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Helldorado - Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

129 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 129
Hads: 562
Avg: 4.27
pDev: 15.69%
Wants: 161
Gots: 343 | FT: 50
Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

Style | ABV
American Barleywine | 13.20% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: wethorseblanket on 10-21-2011

Honey infused Imperial Blonde Ale aged in Heaven Hill barrels.
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Reviews: 129 | Hads: 562
Photo of cjgiant
4.33/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

On tap:
Pours a very hazy to cloudy burnt orange. No head, and none forthcoming.

Nose is malty with honey and barrel characteristics along with a little alcohol heat.

Taste follows nose in general, a light sweet tropical fruity opening backed with the BA notes including and mainly coconut/vanilla combination. Woodiness behind starting mid-taste.

Feels a bit hot, but otherwise nice low but noticeable carbonation that altogether makes for an almost dangerous level of drinkability.

Lives up to or close to the hype, maybe a bit hot, but lovely malt-leaning high gravity brew (might debate the "American" qualifier on the style a tad).

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Photo of BucannonXC5
4.25/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Type: 22-oz. bottle
Glass: AleSmith Barrel-Aged Reserve snifter glass
From: Firestone Barrelworks in Buellton, Calif.
Price: $16.99
Purchased: July 28, 2015
Consumed: Jan. 29, 2016
Misc.: 2015 vintage

Bought this back in July at the Firestone Barrelworks after sampling 10-to-12 beers. Basically it was one of the cheaper 22-oz. brews and I went with this and a Velvet Merkin, which I had never tried. I sampled the 2015 and the 2013 version at the Barrelworks location and liked both, slightly giving the edge to the 2013 edition. My cabinet is not the best place to age a beer, so why wait? Have since had this on tap and think it’s just OK. Hoping to be between 4.10 and 4.15. Here’s to a drunken purchase.

Poured a caramel, bright orange, clear color with 1-to-2 fingers of rocky, off-white head. Light bubble streams coming up from the bottom of the glass. Below average spotty lacing on the glass. Below average retention. (Sight - 3.75)

Smelled boozy bourbon, oaky wood, Heaven Hill whiskey (partly because my last beer five hours ago was a Heaven Hill whiskey aged beer (Rip Current BBA Black Lagoon) and mainly because I mistakenly looked at a description of the beer on Beer Advocate), honey, butterscotch, vanilla, Circus Peanuts and banana. Very interesting. (Smell - 4.25)

Taste was not as strong as the nose, but still getting boozy Heaven Hill whiskey. Also bourbon, oaky vanilla, honey, butterscotch, Belgian candied sugar, light tropical hops and smooth caramel. (Taste - 4.25)

Medium body. Creamy texture. Average carbonation. Long, warming finish. (Feel - 4.50)

This was a very good beer. Very interesting overall, but would love to have it again. (Overall - 4.25)

4.25 | 95 | A

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Photo of GreatStoutman
3.5/5  rDev -18%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

2015 on draft, pours cloudy, bright copper. Small head recedes quickly and no lacing.

Smell is all bourbon barrel. I'm looking for the sweeter/fruit smells but just not getting it. Medium body and low carbonation combine for a pleasant mouthfeel. Taste follows the nose, its almost all bourbon and you definitely feel the booze in here. I'm used to drinking the heavyweights, but this is not well balanced.

Overall, I don't really care for it. I'm not getting any balance or complexity, and the honey flavors seem to get lost in the mix somewhere. Probably won't have this again.

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Photo of TheSixthRing
3.69/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

2015 release

Apppearance - Pours cloudy with a hell of a lot of sediment (not that I mind) with less than a finger's width of off-white head. Sub-par retention results in a completely bare surface with few clumps of suds around the edge. Virtually no lacing.

Smell - Predominantly boozy, with lesser notes of honey and lemony citrus. Maybe a hint of lemon cake? Hot, sweet and slightly tart booze is the best I could generically describe it.

Taste - Follows the nose. Sweet honey with lesser notes lemon and white bread, quickly met by a punch of bourbon booze and coconut to round out the predominant flavors. Hints of caramel? Rum raisin and oak come through mid-taste and into the finish. Quite hot as it peaks and slowly drifts into the woody, coconut-like aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - Full in body with low carbonation. There's certainly a quality of light stickiness behind it, and there's also a moderate level of difficulty with each swallow.

