Chaotic Chemistry | Magic Hat Brewing Company

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Chaotic ChemistryChaotic Chemistry
84 Ratings
Chaotic ChemistryChaotic Chemistry

Brewed by:
Magic Hat Brewing Company
Vermont, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.90%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Infused with the copper glow of more than 1,000 setting suns. This exceptional offering had infinite body ... a big, sweet malty tumult followed by a long, balanced, hop symphony.

50 IBU

Added by paceyourself on 12-29-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 84 |  Reviews: 73
Reviews by Vancer:
Photo of Vancer
4.67/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Darn! "Had' to crack a very cool 32oz mini-growler of Magic Hat Chaotic Chemistry - sent courtesy of dmeadows as my SS.

Thanks again Denis!

She poured a sexy hazy mahogany brown, small cap of lazy tan head.

Now to the good stuff - aroma is pure bourbon malt (Jim Beam, I believe). No barleywine here, this is malted bourbon beer with a hint of cherry and vanilla - and I'm luving it! If bourbon beer was a style, it would be my favorite.

A sweet malty finish, the glow in the cheeks showcases the high power alcohol, but it's not over done in the taste.

Superb brew.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of far333
3.53/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Batch 1
Bottle 385
Bottled 11/12/02
Aged 36 months in bourbon casks
Bottle conditioned

Purchased at the brewery many years ago from the inaugural batch. Approached this with some trepidation as I've never aged anything this long. Cork is in great shape, pronounced pop as the cork releases, and a wisp of steam rises up.

Golden orange, brassy color with a firm head of orangey-beige foam that settles out to soapy bubbles. Low aroma of citrus and honey.

Flavors of honey and orange rind, boozey bourbon/brandy notes, some Grand Marnier mixed with vanilla and woody flavors, some low mint and grassy nuances. More like a sipping liqueur than a beer.

Low carbonation, slightly watery mouthfeel, but finishes tannic. Slight warming feeling and vapors rising up the back of the nose. Interesting beer, not high drinkability because it's really a sipper and not for everyday, but a nice after dinner drink with friends.

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
3.38/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottled 4/13/02. Batch 1. Bottle 405. Kudos to AKSmokedPorter for lugging this home from Boston last year and then to Ohio for Opening Day festivities.

Color is orangish-brown with lots of "floaties" suspended within. Sparse lacing from the scant off-white head. Noted bourbony scents. Fruits. Some chocolate-vanila as well. Flavor is very much influenced by the bourbon aging. Difficult to enjoy. Rather one-dimensional in flavor, with a vanila-bourbon profile dominating. Some woody flavors creep in as well. Mouthfeel is lacking, not as full-bodied as expected. Not horribly drinkable, either. Disappointing.

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Photo of tastybeer
4.22/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Great heavy black sleek bottle brings cast iron to mind. In glass it looks like a thick crimson plum colored abyss. Light reflects off the surface in interesting ways. Smell is thick with alcohol. It has the aroma of juicy intoxication. Sweet bourbon soaked plums and rasberries, toasted malts, dried wood, with some wine, grape-like smells on the surface. Vanilla extract and sweet maple syrup help hold it all together. Tastes sweet and juicy with a smoothed syrupy texture. Woods, berries, raisons, plums, pipe smoke, and milk/dark chocolate. The alcohol has a subtle bite in the prolonged finish and nicely warms the head. You definitely need to take your time drinking this, but it goes down really smooth and easy.

Good agreeably intense barley wine. The smell gradually increases in its awesome complexity, especially after your senses adapt to the alcohol assault.

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Photo of Sammy
3.68/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Magic Hat Night at American Flatbread. Special batch? It tasted youngish barleywine, I got a little corn rather than bourbon,it masked the alcohol. The barley was in the smell. A noticeable head, and some lace. Dark, pretty.Medium mouthfeel.

