Dismiss Notice
Sneak peek! BeerAdvocate magazine #104 (September 2015) featuring Leah & Oscar from Highland Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more ...
Dismiss Notice
Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest BeerAdvocate updates delivered to your inbox.

§ucaba - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

804 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 804
Hads: 4,479
rAvg: 4.44
pDev: 3.38%
Wants: 1,236
Gots: 2,626 | FT: 263
Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  12.50% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: SacoDeToro on 02-21-2008

2011 Reserve Series Bottle Notes:
O.G. 27 Plato
F.G. 4.7 Plato
I.B.U. 42 units
Yeast: British Ale (House)
Cases: 1500 produced
Color: 36SRM (Dark Ruby)

2014 Bottle Notes
O.G. 27 Plato
F.G. 4.7 Plato
I.B.U. 42 units
Yeast: British Ale (House)
Cases: 3500 produced
Color: 36SRM (Dark Ruby)

Matured for 1 year in a blend of Heaven Hill, 4 Roses, and Old Fitzgerald barrels.
View: Beers (83) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 804 | Hads: 4,479
Photo of badgustav
4.85/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A remarkable Barleywine. Great color, aroman, and flavor. Head dissipates quickly, no lingering foam. Flavour follows the wonderful aroma. Hints of honey, Madeira, whiskey, and toffee. Sweet, malty, and smooth. Enjoyed the 2013. (228 characters)

Photo of NavyGoat
4.69/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I stopped by a neighborhood friend's house today to drop off some Ballast Point Sculpin Grapefruit (would recommend this brand also) and boy did he treat me to Sucaba! The bottle looks really neat and the barley wine inside was yummy! Smooth, great scent and wonderful taste! I am very appreciative to have been treated to such a top-notch beer!! (349 characters)

Photo of SierraFlight
4.52/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On draft at Simzy’s LB poured into tulip. Nearly opaque chocolate brown with a tan ring that revives with a swirl of the glass. Aroma is of coconut, dried fruit, bourbon, caramel, brown sugar, and vanilla. Taste is outstanding with strong fruit and caramel sweetness and mild barrel wood bitterness. Full body, silky texture, surprisingly moderate carbonation, and a sweet boozy finish. Excellent! (399 characters)

Photo of john0721
4.09/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz bottle, 2014 vintage aged 1 year+

dark brown, off white head.

Dark fruit (black cherry) in the nose.

Cherry, Vanilla, caramel, brown sugar in the flavor.

The cherry with a touch of vanilla is what stands out for me. (224 characters)

Photo of smcolw
3.86/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Brown color brew with a decent off white head. No lace, though.

Semisweet with an alcohol kick. A bit of berry to the nose as well. Closer to an apertif in the smell than a beer.

Strong alcohol, almost a Chambord taste. There's a slightly burnt flavor to the swallow. Rich body with a diminished carbonation. Think brandy with carbonation. (344 characters)

Photo of NickSD
4.24/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

This we ok after reading the reviews and the bottle I was expecting a little more. Overall a good tasting beer started and finished well I just didn't like the feel (164 characters)

Photo of More_betterness
4.46/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: Deep ruby with a khaki head that recedes immediately. Slightly cloudy body.

S: Rich caramel, bourbon, and dark fruits upfront. Layers of dark cherry, milk chocolate, and vanilla. Glorious.

T: Vanilla, coconut, and booze from the bourbon, followed by woody oak and a boozy finish. Fricken fantastic.

M: Medium bodies with a long lingering finish. Dry astringent finish from the oak.

O: What more to say about Firestones barrel program? Masterful. My favorite BBA Barleywine behind Great. (494 characters)

Photo of TheBrewo
4.48/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

We pull our bottle of 2012’s “No. 002” from its protective cardboard sheath, and remove the foil and cap. Pouring into our three-quarter sized tasting snifters, we discover a remarkably dark barleywine the color of deep rosewood. A quick one finger head of loose, soapy, tawny foam heads the beer before dissipating into a solid ring of lacing, with wispy satellites extending across the surface of the glass and the liquid alike. The top looks like an oil slick. No haze or sediment is noted, and carbonation appears to be light. The aroma is rich, savory, and hot, blending together huge buttery diacetyls, densely biscuity and sweaty roasted chocolate and caramel grain, bright honey sugariness, chalky Flintstone vitamin tartness, metallic date and fig jam sugars, warming and fusel bourbon booziness, toffee fudge, pumpkin flesh, soft peaty char, dried nutmeg spice, brown sea glass, oily cashew and pecan butters, dried rosy florals, acidic lemony juiciness, burnt mallows, unpopped popcorn kernels, copper, tea leaf tannins, and distant vinous mossiness. The flavoring is wonderful, extending perfectly from the aroma through liberating waves of intense cloying sugariness of strawberries, red apples, and dates, iced plum pudding, brown breadiness, singed molasses, syrupy yet dusty caramel, amber, and soft coffee malt roast and wash, rinsed barley rawness, huge buttery woodiness of oak, charred chicory, biting and puckering bourbon flavoring, creamy vanilla, aluminum, soggy Cornflakes, mineral water, English yeasty bitters, hot gingerbread and mild cloven phenols, salted caramel, nori vegetals, and oily leathers. The body is full, oily, and chewy, and the carbonation medium, but more soft and foamy than prickly. Slurp, smack, cream, and froth are all excellent, softening the heaviness of the sip, and folding the mouth over upon itself in velvety goodness. Following this coating creamy softness, the palate tightens into a tannic puck. The abv is appropriately large, and the beer sips forever.