Overall - Not too far off from their usual 'BA brews' but lacks the ideal depth that accompanies their more palatable offerings. Parabola has plenty of flavor outside the Barrel Aging influence. This one? Not so much. If you like your BA brews without the heavy boozy influence, look elsewhere. Like your local creepy neighbor, this one is naked and aggressive. That's obviously a joke, but buyer beware. Do you like straight shots? If so, go for it. I can appreciate the effort, but this one is not for me. Like DDBA and Velvet Merkin, the base beer simply doesn't hold up to the harsh BA process.

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Photo of CHickman
4.38/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

On tap at Sapsuckers, pours cloudy amber to copper color with a small off white head that faded about average time and left minimal spotty lacing.

Smells of honey up front, followed by toffee, caramel, brown sugar, fruit candy like gummy bears, honeydew melon, orange peel, graham cracker, fresh floral hops and sweet malt. The honey is incredibly strong yet not overly sweet, completely hiding the high ABV but also basically blocking out most of the hop fragrance. Gets much better and more fruity as it warms, with apricot, white wine and the oaky notes (finally) coming through.

Tastes basically like it smells but with more booze and barrel influence in the flavor. Like the nose it tastes of honey up front, strong honey that's mead-like, followed by toffee, caramel, maple syrup, brown sugar, Belgian sugar, fruity candy like gummy bears or Razzles, honeydew melon, orange, red grapefruit, graham cracker, toasted grains, fresh floral hops, booze like dark rum and sweet malt. Not cloyingly or overly sweet, but it hides the ABV while also letting the toffee and caramel come through for that English Barleywine essence. Like the aroma the barrel aging is trailing and much like the finale, saving the best accents for last with a display of light bourbon, smoked malt or peat moss and oaky notes with a whole bunch of earthiness.

After the smell and taste the mouthfeel is about where I expected it: smooth and on the thin side as it slides down easy, with a medium body and mild carbonation. It has minor heat, a little bitterness, a solid malt base plus the bourbon and honey advertised which created a dynamic and interesting slow sipper.

This beer seems just above average until the barrel flavors come through at the end of the aroma and flavor, like a super hero swooping in to save the day and make it really damn tasty. Obviously that can be attributed to the warming of the brew, but the change as it warmed really made it very easy to drink and extremely enjoyable.

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Photo of Ozzylizard
4.39/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

$ 17.99/22 oz bottle ($ 0.817/oz) at Consumer’s Beverages, Lancaster, NY
Thanks Ryan!
Undated capped bottle (2015 vintage) at 42 degrees into hand washed and dried JK snifter, allowed to warm to 55 degrees
Aroma of oak and honey
Head average (Three cm, aggressive pour), off white, frothy/fizzy, diminishing to three mm ring and thin partial layer
Lacing poor – few tiny islands of tiny bubbles
Body medium orange, cloudy (NOT chill haze), effervescent
Flavor – instantly oak, followed by alcohol which then mellows some, no doubt because of the honey; no distinct malt or hops flavors, no diacetyl
Palate full, creamy, lively carbonation

Appearance 3.5, Aroma 4.5, Flavor 4.5, Palate 4.5, Overall 4.25

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Photo of Shrdder253
4.31/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Cheers to my first review! :)

A: Pours a beautiful, foggy, dark gold to amber color with an ivory head that dissipates quickly with slight lacing. Might lace a little more if it weren't for the thick legs and tears dragging the foam downward into the beer.

S: Didn't realize this beer was infused with honey until I read the description, but it was one of the first things I noticed on the nose. Followed by vanilla, booze, and citrus. Most likely orange. Slightly woody from the oak barrels.

T: Up front flavors match the booze and vanilla quickly and then fade gently into the honey. Soft brown fruit flavors follow. Dates, figs, etc. The usually suspects in many barley wines. Slightly sweet nuttiness at the end.

M: Mouth feel is wonderful. Almost the standout feature in this beer. Slightly thick but exceptionally smooth. Letting it sit for just a minute on the tongue causes it to foam then finish like a boozy cream. Really excellent.

