toffee and caramel drenched raisins. Very much an English style BW. A bit boring and plain but still pretty tasty. Chewy and a bit slick, abv is well hidden.

O - For a $6 bomber of a very traditional English BW this is pretty solid stuff. Its also held up very well to two years of age (unlike their stout...)

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Photo of DovaliHops
3.6/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

2012 vintage. Interesting beer I have on my hands here. The nose is nothing to point a stick at... very normal. Malty with some hops. You would think you were sniffing Alaskan Amber at first. Surprisingly, the nose on this beer doesn't grow. After it warms, it still smells malty and grainy. Taste is much different. Sweet vanilla and bourbon. Lovely oak flavors. This beer tastes delicious, just really lacks in the nose. Overall, not much complexity to this one. It has depth... but only when you're searching for it. No puns with the "sea theme"... just not a great beer. A tasty beer at best.

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Photo of tdm168
3.7/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - dark brownish amber with a huge, dense, soft, brownish head that has great retention

S - big bready aroma, caramel, some faint dark fruit

T - very bready, heavy caramel, some dark fruit, alcohol

M - sticky, full bodied, warm, well carbonated

This is somewhat disappointing compared to the two barrel aged versions. This one is very malty which I loved, but the bready malts dominate and the caramel adds more to the sticky mouthfeel than it does to the flavor. The dark fruit notes are there, but they're subtle. I did enjoy this beer, but I think their are better versions of it out there.

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Photo of superspak
3.9/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 ounce bottle into snifter, Fall 2011 bottling. Pours slightly hazy reddish brown color with a 1 finger dense cream colored head with great retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Spotty soapy lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of caramel, raisin, toast, brown sugar, light roast, brown bread, floral, light pine, and herbal earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance, strength, and complexity. Taste of caramel, toast, brown sugar, raisin, brown bread, light toffee, floral, light pine, light roast, and herbal earthiness. Minimal bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, toast, brown bread, brown sugar, raisin, light roast, light toffee, floral, and herbal earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Very nice flavor balance and complexity; though it is not as robust as I would expect for the style; with zero cloying flavors present after the finish. Medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a fairly creamy and slick mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with hardly any warming noticed after the finish; very smooth to sip on. Overall this is a very nice barelywine. Good balance and complexity; and very smooth to sip on. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of streetcommander
4.07/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Served at 51F, into a stemless wine glass... Yes, because I am a heretic.

Appearance was pleasant, with fantastic mahogany color and gray rim-only head.

Smell was malty with an oaky roasted caramel scent. Kettle corn, and burning ethylene glycol on the deep waft -very pleasant, and wholesome.

Taste is fantastic. Certainly malty, with well balanced bittering hops pared well with sweet malt. Impressive balance for a peasant priced brew --nice surprise. No syrupy or cloying flavors common in "also ran" beers. No flammable booze flavor. Never extended itself farther than its substance could back up.

If it was a woman, and you accidentally got her pregnant, you would be marrying-up, and certainly be doing your gene pool a favor. Don't really care if it is true to its EBW labeling because it just too damn good to matter.

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Photo of Mantooth
4.1/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter, straight from the cask.

Deep amber brew with a small creamy head that quickly fades; the lacing is thick and sticky. The nose is malty, hints of black cherries and some wood are present. The taste follows suit, and the beer is a bit boozy... but hell, it should be. The mouthfeel is oily, really nice. This is a very well concieved brew, grab some if you get a chance; on cask if you can find it.

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Photo of McNealc31
4.2/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a surprisingly crisp mahogany with ruby edges. Inviting aroma full of malt that you’d expect from a barleywine. Really interesting flavor. Rye, raisins, cedar at first. Hops take hold for a bit, then hints of currants and cherries. Lots of warmth and heat from the 10% ABV. Each sip I’m trying to find a different flavor, and it’s there.

Take some time with this one. Savor it.

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Photo of FosterJM
3.5/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1670th Review on BA
Bottle to Snifter

2012 Release
Thanks to MikeReaser for this one

Split with my brother in law

Side by side by side with Bourbon/Cabernet

App- This was the normal color of a barleywine. A good and deep mahogany and tinged with red/browns. A bit of a cordial looking beer. A lighter center. Maybe a 1/4" to a 1/2" head. No cling.

Smell- A bit of a fresh barleywine to me. A large amount of phenolic to it. A bit citrusy with some large orange zest and a balanced amount of malts on the nose. A bit boozy as well, just being so fresh.

