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
Photo of brentk56
4.44/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted at the Extreme Beer Fest in 2008

Appearance: Dark amber color with a decent head that leaves just some lace

Smell: Very boozy, with tones of the bourbon barrel and a combination of sour cherry and sweet vanilla overtones

Taste: Up front, the flavor profile follows the aroma, with a strong bourbon, vanilla and sweet cherry aspect; after the swallow, it is almost like drinking a bourbon; the flavors linger forever

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Truly an extraordinary combination; after a lot of mediocrity from Magic Hat in the bottles they sell around the country, this beer shows what the brewery can produce; too bad they don't brew this more often

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Photo of naproxen
3.58/5  rDev -11.6%
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 MrMonkey
4.63/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottled 10/04 after 36 months of bourbon barrel aging.

Pours a murky dark amber/brown with a minimal bubbly off-white head that leaves no lacing after fading almost instantly to nothing.

Smells like tawny port, apricots, milk chocolate, bourbon, oak, vanilla, cherries, and a bit of alcohol. This is one of the most complex smelling beers I have ever encountered! Amazing!

Taste is sweet oaky vanilla and bourbon, before some caramel, toffee and thick molasses malts. Lots of chocolate and sweet dark fruits (cherries and currants) with some warming alcohol sneaking up on you. Tries to finish fruity and sweet but the aftertaste is all bittersweet chocolate and dry with some more lingering bourbon notes.

Thick, mostly sweet (but not cloying), full-bodied mouthfeel. A bit syrupy, but it dries out in the finish.

Drinkable for the style and age; definitely a post-dinner sipper. Very enjoyable!

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Photo of Sammy
3.68/5  rDev -9.1%
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 Slatetank
4.17/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I read johnmichaelsen's review and it prompted me to try this at Max's during LBC's recent Baltimore pub crawl. Thanks to bierman200 for the chance taste this on tap.
Served cool in a chalice.
A - Deep caramel brown w/ a light brown highlight and an inch of light tan head w/ moderate lacing collecting on the glass.

S - A nice toffee and dried fruit w/ a vanilla nutty odor. Slightly woody w/ a peanut brittle type scent.

M - Rich, big malty toffee feel w/ dry notes that turn sweet. Warming occurs early on in the feel w/ a creamy fruity finish.

T - A very pleasant tasting fruit filled w/ caramel malt and a hint of smoke in this big ale. Vanilla cream smoothness w/ a hint of nuts and sweet raisiny sugar coating flavors. There is a bite w/ the raisin taste and a floral flavor in the finish w/ herbal accents after the rummy warmth subsides.

D - A rich, intense Barleywine w/ plenty of malt flavor and sweetness. The instensity of a Barleywine, but I never would have guessed 10.8% - the flavor is smoother than most in that range.

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Photo of John_M
4.07/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at Max's the other night.

The beer pours a darkish brown color with good head retention and lacing. However, the best thing about this beer is the aroma; the beer comes across as a nicely aged English ale. I get aromas of cherry, butterscotch, and a distinctive peaty scotch aroma. Very impressive. The beer is very smooth on the palate, but it's almost as if something is missing in the mid palate. Hard to describe, but it's as if the beer is just a bit disjointed, with a somewhat disappointing mouthfeel. Otherwise, this beer is excellent, malty and sweet, with a flavor like cherry kirsh and wood. The beer finishes very well. Abv. is noticeable, but is not instrusive or obtrusive.

Nice effort from Magic Hat, who I have to confess very rarely impress me.

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Photo of Imstillthegman
4.3/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2004 vintage, shared with a RB member whose generosity is overwhelming.

Pours a dark mahogany color with a thin beige head. Nice lacing on the upper part of the glass.

Aroma is full of bourbon, with hints of vanilla and some dark fruits.

The first sip of this one was brutal. It was like someone smashed a bottle of bourbon on my teeth. But, after that initial shot of whiskey, the flavor mellows some and really smoothes out. The bourbon is always a major factor in the taste, however, the vanilla, dark fruits, and hints of oak come through also.