O: Overall, this was delicious. Kind of a funky style so comparison is tough. It's certainly a Barleywine, but has a few very unique characteristics. Reminds me a little of High Divide by Two Beers, which is an imperial blonde aged in Chardonnay barrels. This almost finished like an oak-aged, old-world chardonnay. But nothing unpleasant in the slightest. Beautiful beer by Firestone as usual.

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Photo of HopHunter19
4.68/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A - nice orange amber murky color with a white head that dissipates pretty quickly, not much lacing
S - big caramel, vanilla, toffee, coconut, oak, bourbon barrel, little bit of fruitiness, specifically oranges
T - caramel, toffee, nougat, bourbon, oak, citrus fruits, orange, lemon/lime, coconut, sugary sweet
M - medium mouthfeel, alc covered, dangerously drinkable at 13.2%, aftertaste is vanilla, sweet sugary, barrel characteristics
O - pretty damn good beer. I think it's hard to make a kind of beer that's less well liked and judge it against a brewery's imperial stout or english/darker barley wine. Yet as usual firestone does an awesome job here. I hope to see more of their beer around my area in the future.

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Photo of rodmanfor3
4.5/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is one of Firestone Walker's better boxed offerings.

The golden pour of liquid deceives the palate, as this beer is a straight-up barleywine. Intense alcohol on the nose but not quite so prevalent on the tongue. Very sweet and well executed.

I am not sure why this beer is not as well received as others from the FW limited lineup, but this bottle is worth picking up.

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.86/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle from Bert's
Crystal clear deep golden with a decent sized bubbly white head that shows moderate retention. Brown sugary caramel maltiness with bits of dried fruit and an earthy woody bourbon note. Light vanilla. It's a bit thin and a little boozy but tasty.

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Photo of Dustin_Sallitt
4.38/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I really enjoyed this barleywine. The nose has lots of bourbon, and a nice bit of honey as well which is very pleasant mixing with the bourbon. First sip is on point with the nose, with bourbon and slightly sweet honey infusing together nicely, before a slight bit of barrel character enters, and a very late nutty finish which is my favorite facet of this beer. Nice full mouthfeel as well

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Photo of Chris_Huston
4.49/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 bottle poured close to 12/2015. I've grown less fond of barleywines, esp. American barleywines, but this one is a keeper.

Immediate vanilla scent when popping the cap. The alcohol also gallops to the nose once poured, reaffirming its barrel quality and backbone, and its status as a proper barleywine despite its "blondeness".

Taste is a proper match to the smell with vanilla and honey sweetness that tames the barrel alcohol that is so often poorly restrained in barleywines, but far from eviscerating it. It adds a dangerous smoothness (at 13% ABV) and sweetness that cooperates superbly with the spirits, making an exceptional drink that I think works even better than its darker English-style cousin, Sucaba.

Great, appropriately medium-light body and smooth feel. This is one smart blonde.

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Photo of ONovoMexicano
4.12/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bomber into a tulip.

Pours golden. Shows copper color like a maltier IPA in the body. Frothy pale white head. Steady carbonation. 5

Smells like some sweet candy. Caramel, raisin, flowers, resin. Spicy, resinous and earthy hop aroma. 4.25

Same as nose. Caramel, light raisin and plum, vanilla, brown sugar and a bit of a resin-y, solvent-like finish. 4

Quite creamy and full-bodied, almost marshmallow-like in feel. A bit of a spicy bite about mid-palate, but it doesn't feel overly hopped or bitter. More of a sweet, mildly boozy feel that you'd get from a sweeter liquor. 4

Drinks easily and the taste is solid. Very good really.

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Photo of BuccoFan
3.93/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This is a beer that requires more appreciation for the style, I think. There is no head, and near medium body. It's not atypical of the style, but possibly not what one might generally expect of a barrel-aged beer that weighs in at 13+ABV. Nice caramel taste, nice oak. But doesn't measure up to the other FW barrels.