Overall, this beer certainly lives up to the hype. Even after a solid two to three years maturing in our cellar, this 2012 stock retains its intense buttery woodiness, dense caramel sugariness, and warming bourbon booziness. Aside from these obvious necessities, you get ever shade of complexity to fill in the gaps across the nose and palate. Although we don’t have a great base of comparison, if seems that nothing has faded or taken to the top. The balance remains supreme. We tackled this as part of our recent “Whale Hunt”. Our cellar space is being dramatically reduced in the upcoming months, so we’re systematically going through the “drink now” beers we’ve been aging. This beer, more or less, is helping to kick that off. In this vein, it was nice reading about the history of this beer. It seems that this was one of, if not the, genesis beer of their “Reserve Series”, and it fits so well. We’ve obviously not sampled them according to their order of release, but it meets that same quality of barrel-aged wonder that the rest of them have attained. §ucaba is a phenomenal beer, and something every true BeerAdvocate should seek out for reference point and blissful enjoyment. (3,252 characters)

Photo of WoostaBia
4.85/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

One of the best Barleywines I've ever tasted. Smell of toasted coconut, caramel, cherry, vanilla and bourbon. Taste: Brown sugar, vanilla, roasted coconut, light chocolate and coffee tones. No alcohol detected, really drinkable. Amazing beer. (243 characters)

Photo of flagmantho
4.28/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 22oz bomber into my Salish Sea pint glass. This is the 2015 vintage -- I couldn't wait to crack this one open.

Appearance: rich ruddy-brown hue with a clear body and a light effervescence. Head pours a finger of frothy tan foam. I think it's quite beautiful.

Smell: richly malty with a subtle but effective dark-fruit character that lurks beneath the big vanilla-ey oak. There's just enough complexity to be interesting, but the big story is really with the depth of the malt, dusky fruit and vanilla -- wonderful.

Taste: big, rich malt up front which slowly subsides revealing a boozy, hot and barrely finish. The flavor elements are much like the aroma, with an emphasis on the oak and vanilla, although the big alcohol adds a little sweet, light fruitiness in the finish. An excellent beer, if a little boozy.

Mouthfeel: big, big body with a low carbonation that nevertheless yields a wonderful creaminess and exceptionally silky-smooth texture. Outstanding.

Overall: I this this is a wonderful beer, but it's booziness is just a little too much for me. Perhaps I will buy another of these and cellar it for a year to see if that edge wears down a little. (1,188 characters)

Photo of Matonika
4.86/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Look: is a light orange cola color. smell: Orange, molasses, tons of vanilla, soy sauce , Marzipan Taste: sweet, caramel, brown sugar, a mild hop bitterness it is ever so mild, it balances the sweetness and richness. Little bit of oak tannin. Nice and smooth low to medium body big alcohol but not overwhelming. It is the best barleywine I have ever had. So good. If you don't like barley wine this is the barley wine for you. (429 characters)

Photo of Mbo108
4.83/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

First try of a fresh batch and it delivered! Damn just really nice. Started a bit carbed, and too cold (my fault) but as it warmed some the flavor came out perfectly. I have a few of precious years stashed away - they may be coming out sooner than I had planned! Amazing smell outta the bottle, mmm, like boozy candy. Beautiful color in the glass. Amazing stuff. Get some if you can. (384 characters)

Photo of ThisWangsChung
4.28/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Re-review! 2015 vintage! 'Murica! 22 oz bottle into a teku.

