Chaotic Chemistry
Magic Hat Brewing Company

Chaotic ChemistryChaotic Chemistry
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American Barleywine
4.05 | pDev: 12.35%
Magic Hat Brewing Company
Vermont, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Chaotic ChemistryChaotic Chemistry
Notes: 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
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Reviews: 73 | Ratings: 84
Reviews by thekevlarkid:
Photo of thekevlarkid
2.72/5  rDev -32.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Off the tap at The Scuffer in Burlington this English style barleywine was a deep, mahogany color with a thin, tan head that quickly fizzed out to a skim. It did leave fine bands of lacing however. The aroma was sweet and full of figs, dates and alcohol heat. The flavors were huge and aggressive. The bourbon barrel aging was clear though the alcohol punch was such a boot to the head one could almost mistake it for a bourbon! Notes of wood and lots of malt with not enough hop balance though they do show up at the end. The mouthfeel was smooth, the carbonation moderate and the body medium. This one really lacked finesse and I just kept thinking 'if a critic like myself doesn't appreciate it how could the layman?'

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More User Reviews:
Photo of far333
3.53/5  rDev -12.8%
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 cnwillis31
4.25/5  rDev +4.9%

Photo of jdhilt
4.15/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a minor white head, that fades slowly and leaves hardly any lace. Deep amber color, some chunky bits on the bottom. Nose has a citrus overtone. Complex flavor, hops and malt are balanced. Smooth, the high ABV is not noticeable. Medium carbonation and medium bodied. $17.95 for a 750ml bottle. Bottled 1 1 4, batch 2, bottle 4160.

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Photo of beernut7
4.38/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had been saving this brew for several months before the proper opportunity presented itself for valid consumption. Aged for 36 months in bourbon barrels on the label screams for my attention. Hazy straw colored pour with a lasting creamy head and a candy-sweet malt aroma with the delicate hint of citrusy hops. The first sip sets forth an extremely smooth body with a perfectly balanced caramalt and a mild, mellow bitterness. Citrusy hops flow though the finish with absolutely no alcohol burn at all. I only wish I had bought more than 2 bottles seeing as I cannot find more anywhere.

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

There's a definite orangey aroma to this. It's a slight bit sour. There's a bit of whiskey there but the orangey, flowery character dominates. I actually liked this with the juicy flavor, but the guy's who shared the bottle with me seemed less impressed with it.

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Photo of PatandDavid
4.12/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hey, this was the second barleywine of my night, and I didn't even know it till I sat down and reviewed it. This was the '02 vintage, sampled last weekend at Purplehops and Purplehats' house, thank you both! I wrote down what I hope is the batch/bottle #'s: 11/1402..let's hope that's right. Anyway, I am glad I got to try this. Light to medium amber when poured, of course how can you not pick up on the alcohol in the aroma. My first notes say: spruce. Spruce was what I was picking up one, and scratching my head. Of course, a few minutes later, someone said the words: bourban aged, and that explained a lot. Additional notes picked up as I continued were vanilla and bourban. I still couldn't give up my initial impression of spruce however, and I picked it up again in the smooth, slightly hot flavor. Smooth mix, slightly hot alcohol, predomianantly spruce, followed by vanilla in the taste. Still only medium+ in the body, which was nice.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.33/5  rDev +6.9%
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 edchicma
3.85/5  rDev -4.9%
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 WanderingFool
4.27/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

My bottle of Chaotic Chemistry was bottled on 1/1/04, batch 2, #1,600. I don't know if this means anything other than I'm drinking a 2 year old barleywine that has been aging in my basement.

The beer pours a hazy caramel color with a thin off white head on top. The foam dissolves quickly to a thin ring around the surface leaving a few spots of lace behind. An oaky aroma with hints of vanilla hovers over the beer.

This smooth full bodied beer feels like a silky blanket on the palate. The flavor is mainly oak with some vanilla, strawberry and a hint of caramel malt mixed in.It finishes with some sweet malt leaving some oaky residue behind.

Chaotic Chemistry is not your typical hop monster barelywine. It's very smooth and oaky, like a cognac. I'd recommend aging it a bit to bring out it's full flavor.