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Photo of Wasatch
4.12/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz. Bomber
2015 Vintage (Box)
No. 001
3500 Cases Produced
Black Foil/Capped

Poured into a chalice a very nice slightly cloudy golden orange color, very nice carbonation, with a very nice quick, creamy, small off-white head, which leaves some nice sticky lacing behind. The nose is malty, slight yeast note, some vanilla, oaky, bourbon, some dark fruits. The taste is very nice, malty, slightly yeasty, vanilla sweetness, oaky, nice bourbon note, nice touch of dark fruits, slightly spicy. Full body, ABV is hidden fairly well, a complex brew. Overall, a pretty tasty brew, quite a different take on the style.

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Photo of cbutova
4.02/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Moe's Tavern. Full notes taken.

A- Fairly murky medium golden pour from the taps into a tulip. Small white cap, foamy consistency sees it dying to almost nothing. Poor retention and lacks any lacing.

S- Vanilla bourbon and degraded woody oak. Golden raisin fruit esters, alcohol, medium caramelized malts hinting at sweetness.

T- Mostly like the nose with the main woody, vanilla, bourbon, alcohol and spicy fruit. Very much laid back as far as sweetness goes especially considering the heavyweight ABV, really clean fermentation.

MF- Medium-thick and slick oily overall feel. Texture is frothy but only ever so slightly as it is a bit syrupy.

The heat from the ABV comes out later on in this huge but very smooth brew. Lots of vanilla and oaky barreled flavors.

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Photo of Oh_Dark_Star
4.34/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

For me this was not a worthy replacement for the Double DBA. If it's from Firestone it can't be bad, but I'd buy most others before repeating this one.

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Photo of Jimmys
4.3/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2015 vintage. 22 oz bottle, boxed, and foiled up.

A: pours fairly hazy. blonde? I don't know about that. more of an orange hue in my book.

S: aroma is hugely bourbon, vanilla, and honey. the aroma is warming, but not too hot. tons of oak. very prominent on the nose for sure. smells like a honeycomb.

T: flavor follows the nose very closely. booze is definitely there, but frankly it should be expected. delicious and warming. hop flavor is hugely present throughout. pine mostly. bitterness gives way to a very sweet body.

M: average carb on a very full body. everything works good.

D: overall a really sweet, oaky, bourbon beer from FW. getting some balance hops, but nothing overpowering in the aroma, flavor, or bitterness levels. found it a little one dimensional at times and lacking the complexity i have come to love from FW's bigger offerings. have another one for the cellar. definitely curious to see the booze calm a bit and which other flavors become prominent.

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Photo of MattLev
4.62/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

L: like a rich lager, medium head golden dark opaque golden
S: rich bourbon and caramel, sweetness
T: superb balance for the high abv. Crisp but with dark rich notes on the back end.
F: coats the back of the mouth, drinks syrupy sweet
O: a dangerously good and easy to drink barley wine. Incredible balance

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Photo of Zorro
4.61/5  rDev +8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Chill hazed golden colored ale with a small white colored head.

Smells strongly of bourbon. Big scents of vanilla, coconut and caramel. Strong scent of sandalwood. Strong pepper rides on the ethanol fumes. Exceedingly aromatic beer, it punches you in the nose with scent but in a good way. Strong scent of Marigold flower.

Starts out sweet with a strong vanilla and caramel flavor. Abundant tastes of Bourbon whiskey and coconut. Unexpected passion fruit flavor. Flavors of butterscotch and honey. This is a powerful beer this is like a 2X4 or flavor broken across your tongue. Decidedly boozy, this is a powerful beer that will just get better with age.

Mouthfeel is damn close to syrup. You could probably pour this on pancakes.

Overall just an outstanding flavor bomb. This will just get more complex over the next five years, right now it is young. Best beer I have had this year.

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Photo of irishzombieman
4.71/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Amazing beer! Lemme say that again--amazing beer!

I may've had three beers in my life that were this good. Boozy as all get out but I love that. Resisting the urge to splurge and horde.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.83/5  rDev -33.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

BOTTLE: Comes in a fancy shmancy cardboard box - probably intended to evoke a fine Scotch. 2015 vintage. 650ml. Brown glass. Classy understated label design. Black papered-over pry-off crown cap.

13.2% ABV. 25.5 Plato. 25 IBUs. 3500 cases produced. 12 SRM.

Served cold into an oversized snifter/tulip hybrid glass and allowed to come to temperature over the course of consumption. Expectations are low given the batshit style and the brewery. Reviewed live.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

HEAD: 1 finger wide. Off-white colour. Decent thickness and creaminess. Recedes fully within 2 minutes. No lacing sticks to the sides of the glass.

