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Notes on beers in the style

English Barleywine
Ridgeway Imperial Red Ale 2017

Ridgeway
Imperial Red Ale 2017

Bottle number 4815. Kahn's, Indianapolis, sometime in the latter half of 2022. 330 mL bottle. I have zero expectations here, or at least I'm assuming that it's going to be a dud, and anything and everything above that will be a bonus. Deliberately aggressive pour to generate a head. Not too bad considering age and ABV (see picture). Thin film on the surface results, zero lace. The body is a murky, frankly unattractive brownish-red body. Nose offers a sweet, English Barleywine note, and this...

MOTHER of all STORMS

MOTHER of all STORMS

2021 vintage. This is a complicated beer, that is actually very different than first impressions on opening might otherwise suggest. At the outset the appearance seems to be basically black, and the nose very strongly bourbon based. Neither are anything like the final experiences of appearance or smell that I am left with at the conclusion of the bottle. The initial bourbon smell drops off pretty quickly. The (apparently) black body very quickly takes on a dramatic reddish-brown hue that was...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

22 oz bottle form Hop City, Atlanta, GA, USA. I've become really wary of this series from Clipper City because frankly, the beers have been pretty poor. I'm a little more optimistic about this one though, since I liked the original Below Decks so there would appear to be some solid ground to build upon. The pour is NOT attractive. A watery light brown with no head retention, lace or indeed much of a film. Underneath this beer is a decent ENGLISH styled BW. Obviously if you are looking for a...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

St-Ambroise 20th Anniversary Vintage Ale (2009)

11.5 oz bottle in the cardboard sleeve and plastic cap. Interesting beer. Firstly there is an appearance that is reminiscent of one of the classic, English Pale Ales with superb sticky, white lace and a dark, honey orange body. The head and lace are very good. Could be classic, cask Pale Ale from the look. The sticky nature of the lace reminds me a little of a West Coast DIPA but it is really quite, white. Nose has some very sweet, light malt notes with a very subtle, light undertone of...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Mirror Mirror

Thanks go out to Lance for securing this bottle for me. Took me an age to get hold of it, but eventually it got here. 22 oz bottle with the black wax. Shared this one with Wes at Cypress, Atlanta, GA, USA. Pour is a simple, reddish hue with good clarity and a surprisingly healthy, frothy and large bubbled head. Nose gives light brown sugar and some alcohol. This is a VERY smooth, restrained and rounded version of the style. Usually I'm not a huge fan of the hop-based American versions of BW's,...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Chaotic Chemistry

Many thanks go out to Brad007 for the chance to try this one. The 32oz mini- growler is a great presentation. The first time I've seen it but I like the idea very much. Dirty brown, cloudy pour with a really good, ivory colored head. The lace (or rather lack of it) is a little disappointing but given the ABV I shouldn't be too upset! The nose is obviously VERY strong - it is certainly bourbon based, but closer inspection with the nostrils reveals some very serious brown sugar and molasses in...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Horn Dog

Courtesy of Bob at The Brick Store - from notes either late 2007 or early 2008 (not sure of the exact date). The sample pour is a simple dark, dark brown with obviously no head or lace to speak of. Aroma is very strong which I think I would really like if it not for the slight smoke and the overwhelming oak - I prefer a simpler, liquor like nose without the smokiness. Very sweet and the sugary notes carry this. I quite like it, and the fact that the sweetness sort of overcomes the alcohol is a...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask)

2004 vintage (which seems to be all we get in Atlanta), 275 mL bottle, $6.49 from Merchants Package Store, Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta, Atlanta, GA, USA. Pours with a really rather alarming amount of carbonation - very fizzy. Obviously this dies very quickly to settle into the non-carbonated, still beer that I was expecting, but I was shocked by the initial pour. Strange. Settles to give a dark orange (verging on red) body with some spotty lace only on the surface. Aroma is not complicated...

