Redux Review 0021: Lagunitas Olde Gnarlywine Barleywine


Back on April 14, 2012, when I first reviewed this beer, I pegged it as a brew that would likely age nicely. Today, we’re here to find out…

Two years ago, Lagunitas had just announced that they would be expanding from just one facility in Petaluma, California to two — the second would be located in the middle of the country, Chicago, to take advantage of distribution opportunities. Lagunitas have almost completed the new facility and are currently running test batches in preparation to crank up to full production.

Olde Gnarleywine is a limited release, a Barleywine that rings in at 10.6% ABV (alcohol by volume). The “Gnarleywine” name comes from the fact that Lagunitas says this is a hard one to make, and the beer sits in tanks for over a month to get everything right.

My initial review went like this:


Appearance: 15 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 31 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points

Final Score: 94 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.

Let’s see where we stand, two years later; remember, this is a 2011 bottle, so it’s actually three years old…


The pour produced an average size, creamy head that lasted. The beer was amber-brown out of light; quite murky and muddy looking. In bright light, it’s a beautiful cloudy bright red, with tangerine highlights. There’s a light dusting of sediment in the beer, making it opaque. Lacing is excellent, leaving thin, solid sheets of crisp foam.

The nose has only gotten more complex with age; there’s sweet caramel and toffee throughout the sniff, with flashes of milk chocolate, booze, and dark fruits (raisin, fig, and prune). It’s a very sweet smell but the booze seems to temper it just a bit — there’s also a lingering hop presence in the form of some grapefruit and pine, with some orange/citrus spiciness. As it warms, an herbal lemon tea begins to come out — more on this in the flavor description.


Sadly, the taste didn’t really keep up with the delightful aroma. Initially, there’s plenty of caramel and toffee, and it hangs around for awhile; middle of the mouth features some faded grapefruit hops, and sugary sweet milk chocolate. But I began to notice as this brew warmed that an herbal lemon flavor started to come out more and more, and it’s medicinal, like a cough drop. At first, it blended well with everything else; but halfway through the glass, it started to take over. The finish is hot with alcohol, riding out lemon, caramel, and heavily toasted bread. These flavors didn’t really meld well, but it wasn’t awful. Without doubt, Gnarlywine is full-bodied, and has a thick, foamy mouthfeel. And the further you got into the bottle, the more the finish hit that same herbal lemon cough drop note.

A couple of notes here: first, this beer really reminded me of Lagunitas Imperial Stout (85 points) in terms of amount of sweetness. In fact, in my review of that beer, I called it an “Imperial Stout-Barleywine.” Secondly, this beer really didn’t age well. The flavors changed for the worse and the alcohol simply didn’t budge. I think those hop flavors that were so good in the fresh bottle turned into a honey-lemon cough drop and the toasted (nearly burnt) bread on the finish never really went anywhere. I do recommend you try this beer as it is a bit of a unique take on Barleywine, but do it fresh.

Lagunitas Olde Gnarlywine Barleywine, 88 points. Price: $3.99 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.



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