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

Carefully poured from a long-standing bottle at cellar temperature it's a crystal-clear orange-ish copper with crimson glints at the base of the glass. It teems with very fine bubbles throughout the entire glass; and it's head retention is excellent, almost continually maintaining a 3/4" head of creamy off-white foam and leaving walls of lace throughout most of the glass. The nose is malty and bright with oak, piney hops, and notes of bourbon. The body is medium-full and it's subtly effervescent carbonation leaves it initially delicately crisp and then somewhat creamy across the palate. A not-particularly-distinct maltiness appears upfront, heavily laden with softly fruity yeastiness, piney & grassy hops, and a very subtle butteriness that's immediately followed by a spritz of alcohol, some sharper fruitiness, and a long, warming finish where it's woodiness dries it like and old piece of birch that's been by the fireplace since spring. It's well-balanced by a bold bitterness that keeps it in check and dries the finish but never oversteps those bounds; and in fact, I think the oak-aging may be doing just as much to balance it as the bittering hops do. It's interesting and drinkable because although it's maltiness is rich, it's not particularily solid (meaning caramelish or overly sweet/thick/cloying), and it depends more on a delicate balance of yeast character, hops, and woody (oak/subtle vanilla) flavor to give it depth. If there's a fault here, I think it's that the alcohol is so notable... but to be honest, I actually found it lent it a bit of intensity that was somewhat missing in the rest of the beer. Pricewise, however, I'd have to give it a thumbs-down... there are much better values to be had in the barleywine category.

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Photo of tempest
3.95/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Hot damn this was aged in something for a while. Bourbon barrels for 36 months is what I hear and it makes sense. I knew it was something along those lines from the first snift.

Now this could be an example that the anti-barrel aging could hold up as barrels gone wrong. This beer is practically all liquor. Some could say it ruined the beer. I say it just made it interesting. I'm not great at describing the flavor of bourbon but it like a BBQ on my tongue with a bit caramel in vanilla.

This beer isn't for everyone, but it's definitely worth a try.

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Photo of edchicma
3.85/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Finally found my notes from the Extreme Beer Fest. Here goes.Pours with a very small head..somewhat unspectacular. Definite oak notes with strong malt and alcohol presence both on the nose and in the taste. Fairly smooth for the high abv. Drinkability likewise not bad for the high abv.

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Photo of Goldorak
4.04/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottled 1/2/4, batch 2, bottle 93. Dated and signed by the brewer on the beautiful bottles with the damn near impossible to uncork corks. Instead of screwing around like I did the last time I opened a Humdinger I went straight to the corkscrew and this time it came out well, no cork pieces flotting around.

Appearance: Copper reddish, a lot more translucent than I expected, with light grey tan head that died down fast. A little bit of brownish yeast deposits were found in the bottom of my glass.

Smell: Earthy, woodsy, caramel and alcohol. Terms I would use more often to describe a Scotch, but in a Beer! I did detect some hops in there as well.

Taste: First of all, the alcohol rises from your mouth and through your nose as you take a sip. It's very oaky and dry, with a nice alcohol aftertaste. They ain't joking when they say this stuff was aged in Bourbon casks. Drinkability took somewhat of a hit not because I didn't like it, but the price tag (20+ US$) is a little prohibitive. If you like sherry cask whiskeys, go for it, because this stuff looks, smells and tastes like it, but with a little carbonation. If bourbon isn't your thing, pass.

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Photo of naproxen
3.58/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

booze bomb. I did enjoy this on tap at American Flatbread in VT, and tried my darndest to have my fellow BA's taste it but apparently the smell of alcohol was that strong that it shied others away preeeetty fast.

Dark amber brown body, not too much head action going on but I also could have missed it while carrying on conversations at the bar. This beer in summary is a standard barleywine that reeks and tastes of alcohol. Alot. I have had others at this ABV and higher that did a better job of hiding or complementing it. Thankful for the opportunity to try this barleywine from Magic Hat, but unless I was going for some irresponsible bender I probably would not order this again at a bar. It wasn't the high alcohol, just that it was so obvious and not well constructed as a beer.

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Photo of CRJMellor
4.37/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a firey copper/amber glow with some yeasties in the mix. Small but tight head indicating some modesrate carbonation.
Aroma of peat, vanilla and oak notes exude upon opening and provide a real whisky type of setting. some underlying butterscotch and caramel seem to be in play as well.
Flavors are a bit more muted with caramel and a lighter fruit note starting it off but that is quickly layered upon by some peaty, roasted vanilla and oak hints. Builds to a nice sharp crescendo of alcoholic pop and hop bitterness.
Mouthfeel is odlly very full, yet light and drinkable. The relatively sweet beginning and middle are finished off with a hot, rubbing alcohol one, especially as it warms but is somehwat offset by some resinous hoppy notes.
Drinkability is high, although this is a unique beer for sure and amy not be everyone's cup of tea. Flavors really blend well together and make for a tasty treat.

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Photo of scottg
4.12/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from growler into a Magic Hat tulip glass.

