American Barleywine
2nd highest rated style (of 102)
Highest RatedBrewdog / Three Floyds Bitch Please (Islay Cask) (98 / 100) Average score74 / 100 (Very Good)
Lowest RatedChicken Killer (50 / 100) Number Tried91
Old Man River
Reviewed by Jez on 25.01.18 on tap
Overall:
81 / 100
(Excellent)
Tried on-tap at the Quarrymans Hotel in Sydney.

Pours a slightly hazed almost-amber colour, with a full and frothy off-white head. This dissipates somewhat, but leaves long, foamy streaks of lace. Powdery carbonation feeds it and stops the head from disappearing entirely. Looks good.

Nose is very pleasant with stewed orange and clove coming through. It's warming, but syrupy, with the spice characters lifting it up. Later, it gets some black pepper overtones, and some kirsch hiding in the sweetness, giving it a slight boozy kick. But at the same time, this accentuates the fruit again, which is the main event. Very pleasant.

Taste is super smooth. Despite the warmth and booze suggestions on the nose, this is clear and light. Lovely orange notes again, with just a prickle on the back. More pepper, barley sugar, boiled lollies and a clean, super glossy feel. Weirdly, there's a character around the sides like strawberry ice cream. It's the sweetness and the smooth creaminess of the body. It's really lovely.

This is a cracking beer, and it's super smooth and drinkable for the weight. I'm not sure I'd know how big it was except for the number on the taplist. That's dangerous but exciting at the same time.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | drinkability: 4.25
SuperBeast (2017)
Reviewed by Jez on 24.12.17 in bottle
Overall:
73 / 100
(Very Good)
330ml brown bottle purchased for me by Sam as part of the 2017 #fletchvent advent calendar. This was the beer he saved up until Christmas Eve. Reviewed blind.

Pours a pleasant mahogany colour, with decent clarity in the body. Head is insanely large, and the beer itself seems genuinely quite overcarbonated—the bubbles form large pockets in the head, and expedite its collapse. Body is slick, but with some weight behind it. Looks decent.

Nose is quite pleasant. There's a kirsch-like booze to it that's always connected to a kind of dark, spicy fruit. It's sharp and redolent, with a touch of something like habanero, only without the spice. It just has the kind of aromatic punch you get from something like that. It's also quite sweet, dipping into characters of bitter almond and acetone. Yeah. I like it.

Taste is also very good. It leads with more booziness, kicking into vinous tones of puckering cabernet, with pleasant peripheral characters of chocolate and mint. Spice is also present, but it's less prominent than on the nose, and flattened by a vanilla sweetness. It is overcarbonated, which is a shame, because with a bit more body and a little less fizz it could be quite magnificent.

Overall, though, this is a nice brew: with good complexity and enough balance to make it drinkable. It's also a fine beer to end a fine project with.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Babooshka (Mane Liquor/Whipper Snapper Distillery Collaboration)
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 15.11.16 on tap
Overall:
73 / 100
(Very Good)
On tap at the Royal Albert, 11th November 2016.

Pours a dark reddish brown colour - very dark, murky. Head is beige, tightly packed but visible and distinguishable bubbles. Doesn't go anywhere. Nice colour, pretty good head.

Smells oaky more than anything. Big French oak notes, sweet and woody with distinct vinous notes. Underlying caramel malty notes, but yeah smells more like port - and oak - than anything else. Nice, but not as complex as it could have been as the oak just dominates.

Taste is huge. Big toffee caramel sweetness upfront that gets very big and boozey early. Oak comes through, again vinous with notes of spiritous booze as well. Finishes kind of dry, as well as heavy, with a lingering rich complex maltiness that is very pleasant. Oak is better utilised or balanced by that huge oomph on the palate than the nose, but generally it's yeah just big and pleasant.

Big, full, smooth. Touch hot on the back, but it's quite easy to down otherwise.

Delivers what it promises, and does a good - if not amazing - job of balancing all the huge fuckoff flavours. It's a little booze-centric but nicely constructed.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.25 | drinkability: 3.75
Seamaster Imperial Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 10.08.16 on tap
Overall:
64 / 100
(Solid)
Tried on tap at GABS 2016 in Melbourne.

Pours an amber colour, clear. Head is cream-coloured but just a rim of thin bubbles that even then disappears. Looks heavy, but also listless.

Smell is big and sweet, with a huge caramel grain note, and a lot of US hops as well. Huge resinous and citric notes in equal measure. Sharp, but good for the aroma.

Taste is hugely sweet, perhaps too much. Glazed, caramel donut type of sweetness all the way to the mid-palate with a syrupy overtone. Some American hops towards the back do a touch of cleansing but not enough. Tastes headachey.

Full body, some alcohol warmth but a nice texture without seeming too gluggy.

Too sweet for me, but it's not terrible. Just needs a touch more early hopping to balance.
appearance: 2.5 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Valhalla
Reviewed by Jez on 04.01.16 in bottle
Overall:
75 / 100
(Very Good)
375ml dark green bottle, capped and wax-sealed, purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.

Pours an "intentionally" still deep amber brown, slightly hazed but with some light filtering through and giving some ruby tones to it. No head, carbonation or lacing to speak of, of course, given this is uncarbonated. Body is fairly light, actually, implying that there was a fairly good conversion of the sugars. Looks pretty decent.

Nose is very interesting. Definite oak characters, with hints of toasted coconut and white pepper. There's a sharpness though, almost like pithy cherries, that tends towards acetone or brandy. It's very heady and piquant, and definitely a diversion from the norm.

Taste is also very good, perhaps smoother again than expected. Rounded oak notes and a boozy brandy sweetness heat up the palate, before sharper tones of pepper and cherries give a little pep. Back slopes downwards into a lingering anise liquor character: liquorice and sambuca. Finish smoothes out again with flavours of squashed sultanas.

Feel is interesting due to the lack of carbonation. It feels a little low and flat, but there's variation from the volatile alcohol characters even so.

At 16.4% it's unsurprising that the booze is prominent, but it fits well into the puzzle here. It's perhaps not as insane as other big beers of its ilk, but it has a moderated complexity and level of interest that warrants its big pricetag (both monetary and drunkening). I'd say it's a win.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Barrel Breed: Barley Wine
Reviewed by Jez on 07.09.15 on tap
Overall:
84 / 100
(Exceptional)
Tried on-tap at the Royal Albert Hotel in Sydney.

Looks golden in the glass, but with a surprising red character through the centre. Clarity is very good, and it looks surprisingly sleek and a little thin in the glass. Head is a lacy mess of white, that leaves fine specks, but stays as a crufty mess atop the glass. Looks good.

Nose is strong on the barrel characters, tending even towards aged and a little oxidised. A hint of tin metal, some subdued earthy hops and a slight hint of cellar dustiness. There's still a lot of sweetness, which is the overriding character, with a bit of sherry, and more of that wood. It's very decent all up.

Taste really steps it up a notch. Impressive entry, beautifully smooth, light and balanced. There's a wonderful use of oak that lends an almost lively whisky kick that peters out to ephemeral booze on the back palate. Stacks of vanilla, woody oak, and mild, smooth vinous notes as well. Finish is creamy, but balanced with that slight sharpness from the booze. The mouthfeel is gorgeously balanced in particular.

Yeah, overall, this is cracking stuff. It's very complex, but it has such a wonderful balance—it makes it feel refined, and genuinely easy to drink despite its weight. I love the beautiful smoothness in it, which really allows the flavours to flourish. It's a really lovely beer.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
The Beard Down Under (Rogue Collaboration)
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 28.08.15 in bottle
Overall:
67 / 100
(Solid)
Smokey barrel-aged barleywine, brewed at Moon Dog for the GBW 2014 Masterclass with John Maier.

Pours a dirty amber with orange flashes. Head is lacklustre, refused to swell up even in a vigorous pour. Steady trails of bead which is nice, as is the lacing.

Smells boozey and smokey, in that order. Islay whiskey character, with an odd chewy toffee note, cherry fruit and maybe some rum. Delivers what it promises.

Taste is quite pleasant. Thick boozey sweetness, with a caramelised crystal malt note upfront, that develops sweetish whiskey characters midway and then finishes booze-flavoured but without excessive heat. Tastes like a good boozey dessert, whiskey caramel or something, and would pair nicely with a creme custard or something.

I'm impressed by how dry this finishes, although a warm tickle lingers. Good texture.

Don't actually get a lot of smoke; I feel I'm expecting more of a punch in the face, and yet despite the size it's quite subdued, or possibly lacking something.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Chicken Killer
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 14.07.15 in bottle
Overall:
61 / 100
(Decent)
Burnished copper colour, hazy. Head is saffron-tinged cream, small bubbles but thick, generous and sticky. Looks awesome.

Smells malty. Caramel toffee with a slight nutty edge. Some sourness which is hop-driven but not bitter; just acidic-seeming over the top. Decent.

Taste is really quite astringent and laced with alpha acids. Burnished malt, with toffee, burnt sugar, a touch of roast and char, gets hoppy early and the citric bitterness lasts until the end. Somewhat sharp, but there's something very appealing about that acidic bite.

Feels sharp, puckering even, throughout. Decent body but a massive pull.

Feels off-balance. I think it's meant to, but it does have an intensity that makes it less respectable.
appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.25
Spotted Dick with Custard
Reviewed by Jez on 12.07.15 on tap
Overall:
63 / 100
(Solid)
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.

Pours a reddish amber hue with some pleasant hazing. Body is very smooth, as you'd expect, although there's minimal carbonation to show off its weight. Head is yellow-white, forming a fine ring and some film. with a few clinging strands of lace. Looks good.

Nose doesn't have a great deal. There is some vanilla and perhaps a touch of cherry or dried fruit. Disappointingly, this allows the booze to be present from the start, giving a slight sherry character that doesn't help things.

Taste is a little bit better. There's some smooth vanilla on the front, and an interesting kick of cherry or kirsch in the centre. This still adds to the boozy quality though, even though towards the back there's a thick sweetness trying to cover it up, and slick vanilla on the finish. The sweetness clings though making it feel slightly cloying by the end.

Feel is very very smooth and thick, which does help it.

In the end though, after drinking even a sampler I felt it was overly sweet. It's solidly put together at least by the end, but I'm not sure I want to drink a lot of it.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
'Relax Bro' Peated Barleywine
Reviewed by Jez on 12.07.15 on tap
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)
Tried on-tap at GABS 2015 in Melbourne.