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Photo of paceyourself
4.15/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This i believe is a special edition brew that comes in the same 25oz. bottle as their braggot. A slightly cloudy dark yellow color with no head and very little carbonation. The mild aroma molasses and citrus is quite inviting. It has a toasted flavor at first (maybe from being aged 36 months in bourbon casks), then slowly a smooth warming alcohol presence moves in. Being 25oz. i decided to share it with some friends, most enjoyed it. I found Chaotic Chemistry very drinkable for a barley wine. I paid $20 for one bottle, pretty high price but it's definitely worth the money.

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Photo of francisweizen
4.33/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This was a very nice and rare treat at the BA BBQ last Saturday. This comes in the usualy MH Humdinger Series beer bottle, that is kind of like an inverted 750ml champagne bottle. This stuff poured a wonderul dark orangey/reddish colour with a small, but substantial, foamy, white head. The aromas were very complex and all over the map. They consisted of heavy malts and hops, some definate alcohol notes, some fruity/spicy notes and some earthy/leafy/grainy notes. The taste was very rich and sweet with the hops doing a good job of bittering the brew and giving it a balanced after-taste and finish. The mouthfeel is thick and rich, but not overly so...This is a very strong barleywine, yet it is still highly quaffable and not at all cloying IMO.

Great stuff! (too bad it is so freaking rare and costly :-(


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Photo of Truh
3.48/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Uncorked and consumed on 4/9/2004. 750ml bottle, bottled on 11/13/2002, batch 1 bottle 265. Aged almost 4 ½ years as it had been bubbling away in a bourbon cask for 36 months prior to bottling. Poured into shaker glass.

First pour gave off strong alcohol notes with raspberry undertones. A thick head was present initially, which subsided to a clingy, thin layer. The hue was a cloudy mahogany, almost verging on brown, but that may have been due to the haze that was present. First sip revealed some plum notes, likely from sitting on the bourbon, which was followed by a woody and peppery spiciness. Cinnamon, cloves, and spruce flavors also jumped through the palate. Had a velvety mouthfeel with perhaps the bourbon touches mellowing with age. Alcohol was not overdone.

On the whole, this held up well over the years, though there was a slight chlorine aftertaste as more was consumed. If I had my druthers, I’d probably go with an Olde School.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.15/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

"to be enjoyed in it's prime," says the blurb around the label, "please enjoy within a year." this was bottled on 1/1/04, I must say it is time, is it not? Batch 2/ bottle 1554.'s a dark orangey hue, with little head to offer, busy carbonation, jetsoms and flotsoms rising up high...

Nose is big, bold, fruity, citric, slightly sour, but thick with malt, ...surprisingly smooth taste, massive sweetness, maple-y flavor, woody, and very mellow.

Surprisingly so,for the alcohol, I expected a bigger burn, but the age,perhaps, has cooled it. Menacingly subdued character, it slips in almost too easily, but carries a naked potency that shows it's colors after time...whiskey is very clear in the flavor, with hints of vanilla, tangy and tasty, but modest and restrained.

Quite nice, this, a classy barleywine, the lampshade's on, but the coattails are tucked in, and the pinkie gets raised with every sip. it buries it's fire under layers of oak, smoke, and cherry, but the fury is nonetheless's a fearsome power, though, that has it's hat on straight, it walks in with a steady gait, very sophisticated, always a bit moreso than you expect, tipping against the expectations, for this is far less chaotic than imagined, despite the name.

I like this very much, and wish I could enjoy it more, rather than once in a lifetime (courtesy of UncleJimbo, in this instance)...

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
3.38/5  rDev -16.5%
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 thesilverhand
2.93/5  rDev -27.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This one is really quite bizarre. What a strange beer.
It looks great - it poured a beautiful hazy brown-orange-gold, thick with yeast particles.
The aroma is also thick, and very sweet. There's lots of fruit - apricot, some tropicals - and honey. The combination is reminiscent of an icewine. The bourbon from the aging casks comes through, too. Unfortunately, there was also a touch of off-putting acetone.
The flavour starts off sweet and fruit, much like the aroma. Quickly, however, the fruit is overwhelmed by the characteristics of the bourbon. In the end, it seems more like whisky than like barleywine. It is balanced somewhat by light hops, but is pretty heavily tilted to the bourbon.
Certainly not a highly drinkable beer, but at the same time, extremely interesting. A neat change of pace.

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Photo of taez555
3.89/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This beer poured a very clear amber/red body with small white head. There was lots of hop sediment floating around in the bottom of the glass.

The nose was very woody. Oak, alcohol, a bourbon wood touch and vanilla. You could slightly smell the malt, but the woody/bourbon smell dominated.