Nils Oscar Barley Wine

Nils Oscar Barley Wine

Updated notes 09/13/2022 - Pictured, but read on ... Mmm ... OK, here's the deal. I ran across this bottle in September of 2022 in what looked like a store that had not been open too long (Crown Liquors at 116th Street in Indianapolis) and thought it VERY odd! I haven't seen this beer in the US for at least 10 years, possibly even longer than that, but I thought, "OK, this store looks new, it might not be old stock so let's see if this beer is back from the dead and is being re-distributed."...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Duck-Rabbit Barleywine Ale

Finally caught up with this on its recent arrival in GA in the last couple of weeks. 12oz single from a six-pack from Mac's midtown, $11.99. Beautiful looking beer when poured correctly and into the correct glassware. The color is a deep red garnet color with a great clarity, a lovely billowing head and some decent lace. VERY nice color, and I love the clarity. Interesting because I think this seems to straddle the Enlish/American styles of BW. A sticky, syrup like consistency but the...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Calvados Cask)

$6.49 from Merchant Package Store, Johnson Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA, USA. 50 cents more expensive than most of Atlanta. 9.3 oz bottle, 2004 Vintage. Mill-pond still on the pour. Dark orange body with a thin ring of lace around the edge of the glass. Exceptionally sweet (there's no denying that) but it's in line with the style and fits perfectly with the calvados character. Having said that, the apple presence is VERY slight, and it really only imparts a slight tartness to the beer. Without...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Criminally Bad Elf

Definitely the best of the three Bad Elf series that I have had so far. 500 mL bottle. $6.88 from Beverage Mart in Acworth, GA, USA. This has probably been aging in the store for at least six months, likely even a little longer. It's held up and matured very nicely. Aggresive pour into the pint glass gives a nice, bone white head and even a little lace. This is a quintessential English BW. Great clarity, a beautiful dark amber color and minimal carbonation. It's ALL malt and alcohol, with a...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Heavy Seas – Below Decks (Barley Wine Style Ale)

12 oz bottle, 2006 vintage. I've been drinking this for a few months now, finally got around to reviewing it. Interesting beer. Has the taste (and aroma) of an English Barleywine up front (malty, sweet and fruity), but then finishes with a little alcohol kick and that telltale American Barleywine hop bitterness. The finish is sufficiently restrained to keep this in the English category, but it is a little more astringent than the typical, English version. Highly drinkable considering the style...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

1995 Vintage, on tap at The Brick Store, Decatur, GA, USA. Classic English BW in all respects. Deep orange pour with little or no carbonation and minimal ring of lace on the surface of the beer (as expected). Very sweet. Strong aroma is dominated by Sherry and Port notes. Alcohol comes through quite strong but this is still amazingly drinkable. Smooth, but with a kick in the finish. Aftertaste is minimal (a good thing I think). Plenty of caramelized malts and a little bitterness (in true...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Port Cask)

$6.95 Green's on Ponce, Atlanta, GA, USA. 12 oz bottle. 2004 Vintage. It's an extraordinary beer, in fact in many ways it's barely a beer, but it is just about what I expected. Pour is a deep orange viscous liquid with a head that disappears immediately. Amazingly sweet nose and tastes but the finish tempered by a really nice, warming smooth port finish. At 11.50 % this is close to unbelievable. The alcohol is there and is warming, but hardly noticeable. I could drink a huge amount of this -...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale

=== 2004 Vintage === Poured into the small Gouden Carolus chalice, it takes on a golden brown color - a little less dark than I was expecting. Not much head or lacing, but I wasn't expecting much of course. This is absolutely typical of an English Barleywine. Smooth, intensely fruity with plums, figs, raisins and oranges making up a very, very dense fruit and alcohol. Very little hop essence, so unlike its American interpretation. I am often reminded as to how much the two versions differ....

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Insanity

Typical viscous looking, mid-orange appearance with no head or lacing. Alcohol and some bananas & (of all things) coconut in the aroma. Taste is pretty powerful. Alcohol, hop bitterness and a dry feeling combine in a not all that subtle a manner. The coconut comes back in the finish too. Very odd. Also very obvious burning on the way down. This is a big, big beer and it's really not all that drinkable in my eyes, but many will enjoy it. Alcohol is not well hidden (not that I suppose that is...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask)

A treat and a delight rolled into one. A very special beer for sipping and savoring. 9.3 oz bottle, $6.95 Greens, Buford Highway, Atlanta, GA, USA, 2004 vintage. First time that I have opened a beer for a period of 24 hours before drinking; done it with wine before, but never with a beer. Orange, clear, syrupy and viscous pour with a decent finger of tan head produced with an aggresive pour. Head disappears quickly and obviously there is no lacing. Aromas are all sherry and alcohol, with deep...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Old Man Winter Warmer

