Firestone 21 - Anniversary Ale
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Firestone 21 - Anniversary AleFirestone 21 - Anniversary Ale
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Strong Ale - American
4.34 | pDev: 6.45%
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Firestone 21 - Anniversary AleFirestone 21 - Anniversary Ale
Notes: Velvet Merkin (42%)
Parabola (18%)
Stickee Monkee (17%)
Bravo (14%)
Rum Helldorado (9%)

"This year’s Anniversary beer is a magical blend of five components. Chocolatey, mild Velvet Merkin takes the lead setting the stage full of lush malt and barrel driven texture, yet tempered alcohol strength. The rest of the components fall perfectly in line, backing Velvet Merkin up with luscious caramel complexity and a creamy malt symphony. The final component adds a new twist – the rum barrel-soaked and lean Helldorado makes its Anniversary debut, bringing a fresh splash of island-spice to a ridiculously balanced barrel-aged brew. This is one of those times that the whole truly equals more than the sum of its parts. I couldn’t be happier with the result."
-Brewmaster Matt Brynildson
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Reviews: 105 | Ratings: 323 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of BerryKumquat
BerryKumquat from California

3.76/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

L: Odd amber black color.
S: Strong syrup notes.
T: A bit of malt and syrup but nothing else.
F: Nothing?
O: A quirky beer that is over hyped and under delivered.

Aug 09, 2020
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TreyIsWilson from Michigan

4.43/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a dark brown with a thin tan head. Nice amount of soapy lacing.

S - Aroma is coconut, caramel, dark fruits and bourbon.

T - The taste is caramel, dark chocolate, figs, raisins, vanilla, coconut, oak and bourbon.

M - Medium body with medium carbonation. Creamy mouthfeel with a soft dry finish.

O - This is big, rich and decadent. Extremely drinkable at 11.8%.

May 13, 2020
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dcotom from Iowa

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12-ounce bottle into a snifter. Cola-colored body, with a finger of tan head that left a bit of spotty lacing as it settled to a thin ring. Aroma and flavor profiles are dominated by bourbon and bourbon barrel, with caramel, cocoa, dark fruit, and roasted malt, plus hints of rum, molasses, vanilla, and spice. Very sweet, with a silky mouthfeel and lots of tartness lingering on the palate. Not too much alcohol heat for such a big brew. Delicious, decadent, and highly drinkable. What more could you want?

Jan 04, 2020
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Wolvmar from Michigan

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Nov 2019.
Bottled Oct 2017. Bought at AJ’s Market or Beer 30 in Santa Cruz in May 2018. Poured into a tulip glass.

Pour: jet black with two finger tan foam head. Leaves a thin ring with some bubble lacing.

Nose : subtle, balanced rum, coconut, chocolate, dark fruit, dark roast malt. Hints of molasses and vanilla.

Taste: rum, coconut, chocolate, dark roast malt, bitter coffee/hops, marshmallow, caramel. Slightly vanilla sweetness. Extremely well balanced. Amazing.

Mouthfeel: moderate carbonation. Milkshake feel, not cloying. Easy to drink despite ABV.

Overall: awesome. If I could, would buy again in a second!

Nov 10, 2019
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Hopheadjeffery from Illinois

4.38/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Tasted in a snifter from draft at Consume on May 28, 2019. This beer is unfiltered, so there will be a small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. XXI is best enjoyed poured carefully into a half-filled brandy snifter or wine glass. Allow it to warm to 55F to fully enjoy the pleasing and complex aromas. As the beer sits and breathes in the glass the true complexity of this blend is revealed, so take your time. If you wait to open your bottle later, store it in a cool dark place. Like our other Anniversary offerings, this beer will age well and change favorably for years to come.

Oct 04, 2019
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Zythophile from District of Columbia

4.46/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle Date: 2017
Palate Contaminants: other beer

Color is dark brown, near black, but with a reasonable amount of clarity still at 1/2 inch. Moderate off-white head.

The smell of this one is incredible. The scent that hits me first is vanilla, and it's heavy enough to be called extract. There's also a very pleasant oak scent that blends with... almonds? Haven't had that before. But what really lifts this is a rich caramel. And it all volatilizes so well. Along with that, there's a dairy element that's somewhere between butter and sweet cream. Overall, amazing. (This is why I'm stingy with the 5s.)

In the flavor, the wood character drifts a bit from oak, and the nut flavor drifts from almond, but there are still strong wood and nut elements. Herbs put in an appearance, and cloves are pretty strong. The burnt sugar drifts from caramel to dark rum. Interesting how -everything- in the nose shifts instead of various things simply appearing or disappearing.

Alcohol is definitely present, as one might expect for an elevenner. Medium weight. But it does have a spicy kick, which is intriguing. Moderate carbonation.

