American Barleywine

Glassware: Snifter
  • USA
  • Ale
  • ABV = 8.0 – 12.0% (High to very high)^
  • IBU = 50-100
  • SRM = 10-19

A strong, well-hopped, amber-coloured American ale with rich malt flavour and a very long finish.

Tends to have a greater emphasis on hop bitterness, flavour and aroma than English Barleywine, and often features American hop varietals. Differs from a Double IPA in that the hops are not extreme, the malt is more forward, and the body is fuller and often richer. American Barleywine typically has more residual sweetness than Double IPA, which affects the overall drinkability (sipping vs. drinking).


  • Colour^ = Light amber to light brown
  • Clarity = Good to brilliant

Key Aromas & Flavours:

  • Malt = High; richly malty, may be sweet, caramelly, bready, or fairly neutral
  • Yeast = Low to moderate; fruity
  • Hops = Moderate to high; typically citrusy, fruity, or resiny (floral, earthy or spicy possible)
  • Other = Low to moderate alcohol aromatics
  • Malt = Moderate to high; rich, malty sweet, may have some background notes of bread or caramel
  • Yeast = Low to moderate; fruity
  • Hops = Moderate to high; typically citrusy, fruity, or resiny
  • Perceived Bitterness^ = Pronounced
  • Balance = While strongly malty, the balance should always seem bitter
  • Other = Noticeable alcohol presence, but well-integrated

Ranges from somewhat sweet to quite dry (depending on aging). The alcohol strength and hop bitterness often combine to leave a very long finish.


  • Body = Full; chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (the body may decline with long aging)
  • Carbonation = Low to medium, depending on age
  • Alcohol warmth = Should be noticeable but smooth

Characteristic Ingredients/Processes:

  • Malt = 2-row or pale ale malt base, plus some specialty or character malts
  • Yeast = American ale yeast
  • Hops = American or New World hop varietals are typical, but any hop varietals can be used

  • Process = A long boil is typical for colour development

Historical Development:

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 Barleywine 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.

Commercial Examples:

Anchor Old Foghorn, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Victory Old Horizontal

^Sourced from the Cicerone Certification Program’s International Certified Beer Server Syllabus.
All other information is sourced from the BJCP 2015 Style Guidelines.

Discovering Beer is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Cicerone® Certification Program.

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