Pours a brownish-amber colour with solid haze and very fine carbonation. Body is full but fluid. Head is a yellowish white and forms a nice, full fine crest with some bubbles in the corners. Lace is full and sheeting. Looks good.

Nose is peaty and rich, with a lot of smoky, savoury characters from start to finish. There's a touch of banana, and metallic notes of tin and copper. There's also something slightly ashy, like the wet remains of a campfire. Really interesting.

Taste is immediately peat-heavy. Salty, smoky with sweet seaweed and boggy sulphur. Umami notes come through on the center along with something slightly bitter and metallic. Lingering bite of hops on the back, more medal and slightly medicinal. There's a touch of burn on the back (possibly the cayenne, but also possibly the booze), and some lingering ashiness.

Feel is a bit light, especially for such a big beer.

Overall, I found this really interesting, but I may have been alone at GABS in thinking this. It's really weird and unique, and I know the peat and the ashiness put a lot of people off. For me, this is the sort of beer that well deserves a berth at the festival though.
appearance: 4.25 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Chicken Killer
Reviewed by Jez on 27.06.15 in bottle
Overall:
50 / 100
(Not Great)
22oz brown bomber purchased from Specs in Austin, TX. My first beer from New Mexico.

Pours a pleasant, slightly hazy amber colour, with a very full, rich and frothy head of orange-tinted off-white that ends up frothing out to form large pocked bubbles and messy lace. Body is syrupy and languid, leaving very little carbonation. Looks good though.

Nose is pleasantly dusty, with some gritty, rather earthy hop characters providing a kind of dull resonance above a body which is predominantly sweet. Certainly there's a fair bit of toffee character to it, but the sharp, earthy, gritty notes keep it from being too much. Smells pretty good.

The taste starts out okay, with a crisp bite from the hops and the suggestion that it's going to be backed up with malt. But instead, we get an incredibly strong boozy heat that lends a solvent harshness to the palate almost immediately, leaving the middle and back feeling quite overpowered with alcohol. There are some slight suggestions of complexities if you ignore this: perhaps some perfumed floral notes, but these likely come from the alcohol characters themselves. It's really a pretty hot mess.

Overall, this ends up being hard to drink, and doesn't have the balance or complexity that's pretty much a requisite of a beer this big. It ends up tasting its weight, and without a flavour component to make that seem worthwhile. I'm not a fan. I'm sorry New Mexico—I'm sure next time will be better.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 2.5
'Relax Bro' Peated Barleywine
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 12.06.15 on tap
Overall:
59 / 100
(Decent)
Pours an amber colour, hugely cloudy for the style. Beige head, large bubbles but retaining nicely. Looks pretty good.

Smells sweet, with vanilla-caramel overtones to the big malt hit, and a touch of spice. Peat-smoke on the back, not too strong. Exepcted more.

Taste is overly sweet upfront and goes downhill from there. Slightly medicinal that then takes on an ashy bitterness all over the finish. Smoke but not rounded, just one-note and astringent. Booze is there, but not too harsh. Not nasty but highlights the less-good aspects of some great flavours.

Full body with nice warming alcohol. Good for the style.

Not amazeballs. Peat takes on an ashtray kind of character when it could have been more rounded with some better supporting ingredients.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.5
Spotted Dick with Custard
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 10.06.15 on tap
Overall:
53 / 100
(OK)
Pours an amber colour, touch of haze in the body. Head is white, small bubbles around the edge and not much else.

Smells sweet, with vanilla and caramel malt and a great deal of butterscotch. Actual butterscotch though and not diacetyl so much. Sweet; not as big as I expected.

Taste is sweet upfront - loads of caramel with a touch of vanilla as it gets midway. Finishes unpleasantly sweet and verges into medicinal territory with a big boozy whack. Just an evolution of the sweetness and doesn't quite have enough to balance. This is the kind of barleywine palate that just puts me off.

Body is thick; too thick as to be even gluggy. Slight carbonation tingle and then just hot booze.

Sweet, boozy; not really my thing.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.25 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 3.25 | drinkability: 3.0
Sisyphus
Reviewed by Jez on 09.04.15 on tap
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)
Tried on-tap at Meddlesome Moth in Dallas. This was the 2011 vintage, so around four years old when I tasted it.

Pours a lovely orange-golden colour, mildly hazed but still clear enough to see light through. Body is very solid and thick with barley sugars. Head is just turning to cream, forming a pocked, but consistently firm head. Lace is chunky and solid. Some nice fine, vibrant carbonation enlivens what might have been a dead beer given its age. Looks very good.

Nose is bright and redolent with orange-scented hops, laced over a solid smooth basis of malt sugars. Something sharper, perhaps from the age gives a suggestion of ozone and minerals that gives a minor salty twang amongst the smoothness. There's nothing classically sharp from hops though—no pepper, no resiny bite. This beer is about the smooth.

Light sugary entry on the palate, touched with a touch of that saltiness. This leads into that orange candy quality, almost sugar-sweet, but that mineral character gives it a bit more meatiness and depth. The back is slightly pithy—not really bitter, but providing a bit of balance so the sweetness doesn't just overwhelm the palate. Aftertaste is soft with minimal linger, although the booze gives a suggestion of brandy or Grand Marnier in the very finish.

Feel is soft and light, and rather ephemeral. It actually also helps create the balance, even though it's surprising for a barleywine.

This is a soft, supple beer with some age on it. It's holding up beautifully and integrating all the flavours very nicely. I like it a lot.
appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Nordic Saddle Buffer
Reviewed by Jez on 28.03.15 in bottle
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)
330ml brown bottle purchased from Oak Barrel in Sydney. Fitting, seeing as this "Barrelly Wine" is "aged in ex-Shiraz and Pinot barrels for a rather long time".

Pours a rusty brownish amber, with almost no head to speak of except for the bubbling that comes from perturbations when poured, and eventually even that disappears, leaving a rather tiny ring of white as the last vestige. Body is expectedly gelatinous, although it looks rather still without the carbonation. It's not that unexpected a look, but it also still doesn't inspire great confidence.

Nose is better than it might have been. Smooth sweet, sticky malt takes the fore laced with heady overtones of booze and barrel oak. Slight peppery, almost solventy characters from the additional ABV, without much note of the wine that previously inhabited the barrels. Some mild oxidation is also present, but to be honest, it's much less than it might have been for a beer that's spent "a rather long time" in barrels, and then longer still wherever it was before I bought it.

Taste is better again. Here, there's no hint of the oxidation, hidden as it is behind solid layers of rich malty sweetness and the boozy potency. OK—there is a hint of it, but it's well hidden. Also well hidden is the boozy harshness—yes, you can tell it's big, especially with the tingle of heat in the back palate, but it comes across in the texture of the beer more than the flavour, and the caramel and port qualities help smooth over any roughness. Oak does come through a little on the back, with a mild vanilla slide into the finish mingled with some pleasant dry tannins.

Feel is very smooth, but left tingling from the boozy heat. It works well.

Overall, after an inauspicious beginning, this was a pretty fine beer. It's a big barleywine, to be sure (I mean 14.6% is pushing it even for an already boozy style), but I'm impressed at how integrated it managed to stay—that's not easy. I'm certainly very happy to sip on it.
appearance: 3.25 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | drinkability: 4.0
SuperBeast 2014
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 09.03.15 in bottle
Overall:
67 / 100
(Solid)
Bottle sampled at Cammeray Craft sometime in December 2014.

Dark orangey brown, some sediment in there. Head is full of character, slowly developing a cascade when poured, nice density around the rim. Slow bead. Bit dead maybe but otherwise looks nice.

Smells intense. Caramelly and sweet with a jammy fruit intensity. Yeah strawberry, plum, English toffee and a touch of tangy citrus at the back. Curious; but also very likeable. Almost loveable.

Taste is insanely sweet. Very caramelly and syrupy with a big intense plum and fig fruit lingering behind. Tastes of sherry in some ways, crême brulée in many others. Has a lingering sweetness that could be tempered somehow, and has a richness that just adds to the cloying nature. I'd be OK with the sweetness but the rich flavour just makes it feel very heavy as well. Also feels boozey, although there isn't too much heat except at the very back. Thick, perhaps gluggy. Decent.

Pretty thick, somewhat gloopy. Some nice characters but a bit overblown.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Super Beast (2013)
Reviewed by Jez on 23.09.14 in bottle
Overall:
69 / 100
(Very Good)
330ml brown bottle with a green cap (of course), purchased from Oak Barrel in Sydney. It uncaps with a might hiss, making me wary of a gush, which it fortunately does not do.

Instead, we get a massive head of foam, despite a gentle pour, atop a surprisingly light body of reddish amber. Lacing is patchy as the head dissipates, and the head actually stays relatively coarse-bubbled. Body is really very light, and the carbonation is swift through it. It's really quite surprising.

Nose is a rich punch of peat, smoky and medicinal, with a light overtone of minerals and clay. Under it is a sweetness that has a slight cider quality to it. As it warms, there's a little more pepper, and the mineral quality goes slightly inky. Pretty good all up.

Taste is also good, but there is indeed a surprising lack of body and sweetness to support everything that's going on. But the good parts are still there. Rich smokiness, almost meaty in quality, with a pronounced peppery bite and some fairly strong leafy notes. Booze is prominent—despite the smoke, it doesn't have many places to hide, and with the lighter body, it becomes quite hot. Feel is light but spicy as a result, and you can feel the 10%+ ABV.

The booze is heavy here, and it weirdly seems more peaty as a result. It accentuates some of the medicinal and mineral qualities of the brew, which are pleasant enough in concert with some other things, but which end up feeling a bit raw in this particular beer. You have to respect the pure scale of the flavour though. This is, indeed, a beast.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.75
Black Sabbath
Reviewed by Jez on 24.06.14 on tap
Overall:
70 / 100
(Very Good)
Tried on-tap at GABS 2014 in Melbourne.

Pours a very deep brown colour, almost black, but not quite, with a slight clouding to the body. Weight is very solid, as you'd expect. Head is pale brown, but a little filmy and flimy, leaving streaky, inconsistent lace. Looks fairly decent.