Taste- This was a pretty good barleywine. A bit fresh. A bit citrusy. A bit of a hoppy bitter intermixed with a bit of spices. It was thicker on the flavors than I wouldve thought and had a nice balance to it with the malts.

Mouth- A lighter medium body with a slightly bubbly medium carbonation. A bit of a sweet, citrusy and hoppy residual flavors.

Drink- I think this one needs a bit of time. I am anxious to try the 2007 I have at home now. This was #2 of the day behind the bourbon and in front of the Cabernet.

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Photo of weeheavybutdieting
3.88/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a growler from Ale Yeah, Roswell, GA into a Sam Adam's perfect pint (just cuz I wanted to use it.)

A: A fairly average barley wine appearance with muted browns and a slight lacing that sticks with the beer throughout.

S: Yes it does :-) Not very complex. It mostly carries the carmel malted notes to the nose with a slight roasted scent.

T: Quite an enjoyable and drinkable beer. There is a hint of that sweet carmel goodness that barley wines carry but just like any good BW it dries quickly to not be overly sweet. In the middle is all sweetness. What I really like about this rendition is that little bit of heat and alcohol on the back end. It gives it almost a winter warmer feel. Do yourself a favor and let it warm before consuming.

M: Not overly sticky with some drying feel to the tongue. Good for the mouth bad for the fact that it makes this beer drinkable while it weighs in at 10% ABV, danger Will Robinson!

O: A really enjoyable Barley Wine that is balanced yet potent. Definitely carries the monicker well of the English rendition as opposed to the dried up and occasionally hoppy taste of BW's from the Northwest US. Find a cold night and a warm fireplace to enjoy the warming and sweet goodness. Or find a stormy lake, a pewter stein and get wrecked below decks with the crew.

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Photo of MadScientist
3.81/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: A dark copper with good clarity. The light tan head is low and thin.

S: Interesting, moderately fruity like oranges and peach esters from the yeast with a moderately-strong earthy and flowery hops aroma. There is also a moderate toasty malt aroma with some sweetness. The alcohol also comes through with a light sweetness to it and a little bit of diacetyl.

T: A rich and sweet malt flavor that is has a lot of toast with a fresh grain and bready taste and some treacle. The moderate hops flavor is earthy with a moderately-strong hops bitterness. There is more of the yeast's fruit ester like oranges and pairs. The balance and the finish are slightly sweet.

M: Medium-full bodied with moderate carbonation.

O: A pretty good English Barleywine sure to take the chill of on a damp December evening. There is a decent amount of bitterness but it still ends up being a bit sweet for my liking however it's well with in style.

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Photo of Hopfenpeter
4.2/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This bomber was aged for two years and poured into a crystal beer mug.
The color is a deep clear mahogany , a creamy light tan head builds about one finger high, and actually sicks arround, leaving good lacing, considering the ABV.
The complex smell is of dark fruit, caramel, malt and honey.
Tasting the beer the caramel, honey flavors hit first, being met by dark fruit like fig, plum and raisin. Malt as well as a fruity hop builds the middle, which gives good balance to the beer. The finish is actually remarkable. Great balance if he sweet notes, not overpowering at all. The alcohol is also well hidden.
Great aged brew!

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Photo of claspada
3.83/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2010 release.

Pours a dark amber color with a modest khaki head that quickly fades but leaves quite a few whisps of lace on glass.

Aromas begin quite straight forward for a barleywine. Highlights include toasted raisin bread, caramelized sugars and a faint hint of earthy, rustic faded hop characteristics.

The tastes begin with the same dark fruits and toasted breadiness. Solid caramelized malt flavors throughout. Some light herbal/earthy bitterness still remains from the hops to balance the flavor profile.

The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, with low, gentle carbonation. Finish isn't too sweet surprisingly and the alcohol is faint presumabley thanks to the 2 years of cellaring.

Overall this was a pretty solid English-style barleywine. Not up to the top class examples of English or American styles; there is nothing inherently wrong or bad with it, it just lacks a pop to make is special or something I want to revisit again and again. I wouldn't refuse it but I won't be seeking it out anytime soon. Definitely some bonus points for the low price tag and abundant availability.

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Heavy Seas - Below Decks (Barley Wine Style Ale) from Heavy Seas Beer
Beer rating: 83 out of 100 with 521 ratings