Oct 31, 2013

Widmer Brothers 2013 Barrel-Aged Old Embalmer

Yesterday, I published a review of Widmer Brothers Old Embalmer, a tasty barleywine with an excellent hop profile. Today we have the last bottle in a package the brewery sent last week. And it’s a barrel-aged version of their Old Embalmer.

Now, I’ve had barrel-aged barleywines in the past. Some have just simply been in fresh oak while other has been matured in retired bourbon barrels, but i don’t believe I’ve yet had one that was aged in former wine barrels. That is, until now.

Widmer Brothers took their tasty barleywine (10.2% ABV and 75 IBU) and set it aside in pino noire barrels sources from Oregon’s Patricia Green Cellars for an undisclosed amount of time. The result is a beer that is vastly different from the original recipe with a decidedly strong vinous character and just a hint of barrel.


Barrel-Aged Old Embalmer pours the same brilliant copper in color with a small strata of off-white foam that faded quickly.

Widmer Barrel-Aged Old Embalmer photo


The wine influence is noticeable immediately as vinous grapes fill the nose rapidly. The peppery and citrusy hop character persists, but takes a back seat to the strong grape presence. I don’t pick up much of a woody character here.


The winey flavors that this beer brings to the palate are a bit shocking at first. I’ll admit that it took a few sips for me to start noticing other nuances to the barleywine. Once accustomed to the wine traits, the hop profile starts to emerge a bit more and mingle with the grape as caramel, pine and a touch of booze also come out to play. There’s a very subtle wood presence in the drying and lingering finish.


I’ll be honest. I didn’t like this version of Old Embalmer nearly as much as I did the original. Maybe I’m just not that big of a wine fan, but the intensity of the vinous flavors in this beer are a bit strong for my liking. Normally, I can gauge whether a beer would do well with some cellaring and how I believe it would turn out. This Barrel-Aged Old Embalmer has me stumped. I have no idea how well this one would do with some time in the basement. Regardless, if you’re looking for a barleywine with a twist, then this one is probably for you. If you really just want a solid barleywine, I’d personally select the original Old Embalmer.

Rating: 3.75/5

This is a review of a promotional sample from the brewery.

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