Appearance: Pours a very dark ruby color. The head is a finger high, and mocha in shade. For over 13%, the retention is impressive. Its creaminess creates an additional aesthetic appeal. A thin ring of lacing is left on the glass, too. (3.75)

Smell: This really taps into darker malt notes than a typical barleywine, such as chocolate, brown sugar, and even roast. Caramel appears, and is very well defined. That 'trademark' Firestone Walker coconut character? It's also there in full force. Alcohol and bourbon presence is gentle yet prominent, ditto the vanilla. It's so bourbon-forward, in fact, that it kind of drowns out the base beer. Luckily it manages to remain balanced while asserting such strong aromas. (4.5)

Taste: The initial flavor is heavy on the oak, while vanilla slowly builds up toward the finish. I'm also picking up some finishing roast and coffee flavors, which is always welcome. There's a mild burn throughout - it doesn't hide the alcohol (through sweetness, fullness, or whatever) as well as something like Bourbon County. It's intensely oak-laden, almost like chewing on an oak chip. Once the palate gets used to the powerful bourbon presence, some of its additional notes make themselves known - the British ale esters pop up with some finishing cherry/apricot, and the caramel/brown sugar sweetness strengthens itself. Ultimately, it's complexity lives up to the billing of many BAs, at the cost of a slight harshness. Whatever, it works beautifully. (4.25)

Mouthfeel: Very soft on the palate, but also fairly thin. It's practically dry for 13.3% - despite the mild residual sweetness, one could almost call it 'drinkable'. No, wait, I will call it drinkable. It's slightly syrupy, but any 13%+ is bound to be. Carbonation is low throughout. (3.75)

Overall: My problem with previous Sucaba vintages was that it was a bourbon showcase first, and a beer second. It's still the case here - at first. Anyone who's read the BA forums at some point knows how herrburgess recommends one to drink multiple Schlenkerla rauchbiers in a sitting, so its massive smoke flavor will ultimately reveal a beautifully layered beer underneath. In a way, this beer is very similar - it's all bourbon at first, but after a while the barleywine base is fully revealed, even taking on some porter/stout elements in the process. Even better, it never becomes overly sweet at any point (TAKE SOME NOTES, THE BRUERY!) The only thing I can quibble about is how the complexity takes a while to really hit the palate. Unlike many BA brews, this doesn't reward instant gratification...no, it rewards those willing to drink a whole bomber solo. And that my friends, is what drinking beer is all about. (4.5)

4.28/5: Most drinkable barleywine ever? (2,812 characters)

Photo of barczar
4.3/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Fairly boozy, but very complex malt character. Big caramel and toffee notes. Would love to procure one to age. Definitely a sipper. Hops balance nicely. (152 characters)

Photo of Trifecta1
4.62/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

One of my favorite barleywines. Smells of cherries, pipe tobacco, leather, burnt toffee, wood. Tastes of vanilla, tobacco, caramel, slight cherry, coconut, alcohol sweetness. Smooth, delicious. (193 characters)

Photo of BenwayPHD
4.91/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

It pours a thick, auburn color with a very thin mocha colored head. The smell is amazing. I get heavy almond upfront followed by toffee, coconut, vanilla, mild earthy hops with just a hint of alcohol. The flavor follows the nose pretty closely with a bigger emphasis on the toffee caramel flavors. There is a bit of booziness, but it is quite welcoming and subtle. This is interesting because it is the first time that I've had a bourbon barrel aged beer where the booze melds with the beer so perfectly that it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. (563 characters)

Photo of IAmAPenguin
4.61/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Aroma: Sweet malt syrup, coconut, oak, molasses, plums, raisins, barrel wood and bourbon.
Appearance: Very dark shade of magenta with no foam whatsoever and very little lace.
Taste: Incredibly smooth and complex with notes of bourbon, dark sugary malts, molasses, plum juice, prune juice, coconut, raisin, candied toffee, candied caramel, slick malt syrup, oak and subtle vanilla. Finish is boozy with more coconut, bourbon, oak and barrel wood on the palate.
Overall: Noticeably sweet with overtones of coconut, bourbon and oak. Big complexity. Absolutely delicious. (567 characters)

Photo of stortore
4.65/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 vintage, 22 ounce bottle into a snifter.

Have not had this before. As soon as you pop the hood, you know this is something special. Smells awesome- malty, coconut, pineapple. a little licorice when it warms. Tastes truly incredible. Sweet, malty, caramel, still getting the coconut. A little boozier as it warms. Nicely carbonated. Coats the tongue, but still feels somewhat light.

This is just a great beer- no surpise really, coming from FW. Hope I'm lucky enough to get the 2015. Hope you are too. (516 characters)

Photo of neurobot01
4.27/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2014 vintage, bomber into a snifter at cellar temp. Still a fair amount of alcohol heat, but the big surprise was the relative dominance of bitter flavors over sweet. All the standard FW flavors are there, though oak and toffee are at the fore. Very nice mouthfeel. Doesn't strike me as obviously better than fresh, though the barrel influence may have mellowed a bit. (368 characters)

Photo of dutesanch
4.59/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Awesome beer that is a big boozy, malty, sweet, smooth treat to sip slowly and enjoy. Gotta give this one the edge very slightly over BC barley wine.

