Style Details

Ame­ri­can Barleywine
Strong Ame­ri­can Ale
BJCP Style Code
22 C
Color may ran­ge from light amber to medi­um cop­per; may rare­ly be as dark as light brown. Often has ruby high­lights. Modera­te­ly-low to lar­ge off-white to light tan head; may have low head reten­ti­on. May be clou­dy with chill haze at coo­ler tem­pe­ra­tures, but gene­ral­ly cle­ars to good to bril­li­ant cla­ri­ty as it warms. The color may appear to have gre­at depth, as if view­ed through a thick glass lens. High alco­hol and vis­co­si­ty may be visi­ble in “legs” when beer is swir­led in a glass.
Hop cha­rac­ter mode­ra­te to asser­ti­ve and often show­ca­ses citru­sy, frui­ty, or res­i­ny New World varie­ties (alt­hough other varie­ties, such as flo­ral, ear­thy or spi­cy Eng­lish varie­ties or a blend of varie­ties, may be used). Rich mal­ti­ness, with a cha­rac­ter that may be sweet, cara­mel­ly, brea­dy, or fair­ly neu­tral. Low to modera­te­ly-strong frui­ty esters and alco­hol aro­ma­tics. Howe­ver, the inten­si­ty of aro­ma­tics often subs­i­des with age. Hops tend to be near­ly equal to malt in the aro­ma, with alco­hol and esters far behind.
Strong, rich malt fla­vor with a noti­ceable hop fla­vor and bit­ter­ness in the balan­ce. Modera­te­ly-low to modera­te­ly-high mal­ty sweet­ness on the pala­te, alt­hough the finish may be some­what sweet to quite dry (depen­ding on aging). Hop bit­ter­ness may ran­ge from modera­te­ly strong to aggres­si­ve. While stron­gly mal­ty, the balan­ce should always seem bit­ter. Mode­ra­te to high hop fla­vor (any varie­ty, but often show­ing a ran­ge of New World hop cha­rac­te­ristics). Low to mode­ra­te frui­ty esters. Noti­ceable alco­hol pre­sence, but well-inte­gra­ted. Fla­vors will smooth out and decli­ne over time, but any oxi­dized cha­rac­ter should be muted (and gene­ral­ly be mas­ked by the hop cha­rac­ter). May have some brea­dy or cara­mel­ly malt fla­vors, but the­se should not be high; roas­ted or burnt malt fla­vors are inappropriate. 
Full-bodi­ed and che­wy, with a vel­ve­ty, luscious tex­tu­re (alt­hough the body may decli­ne with long con­di­tio­ning). Alco­hol warmth should be noti­ceable but smooth. Should not be syru­py and under-atte­nu­a­ted. Car­bo­na­ti­on may be low to mode­ra­te, depen­ding on age and conditioning.
Over­all Impression
A well-hop­ped Ame­ri­can inter­pre­ta­ti­on of the richest and stron­gest of the Eng­lish ales. The hop cha­rac­ter should be evi­dent throug­hout, but does not have to be unba­lan­ced. The alco­hol strength and hop bit­ter­ness often com­bi­ne to lea­ve a very long finish.
Typi­cal Ingredients
Well-modi­fied pale malt should form the back­bone of the grist. Some spe­cial­ty or cha­rac­ter malts may be used. Dark malts should be used with gre­at res­traint, if at all, as most of the color ari­ses from a leng­thy boil. New World hops are com­mon, alt­hough any varie­ties can be used in quan­ti­ty. Gene­ral­ly uses an atte­nua­ti­ve Ame­ri­can ale yeast.
Usual­ly the stron­gest ale offe­red by a bre­wery, often asso­cia­ted with the win­ter or holi­day sea­son and vin­ta­ge-dated. As with many Ame­ri­can craft beer styl­es, deri­ved from Eng­lish examp­les but using Ame­ri­can ingre­di­ents and fea­turing a much more for­ward hop pro­fi­le. One of the first Ame­ri­can craft beer ver­si­ons was Anchor Old Fog­horn, first bre­wed in 1975. Sier­ra Neva­da Big­foot, first bre­wed in 1983, set the stan­dard for the hop-for­ward style of today. The sto­ry goes that when Sier­ra Neva­da first sent Big­foot out for lab ana­ly­sis, the lab cal­led and said, “your bar­ley­wi­ne is too bit­ter” – to which Sier­ra Neva­da repli­ed, “thank you.”
Some­ti­mes known as “Bar­ley Wine” or “Bar­ley­wi­ne style ale” (the lat­ter due to legal requi­re­ments, not bre­wery preference).
Com­mer­cial Examples
Avery Hog Hea­ven Bar­ley­wi­ne, Anchor Old Fog­horn, Gre­at Divi­de Old Ruf­fi­an, Rogue Old Crustace­an, Sier­ra Neva­da Big­foot, Vic­to­ry Old Horizontal
Ori­gi­nal Gravity
1.080 - 1.120 SG
Final Gra­vi­ty
1.016 - 1.030 SG
10 - 19 SRM
8.0 - 12.0 %vol
50 - 100 IBU