The Brewers Association (US)  offers the following style parameters:

 

English-Style Barley Wine Ale

“English style barley wines range from tawny copper to dark brown in color and have a full body and high residual malty sweetness. Complexity of alcohols and fruity-ester characters are often high and counterbalanced by the perception of low to medium bitterness and extraordinary alcohol content. Hop aroma and flavor may be minimal to medium. Low levels of diacetyl may be acceptable. A caramel and vinous (sometimes sherrylike) aroma and flavor are part of the character. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures.”

Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.085-1.120 (21.5-28 ºPlato)

Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.024-1.032 (6-8 ºPlato)

Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 6.7-9.6% (8.4-12%)

Bitterness (IBU): 40-60

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The BJCP offers the following style parameters:

19B. English Barleywine

Aroma: “Very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel-like aroma.  …  English hop aroma may range from mild to assertive. … The intensity of these aromatics often subsides with age.  The aroma may have a rich character including bready, toasty, toffee, molasses, and/or treacle notes.  Aged versions may have a sherry-like quality, possibly vinous or port-like aromatics, and generally more muted malt aromas….”

Appearance: “Color may range from rich gold to very dark amber or even dark brown. Often has ruby highlights, but should not be opaque. Low to moderate off-white head; may have low head retention.”

Flavor: “Strong, intense, complex, multi-layered malt flavors ranging from bready and biscuity through nutty, deep toast, dark caramel, toffee, and/or molasses.  Moderate to high malty sweetness on the palate, although the finish may be moderately sweet to moderately dry (depending on aging). …Hop bitterness may range from just enough for balance to a firm presence; balance therefore ranges from malty to somewhat bitter.  Low to moderately high hop flavor (usually UK varieties)…”

Mouthfeel: “Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long conditioning).  A smooth warmth from aged alcohol should be present.  Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.”

History: “Usually the strongest ale offered by a brewery, and in recent years many commercial examples are now vintage-dated.  Normally aged significantly prior to release.  Often associated with the winter or holiday season.”

Ingredients: “Well-modified pale malt should form the backbone of the grist, with judicious amounts of caramel malts. Dark malts should be used with great restraint, if at all, as most of the color arises from a lengthy boil.  English hops such as Northdown, Target, East Kent Goldings and Fuggles.  Characterful English yeast.”

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.080 – 1.120+

IBUs:  35 – 70

FG:  1.018 – 1.030+

SRM:  8 – 22

ABV:  8 – 12+%

 

Commercial Examples:

Thomas Hardy’s Ale

Burton Bridge Thomas Sykes Old Ale

Robinson’s Old Tom

J.W. Lee’s Vintage Harvest Ale

Fuller’s Golden Pride

Young’s Old Nick (unusual in its 7.2% ABV)

Whitbread Gold Label

Heavyweight Old Salty

 

19C. American Barleywine

Aroma: “Very rich and intense maltiness.  Hop character moderate to assertive and often showcases citrusy or resiny American varieties (although other varieties, such as floral, earthy or spicy English varieties or a blend of varieties, may be used). ….”

Appearance: “Color may range from light amber to medium copper; may rarely be as dark as light brown. Often has ruby highlights. Moderately-low to large off-white to light tan head; may have low head retention… .”

Flavor: “Strong, intense malt flavor with noticeable bitterness.  Moderately low to moderately high malty sweetness on the palate, although the finish may be somewhat sweet to quite dry (depending on aging). Hop bitterness may range from moderately strong to aggressive.  While strongly malty, the balance should always seem bitter.  …”

Mouthfeel: “Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long conditioning).  Alcohol warmth should be present, but not be excessively hot.  Should not be syrupy and under-attenuated.  Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.”

History: “Usually the strongest ale offered by a brewery, and in recent years many commercial examples are now vintage-dated.  Normally aged significantly prior to release.  Often associated with the winter or holiday season.”

Comments: “The American version of the Barleywine tends to have a greater emphasis on hop bitterness, flavor and aroma than the English Barleywine, and often features American hop varieties.  Differs from an Imperial IPA in that the hops are not extreme, the malt is more forward, and the body is richer and more characterful.”

Ingredients: “Well-modified pale malt should form the backbone of the grist.  Some specialty or character malts may be used.  Dark malts should be used with great restraint, if at all, as most of the color arises from a lengthy boil.   Citrusy American hops are common, although any varieties can be used in quantity.  Generally uses an attenuative American yeast.”

Vital Statistics:

OG:  1.080 – 1.120+

IBUs:  50 – 120+

FG:  1.016 – 1.030+

SRM:  10 – 19

ABV:  8 – 12+%

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Commercial Examples:

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot

Rogue Old Crustacean

Anchor Old Foghorn

Victory Old Horizontal

Brooklyn Monster Ale

Avery Hog Heaven Barleywine

Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale

Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot

Three Floyds Behemoth

Old Dominion Millennium

Stone Old Guardian

Bridgeport Old Knucklehead

Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws

Left Hand Widdershins