Chaotic Chemistry
Magic Hat Brewing Company

Chaotic ChemistryChaotic Chemistry
Write a Review
Beer Geek Stats: | Print Shelf Talker
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
firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next → last
Reviews: 73 | Ratings: 84
Photo of Boto
4.25/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750ml bottle, Batch #2: This one has a slightly murky copper color. There was almost no head and carbonation to match. The aroma is somewhat sweet, with cherries, plums and raisins. The taste has some caramel malts, fruits, and a twinge of sweetness. There is also a slightle oaky taste and port-like quality to the taste. Very Good!

 333 characters

Photo of carln26
3.47/5  rDev -14.3%
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.

 458 characters

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!

 766 characters

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)...

 1,410 characters

Photo of Rastacouere
3.65/5  rDev -9.9%
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!

 967 characters

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.

 946 characters

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.

 430 characters

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.

 318 characters

Photo of kmpitz2
4.2/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy golden amber color with 1 finger of head that falls to cover the beer. The nose is caramel sweet wtih some fruity raisin tones in it. The taste is good, wood tones and sweet fruity raisin comes through. The feel is moderately thick, not quite as thick as I would expect. Drinkability is good as well. It is smooth and easy drinking.

 337 characters

Photo of Goldorak
4.04/5  rDev -0.2%
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.

 1,164 characters

Photo of Beersignal
4.21/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Beautiful chestnut brown pour yields a crystal clear and deeply coloured liquid that is warm and inviting. No foam is revealed in the pour which detracts from the appearance score.

Unbelieveably charming and complex nose. Elements of both a great beer and a fine single malt all at once. Opens up flowery and malty with a spicy hop backbone and transitions into aromas of caramel apples and all things autumnlike. Leafy, earthy, laden with ripe orchard fruits and a touch of oak in the finish like a single malt.

The first sip reveals a firmly textured but surprisingly dry beer. The taste opens with malt and spicy oak flavours. Similar to the aroma profile the tastes are very seasonal in their nature. Woody and earthy in character it displays notes of ripe apricots and finishes on tones of bourbon and alcoholic bitterness.

A scarce product for which I have to thank Goldorak and his generosity for the opportunity.

 929 characters

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.

 1,757 characters

Photo of rajendra82
3.33/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

This beer came to me, courtesy of mikeys01 as a part of what was HHHIF 1.0. The beer came in one of the most handsome looking bottles I’ve ever seen, with a conical shape like a miniature fermenter. The markings in gold letters on the back indicate that this was hand bottled on 11/12/02. The top was wrapped in a black foil, which hid a wire cage and a long thin cork. The cork was very tight, and made me sacrifice a cork puller. After some brute force corkectomy, including the removal of some stray pieces in the bottle, I was finally ready to sip.

The beer had a very odd look for a Barleywine. It was thin, orange, and very hazy looking with effervescent carbonation like a Belgian beer. The head was short lived and the lacing was very good. The aroma was spicy and floral with some fig notes. The taste was once again not typical for a Barleywine at all. Very oxidized and sour, this one seems to have been brewed to emulate a Saison from the other side of the English Channel. There was a lot of vinous character to this beer, with some off notes like wet paper and rubber induced by the oxidation. The alcohol content is very high, and very hidden.

The beer seems to have been brewed in the English style of barleywines, but seems to have lost its brightness in just a couple of years. Whether that’s intentional or not is hard to say. This beer will be a hit or miss proposition, and unfortunately for me it was more of a miss than a hit.

 1,458 characters

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

Bottled: 1/2/04 Batch 2 Bottle 114 - Enjoyed 6/11/04

Poetry of craftsmanship, concept, and creativity combine to give Chaotic Chemisty whimsical wonder. The ruby liquid forms a hazy head when poured and offers an aroma of wood, bourbon, and hints of dark fruit. The medley of flavors is impressive, as the dry barleywine offers numerous complex notes to the palate. While the bourbon flavors are strong, they don't over power the dark fruity notes or the sweetness. While this is remarkably different from the familiar full-bodied barleywines, the light and dry ale makes a remarkable treat for special occasions.

 616 characters

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.

 956 characters

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.

 335 characters

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.

 777 characters

Photo of sideshowrob
4.45/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured beautifully from the sleek, smoked black glass bottle - 2nd batch, bottle #1063, hand bottled 1/1/04. Obtained at Max's on Broadway in Baltimore, Md for $30 a bottle (ouch). Wickedly cool bottle.

Very Smooth for a barley wine. Surprisingly so, actually. Strong notes of oak and vanillia resound throughout the brew. The first impression is that this is a barleywine that came off the nitro (slow pour) tap -- it's just that smooth; definately a consequence of the 36 months it was aged in bourbon casks. The balance of the brew is amazing, there is no taste that dominates or overpowers any one taste. Very different from most Barley Wines available.

Drinkability was high (rated a 5 here) due to the overwhelming smoothness of this beer - it cannot be overemphasized. Many barleywines have a real "bite" or "punch", but the creamy, velvety Chaotic Chemistry could go down the hatch all night long.

Mouthfeel starts with the above hailed smoothness, and then ends with a more typical barleywine edge as it fades from the palate.

Unfortunely this beer is not as readlily available here in the fine state of Maryland, but it's at least obtainable. If it were more plentiful, my wallet would be all the more emptier than it is after buying two bottles...

 1,271 characters

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.

 262 characters

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.

 589 characters

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 :-(


 824 characters

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.

 418 characters

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.

 579 characters

firstprev| 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | next → last
Chaotic Chemistry from Magic Hat Brewing Company
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 84 ratings