How long has the Bridgeport Brewing Company of Portland, Oregon been brewing Old Knucklehead Barley Wine Style Ale? They don’t say. What I do know is that they don’t brew it every year. How do I know this, you ask? Because the current bottling is No. 14, and I first enjoyed the brew back in 1999. I don’t recall the bottling number I sampled unfortunately but I did take tasting notes:

12/7/99 Bridgeport Brewing Company, Portland, Oregon.

Bottled March 14th (my birthday, how nice of them!) 1997. Alcohol by volume
is 9.1 %. Murky brown color, no head formation, sweet malty nose. Sticky
sweet malt palate hints at prune, mincemeat, light caramel, chocolate. Huge alcohol finish. Wonderful, complex beer!

About a year ago, I bought a bottle of the 2013 edition, bottling No. 13, at Total Wine. It’s that edition that I’m drinking tonight, and it’s aged with oak according to the label, then aged a further year in the bottle by me. I have no indication in my tasting notes that that early batch I sampled was aged on oak. Bridgeport does seem to change up Old Knucklehead from time to time, as the alcohol content varies as well.

From the label:

The tradition continues with the 13th revival of of our craft brewing roots. This barley wine style ale is aged with oak and offers a big taste experience. The deep ruby-colored brew kicks off with heavy malt sweetness, finishing with notes of oak, vanilla, toffee, and rich cherry.

Bridgeport Old Knucklehead bottling number 13 has an alcohol content of 9.2% by volume, same as bottling 14. IBUs are given as 60 on the website. I paid $5.99 for my bomber bottle; once again Bridgeport provides great value.

Bridgeport Old Knucklehead pours to a deep ruby red hue with a moderate creamy head and a soft candied fruit and spice cake nose. Taking a sip, I get caramel up front with more of the candied fruits and spice cake that the nose promised. The beer is very fruity, peaches and cherries come to mind, with vanilla and woody oak permeating the brew. The cherry and oak are really amazing here, and the floral, fragrant spiciness is vibrant and delicious. The beer finishes warm with alcohol and dry with perhaps a subtle sweetness, but this is a very complex beer and some of the best six bucks you will ever spend.

Bridgeport Old Knucklehead is not as hoppy as some of the American barleywines out there, and perhaps not as big and malty in body, but the oak aging definitely makes it unique. And at this bargain price, it’s a staple in my beer cellar. Why not add it to yours as well?


And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.