Nose is quite nice. Weak-brewed coffee with sweeter tones of figs and toffee. Some darkness comes through as well with a tough of light astringency. Overall, I quite like it—there's stuff going on.

Slightly spicy entry to the palate with a bit of boozy heat from the start. Robust and bold through the centre with more coffee and a burnt toffee aroma. Bitter towards the back and very boozy—it almost tastes chemical with the bitterness working with it as well. Long burnt sweetness on the finish.

Feel is very smooth and decent.

Overall, I liked this just fine. It was a big beer that mostly managed to keep itself in check. There was stacks to enjoy at least while it was pummeling me.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.75
Class Of '88 Barleywine Style Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 15.02.14 in bottle
Overall:
65 / 100
(Solid)
750ml caged and corked bottle picked up from Whole Foods in SoMa, San Francisco. Shared with @tobeerornottobe in Sydney.

Pours a relatively clear golden-bronze colour, with a filmy, but very fine head of pure white, like snow on the top of a cake. Lacing forms in spritzy strips across the glass. Body actually looks fairly fluid and light, but the carbonation is quite fine and very languid, indicating that it's thicker than I think it is. Looks good.

Smell is barley-heavy, giving a light, sugary malt character above all else. Slight twinges of booze extend it slightly, but also add an eye-watering strength to the brew as a whole. Hops are definitely muted, but there's still something relatively pleasant about it as a whole, even though the complexity isn't really there.

Taste is similar. Smooth, barley-heavy sweetness gives a cleanness to the palate on the front, while the back is peppered by a faint astringency and a slinging heat of booze. Enlivened perks of hops do come forward on the finish, resulting in a slight bitterness to attempt to dry out the beer and add some complexity. It's not bad.

Feel is fairly rich and broad, and with a slickness that is very pleasant. The booze heat harms it a little, but it's surprisingly balanced.

Probably remarkably drinkable for the ABV. It's certainly well-made and with a balance that puts other similar beers to shame. But it perhaps doesn't justify its strength. It's remarkably mild in many ways: that's almost certainly a good thing—a testament to the quality and balance of the brew—but it didn't make me jump up in excitement, and that's what I really want beers to make me do.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.75
Supermucilaginisticexpialidocious
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 29.11.13 on tap
Overall:
71 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a deep red colour, slightly cloudy with decent beige head. Sticky and clingy with nice lace. Looks great, particularly given the size of this.

Smells quite hoppy. Decent caramel malt notes but quickly turns tangy and fruity, with lemon, lime and passionfruit. Was expecting more sweetness, but it's not bad at all.

Buttery and caramel malt upfront, very sweet with a big shoulder of oak in there. Grapefruit, star anise and a touch of pink pepper. Oak, together with a twist of Benedictine, quite a lot of boooze on the back as well. Nice flavours.

Very thick mouthfeel, falls short of being stodgy but the big noticeable thing here is the hot, sharp booze. No movement otherwise in the mouth, could use something to cut through that hot alcohol.

Huge beer. Too big? The flavours are lovely but that booze just can't be overcome, sadly.
appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Old Guardian OAK - SMOKED Barleywine
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 13.08.13 in bottle
Overall:
60 / 100
(Decent)
Pours a red colour, with a few bubbles around. Thin but pleasant head, off-white with some trails of lace left behind. Quite pleasant-looking.

Smells smoky. Meaty, bacony, yeah. Some speck; with peppery spice. Touch of fennel and plenty of salt. Not very beery, but if you don't at least enjoy this smell you're probably a communist.

Taste has a lot more malt to it. Very strong, sweet toffee flavour upfront that develops into smoky characters, with some wood smoke and slightly charred meat, but also a distinct boozey note. Brandied cherries and sort of empty spiritous flavour which is so sad, because so much more deliciousness was promised on the nose.

Full body, goes down OK but feels like it coats your mouth with lacquer at the end. So dry.

Not sure what's gone wrong between me and this palate, but goddamn that was one delicious smell. Would probably pair really well with a pot roast with speck, or a pulled pork roll, but on its own it just doesn't quite stand up for me.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.25
Old Guardian OAK - SMOKED Barleywine
Reviewed by Jez on 03.08.13 in bottle
Overall:
88 / 100
(Superb)
22oz bomber purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Shared with @tobeerornottobe and @LaitueGonflable in Sydney.

Pours a hazed deep ember hue, orange tinged in places, with an exceptional, fine head of pale beige. Carbonation really is like powder: riotous and dense, but extremely fine. Body is thick but still fluid enough to be glossy. Looks great.

Nose is very mildly smoked, giving a faint wooden character to the otherwise clean maltiness that pervades everything else. I get popcorn characters, a slight meatiness and a pervasive caramel sweetness, all topped with a decent dollop of booze. Nice stuff.

Ooh boy. The smoke comes through beautifully on the nose, though. Big barbeque characters from the get-go, wood-smoked and slightly bitter, all with a creamy malt undertone which adds sweetness and slickness. Hops provide a green edge to the taste, lingering for a while until the smoke caresses them and leads them away. The smokiness is so masterfully done: it's a creamy, sweet smokiness that feels wholesome and comforting and works brilliantly layered on top of the richness of the palate. Fantastic.

Feel is excellent, smooth but light, with nothing to countermand the smoke character on the palate.

Overall, this is really, really lovely stuff. Big and rich, with smoke used to brilliant effect. I do not doubt that I've rated this significantly higher than the regular Old Guardian: I think this integrates better, with the smoke providing an overarching structure and coherence. Really, truly wonderful stuff.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Supermucilaginisticexpialidocious
Reviewed by Jez on 08.07.13 on tap
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)
Tried on-tap at the 2013 GABS festival in Melbourne. This is an oak-fermented barleywine made with great amounts of oat and rye—they term it a "Barley(Oat/Rye)wine".

Pours a big red hue with syrupy haze and a very thick body. Head forms in a solid creamy ring of very pale yellow that leaves stretchy rings down the glass. Right now, it's certainly living up to its name.

Nose has a bunch of interesting characters, mostly estery or juicy and sweet. I get banana, some cherry characters, with more savoury or unusual characters of latex and moisturiser. It's interesting stuff, and quite powerful.

Chewy caramel on the entry with more banana notes giving a banana leaf savoury note. Clear chewy (I'm going to say chewy some more soon) malt continues, peppered with spicy notes and a faint herbal quality. On the back it's quite boozy and slightly phenolic—still with some spicy pepper characters, but also raisins and spiced rum. The aftertaste just leaves the vapours of booze.

Feel is so heavy and (I promised) chewy.

I like it a lot. It's perhaps a bit too hot, but then I guess if I'm complaining about that I shouldn't be drinking a 10% ABV Barley(Oat/Rye)wine. Anyway: booyah, kudos and thanks for bringing this to GABS—it was certainly a standout at the festival.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Class Of '88 Barley Wine
Reviewed by Jez on 15.05.13 in bottle
Overall:
63 / 100
(Solid)
22oz bomber purchased from Whole Foods SoMa in San Francisco. As far as I can tell, this is not a collaboration, but part of a series of Barleywines from Deschutes, Rogue and North Coast, celebrating 25 years in the craft beer industry.

Pours a lovely clear, bright orange colour, with a bright white, slightly creamy head. The forms exquisite lacing, and sticks around even as a film for quite some time. The body is silky and smooth, and holds carbonation so densely when tilted. It's a really lovely looking beer.

Nose is, in some senses, rather subdued. There's a sharp green hop presence, a definite suggestion of booziness and some sugary malt that comes through like golden syrup. But all up, it's faintly generic, and not at all particularly strong. Some cinnamon arrives slightly as it warms up, but it's not enough to add a great deal of interest.

Taste is certainly stronger, but the booze seems to pick up most of the slack, giving a heat and a bite that mingles with the hop bitterness to make it quite oppressive, especially towards the back. There's a shell of malt to it, but again it has a fragile sugar character to it: not a true sweet, wholesome richness. There are subtleties there, perhaps again like the cinnamon spice on the nose, but the booze and the intensity tend not to let them through.

No matter what I think of the flavours and their intensity, though, the feel is exquisite. Beautifully light, silky and smooth, but with a creamy richness accentuated by fine carbonation. Really, it's excellent, and only needs a better flavour profile to make it perfect.

Overall, though, this is not a beer that won me over, despite its good points. It's heavy, intransigent and somewhat frustrating. I found it needlessly big, without the payoff that a really heavy beer can bring. There are obviously things to love in this beer, but I was too conflicted to completely embrace it.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 3.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 3.25
Drake's Jolly Rodger American Barleywine 2012
Reviewed by Jez on 07.05.13 in bottle
Overall:
79 / 100
(Excellent)
22oz bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.

Pours a burnished amber hue, deep in colour, but perhaps only because it's a deep beer intrinsically. Body is full and satiny, holding carbonation well. Head forms a structural foamy crest, settling down to a substantial, but less structural film of off-white. Lacing is good, forming in flecked rings around the glass. Looks very good.

Lemony notes on the nose, extremely delicate, with a structure of filigreed herbal notes behind it. There's a pleasant malt character backing it up, but it stays dormant for a long while. As it warms, the malt comes a little more forward, along with the booze, which accentuates some of the other characters, but doesn't overpower. It's a very well-constructed and extremely pleasant aroma.

Taste is a little lighter than I expected, and certainly less broad on the palate, but it's exceptionally long, and it develops beautifully along its length. Initial leafy, earthy hop notes eventually fade, leaving sweet malty tones, toasted oatmeal, and a honeyed sweetness that lingers and dances with the oddly roasty tones that flare up towards the ending. Booze provides feeling: a kinaesthetic structure that guides the flavours without getting in the way.

Overall, this is good stuff. After a while, the lack of breadth on the palate means it feels a little sharp; this harms the drinkability slightly, but really, this is a beer that's meant to be savoured and sipped. The length on the palate is it's strength, and its delicacy is it's uniqueness. I've not had such a big bold beer that is so subtle and coy. It's fascinating stuff.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Brewdog / Three Floyds Bitch Please (Islay Cask)
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 21.03.13 in bottle
Overall:
80 / 100
(Excellent)
Pours a red-brown sort of colour, mostly red. Head is beiege, foamy but quite decent. Nice lace; looks good.

Smokey. Charry, burnt, smouldering actually on the nose. So much aroma, and history, and evolution in that smell. It's all of one family but so much character. Wow.