Mouthfeel starts smooth before you get the burn of the bourbon laced abv at the finish. I wasn't sure if I would be able to finish this after the first sip, but when my glass was empty I was sad to see it gone. Thanks, Paul, for sharing this tasty sipper.

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Photo of ppoitras
4.36/5  rDev +7.7%
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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Photo of billybob
4.24/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

poured from a 32 oz. jug with a tag that stated enjoy within 2 weeks once opened finish within 2 days, poured at magic hat brewery. hazy brown with a quarter inch head that faded quickly to just the beer. smell of whiskey, sugar, caramel. taste very sweet, brown sugar, caramel and slight nutty taste. mouthfeel light no carbonation to speak of almost syrupy taste. very strong not a session beer but very warming and tasty.

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Photo of tempest
3.95/5  rDev -2.5%
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 Crosling
1.87/5  rDev -53.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

I have been eying this beer for several years and finally decided to pursue one. First off, let me say that I love bourbon barrel aged beers, but lets face it, isn’t 36 months ridiculously long? The aroma has some enjoyable elements (a hint of caramel and chocolate, vanilla and oak.) But there muted by the strong presence of raw whiskey and booze. I don’t find the nose particularly nice at all. Next, this tastes more like bourbon or tawny port than it does beer. It would taste more like beer if the body wasn’t completely flat and lacking texture. It does have a few intriguing hints of vanilla and sweet oak on the finish, but the flavor up until then is absolutely ghastly. Way too boozey, one dimensional with bourbon. I, unfortunately, cannot finish this beer.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.42/5  rDev -15.6%
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 tastybeer
4.22/5  rDev +4.2%
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 wedge
3.97/5  rDev -2%
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 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 bignick
3.97/5  rDev -2%
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 CRJMellor
4.37/5  rDev +7.9%
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 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 delicious
4.17/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Bottled on 11/01/05, batch 3, bottle 674

1 pint 9 fl oz. black painted bottle, with a contemporary silhouette label illustrated with flowing lines designed by Clifford One.
Pours with a thin white line of a head that is gone in micro-seconds.
The beer is the darkest of rubies; almost black in the center of the glass and red at the edges.
I can smell the beer before I pick the glass up off the table. Red wine? Cherry? Port? Definitely a fortified wine. Alcohol tingles in the nostrils. Just a bit of sweet chocolate, and a little something from the bourbon casks.
Very full in the mouth, this beer is sharp on the tongue at first and warm, but has a vanilla-like smoothness all around.
The taste is close to chocolate covered black cherries that have been dipped in brandy. The cognac bites back, and then the vanilla says it’s sorry.
As it warms, the chocolate becomes slightly more prevalent. I could sit and just smell this one. The warmth lingers in the nostrils and gives an almost everlasting flavor.
I wish this could linger on forever. This beer should be savored after a fulfilling meal during one of the colder months.

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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 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 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 LuckySevens82
4.25/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 ml Bottle (bottled 11/1/04, Batch 3, Bottle 642) courtesy of ppoitras...again Pete, thank you.

Pours a murky tarnished copper color with no head and scant lacing (what little lace remains after the innitial pour creates a very cool design on top of the actually kind of looks like the label...weird).

Smell is very wine-like. Some chocolate and caramel in nose, but mostly very fruity (grapes, figs, green apple) Some alcohol is present. Bourbon and oak also fill the nose.

Taste is reminicent of the aroma, but no where near what I thought it would be. There is massive chocolate in this beer. Some caramel. Chocolate is up front, followed by the sweet caramel, and very defined fruit flavors (again, grapes, green apple, figs) and just a bit of hop bitterness. Slowly afterwards the alcohol (bourbon) makes itself known. A very nice warming sensation creeps across the palate and down the back of the throat.

Mouthfeel is near perfect although carbonation could perhaps be pushed up a bit with no detriment to the beer itself.

Overall, a very good and interesting Barleywine. Not something that I would expect and certainly something I would try again were I to have the chance. I don't think that this one should be as expensive as it is though. This one is worth seeking out, but only if you have the extra cash to spend.

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