17 of the Best Barley Wines, Blind-Tasted and Ranked

Learn about how we rate & review beers with our BJCP blind panel here

Walking Tree BA Barnacled Manatee (85)

Bright oak character with some slight berry notes. Caramel and toffee comes through in the middle of the palate. Moderate fruitiness up front with pineapple, white grape, and light lemon. Slightly hot finish with some tannic astringency.

Epic Brewing Barley Wine (87)

The malt focuses largely on caramel but there’s some roast in there, too, along with strong earthy and pine hops flavor and fairly big bitterness. There’s a sherry-like oxidation and a woody, tobacco note as well that gives it some sweetness, but not in a cloying way.”

Seventh Son The Wild Hunt (89)

Sweet caramel, toffee, roasted malts, woody hops, smooth, medium-high bitterness, and a warming alcohol that hangs out through the finish. The malt suggests toffee and toast. A touch of baker’s chocolate, some dates and plums, and a bit of grassy American hops, too.

Cambridge Brewing Co. Blunderbuss (90)

Rich malt with caramel, toasted coconut, and toffee comes out more in the flavor. Vanilla from the barrel sits behind the malt. Fairly sweet but not over the top. Really interesting spicy notes of chili and cinnamon emerge. The wood character is most prominent in the middle and lingers into the end, where it finishes dry. As it warms the sweetness comes out as well as the honey.

Wiley Roots Double Barrel Barleywine (92)

Big raisin character with some slight banana character at first sip. Then, rich caramel and toffee come through in the flavor. Still a lot of booze and spices, cardamom and cinnamon especially as a well as pine and juniper. Fairly sweet, which slowly fades into the finish. Fairly low bitterness.

Adroit Theory Love of the Damned (GHOST 488) (93)

Subtle malt complexity comes through with toasty and caramel notes that meld with the malt to produce a feeling of chocolate liqueur. Esters contribute notes of stewed apple, plum, and fig, while a bit of vanilla chimes in from the barrel. The aftertaste brings wine sweetness and some balancing bitterness that lingers long with a touch of black licorice.”

Against the Grain London Balling (93)

Everything is well integrated—whiskey, barrel, and malt. It’s sweet up front that fades into moderate bitterness and alcohol, thanks to the touch of English hops that appears very light towards the end of the sip. Alcohol warmth is there and lingers.

Verboten Grow Old With You (93)

The barrel gives some vanilla and cinnamon spice. Really nice balance of flavors. Big toffee notes with some oak earthiness. Vanilla notes from the barrel highlight and amplify a slight banana-bread flavor. Understated and drinkable alcohol presence with a sturdy body and silky mouthfeel. Warming sensation is really nice.

Perennial Devil's Heart of Gold (93)

Quite sweet with more caramel and toffee malt character coming through in the flavor. The wood shines through on the finish with some tannins. Alcohol is present at the middle and back giving it a very warming effect with a hint of pineapple.

Firestone Walker Sucaba 2016 (94)

Rich caramel and bread crust malt. Well-placed hops bitterness with some alcohol warmth that cuts the sweetness. Wonderfully balanced, strong flavors complement rather than compete. Lighter body than expected with medium carbonation. Still feels slightly restrained—the barrel, chocolate, and fruit characters could be amplified a bit.

High Water Brewing Old And In The Way (94)

Toasted caramel malt, with dried nutty notes and a hint of dates, too, but in a mild way. There’s a touch of pleasant oxidative sherry notes and broken down malt that gives a nice level of baseline bitterness to cut the sweetness. It all works relatively well.

Cambridge Brewing Arquebus (94)

Malt forward. The honey sweetness hits up front and carries through. Behind this sweetness is bread, caramel, some white grape. The oak character adds some earthiness and wood notes, which work well with the flavor. Sweet but not too sweet, full of flavors like toffee and a bit of herbs. Warming on the finish.

Dry Dock Brewing 2014 Bligh's Barleywine (96)

Really nice caramel sweetness with some nutty character. The big booziness adds warmth and a nice body that brings vanilla, chocolate, and stone fruit to the forefront.”

LIC Beer Project Barley Wine (98)

This shows signs of great aging with sherry and dates coming on strong and complemented by wet black malt, roast, earthy hops, medium bitterness, lots of alcohol, and finishing with a dessert-wine sweetness that stops just short of cloying. Throughout, there’s rich layers of chocolate, plums, dates, dried cherry, and other assorted fruits.

The Bruery Saule (98)

Very, very rich. Malt and whiskey, and barrel characters with oak and moderate fruitiness of cherries, lemons, dates, and raisins. Big dark chocolate flavors complemented by moderate molasses and a light malt sweetness. The alcohol is omnipresent and amplifies every other element of this rich and luxurious beer.

Firestone Walker Helldorado 2017 (98)

Really mellow layers of raisin and fruity character that actually work really well together. Alcohol astringency is mildly distracting, but is rounded by deep vanilla. This has a nice body with a slight coating of the mouth, some hop bitterness, and it finishes with a milky chocolate body.

Side Project Anabasis (100)

Lots of syrupy dark chocolate, spicy alcohol, and vanilla with a hint of coffee. Dark fruit is akin to a chocolate- covered cherry. Those notes yield to a nice plum and grape flavor with some almond and licorice in the middle.”