Taste is hugely burnt, charred and smokey. Not meaning to channel Ralph Wiggum but "it tastes like burning". Smouldering, peat-filled, smokey malt. Slight spice and caramel at the back adds a touch of sweetness, but it's really just mostly that smouldering, day-old ash heap; that's the flavour.

Remarkably smooth for the size; big body but pretty good.

Hugely burnt, almost spicy, carbon-burning flavour. I love it of course but it's just so deep and complex and yet there's a smoothness to the construction. Pretty amazing beer.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 07.03.13 in bottle
Overall:
70 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a toffee-coloured ESB kind of hue. Head is off-white, loose threads, not much left. Lace is alright. Looks OK.

Smell is lovely, caramelly toffee and sweet. Buckwheat, a touch of port and salted caramel above all else. Bit of solvent is a slight glitch, but otherwise very pleasant indeed.

Taste gets more of that caramel than all other flavours, but lots more as well. Bit of figgy richness, buckwheat again, some slight herbal hopping and some metallic notes. Bit on the heavy/sweet side, so not for every day, but it was always going to be. Still lots to like here.

A little flat and very syrupy texture. Could use something maybe to dry it up at the back, or more hops to cleanse.

Big, sweet beer. Nice, but could use a bit more on the balance side perhaps.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Sunturnbrew (Bourbon Barrel Aged)
Reviewed by Jez on 24.02.13 in bottle
Overall:
85 / 100
(Exceptional)
Small 250ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne. Shared with Adrian (aka @headlessclown).

Pours a shadowy, cloudy brown colour with a minimal, fussy off-white head. Lace forms speckled dots, like the spot on a slug. Body is fluid but thick. Carbonation is fine, and quite powdery and flurrying when tilted. It looks really good.

Nose is smoky, deep, boozy and rich. Big peated notes, some sharpness (partially alcohol, partially hops, perhaps), burnt lemon and medicinal overtones. Hops are indeed present: noticeable pine and resin come through later. There's not a huge sweetness or residual body. But it works as a big barleywine anyway. Great stuff.

Acidity on the palate, which I didn't expect: perhaps it's just the booze stretching or contracting my tongue. Sharp and smoky, more of that tartness, lots of vinous oak characters, grape vine leaf and a bit of aniseed. Wow this is complex stuff. It's still unashamedly boozy—very boozy in fact, you can feel, smell and taste the alcohol throughout. It's sharp, toasty, smoky and intense. Holy crap.

Intense. Yes. That's intense. It's different to what I thought it would be: I remember the original Sunturnbrew being complex, but somewhat sweet and comfortable. I assumed the barrel aging would give it more roundness, perhaps a little more integration. But instead it adds booziness, intensity and sharpness. Still, it's extremely good.

appearance: 4.25 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.25
Galaxy Hopped Barleywine Ale (Brothers' Reserve Series)
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 07.02.13 in bottle
Overall:
71 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a vibrant red colour, slight toasty note to the colour. Head is cream in hue, sunk to a thin film with some nice lacing left behind. More retention would be great, but it still looks very appealing.

Smells intriguing. Some light spicy notes all over that, with subtle coriander, cumin and pepper. Fruity esters hiding behind and complementing well; maybe some lime and pineapple with some English toffee malt underneath. Toasty, warming smell; very appealing again.

Taste is more toasty, particularly upfront that gets slight spice notes midway, mostly pepper with a slight nod to cloves. Finish is sadly far too sweet for me, treacly with a touch of cinnamon for an overall sticky-bun kind of flavour. Slight peppery hop note on the back is a welcome addition but it doesn't quite redeem. Not bad, and I can see others liking this a lot more, but it's just a tad syrupy overall.

Actually a bit thin in the mouth; hint of a drying pull as it goes down but otherwise yeah, slightly empty.

I can see nothing but a well-made beer in my glass, so I have to forgive it for its perceived flaws on my palate.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Ganko Oyaji Barley Wine 2012
Reviewed by Jez on 15.01.13 in bottle
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)
I've been sitting on this bottle for ages, for some reason, and never really thought of a reason to crack it. So I cracked it tonight for no reason whatsoever. 633ml tall bottle purchased from Slowbeer.

Pours a fine but heavy reddish amber hue, with a very solid hazing. Head forms a smattering of tessellated large bubbles across the top of the glass, leaving a sheen of yellow-white. Minimal lacing apart from the specks of a few of those broken bubbles. Carbonation is wonderful: blissfully fine and powdery, and the body is thick enough to make it near-static on tilting. Overall, it looks very good.

Nose is spicy and boozy almost from the very start. Rich, rummy sugar notes, with a heady waft of vaporous alcohol. Slight corky hints of oxidation, but only mild, and oddly suited to this style of beer. Fruity notes evolve from the booze: raisins and currants come to mind, along with a prickly cherry astringency. Overall, it's very potent but quite good.

Taste is less immediately sharp and boozy: instead, there's a tempered sweetness which coats the tongue, allowing the spicy, volatile components to warm and evanesce until you're practically smelling them anyway. More rum-like booze, sweeter notes of the sultana fruitiness, and a warming finish like cognac. Hops are probably there, adding their own subtleties to the spice, but this is more about body and booze than anything else.

Feel is smooth and silky, and perhaps not as chewy as I expected. This has a lightness to it despite its depth.

It's interesting to see a brewer play with some of the lesser-appreciated aspects of the beer flavour spectrum—here is a noticeably boozetacular barleywine that still manages to stay remarkably balanced and approachable.

appearance: 4.25 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Old Guardian Barley Wine Style Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 13.10.12 in bottle
Overall:
69 / 100
(Very Good)
Bottle purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA. Shared with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe in Sydney.

Pours a lovely burnished copper-red colour with a fine, slightly overly frothy off-white head. Lacing is patchy, but the body is deep and heavy. It looks very clear and bright, but deep and suspicious as well. Love it.

Nose is heady and boozy, with a barley-sugar character laced with plenty of straight-up and possible straight-down hops. It gives it a slightly medicinal overtone, especially with the wafts of booze coming through. But really, it feels exceptionally sweet, with hops being the afterthought rather than part of the full process.

Taste is similar. There's a chewy, deeply sweet barley-sugar character throughout, that only really gets cut on the edges by the bright hop bitterness, and at the end, where the sharpness comes to a point. It's deeply sweet, however, yet doesn't have a lot of depth or complexity. It's a very odd mixture. I feel like this should be a heady maelstrom of intriguing flavours, when in fact it feels like a barleywine By The Numbers.

I mean, overall, it's good, right? It has to be. It's Stone, it's a barleywine, it's clearly well made and executed. I just really didn't connect with it though. It didn't have anything that got me excited or made me want another bottle right now. But it's solid and worthwhile, at least. That's about as enthusiastic as I can get.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Brewdog / Three Floyds Bitch Please (Islay Cask)
Reviewed by Jez on 01.09.12 in bottle
Overall:
98 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Bottle purchased directly from the brewery and sent to Australia. Shared with @tobeerornottobe and @LaitueGonflable.

Pours a hazy, even smoky red colour, with a fine firm head of mottled cream. Lacing is intricate but sparse. Body is as thick as you'd expect, holding carbonation statically in its grip. Overall, it's a pretty awesome looking brew.

Nose is huge and peaty. Like, as peaty as you can physically get, and then with a little more peat thrown in for good measure. Insanely smoky and slightly sharp, with an almost peppery note to it. There's perhaps a hint of wood to it, and an odd character of rubbed lemon skin. It's excellent stuff.

Taste is (if anything) even better. Here, there's (yes, yes) peat, smoke, scotch, sweetness, depth (yawn): everything you'd expect from the nose. But they up the ante with a really unexpected note of capsicum or fresh, fruity chilli, almost like a habanero without the spice. The subtlety of it is masterfully done, even though everything is caught in a traumatic, abusive maelstrom. This is absolutely fantastic stuff. Brilliantly insane, but with inimitable cohesion to it.

Love it. Love it. Love it. This is actually fairly different to the original Bitch Please, but it's still absolutely brilliant. This is why I keep trying new beers: in the hope that something like this will come along.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 5.0 | taste: 5.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 5.0
Devine Rebel 2010
Reviewed by Jez on 11.08.12 in bottle
Overall:
61 / 100
(Decent)
Bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.

Pours a brilliantly deep red hue, with an amazing oily weight to the body. Head pours out immediately bright yellow, but settles to a beige ring of fine, wistful bubbles. Not much in the way of lace. Still it's an impressive looking beer.

Nose is deep and boozy, with sugary, faintly malty, but more port-like hints of sweetness. Slight peppery, oxidised cardboard characters along with some slightly smoky whisky and woody oak notes. It feels hot already, but let's give it the benefit of the doubt for now. It's impressive, in any case.

Taste is indeed, big, robust and impressive, but also excessively hot, with a cutting boozy heat strafing through the centre of the palate. The oxidised character comes through strongly on the back, leaving some peppery sharpness and a flat, lightly phenolic finish. Sweetness is muted, and the feel is battered into a whimpering thinness by the strength of the booze, which is not reined in at all. Phew.

Overall, this is unrestrained and cacophonic. It's big, bold and intense, without any regard for decency or taste. That makes it a harsh and somewhat painful experience.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.0
Murray's Anniversary Ale 4 (2009)
Reviewed by Jez on 05.08.12 in bottle
Overall:
80 / 100
(Excellent)
Pours a lovely dark red-brown, with a huge rocky and frothy head of off-white bubbles. Lacing and retention are excellent. Body looks slightly thin, but not overtly. Still looks very similar to its brethren. And that's no bad thing.

Absolutely delicious nose. Big fruity, luscious hops and rich toffee sweetness keeping it honest. Light acidity and slight metallic notes leaven the otherwise thick and heavy characters.

Very nice rich toffee and booze notes on the nose, with a spike of hoppy bitterness through the centre to ensure it doesn't get too thick or heavy. Mouthfeel is a little too prickly, but it doesn't detract. A year of age would probably help it.

It's a little raw this young - I found a year or two of age on the AAs really makes them blend better and cohere more spectacularly, but it's hard to deny this is a worthy beer young as well. My recommendation: buy six, or twelve, and try one a year as long as they hold out. It's a fulfilling experience.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 5.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
New Crustacean
Reviewed by Jez on 23.07.12 on tap
Overall:
77 / 100
(Excellent)
On-tap at the brewery in Newport, OR. Apparently, it's a "pale barleywine", brewed with entirely pale malts.