This barleywine is aged in Wild Turkey barrels.

Pours a cloudy reddish brown with a one finger off white head of large bubbles that settles to a thin lace. Aromas of cherry, chocolate, raisins, and strong alcohol. Flavors of cherry, chocolate, oak, raisins, figs with alcohol warmth throughout. As it warms up, the sweet malt comes to the front. Medium carbonation, full body, the alcohol bite is noticeable. Solid drinkability for the alcohol level, which according to the people at the brewery is up around 14%. This is definitely a sipper, perfect in front of the fire.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.79/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Ditmier I think has been saving this one for a while... Thanks Eric!! Never thought I would get a chance to try this one... especially an old bottle.

This is the cool shaped bottle.... bottled on 11/1/04... Bottle #386.

Pours with a thin white head atop a hazed brown.. not much in the way of retention or lacing.

Nose shows pretty strong woody components melded with a fair amount of bourbon and a little caramel... a bit of sherry shows its age, but it isn't too distracting.

mouthfeel seems a tad thin given the bigger body and the EBW category.. again, some caramel and lite toffee combine with the bourbon vanilla notes and a bit of background lite cherry essence... plenty of wood (maybe too much) ... a little oxidation seems appropriate, but gains with room temperature. I personally think this bottle was on the downslope, but Sam and Eric seemed to really like it... and I am damn appreciative for the opportunity to try it... Thanks again Eric!!


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Photo of wedge
3.97/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Hand Bottled On: 11/01/04
Batch: 3 Bottle: 930

Dusky crimson with absolutely no head - looks slick and strong in the glass. Aroma is BOOZY - rich, warm vanilla, maple, and wood...heavy and thick with bourbon. The taste seems almost mellow after the smell but it is more layered - aging probably calmed it down. Oak, molasses, vanilla flavors with some thick sweetness in the middle and a lingering dry maltiness - even some fruity hops. Heavy all around and obviously warming.

Three years in bourbon barrels and another year and a half in the bottle...and it shows...a lot. You have no choice but to sip this very slowly and over time, this actually develops more and more character. Worth a try for strong beer lovers if you can get some kind of a deal on it. The bottle makes a nice souvenir too...

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

reviewed from notes, bottle sent by bill that I aged gracefully for over a year and poured into a snifter.

dark brown color with some light highlights of orange and red around the edges. Small off white head rises up and settles quickly with only minimal lacing and a bare top is left after only a few minutes. Aroma is rich, caramel, toffee, light hops and hints of oak all coming through fairly easily. Nice balance here but not getting that overwhelming barrel aged aroma I was hoping for. Warming does not do much now either as it just seems to bring in more of the hop and hints of boozy alcohol. Light carbonation masks the medium body and leaves the flavor to work its magic now. Smooth, even malts are stealing the show. Rich caramel and earthy tones round out a lightly hot flavor. Almost a popcorn like flavor coming through for me mid palate, buttery and creamy with a boozy finish

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Photo of DrBier
4/5  rDev 0%

Photo of bignick
3.97/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Bukowski's in Boston on 4/4/06. Served in a leffe glass.

This is a very beautful beer in the glass. It is a very cloudy dark amber with a dense and creamy head. The smell is all alcohol...not all that inviting. The taste is nice; it starts alcohol, hits some clean malty notes, and finishes with a little bit of fruit. It is full-bodied, although not thick. On the whole, it is a tasty and drinkable offering from Magic Hat.

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Photo of carln26
3.47/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Clear brown with ruby hints and no head or lace to speak of. The beer seems to hold true to it’s name. Very boozy (a strong barley wine). It has a lot of citrus hop, and candy character from the malt in the aroma. The taste is straight booze. Almost a Canadian or Kentucky bourbon up front. Powerful whiskey flavors backed by some malty sweetness. Slow down, no need for it to be this harsh. It does have a decent oily mouth feel. Sorry, not very drinkable.

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Photo of McKibben25
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

For such a high ABV brew, I think they have done a great job. I really enjoyed the strong smell of whiskey in the beer. The color was rich and full. Like a nice coffee. It wasn't terribly heavy or filling to drink. It was actually rather light. Kind of like a strong dark Belgian ale. The carbonation and head were what I expected from a barley wine. It was a little hard to drink. The alcohol taste was definitely prominent and could have been masked a little better. But overall a good beer that I hope they brew again.