Gosh, this is good. Coming in at 10.30% it's a big hitter, but the drinkability is still astonishing. Ruby red which is cloudy in a chill hazed manner, but it looks like a lot of sediment rather than a temperature effect. Attractive, thin espresso type film on the top of the body, with a minimal amount of lacing. Heavy with raisins, plums and sugary alcohol, this is an enormous malt, fruit bomb. It has some port character too. It manages to pull all of those dispirate threads together in a...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Blithering Idiot

Additional notes 01/08 12oz single from recent trip to Greensboro, NC, USA. Thoughts on this bottle pretty much reflect my original review. Very sticky, sweet and English in style. Original notes 02/06 Great looking red pour with some head but it fades quickly. Obviously little or no persistent head or lacing. Sweet cherry medicinal aromas with alcohol featuring prominently. Tastes are sweet and alcoholic. An easy sipper that lacks a massive hop bite, and relies upon alcohol to take it into...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Samael’s Ale

2005 Vintage. Well, essentially this is a Madeira Port posing as beer. When I smelled this and then drank it, I could think of nothing else. It's huge in all respects. Alcohol is warming and then burning, the deep and dense liquor smell is absolutely immense, and it drinks like a port. Hugely rich and although not difficult to drink, one is plenty for me in most sitting, settings. A "one-bottle sipper" in my opinion. Aromas and tastes are dominated by the warming, intensely fruity alcohol. The...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Dominion Millennium Ale

Barleywines walk a fine line with me. The combination of the sticky sweetness and the alcohol really needs to strike the right balance to pull it off, and it's very easy for a BW to fall out of favor with me if one of the two dominates too much. I think they are a difficult style to make work well. Disappointing looking beer with a dank, light brown appearance that looks murky and fairly unattractive. No head to speak of. Far too sweet for me. Viscous sugar is just about all I get with a very...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Horn Dog Barley Wine Style Ale

Dark orange pour, typical for the style with minimal head and some, but very little lacing. Typical BW appearance. Aroma is all dark fruit. Smells a bit like a doppelbock with those very distinct dried fruit aromas coming through strong. Mouthfeel is very viscous and lubricant like. Slightly off-putting, you probably couldn't drink a lot of this beer for that reason alone. Lots of alcohol all over the place and it is quite prominent, but I don't mind that (in fact I expect it) in this style....

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Brooklyn Monster Ale

=== 2005 Vintage, notes added 11/05/05. === Continues to grow on me. Definitely less viscous than so many others in the style, even lighter color and better head than I remember from the '04 version. Good lacing too. This is the American BW that is not an American BW! Don't get me wrong, it still has the warming alcohol and the hoppy characteristics, but these seem to be increasingly reserved for the finish rather than the upfront tastes. === 2004 Vintage === Standard pour, color and lack of...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Young’s Old Nick Barley Wine Ale

This is a lovely beer. From presentation through to pour, from the head through to the appearance, from the color to the body, it's a feast for the senses. Deep, deep mahogany red coloration, with a good head that is firm and slightly pink in color. Lots of alcohol, but this is very well tempered by the sweet maltiness. Less Barleywine style than some, more of a malt and alcohol explosion. Very, very full bodied in the mouth with plenty of perfect carbonation. This is a beer I could sit and...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Anchor Old Foghorn

Update: 4AT coded bottle (April 2004) consumed January 2007. 7oz bottle getting toward three years old. Very deep malts and lots of sweetness with a hop edge. This stuff seems to be peaking since I can hardly imagine it getting any better. Original Review: (Unsure of bottle age). Delicious. Pale red pour with a clarity that I found striking and unexpected. Small head that leaves quickly as expected. Lots of alcohol in the nose, and some distinct hoppiness that suprised me. The taste is not...

Heavy Seas Cabernet Barrel Aged Below Decks

Old Salty Barleywine 2004

Pours with little or no carbonation to give a brown sugar colored beer with some minor lacing around the edges of the head. The aroma is all sweetness and sugar and so are the initial tastes. A very, very sweet combination of flavors hit, and the Golden Syrup that is mentioned on the label is very evident all the way through. When I drank this I was craving something sweet and I was not disappointed. This was a massively sugared brew, but not so much as to make it unpleasant nor undrinkable....