Indeed, it seems pale: a pale yellow colour, with mild hazing and a hugely solid body. Head is a powdery ring of white. Lace is intricate and complex. It looks like Hindu art. It's a great looking beer all up.

Nose is bright with sparkly hops. Hints of mint, pine, orange and juniper with a touch of jammy apricot giving it some sweetness. Whoo, this is a big beer. You can tell already.

Or can you? Actually, the palate is surprisingly light (or at least lighter than I expected). Some slight grain on the entry with a hint of raisins, before some pithy orange sharpness comes through like a dollop of rindy marmalade. There's a big biting bitterness on the finish, but it's smoothed and lightened somehow. Somehow. I just can't figure it out. Not from the feel, which is gloriously smooth and thick: it might just be the fragrance of it gives the impression of the big hop bitterness without actually leaving a huge whack of hop oil on the finish.

Fascinating stuff, and surprisingly good, given this could have just been astringent, fusel-full and harsh. Instead, we get a remarkably balanced beer for it's high ABV and aggressive profile.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Galaxy Hopped Barleywine Ale (Brothers' Reserve Series)
Reviewed by Jez on 03.03.12 in bottle
Overall:
76 / 100
(Excellent)
Purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco, brought back to Sydney Australia and opened with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.

Pours s deep reddish brown colour, with a fine film of quite light white coloured bubbles. Lacing is speckled and fine and tight. Body is firm and strong, and hold very tine carbonation. Overall, it's a really good looking brew.

Nose doesn't really scream Galaxy to me, but the reason for that might be in the luscious, overwhelming barleywine sweetness. Lots of caramelised malts and crystalline sugar characters, giving a deep sweet pool that other characters get lost in. There's a slight tin-foil like metallic twinge to it, which suggests some hops (although not Galaxy), but it's hidden really in the caramelised, rich, sweet sweet sweetness.

Taste is also good, with a true clear caramel barleywine flavour to it that dips out before it gets too heavy. Pleasant cleansing bitterness on the back manages to leaven and cut the palate and stop it from being too intense. Some mild buttery characters do perhaps make it a little chewy and heavy, but otherwise it's a very decent barleywine.

That kind of sums it up, in a way: it's a very decent barleywine. What it's not is a particularly good showcase for Galaxy, which is a lovely hop if used judiciously in the right place. I'll take this beer on its merits (and merits it has), but I'll secretly be a little bit disappointed.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
BrewDog / Three Floyds Bitch Please
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 02.01.12 in bottle
Overall:
83 / 100
(Exceptional)
Pours a burnished red colour, vibrant up to the light. Head is beige, nicely packed together but dissipates to look a bit whispy. Lace is clingy and pleasant. Looks good.

Woah, massive smoke to that. Peaty and bacony with a meaty woody note. Slightly salty as well., but a very decent hop aromatic just taming the wild smoke beast. Touch of peanut, citrus and pine wood. Very nice.

Taste is intriguing; very nutty and woody. Big smoke grows from the front which is quite a caramelly malty front, then peaty and smokey and bacony notes dominate up to mid-palate. The back, where it all culminates, is all charred wood, with solid burnt pine and oak, and a slight malty caramelly touch of peanut and pine nut. Very woody, with a touch of side sweetness. Idiosyncratic and very interesting. Also, it's genuinely more than I gave it credit for, that sweetness is cracking.

Full, drying as it goes through. A bit ashy on the back, both palate and texture. Kind of has the texture of an ashtray, in the best possible way.

Yeah, is it an everyday beer? No. Should it be? Yes. People should train their palates to enjoy this kind of weird, challenging, virtually undrinkable snuff as their go-to drink.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
BrewDog / Three Floyds Bitch Please
Reviewed by Jez on 22.12.11 in bottle
Overall:
96 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Bottle purchased from Leura Cellars, shared with @LaitueGonflable.

Pours a lovely clear red colour, bright and vibrant, with a solid and frothily fine head of off-white. Quite a lucid and fine body, but the carbonation is incredibly fine and powdery when tilted. Lacing is tiny, intricate and persistent. Overall, it's a really gorgeous looking beer.

Nose is powerfully strong with peated smoke, but balanced gorgeously with a resiny, almost pine-like hoppy fragrance, that gives it depth and complexity. It's bright and pleasant, but with a depth that's quite extraordinary. Wow.

Taste is, also, just incredible. Pleasant rustic bounce from the smoke, giving it a pleasant dryness and a touch of Islay Scotch, before that lovely piney resin character comes through to balance and deepen the complexity. Furthermore, there are other, more subtle malt characters that come through later—biscuits, toasted grain and a dry spiciness almost like rye. It's incredibly complex, but all fused and tied to that smoky, peaty backbone. Feel is light and pleasant, but the lightness itself is astonishing in a beer this big.

Confronting but reassuring all in one, this is a beer that puts together some astonishingly good complexity into a whole that makes gorgeous sense and fabulous anarchy all in one. Absolutely fantastic.

appearance: 5.0 | aroma: 5.0 | taste: 5.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Yule Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 04.12.11 in bottle
Overall:
62 / 100
(Decent)
Pours a festive red colour with mild brown tinge. Head is off-white-to-beige, nice density which sinks to a crema-esque film. Lace is sticky and nice. Yeah, looks good.

Smells quite boozey and a bit of a blend of sweet/spicy. Plenty of dried fruit - raising and sultanas, with some vanilla pod, Irish cream, cinnamon and brandy. Needs something to ground it and balance out the sweetness, but still pretty pleasant and Wintery.

Taste also has that booziness through most of the palate. Plenty of sweetness, with sticky caramel toffee, hint of banana and some gooey sultana sweetness on the back. Touch of vanilla midway, then some Belgian peppery yeast notes late that are really rather spicy and dry. Sweet dessert wine comes through on the finish, but not overpowering. It's quite hot throughout a lot of it, like the booze shows through quite raw. I feel like it might be a bit young; the bottle says it's good 'til 2015 and I feel a bit more age will mellow out the fermentables to a better sweet complexity.

Full mouthfeel, but a bit sharp and boozey particularly at the back.

If you've got yourself a bottle of this, hang off for 6 months at least and it could be wonderful. Don't take my word for it but I think it's drinking a bit green at the moment.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Anniversary Barley Wine
Reviewed by Jez on 16.10.11 in bottle
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)
XVII vintage, purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.

Pours a lovely thick and deep red-brown colour, brilliantly clear, and so heavy as to form the most minute, tiny carbonation. Head is riddled with large bubbled from an enthusiastic form, but is mainly formed of a fine yellow film across the top. Looks great.

Nose is sweet and heavy, but really pleasantly laced with a big hoppy presence, giving it some green, crushed vegetation characters, and the pleasant aroma of citrus. This is all mingled with big sweet characters of broken butter biscuits, caramel and unfermented, grainy wort. Indeed, it's like the two types of characters are sitting at either end of a see-saw, in perfect balance. Gorgeous.

Taste is similar, with again that big, almost buttery sweetness forming a solid base on which some fresh hoppiness can dance. Across all of this is a rather potent bitterness, which cuts across the palate like a big red, bloody streak. I understand it—perhaps because this is meant to sit and last for many years—but right now it's a glaring injury on the palate. Feel is smooth and fluid and chewy, apart from the sharp bitterness, which almost has a kinaesthetic component to it.

Obviously, this is worth cellaring. That would cut down the raw bitterness a bit, which is just about the only unpleasant character here. Even still, it's an impressive, flavoursome and well-integrated barleywine. I'd love to try this vintage again in a couple of years.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
# 100
Reviewed by Jez on 27.09.11 on tap
Overall:
81 / 100
(Excellent)
On-tap at the Sail & Anchor in Fremantle, WA.

Pours dark. Very dark, in fact. This is certainly one of the darkest barleywines I've ever had. Head is fine and soft, a pale light cream colour. Lace forms in solid sheets down the edge of the glass. Body is heavy. Looks pretty good.

Spicy nose, a little exotic and alluring, with a lemony sweetness like a sherbet lemon candy. Underneath it are some sweet dark tones and a hint of ash. An interesting nose.

Taste is great. Dark but smooth, and with a lively hoppiness. Citric, but sweet, and always caressed by the deep and full body. On the back some dark roasted bitterness comes through which is a lovely complement to the other flavours. Feel is quite light, but undercarbonated, which keeps it smooth.

Lovely drop. It's deep and heavy, but really surprisingly drinkable.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
15th Anniversary Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 07.08.11 on tap
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)
On-tap at Barcade in Brooklyn, probably my favourite beer-bar in the five boroughs. Also, excitingly, I think this was my first beer from New Jersey. The state's oldest craft brewery, and their anniversary ale, no less, seemed like an appropriate starting point.

Pours a red-brown hue with a fine head, that ultimately resorts to being a ring of yellow white at the edges of the glass. No lace, but a full and heavy beer does that. And this is certainly a full, and heavy beer.

Nose is quite strong and boozy, with a touch of caramel and a light resonant hoppy bite. Some hops, but also a rather bready note. It has the strong, slightly toasted grain characters I associate with an Old Ale. Not bad though.

Taste is smooth and long, without being particularly complex. Some bready notes, and a sharp, slightly boozy, almost vinous or port-like character. Cherry comes through, along with a little wood, and a zing of acidity to set it off nicely. Mouthfeel is smooth but surprisingly bright.

Not a bad brew. I've had better barleywines, but this is a very decent one all the same. It lacks some of the complexity and smoothness of character, but it's an impressive beer to drink nonetheless.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Flying Mouflan
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 02.08.11 in bottle
Overall:
73 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a dark, murky red, the colour of Hades' hungover eyes. Head is a lovely beige with big bubbles, but smooth and creamy elsewhere. Lace is thick; could be stickier but I'm pretty happy anyway.

Smell is thick and malty. Just a massive amount of thick, sticky malt on that with English toffee, molasses and brown sugar. Slight dessert wine character as well, but really it's mostly just sweet and syrupy. Complex enough to retain my interest, but it's still just sweet and nutty.