BODY: Vibrant gold. No yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible within. Clean and filtered.

It's a nice look for a beer in general terms. More bonde ale than barleywine.

AROMA: Honey, booze, butterscotch, faint vanilla (probably from the barrel), pale malts, white oak, creme brulee, and ample malty sweetness.

Aromatic intensity is average. I don't pick up on any overt hop notes or off-notes.

TASTE: Boozy and honey-forward, with traces of lavender and heavy barrel sugar sweetness. Barrel presence tips more towards vanilla/creme brulee than oak, with no real rich white oak or toasted presence. Pale malts disappear beneath the barrel, which overwhelms the beer. Alcohol presence is obvious.

I like the vanilla, but I wish the sweetness wasn't so overt; it throws the beer out of balance. It's built alright, I guess, but it's neither much of a blonde nor much of a barleywine. I don't dislike it, but that alcohol presence is hard to get past. Average flavour duration and intensity. Below average depth of flavour.

TEXTURE: Heavy and viscous on the palate, with a somewhat syrupy presence. Thick and hefty. It's a lot to handle, and the boozy warmth is bothersome.

OVERALL: It's a decent sipper. I'm glad I have company to help me finish it. Far from world class, and not a beer I'd encourage friends to try. I wouldn't buy it again meself. We'll finish it with some effort. I'm not sure why it's so well-regarded, but then I could say that about this brewery as a whole. Overpriced and of subpar quality.


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Photo of Shroud0fdoom
3.72/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

22 ounce Bomber into a Wine Glass.

I am stoked to have this brew in my presence, these FW Box Beers usually sellout within a few Hours. So I am excited to see what this Muvfaka has to offer...a New Style Threshold got my beer bones aching! Let's see what this Biatch is talking about. First popping the top and pouring her out, she is Golden Honey with a bit of mysterious haze about her. Her crown was white as snow with tight bubbly texture...looking like a Relaxing Bubble Bath! She looks the part.

Aroma is going to take this brew to the next step! I twirl her around and take a deep whiff.. That is some Bourbon Goodness there! Rich Char and Vanilla takes your Nostrils on a Bourbon Journey. After the Vanilla leaves there's a Cinnamon Spice character that is present giving you a Warm invite. Mild toasted Coconuts is present adding a nice depth to this brew. Also faint Booze is detected. Just an amazing smelling Brew!

Time to taste this muv! Ok, let's discuss this. This doesn't taste as insanely great as the Aroma. The flavor first hits with some Honey Sweetness that flows with Barrel Notes (Charcoal, Vanilla, Coconuts and Spice). There's mild notes of Fruity esters toward the finish that seems out of place. This finishes Weak and Boozy with some alcohol bitterness on the sides of the Palate. The feel isn't improving anything for this, it's very light and carbonation is Cola-Esque.

Overall: This had potential to march a new trend in Beer Style Perversions. Making a Blonde Barleywine sounds pretty great if executed correctly. This though, not really providing a push to forward this type of Style Trend. This brew has a Great Aroma if you love Bourbon. It melts your face with its Barrel Notes, but the flavor is South of the aroma's Greatness. The flavor would be better if the Booze was tuned down a bit leaving for a better drinking experience. This proves to me that Firestone Walker can make a not so impressive brew. This brew is worthy.

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Photo of jdwilliamson79
2.55/5  rDev -40.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Man I wanted to like this beer but just didn't. I know it's 13.2% but my God it's boozy as all get out. No attempt to hide the ABV. Seriously, I think the barrel that was used was still half full with bourbon. No hop presence whatsoever, nor malts for that matter. Taste is booze, booze, and more booze. I love barleywines but this particular style was too much for me. Felt like a 11 ounce pour of pure bourbon. No thanks.

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Photo of mothman
4.19/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

On tap at Max's.

Golden yellow color.

Lots of coconut and honey. Caramel and other malts. Lots of oak, bourbon, and vanilla.

A slight amount too much carbonation. Sticky feel. Minimal heat.

Solid offering. Well worth a try.

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Helldorado from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
94 out of 100 based on 129 ratings.