Previous comments on a 2014, just had a 2015 and had to up the ratings in certain areas. On the hunt for more (260 characters)

Photo of philbe311
4.06/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Batch 004

A finger's of tightly packed crisp rich velvety light khaki colored head... Limited retention gives way to an ultra inviting full perfectly uniform veil of lacing which ultimately turns a bit splotchy with a small collar... The color is a deep slightly brooding garnet... A light to moderate bit of carbonation rises at a slightly sluggish pace towards the top of the glass... The nose is deep, rich and inviting... Loaded with warm bready malts... Vanilla... Brown sugar... Light oak notes... Fig... Raisins... Sweet plums... Well rounded... Deep and complex... The palate is not nearly as deep nor complex... It is loaded with oak and booze... Both of which slightly overwhelm the barleywine beneath which I'm fairly certain is trying to shine... Medium bodied... Sturdy... Light yet sharply carbonated... A touch of lushness to start before a wave of dryness overcomes and lasts throughout... An astringent booziness rises on the finish... A solid English Barleywine (though if given a blind taste test I would have considered this either an American Barleywine or American Strong Ale)... Given all the praise for this brew, I expected world class but this one falls a bit short... Perhaps more time in the bottle would do this justice and the barrel aging seems to obscure the base brew... As is, the end result is a bit less than the sum of its parts... (1,395 characters)

Photo of breadwinner
4.59/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Right up there with the best barrel-aged barleywines in the world, this one demonstrates Firestone Walker's incredible acumen with barrel aging, amply displaying notes of coconut and caramel with a very easy booziness. Not that'd expect any less from FW. (254 characters)

Photo of Jon_Gamer
2.89/5  rDev -34.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

First time with the Firestone Sucaba/Abacus 2014.

Looks: very deep amber ruby color with a slight creamy white head the encircles the glass

Smell: Smells of wood and alcohol, the amount of alcohol I smell has me worried I tend to not like Beers that are to heavy on the alcohol.

Taste: Can't get past the amount of bourbon and alcohol. This beer may be a favorite for many but definitely not for me.

Mouth Feel: Gotta say though, I like the mouth feel. very soft and has a nice warming sensation.

If you're looking for a really deep, bourbon like ale than Firestone Sucaba/Abacus would be a strong choice. If you're not a fan of strong alcoholic beverages that taste like bourbon and wood I'd stay away. (708 characters)

Photo of PSU_Mike
5/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I'm generally against rating beers as 5s. I don't think there is such a thing as a perfect beer. But I'll be damned if I could find a fault in this one. It has a beautiful clear ruby red pour with a nice white head that lingers for a while. Hints of bourbon, vanilla, brown sugar, molasses, and wood explode from the nose and explode on your taste buds. The bourbon is present but not overpowering like other BBA beers I've had. It still allows the other flavors of the beer to shine. It's incredibly smooth and full bodied with the alcohol incredibly well hidden.

While I am not a huge barleywine fan, I do enjoy them from time to time and I can appreciate the style. This one is head and shoulders above the rest. Hell, it's head and shoulders above anything I've had. (772 characters)

Photo of MonkeyBread
4.77/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

One of my most sought after beers. Love barley wines. 2013 vintage from the bottle into tulip glass.

Look: box says dark ruby red and that's accurate. Reddish brown, some murkiness, minimal head or lacing. Darker coloring than your typical barley wine.

Smell: amazing! Vanilla, sweet caramel, toffee, coconut, bourbon, tobacco smokiness, leather, can notice a boozy note as well. Very sweet, smells like an incredible dessert laced with liquor.

Taste: burnt sugar, molasses, tobacco, toffee, vanilla, smoke, ripe dark fruits like dates, figs, cherries, bourbon, whiskey, oak. Of the barrel influences the bourbon is most pronounced on the nose while in taste whiskey and oak shines through more. The malt is almost like a scotch whiskey. Most surprising note to me is the smoky, peat-like tobacco flavor, was not expecting that. Really contrasts with the sweetness of the caramel and toffee.

Feel: tad more carbonated than expected. Nice chewy, thick mouth feel. Almost grainy. Pleasant and doesn't get in the way of the many contrasting bold flavors on display in taste and smell.

Overall: the bar was set extremely high here with the top ratings and being a staple of FW's barrel aging program. I think it met those expectations. Perhaps the most complex beer I've had. There's a significant amount of barrel influence in the nose and taste from bourbon, whiskey and oak. And there's a lot of sweetness along with a smoky tobacco flavor that I assume comes from the barrel aging. They all mesh together excellently. This is the top barley wine I've had. FW continues to astound with their skill. (1,607 characters)

§ucaba from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
98 out of 100 based on 804 ratings.