Taste is better. It's got all the sweetness of the nose, with a whole lot more complexity and a whole lot more grounding. Brown sugar, toffee and molasses on there in abundance, with a nice tart, floral hop character to cleanse out at the end with a hint of citrus and bergamot. Still, dessert wine, nutmeg, licorice and orange peel on there; very sweet but those nice subtle hops just lift the palate right where they should. Good work.

Smooth, mostly full with a lingering dryness. No real heat from the booze although it's warm and smooth.

A great beer, sweet but could use more balance early as it really surrenders to the sweetness rather than controlling it into the right direction. Nice, though.
appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Flying Mouflan
Reviewed by Jez on 30.07.11 in bottle
Overall:
85 / 100
(Exceptional)
Purchased in New York and carted carefully back to Australia to share with @LaitueGonflable.

Very deep red-hued brown, with a really sinister opacity to it. Head is full, but pocked with large bubbles, giving credence to the heaviness of the brew itself. Speckled, patchy lacing, but really good body with fine static carbonation. Good looking brew.

Nose is truly excellent, with a sharp and boozy rich barleywine basis of caramel, toffee and lightly roasted grains, balanced with some ecstatic and fragrant hops to give a pungent orange-chocolate melange. It has a sweetness as well that evokes good liqueur. A very refined and exceptional nose.

Smooth palate, just deliciously balanced between crisp orange citrus characters, and mellow chocolate sweetness. Toffee characters come along for the ride as well, leaving a melted blasted sugar character to smooth and caress the other notes. It's gorgeous.

A fantastic brew. Smooth, clean, rounded and deliciously balanced. This is pure beer crack—delicious, devilish and devious. The sort of beer that sucks you in, makes you fall in love, and then cracks you on the head with a vase the next day.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Big Worse (Bourbon Barrel Edition)
Reviewed by Jez on 24.07.11 in bottle
Overall:
83 / 100
(Exceptional)
I have a tendency to buy Mikkeller when I come to America, even though it's available in Australia. 1) Because it's much cheaper here than home and 2) Because Mikkeller is freakin' awesome. Sampled in New York, because it didn't make the cut of beers to take home.

Pours a deep, heavy red-brown colour, hazed—but who knows what with. This almost looks as though the haze comes purely from the viscosity of the liquid, as though it's absorbing even the light which passes through it. Head is very fine, although falters to a ring of minute bubbles soon after pouring. Lacing is sheeting and thick, however. Looks excellent.

Nose is smooth and oaky, with big vanilla notes, and huge spiritous booziness. Oily hop characters cavort through the haze of booze fumes and sweet mellow malt. It's an impressively aggressive and beautifully melded aroma.

Taste is also good, but the sharpness of the booze becomes rather ragged and insistent here. Smooth vanilla does a good job of soothing the rawness, but the spiritous burn still flickers on to the back palate. Complex dark flavours dance around, giving a flash of roasted grain at various points, and giving hints of whiskey. Feel is smooth and delightful.

A very good beer, that is undoubtedly aided by the bourbon barrel vanilla characters, although the booze is hefty in this one. Share it, sample it, enjoy it.

I wish I had have saved it and shared it.

appearance: 5.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Solstice D'hiver
Reviewed by Jez on 12.05.11 in bottle
Overall:
68 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a lovely red-amber hue, with decent clarity for such a deep and heavy brew. Lace seems to form before the head forms, leaving gorgeous patterns down the inside of the glass. The head itself is a filmy affair, but it's very finely bubbled. Body is incredibly thick and full, and it has some of the best static carbonation I've ever seen. Gorgeous.

Nose is really surprisingly weak, with just a peppery yeast note and a slight alcohol whiff. Rather smooth vanilla note and a raw meatiness. Not bad, but I'm really surprised at how insipid it is.

Taste is a bit better, with a sweet caramel basis and a biting acetone finish. It's still extremely mellow and mild, and it's impressive how little this leaves an imprint on the palate given its strength, but I'd really enjoy a bit more complexity and body.

Feel very smooth, which helps the drinkability.

Really, really smooth. So much that it doesn't even feel as though it's hitting the sides. It's a weird experience, but I like my beers to be more complex, and more challenging. This is decent, but far from Dieu Du Ciel's best.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Andhrímnir Barley Wine
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 18.01.11 in bottle
Overall:
67 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a rude lipstick red, slight haze. Head has that heavy-beer look, it's fairly webbed but sunk to a film/haze on top. Lace is sticky but fairly thin. Intriguing colour, pretty good overall.

Nose is one heavy bitchov. Incredibly sweet with a big jam aroma, just sherry and baked apple with huge fruit and toffee malt. A whiff of booze at the back is a bit unfortunate but mostly a pleasant - if overly sweet - drop of treacly sap in my glass.

Taste is yeah, hello sweetness. I can see you there. Lots of fruit jam with plum, fig and stewed apple notes and just an overriding fortified wine character, with port and even a touch of rum to it. Not all that complex, disappointingly. With big, sweet beers like this I'm after bouncing highs and lows, rich and sweet just leaping out of the glass. Here's it's kind of a flat sweetness with fruit on front and booze at back. Pleasant, but could have been more interesting.

Mouthfeel = surprise! It's full and thick and sticky, yeah, fits the style. A bit dry on the back; otherwise it has the big sticky malt base one would expect.

It's a sipping beer. Decent and pleasant, but not amazing.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Andhrímnir Barley Wine
Reviewed by Jez on 15.01.11 in bottle
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)

Enjoyed with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe after a day brewing our Australian Gruit.

Pours a lovely red colour, almost insanely so, like crushed cherries with a firm and fine head of off-white film. Lacing is minimal, but stick is dollops to the glass. Body looks heavy, but quite fluid and leaves some good static lacing when swirled. Quite honestly, it's a fantastic looking beer. The colour in particular is phenomenal.

Extremely sweet nose, with big redolent honey and syrup characters winning the day without any peer. Some slight phenolic booze is noticeable, giving a sharpness to the brew. Very nice.

Taste is supple and smooth, with very little hint of the booze, which is surprising. Neither, however, does it have much hint of the sweetness that was so omnipotent on the nose. It ends up smooth, with some light toasty grain notes on the back, and a thickness that doesn't really deliver much in the way of heavy malt.

Feel is fantastic though as a result: slick and smoth and with a decent chewy finish.

I'm not sure I've had a more subtle and drinkable 10% ABV brew. You can feel the weight behind it, but it stays incredibly smooth and nonchalant despite this. Certainly, this means it lacks in complexity, but it also means it kills in drinkability.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Old Ruffian Barley Wine
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 14.01.11 in bottle
Overall:
82 / 100
(Exceptional)
Pours a rustic amber colour, nice burnt-orange around the edges. Head is a nice colour, beige with large bubbles, sunk disappointingly and just leaving some specks of lace around. Apart from that, a fine-looker.

Nose is quite nice. Malty and hoppy with a caramel toffee and nutty edge to the malt. Nice bitter hop characters emerge on the back. Good citric edge, with resinous notes and a fresh pine furniture subtext. Quite damned pleasant, if a little strong at times.

Tastes very rich and malty with a lot of really pleasant complex sugars all over it. Starts caramelly with rich barley notes, before descending into more robust and slightly toasted grain edge with much nutty character - macadamia and almond primarily. Finish has a slight piney hop note with a touch of spray-cleaner citrus to it. Not all that clean, but malts are so complex and nicely earthy that they don't need so much cleaning up. A lovely rich after-dinner (or lunch, in this case) brew.

Mouthfeel is full as you'd expect but a little bit flat. A bit of heat on the back wouldn't go amiss, kind of feels untextured.

This beer is about a year old and it's obvious the punchy hops promised by the bottle have diminished greatly. GOOD. Having had a fresh Old Crustacean and being really quite put off by the scorching hop bitterness, I think about a year is the perfect time to drink beers like this. This is just rich, complex and sweet like a really great dessert wine. Good taste = good drinkin' in my book.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Old Ruffian Barley Wine
Reviewed by Jez on 09.01.11 in bottle
Overall:
88 / 100
(Superb)

Purchased in CA, at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, the only store I've come across these brews. Brought back to Sydney to share with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.

Pours a gorgeous red-orange colour, burnished brightly and shining when held to light. Head forms in tiny cascades initially, but becomes large-bubbled froth as it settles, which is not that surprising for a beer of this gravity. Body looks heavy and thick. Overall, it's a very robust and intense looking brew. I'm looking forward to sampling it.

Ooh, yes. The nose is just right for an American Barleywine. Big on the hops, of course, but nicely balanced with a big sweetness of rich toffee malts, and a pleasant sweet/savoury nut character. Very faint hint of phenolic booze, but it merely mingles with the other big flavours. Pleasantly, it's not a beer that could be mistaken for an Imperial IPA, it's clearly meatier and sweeter. Lovely.

Oh yes, and the taste keeps this trend alive, Big American hop presence on the front, but mellowing beautifully into a rich, sumptuous and chewy body, full of malts and a whiff of fragrant boozy characters. Finish is long and languid, with some roasted characters coming through again with a slight drying hazelnut or almond character.

Feel is full and smooth and tremendously firm to support all the characteristics.

A damn fine Barleywine, surely one of the best there is. They've done a magnificent job making it big in every area, but keeping the balance right for the style. Big, boozy and sweet, with great body and bit.

Magnificent beer.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Sunturnbrew
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 22.10.10 in bottle
Overall:
76 / 100
(Excellent)
Pours a nice burnished copper colour, quite cloudy. Head is a bit lacklustre at first glance, but there's more to it. A film of small bubbles but a swill gets a minor reverse cascade happening, and there's tonnes of sticky lace left behind. Yeah, more to it than meets the uneducated or inattentive eye.

Nose is fascinatingly smokey. I mean, it's smokey, but it's not what I expect from a smoked beer. Huge bacon and wood smoke with a pleasant caramel malt underlying it. But yeah, the smoke dominates a bit too much for there to be much else to notice here.

There is definitely more to the taste, though. Huge earthy malt flavour - very sweet with molasses & English toffee, but then an almost robust sharpness, kind of gritty with some tobacco notes and black tea bitterness. Some wood smoke as well to round it off but the point is, it's not the dominant flavour. The whole palate is dedicated to strong, bold sweetness. A hint of mint, actually, helps to clean it up, although not completely. A big boozey finish, liqueury more than anything, but a seamless transition from sweet to bitter. Yeah, very pleasant if noticeably heavy.

