Oct 30, 2013

Widmer Brothers 2013 Old Embalmer

There’s a bottle of Widmer Brothers 2012 Old Embalmer sitting in my basement right now. It hasn’t been in the house long. In fact, when the promotional package from Widmer Brothers arrived last week (unboxing below), the thought of a vertical tasting immediately flooded my mind. It wasn’t until after I had sampled the 2013 release that I decided to hold off for another year or so before cracking open last years’ vintage.

Why wait? Is there something wrong with the beer that made me hesitant? Simply put, hell no. Actually, it’s not as simple as that.

First, the two releases aren’t exactly the same. The 2012 bottling uses the Bravo hop variety while the 2013 offering uses an experimental hop (X-431, but more on this in a second) along with the brewery’s own Alchemy blend. I don’t believe it would have been a true vertical since the recipes aren’t quite the same. Secondly, while the beer is tasty fresh, I personally believe that a good barleywine doesn’t truly come into its own until it’s been sitting in a cool, dark basement for a few years. So with that in mind, I’ll hold onto the 2012 bottle a bit longer.

Now, this X-431 hop blend. I couldn’t find too much information on this unnamed variety, but with a little over 15% alpha acid content, this hop gave the sweet malty backbone of this barleywine a run for it’s money. Old Embalmer 2013 isn’t an overly bitter beer by any means, but it does pack a solid punch (and tropical fruit notes) to go along with a warming, boozy character.


Vibrant copper in color, this years Old Embalmer sits with a short-lived cap of light tan foam that eventually remained as a thin ring around the glass.

Widmer Brothers 2013 Old Embalmer photo


A strong hop aroma wafts off the surface with a peppery character, grapefruit, pineapple, soft alcohol, caramel and bready malt.


The taste falls right in line with the teasing aroma. Citrusy, tropical fruits dominate as caramel, toasted bread, pine resin and a booziness all come together for a great tasting beer. Moderate bitterness and a spicy hop character are amplified a bit by the 10.2% ABV that the beer packs. The brew is nicely balanced and deceptively smooth with a lingering warmth in the chest.


Above I mention tropical fruits with regard to the hop profile within Old Embalmer 2013. That’s a bit of a generic descriptor, but it fist this brew aptly. There is a ton of tropical fruit within its depths, but not one specific flavor that I could confidently pull out and identify. The result is a uniquely flavored barleywine with solid balance, appropriate bitterness and just the right amount of warming alcohol. This is also a barleywine that I believe will do pretty well laid down for a bit, which is another reason for me not to open my 2012 vintage.

Rating: 4/5

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

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