The taste was very woody and bourbon like again. At first it almost has a slight grapefruit taste. Rich sweet sugary malt. The alcohol is well hidden. Medium to full bodied. Soft touches of oak and vanilla. Not very bitter, but well balanced.

What a crazy beer. Much better as it warms. It’s an interesting mix of barleywine and oaky bourbon.
I’m not sure if I’m crazy about it, but it’s definitely a beer that’s meant to be sipped slowly so you can take in all the chaos.

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Photo of Naerhu
2.66/5  rDev -34.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Thanks to Jimbo for sending this out.

Appearance: Amazing chuncky floaties suspended in great orange opaque body. Fantastic lace.
Aroma: Port wine, overripe passion fruit, ice wine, honey, nail polish remover. whiskey.
Taste: Huge fruit and burbon flavors. Huge acidity. Light hops. This says barely wine on the bottle, so where the hell is the barley flavors? Some vanilla.
Mouthfeel: Very light, thin body and with alcohol not very noticeable.

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Photo of scottum
4.41/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a wonderful amber with a huge head. Spirit soaked wood flavor comes through strong. Fruity and full of malty goodness. A big beer. Very complex. This ages well. I waited almost a year. I wish I had another to save. I'd like to see magic hat slow down on their use of spirit soaked barrells for aging. I feel that those flavors are not necessary for all styles of beer. Please let the next humdinger age normally.

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Photo of SheepNutz
4.2/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750mL bottle poured into a snifter. It pours a reddish copper color with one finger of head. The smell is fairly malty and sweet, some hops present. Fresh hops and a hint of alcohol come through more as it warms. The taste has an underlying sweetness, but with a good dose of hops right on top. A touch of alcohol rounds it out. The mouthfeel is nice and heavy. The drinkability is pretty good for a 10.8% brew. A nice Barleywine.

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Photo of oldgrowth
3.89/5  rDev -4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle, in a 23 oz snifter. Hazy orangy brown color, no head. Sweet and malty, Fig, vanilla, bourban/congac, maple syrup, molasses. Sweet bitter taste, alot like the smell with the bourbon up front others following, some orange too. Oily creamyish mouthfeel, medium bodied, bittersweet dry finish. Has a little burn to it, but is a nice sipper. Hand bottled on 11/01/04, batch 3, bottle 645. Got it at Julio's. 20 bucks seems alittle much, but it is good.

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Photo of beerinator
3.58/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Batch: 3
Bottle: 886
Bottled: 11-01-2004

Appearance: Dark Brown walnut colored cloudy. Very little head. Decent retention from the minute head.

Aroma: Hard core heavy oaky bourbon. Bourbon trumps all.

Taste: Smooth bourbon flavor. The alcohol content is definately obvious but it seems heightened by the presence of the bourbon flavor and aroma. The finish is smooth and quick with lots of nuttyness. The bourbon flavor continues throughout, strongly.

Notes: Heavily bourboned, maybe too much so. Good experience, but not a beer that would be tops on my list of bourbon aged beers.

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Photo of weeare138
4.34/5  rDev +7.2%
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 clvand0
4.28/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Another cool bottle from Magic Hat. Pours a dark amber color with a small head and leaves no lacing on the glass. Woody aroma with a dark, fruity sweetness (think raisins), alcohol, and caramel. Complicated, but great. The flavor flows very well. Woody and alcoholic flavor with the fruits. I like it a lot. Good brew.

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Photo of xgrigorix
4.52/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Black 75 cl bottle, corked & caged. Batch #2, bottle #1502, bottled 1/1/04, enjoyed 1/1/05.

Pulling that cork was way more difficult than it should have been, so gladly the contents did not dissapoint. Glowing amber sunset in colour. Swift lines of carbonation, topped by a thin off white head.

Citrusy hop aromas meld with notes of vanilla & light hints of oak char.

Lovely, sweet & plenty of bourbon character. Caramel flavours up front. Bourbon flavours take over through the middle - corn, charred oak, vanilla, and other less definable nuances. Finish is bright & hop infused. Lots of citrus & subtle hints of pine. Medium-full bodied, very smooth, relaxed gentle carbonation. Is it beer? Is it bourbon? Maybe is beerbon. I am sure that its damn tasty!

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Chaotic Chemistry from Magic Hat Brewing Company
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 84 ratings