Very sticky and thick, not over the top though, with a slight dryness on the back and a warm alcohol sensation - almost hot. Definitely sexy, anyway.

Yeah, very heavy; definitely a bottle to be shared. Could I drink this every day? No. Would I choose to, in spite of this? Hell yes.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Sunturnbrew
Reviewed by Jez on 11.10.10 in bottle
Overall:
88 / 100
(Superb)

Pours a very nice dark red colour, almost the same shade as bloody, with a filmy but fine head, that forms with extreme difficulty through the heavy and firm body. Lacing is good, despite the nebulous nature of the bubbling on the top, but the extremity of the viscosity probably helps with that. Looks very nice.

Lovely big and smoky characters on the nose. But with lovely roasty characters welling up like the trails from the last charcoal embers of a campfire. It's a lovely aroma. Just delicious.

Initially smooth on the palate, with a huge welling of phenomenally good and leavened wood smoked goodness. Lovely smokiness throughout the palate, mixed with a generous sweetness to support it, and a hop oil finish which clears out the smoke with a robust bitter/boozy balance. Carbonation is just right; it lifts a little at the start to help accentuate the smoke, then fizzles out to give a smooth and velvety finish.

I love the way it travels through different elements so progressively. By the end, the palate is soothed enough that you want another sip, but every time you do, you get taken on another wild adventure.

This is a really excellent beer; one that cements Nøgne Ø in my mind as one of the great breweries of the world at the moment. It's smooth, but hugely robust and flavoursome, and supremely balanced between extremities. A really phenomenal drop of beer.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Beelzebub's Jewels 2010
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 15.09.10 in bottle
Overall:
63 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a burnished brown colour, head is modest but sinks to a very thin film, specks of lace being left here and there. Beige-coloured head, yeah pretty nice. Slight haze, mostly clear. Good-looking beer.

Smell is fairly roasty, with lots of hoppy notes coming through as well, touch of rosewater. Some mint as well? Very floral, quite earthy, and a very slight milky edge as well. Pleasant, not mind-blowing.

Taste is quite robust, fairly medicinal actually with fair phenols, hints of herbs all over that with rosemary and sage. A lot of thick, malty characters with hints of light coffee and some boiled sweet notes. Hint of musk and a definite alcohol warmth at the back, slight brandy edge. Yeah, a strong beer, can't say I'm overly enamoured of this though. Lots of sweetness, lots of phenols, just a strong beer without the complexity I love in other barleywines.

Definitely a lot of body to it, quite thick with a soupy character. Leaves fairly well but with a powerful alcomaholic warmth to it.

Flavour is enjoyable, but the noticeable alcohol heat on this makes it less drinkable.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Fred
Reviewed by Jez on 10.07.10 in bottle
Overall:
79 / 100
(Excellent)

Bought at Healthy Spirits, SF, and then carted back to Sydney to share with @LaitueGonflable and @thescotdownunder.

Pours a deep golden colour, slightly cloudy from sediment, with a huge an frothy head of just off-white foam. It's almost too much, with some excessive bubbling that almost makes it overflow with a pretty gentle pour. Looks good though, besides the logistics of the thing.

Big and rich nose. Masses of malt, with a boozy bent and a whiff of green hops to cut through some of the worst excesses of the barleywine. A bit of soda there as well, along with whiff of chlorine and saltwater which also leaven the rich, heavy sweetness of the brew.

Taste, however, is very firmly in the big, malty, sweet and heavy category. Rich and almost sugary, it melts on the tongue with flavours of dessert wine and toffee, with the booziness to back it up and make it a real sipper. I feel it almost needs something fresh, something lightly acidic to cut through it, but then I'm all about big malt-bomb barleywines, so I approve.

Yep, a big, unapologetic beer this one, with more than a whack of alcohol, but it's really quite suitable for the style and for what it's trying to do.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Big Worse
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 02.07.10 in bottle
Overall:
68 / 100
(Solid)
Pours a murky bronze colour, very flat and syrupy, just gluggy with minimal-to-no head. Leaves a cute ring of lace film around the top, but virtually nothing else going on. Frankly, it looks like our homebrew barleywine, as though the yeast is dead or dormant in the bottle. It looks thick but dull.

Smell is a bit of redemption, really. Very pleasant malt-bomb aroma, huge caramel and toffee with slight spicy phenols, mild chardonnay character with yeah, very distinct oak notes and a brandy fragrance as well. Strong, sweet, pretty pleasant. Could use more complexity. Frankly it kind of smells like our homebrew barleywine as well.

Taste is pleasant. Strong from the get-go but pleasantly sweet. Has a nice caramel malt flavour with hints of butter that descends into a pleasant red wine mid with more of that rich oaky flavour, red grape skin and slight overripe cherry notes, plus some plum I guess. Alcohol is noticeable but smooth and tempered, with a hint of spice, slight gin tinge to the booze, but yeah just warming with a hint of a bite at the back. Hint of bitterness lingers as well which helps the sweetness behave. Good, pleasant flavours, make for a smooth, rich ale. Nice on a winter night.

Hint of harshness on the back but otherwise what you'd expect. Lots of body, not a huge deal of texture. Not bad but not wonderful.

Alcohol is well handled, as is the palate overall. A nice beer, just lacks some of the finesse of other barleywines I've had.
appearance: 2.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.5
# 100
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 09.06.10 in bottle
Overall:
85 / 100
(Exceptional)
Pours a very dark orangey-amber. Head is beige, nice and dense but a bit thin, sinking slowly. Lace is gorgeous: thick, sticky and smooth. What you'd expect from a good-bodied barleywine. Or like the lace I picture on a good-bodied Cambodian girl. Looks great overall.

Nose is sweet and strong. Large apricot aroma with a large amount of brandy booze strength. Very malty and sweet with some slight dark chocolatey character lingering behind. Tangy, sweet, classic barleywine fragrance.

Taste is strong with a lot of malt throughout. Rich caramel flavour with hints of molasses, and a slight licorice spice that blends well with the alcohol warmth that kicks in quite early and stays for the finale. Gets bitter towards the back with an earthy, gravelly hop character with hints of pine resin and some cumin notes. A slight dark roastiness lingers right at the end. Beautifully balanced drop, has an explosion of flavour but doesn't leave shrapnel, it's smooth and gentle on the palate. Thick, slick, perfectly sticky, great feel. Great palate in general.

This isn't actually mind-blowing stuff but it's got all the right characters and texture to it. Beautifully balanced heavier beer. This is what Nogne O do best, basically "let's do a barleywine" and lo and behold they've nailed it. Again.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
OatGoop
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 15.02.10 in bottle
Overall:
74 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a reddish-tinged golden colour, head is sort of gone, but leaves a nice beige crown, lace is thin but decent. Clear, very slow, light bead, but yeah, looks alright. More head would be good.

Nose is a very malty affair, lots of toffee character, nutty notes with pecan and hazelnut on there, yeah very barley/wheatwine-esque. A weird tangy character, maybe some lime? on there. Tangy without the acidity really. Lots of malt and nuts mostly, very sweet grain character overall. I love this kind of smell, very enticing.

Taste is very malty again, long grain sweetness starts us off then develops into brown sugar and molasses. A strange tang on the mid provides some interesting characters, tartaric notes and some nice tempering to the very rich, full, sweet, winey character. It doesn't have a lot of "different" flavours on the palate, but nice tasting. Like, it's a good pleasant drink but not very complex considering how much flavour there is.

Nice and sticky mouthfeel, good and thick, a bit of an alcohol bite as it goes down, but yeah, certainly the right fullness for the palate.

Very pleasant beer. Dangerously sweet for how alcoholic it is, but not overly sweet to put me off.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Murray's Anniversary Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 24.01.10 in bottle
Overall:
85 / 100
(Exceptional)

Tried the 2006 and 2007 vintage head-to-head recently with fellow BA laituegonflable. My notes on the 2006:

Light amber colour, lighter in hue than I would have thought, slightly cloudy with a fine head of yellowish off-white foam. Very dense and thick, with excellent lacing. Truly beautiful.

Nose is great - huge bouquet of dark fruits, grains and spices. Hints of raisins, cinnamon, port and candied orange-peel. Sweet flavours melt together to make an absolutely beautiful whole. Really great.

Mellow, rich palate, with hints of nuts, dried fruits and a carming alcohol finish. Not so much of the hop bitterness, but the sweet, juicy dark fruit characters provide all the complexity it needs. Mouthfeel is round and smooth, without being too heavy. A wonderful brew.

The 2006, with a year of age on it was decidedly superior to the young 2007. Hard to tell whether this is due to the cellaring, or the brew process itself (apparently the 2007 was matured in different oak barrels), but I recall being blown away by the 2006 when I tried it young as well.

By all accounts, this is a wonderful brew, and worthy of much praise. Bring on the 2008!

Edit: My review of the young 2009 is below (#4) My scores above still relate to the year-old 2006. (Does someone think we should split up the vintages into separate entries, perhaps?)

Pours a lovely dark red-brown, with a huge rocky and frothy head of off-white bubbles. Lacing and retention are excellent. Body looks slightly thin, but not overtly. Still looks very similar to its brethren. And that's no bad thing.

Absolutely delicious nose. Big fruity, luscious hops and rich toffee sweetness keeping it honest. Light acidity and slight metallic notes leaven the otherwise thick and heavy characters.

Very nice rich toffee and booze notes on the nose, with a spike of hoppy bitterness through the centre to ensure it doesn't get too thick or heavy. Mouthfeel is a little too prickly, but it doesn't detract. A year of age would probably help it.

It's a little raw this young - I found a year or two of age on the AAs really makes them blend better and cohere more spectacularly, but it's hard to deny this is a worthy beer young as well. My recommendation: buy six, or twelve, and try one a year as long as they hold out. It's a fulfilling experience.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
XS Old Crustacean
Reviewed by Jez on 08.08.09 in bottle
Overall:
76 / 100
(Excellent)

XS series in swing-top ceramic bottle. Brought back from California to share with mates here in Sydney.

Pours incredibly thick - an amazing gelatinous blob of liquid in the glass. The head looks like newly formed hot toffee, the bubbles are so stuck in the body that rolling the beer around in the glass leaves them static where they were. Body is a majestic mahogany brown, head is a crackling lace of yellow bubbles. Phenomenal.

