Holiday Beer Tasting: Old Dipsea Barleywine vs. Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Dipsea Barleywine

Along with eating honey ham, opening presents, and chasing younger cousins, I decided to treat myself and family to a small beer tasting afternoon.  I stopped by Marin Brew Co to pick up their very limited release of the Bourbon Barrel aged Old Dipsea Barleywine as well as their usual Old Dipsea Barleywine.

Every time we have a tour, our group walks through the brewery at the Brew Co and ask about the bourbon barrel sitting in the back.  For the past 10 months, Kim and Tim have been telling us that it’s still aging.  Finally, after all this time they have tapped it, and bottled a limited batch of 22oz. bombers for sale.

old dipsea barleywine

Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine vs. Old Dipsea Barleywine

Beginning with the original, we poured the Old Dipsea Barleywine and noticed immediately the thick, dark, and rich amber color of the beer.  The aroma of plums, sweet raisins, caramel, and alcohol were prevalent. As you can tell from the photos below, although the beer is definitely dark, it pours more clear than cloudy.  As expected the head is relatively thin, with a light beige color.

Old Dipsea Barleywine Pour

Pour of Old Dipsea Barleywine

Tasting this original was a treat, as we sipped the smooth, sweet, and strong beer.  Prevalent notes of caramel and malt linger with sweet notes of raisins, dark fruits, and a hint of roasted toffee.  This is a full bodied beer and it lets you know it.  The finish is not bitter as the sweetness/mild hops do a good job of hiding the high alcohol.  Don’t expect to drink this one fast as its alcohol content is around 9% ABV and is extremely rich.

Old Dipsea Barleywine

The Old Dispsea

Moving on, we decided to try to beer of the season: the Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Dipsea Barleywine.  After a little hot water, we peeled the wax off and began the first pour.  I haven’t had many bourbon barrel aged beers before so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The first difference I noticed was that the beer was more cloudy than the original.  This shouldn’t be a surprise as it has been aging for 10 more months that the former.  It glowed rustic orange in the sunlight while remaining dark and hazy in the glass.  The aroma was much sweeter, filled with notes of sweet alcohol, raisins, and caramel.

Bourbon Aged Old Dipsea Barleywine

2011 Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Dipsea Barleywine

The taste of the aged Barleywine was initially sweeter, with a combination of sweet bourbon, caramel, raisins, and roasted coffee notes.  The end of the sip finished with the sweet but sharp bitterness of bourbon and alcohol.  Although it is the same ABV as the original at 9%, the aged Barleywine tasted much stronger.

It was a sensation and flavor I have never experienced before from a beer and my senses were a bit lost in how to categorize what was going on.  What I know for sure is that it is strong, big, flavorful, and damn special.  Imagine watching Avatar for this first time, but the 3D colorful flora are sweet alcoholic flavors that will quickly awaken your drunk holiday spirit. I’m pretty sure that’s not an official beer judge description, but it’s the best I can do…

Old Dipsea Barleywine

Our Work Is Done: Both Barleywines Ready to Drink

Well, I’m looking forward to picking up one last bomber of the aged Barleywine before I have to wait another year to try it again. I highly suggest you try one before they sell out.  I doubt there will be any left by the time we visit on our tour on January 28th, but the original Old Dipsea may still be on tap.   I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are enjoying the Holidays as much as we are!  Cheers!


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Golden Gate BrewTours strives to be the premium craft beer educational service in the industry by providing an intimate, educational, and engaging touring experience that explores local craft breweries in the SF Bay Area.
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