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Photo of Rastacouere
3.65/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1yr old or so gorgeous 750mL. Nice beer name too. Liquorous orange pour, surprisingly clear, very light white head. Very original smell, made me say wow despite my generally low expressive nature. This would score huge with me if alcohol was just a bit more used as a background warming flavour rather than as an integral part of the focus. Nose is smoky, caramelic, liquorous, alcoholic with big cask wood notes, hints at campfire marshmallows, mint and various hop types. Feels a bit like a hard alcohol cask at times, but woodiness is a flavour I truly enjoy generally and this has it in spades accompanied by this mellow honey character. Lightly tart, lightly astringent. Surprisingly rather thin bodied though still feels a bit syrupy from the overall low carbonation. At 20 dollar a bottle, most people won’t bother buying this, but it’s a great beer to share with friend once every couple of years I’d say.. and a nice bottle to admire every couple of days!

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Photo of forceten
4.65/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Wow! I normally shy away from beers described as "barleywine" because what does that really tell you other than it's strong? But, I was at Magic Hat, and they had it on draught, so what the heck, yeah?

This one's fab - it's got a lot of flavors - a dark barleywine, for sure - and like others have said it has a great bourbon influence.. rich, malty, and complex.. something to sip, sure, but has a good sweetness too.

Haven't had it in bottle, so can't compare - but I hope to soon.

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Photo of weeare138
4.34/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Much thanks to Capones for sharing this from a growler brought from the brewery...
Appears a semi-transparent dark orange toned amber with a small white cap that quickly fades out. A mild collar is left in the glass with mild spots of lacing left around the glass.
Smell is of bourbon, vanilla, caramel, maple, toffee, and some ripe fruit.
Taste is of the mentioned aromas with brown sugar, and flavorful bourbon that makes for an addicting brew.
Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, with some sticky, sugary, maltiness, and a warming alcohol burn in the finish. This beer has such fine bourbon qualities much like Maker's Mark, or Wild Turkey. Great job!

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Photo of barleywinebrewer
4.38/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

always wanted to try this beer as it's practically from my back yard. I had some at the extreme beerfest in 07 but I did not review any beers I had at that awesome event. So, almost a year later, VTs laws have changed and I get the chance to try this via a mini growler.

a - nice reddish brown color with an offwhite head.
S - booze, bourbon and vanilla
T - vanilla, oak, bourbon, caramel, abv warmth.
M - full bodied, smooth, slightly sweet, with a warming effect and a nice residual bourbon note.
D - a sipper to be sure, smooth and mellow.

I remember it being all bourbon at the EBF. I got a growler as I really wanted to see how it faired in a neutral setting. The locals are lucky! This is a tasty brew and one I'd would've gladly bought a few of if bottled.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.42/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Batch #3, bottle #75, hand bottled on 11/1/04, poured from a 25oz. corked bottle into a US Tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a murky reddish brown, with almost no head or lacing.

S: Powerful alcohol smell with a background of bourbon, caramel, and dark fruits

T: You would think from the smell that you’d be nailed right off the bat with a bitter taste, but this one starts off with a smooth, nutty sweet flavor and then follows with the warmth of the 10.80% ABV. A touch of hops bitterness presents itself and the alcohol seems to strengthen as the beer warms. Overall the taste reminds me of a strong rum & coke.

M: Very smooth, medium-to-heavy body, light carbonation, and a clean finish. It has a very slick feeling to it as you drink it.

D: It’s not very filling, but this one is definitely a sipper, despite being so smooth and light. I appreciate the effort that was made to create and age this beer; however I wasn’t very impressed with the end result. I like strong beers every now and again and I can definitely detect the difference that the aging has made, but it just seemed to be lacking just a little something.

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Photo of ppoitras
4.36/5  rDev +9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Half growler (32oz) filled at the brewery.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed a 3/4" beige head above the cloudy reddish brew. Head holds well (especially for a beer oak aged for 3 yrs!), with sticky, slow-falling lace. Aroma is bubblegum whiskey with vanilla notes, but the whiskey comes on way strong. Taste is lgithyl buttery malt sweet upfront, fruity vanilla and oak in the middle, and then woody whiskey comes on at the end and keeps on trucking. Mouthfeel is weirdly creamy and smooth upfront, although the rough end sort of offsets, and drinkability is nice for the BA BW arena, with lots of interesting quirks. Wish they still bottled this one, but I'll take it where I can get it.

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Chaotic Chemistry from Magic Hat Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4 out of 5 with 84 ratings