Lots of toffee-heavy sweetness on the nose, but also a huge resonant hop aroma, and an undeniable spirituous spiciness, coalescing together into one big bad-ass nose. Every thing is big. No getting away from it.

Taste is either wrong, or just insane. This is incredibly bitter, more so than the most insanely hopped DIPA. Despite the huge sweet aromas, there's almost none detectable here - the bittering hops hold the palate to ransom, strangling every little bit of life out of it. There is, meekly peeking around the corner, the usually brash flavour of alcohol, but the hop bitterness so utterly trumps it, ruling with an iron fist. I'm not sure I approve greatly. Mouthfeel is thick at least, like expected.

To be honest, I found this to be a terribly difficult beer. Everything before the first sip indicated a big, malty, rich barleywine, but the palate was so completely skewed in one direction that I was left reeling.

I prefer more balance in my beers, but it's hard to disrespect it.

appearance: 5.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
TEN20 Commemorative Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 08.08.09 in bottle
Overall:
68 / 100
(Solid)

Very nice reddish bronze colour with an excellent head of off-white bubbles that stick a little to the edges, but collapse to a film after a little while. Very lcear. Obviously no yeast sediment. Very nice overall. Body is quite liquid and thin for even a half-barleywine, but otherwise very nice overall.

Some sweet caramel on the nose, with a noticeable, if not prominent dose of dark, raisiny hops. Light phenolic alcohol, and a little grassiness. Not as big and boisterous as I loke, but otherwise pretty good.

Quite light on the palate. Mouthfeel is noticeably thin for the style, although it does possess some stickiness. Light malts on the front, with hop bitterness building to a noticeable but blunted climax. Back palate missing a fair deal of the residuals I'd really like. The sweetness is there, but again I like the syrupy slick caramel characters of the better American versions.

Unfortunately, James Squire always seem to blunt their beers a little for lay tastes, and I can never find myself gushing, even when they push their boundaries like the do with this one.

Not bad overall, but it does very much have the generic MSB mark on it.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
TEN20 Commemorative Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 21.07.09 in bottle
Overall:
70 / 100
(Very Good)
Pours a lovely burnished gold colour, very red with delightful beige head, very voluminous but sinks to a finger and a half thickness slowly, I guess, leaving some pretty good sticky lacing behind. That's a pretty hot-lookin' brew.

Lots and lots of hops on that nose, very floral with a pleasant fruit character behind them. Slightly herbal, with fair amounts of thyme, plus some pineapple and citrus. Slight hint of grass clippings as well; very pleasant, maybe just a bit predictable with nothing particularly out of the ordinary here.

Taste is nicely sweet although pretty much bombarded with hops throughout the palate. Has a lightly roasted barley character with a hint of tobacco on there, but really mostly owned by those hops - slightly fruity but with strong herbal phenols on them, kind of a green tea thing happening. Long, bitter finish with just a hint of some citric acidity just on the very back. Mouthfeel is full and rich, not sticky but definitely heavy, none of the alcohol on there but then there's not quite so much to hide, well hidden by the bitterness.

This is a nice, crisp ale, a bit ashy on the finish and could maybe use more sweet barleywine characters on the front of the palate, but otherwise very enjoyable indeed.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 01.07.09 in bottle
Overall:
88 / 100
(Superb)

A rather splendid burnished copper colour, with a thick and frothy head of yellow-beige bubbles. Lacing is phenomenal. Clarity is excellent. This is a damn hell yes looking beer. Just gorgeous.

Oh my and goodness. What a truly lovely American-hopped nose. Full of citrus, fruit and pine, delicious with resin and deliciously good. Oh, this smell always takes me back to San Francisco, a very pleasant place to be, surrounded by delicious beer. If I'm being picky, it's probably not as sharp or pungent as the best highly-hopped American ales, but it does have a pleasant sweetness sitting around that adds some character. Still - this is very, very nice indeed.

Creamy and silky on the mouth, a very fine and slick feel is noticeable from the first sip. Amazingly, it's not as bitter as I would have imagined from the aroma - and for a barleywine, that's excellent. There's a rich sweetness lolling over the tongue, feeling rich, heavy and gorgeous, and the hoppy notes just dance around over the top, never proclaiming their dominance. The beuatiful coupling of the flecks of bitterness and the creamy, sweet backbone make this a really, really excellent beer.

This is an exceptionally good barleywine, in my opinion. The hops remind you of its origin, but the palate is so full, rich and heavy with malt sweetness that you can't mistake this for a DIPA, which is how I feel a lot of barleywines end up. Extremely drinkable, and thoroughly enjoyable. Sierra Nevada, I take my hat off.

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 01.07.09 in bottle
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)
Pours a rich amber colour with frothy cream head that has disappeared, leaving some nice spots of lace around the glass. Little bubbles are formed with tilting, but no other visible carbonation. Looks very nice.

Nose is very hoppy with a tangy citrus character rebounding off some very aromatic floral hops, underlying buttery note and a hint of a watermelon Jolly Rancher element. Very nice indeed. I'm a fan.

Taste is a bit insane. Deep raisiny, treacley sweetness on the front, very thick and full malt, then a quite quick, but increasingly intense, fanfare of hops that start out quite floral and get increasingly bitter and phenolic towards the end, with a roasted, burnt kind of flavour as well. Leaves a very sharp astringency in my mouth, probably killing my palate. Quite a puckering mouthfeel overall.

For all that though, it's very nice, a good complex journey from start to finish. I just think it leans too heavily on the hops, leaves on a very bitter note, like my slut of an ex-wife.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.5
XS Old Crustacean
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 19.06.09 in bottle
Overall:
72 / 100
(Very Good)
Deep earthy red colour, like the dirt in Death Valley (maybe - I don't know, I've never been there). Head is amazing when poured - ochre in colour and medium thickness but produces a little puff of bubbles beneath that swim around before settling up into head, largely due to beer's heaviness. Tilting the glass produces more of this amazing effect, and lacing is not thick, but very clingy and resilient. Absolute incredible, unique-looking brew.

Nose is a rich, delectable bouquet of sweets. Sweet toffee, dates, maybe some cranberries at the back, and just the right amount of an earthy acidity to counterbalance the really rather pungent sweetness. Smells sweet, sticky, delicious and slightly fruity. Again sensational.

Taste is an odd shock to the palate after that smell. A deep, earthy grittiness abounds with a very unexpected burnt coffee bitterness. While it definitely lacks the toffee sweetness of the nose, there is definitely evidence of a very potent, prominent malt base, very thick and rich. Most of the palate is very bitter and tastes like it's been bombarded with hops, very astringent with a slightly phenolic character that comes around the mid and hangs well over the finish. Mouthfeel is soft and smooth but not quite as full as I would have expected. Overall, while the alcohol is very well hidden except maybe a twang in the middle, the dark, saturating earthiness of this renders it moderately less drinkable.

I'm not saying it has a bad flavour, just odd.
appearance: 5.0 | aroma: 5.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Mirror Mirror
Reviewed by Jez on 06.06.09 in bottle
Overall:
80 / 100
(Excellent)

appearance: 4.5 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 3.5
Old Godfather Barley Wine-Style Ale
Reviewed by Jez on 30.05.09 in bottle
Overall:
81 / 100
(Exceptional)

Pours a darkish amber colour, with a tall frothy head of cream coloured bubbles. Body looks quite thick and viscous in the glass, not so much from the pour. Some lacing. Looks pretty good.

Big, boozy aromas on the nose - port, brandy and cognac. Lots of sweet residual sugar characters, caramel and musk. Certainly smells like a fortified wine, but not in a bad way. Jus big and rich and heavy.

Slick and creamy mouthfeel, with a big sweet alcohol presence. Lots of vinous oak characters, lots of malty rich sweetness, and even a slight alcohol afterburn. Residual bitter character, and a lingering breath of booze fumes - it seems to dare me to breathe in after taking a sip.

A fantastic barleywine. One light on the hops, and focusing just on the big, alcomoholic flavours. Certainly a sipper, but in my opinion, this is what a true barleywine should be. I've had too many that just turn up the hop volume and wind up too similar to a DIPA. Very good indeed.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Hog Heaven Barley Wine
Reviewed by Jez on 01.10.08 in bottle
Overall:
76 / 100
(Excellent)

Pours languously, a thick bronze-copper colour, with a big head of fine yellowish bubbles. Not a lot of carbonation present, and what there is takes its time wallowing in the syrupy body. Lacing is excellent. Looks good.

Lots of hops on the nose, resiny pine, grapefruit and citrus. Not a huge sweetness to it - this is obviously the American hop-heavy style barleywine. On the nose at least, it could easily be mistaken for an American IPA.

Early alcohol heat hits with a tangy sweetness mellowing across the palate. This then dissipates leaving a crisp, but slightly blunt hop bitterness. I don't know if it's the heavy body, but it's not as sharp on the palate as the nose (or the "100 IBUs" on the label) would have you believe. There's a dark sweetness, like fruit compote, there which dampens the attack of the hops. Mouthfeel is sensual smooth, which also helps the drinkability.

This is a very pleasant beer. The sweetness sets it apart from what would otherwise be a high-alpha IPA, but it's a very complementary sweetness, which goes well with the hop character. I found myself enjoying this one a fair bit.

appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Murray's Anniversary Ale
Reviewed by LaitueGonflable on 25.02.08 in bottle
Overall:
90 / 100
(Superb)
Pours a good mushroom cloud of mother-of-pearl foam, like an oyster with rabies. Slightly yellowish-tinged red colour with very impressive cloudy lacing around the glass. Very nice.

Dammit that nose is good. So much fruit and honey. Sweet, sticky and delicious. Hints of glacé cherries, apple and dates abound to create a complex bourgeoning bouquet of delicious and wonderful aromas, a real treat for the olfactory. Shit that's nice.

Wow, the taste is incredible - especially directly following the (younger) 2007 vintage. Palate is sweet, intricate and long. Lots of rich, blossoming flavours of sweet fruit with a touch of treacle. It's viscous, sweet and a wonderful blend of sticky toffee characters, alcohol power and a delicate floral hop finish. Great beer - very pleasant, lots of character and I would probably marry this beer if it were a woman but tasted exactly the same.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 5.0 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.5