Sep 02, 2019
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Thankin_Hank from Texas

4.52/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

Rich dark color with no head. Smells strong and the sweet molasses is very aromatic. The taste is strong, alcohol is present but not overpowering and the molasses is awesome. Mouthfeel is awesome too. Easy drinking. Overall it’s a fine specimen of a strong Ale. I have had some barrel aged brews that have this flavor and they are all good.
A 12 ounce boxed bottle at Ron’s Corner Tavern. 8/24/2019. BEER BEFORE GLORY!

Aug 24, 2019
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Jrush666 from Nevada

4.9/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 5

I was lucky enough to stumble across this at Lee's Liquor, on the craft beer selection wall hidden back in the back behind some delicious Firestone parabolas. I was a little surprised when I poured it since I thought it was an ale. I am a stout guy parabolas one of my favorites, that beer is incredible I am so saddened that I cannot get any more please again sometime in the near future recreate this nectar of the god special ale.

Aug 22, 2019
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drtth from Pennsylvania

4.36/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The solid dark mahogany brown, almost black, beer pours out into a snifter glass with a 1/4” medium brown head that slowly recedes to a small ring around the glass and some thin islands of foam while leaving some small legs and patches of lacing on the sides of the glass. Sipping creates a couple of slender arches and several small patches of lacing.

The aromas are mostly about the rich malt, with some chocolate, caramel, hints of dark fruits and a bit of dark roast. There’s also some rum, vanilla and spice.

The flavors are much as expected from the nose but the vanilla seems more forward. The malt sweetness is present but does not cloy. there’s also a bit of alcohol showing in the sweetness but it is well integrated with the other flavors and does not burn or overpower.

The mouthfeel is on the full side of medium bodied and fairly smooth with just a bit of lightly prickly carbonation. The finish begins as most of the various malt flavors start to fade into a long dry ending that seems woody, spicy and slightly bitter and with lots of vanilla in the background.

Overall this is enjoyable and very sippable in that as each sip finally fades away in the back of the palate I’m ready for another. The aromas/flavors are very complex and definitely change in their prominence as the beer warms. Recommended if you like lots of complexity among many different flavors.

Jun 24, 2019
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Roguer from Connecticut

4.37/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Humble head production, even from a fairly vigorous pour; dark tan foam quickly fades to nothing but a thin rim around the edge of the glass and an oily slick on the surface of the brew. Body is a very dark brown with slight purplish highlights, and while it is difficult to tell, it appears to be on the murky side.

Barrel notes are present immediately, with bourbon naturally leading the way, but a surprising showing from the Rum Helldorado (at less than 10% of the final blend!): mash, coconut, vanilla, oak, mild booze. Malts are showcased next: dark chocolate, caramel, earth, toffee, raisins, nuts, brown sugar, red wine grapes. The hops are a distant but still present last: earth, pepper, grass, and pine. Impressively complex and deep.

No less complex on the palate. The flavor is mostly a melange of coconut, chocolate, coffee, brown sugar, raisins, plums, caramel, oak, vanilla, pears, grapes ... it just keeps going on and on. I would prefer a more defined separation among flavors - some order amidst the chaos. As it is, only the waves of coconut on the finish (likely from both the bourbon and rum barrels) stand apart - but that's very nit-picky.

A touch fizzy on the feel up front, but only slightly; finishes silky, smooth, wet, and only a touch hot, with lasting coconut aftertaste.

Closing thoughts:

Nearly a quarter of this blend comes from Bravo and Helldorado, and I think it shows: this is thinner and more watery than I recall from previous editions, and perhaps hoppier as well, despite the age (enjoying this at about a year and a half of age).

The rum aspect of the Helldorado edition doesn't detract in any way, and in fact blends in seamlessly with the bourbon mash.

Going with Merkin over Parabola for such a huge portion of the base really brings down the heft; such a small component of Quad/BW characteristics (about 25% if you count both Monkee and Helldorado) yields less rich complexity than in years past.

Not overly sweet, not overly boozy or barrel-y. Very smooth and approachable.

Apr 14, 2019
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keithmurray from Connecticut

4.24/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance - dark brown mahogany body with tan head

Smell - chocolate, caramel, oak, brown sugar

Taste - chocolate, caramel, oak, brown sugar, tobacco

Mouthfeel - medium bodied, medium carbonation, chocolate and caramel sweetness upfront, oak and tobacco on the back end

Overall - nice beer here, flavors meld really well, booze is well hidden

Price Point - $7.99/12 oz bottle

Mar 16, 2019
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stortore from Illinois

4.29/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

12 ounce bottle into a snifter. Had 3/5/19.

Pours dark brown, amber in the light. Somewhat opaque, with a one and a half inch thick foamy head with good retention and lots of foamy lacing. Aromas of bourbon, caramel, figs, chocolate, cocoa, light tobacco, some rum- more as it warms, malt, some coconut, light butterscotch, a little oak and char. The flavor is not as intense as the aroma. Bourbon, rum, less chocolate than the nose, caramel, figs, toffee, malt, raisins, some coconut, light tobacco, a little oak. Smooth, a good medium to full body, well carbonated.

Writing this after the third crack at this beer. Took a while, but I finally appreciate this blend. What really elevates this, is the rum, which is surprising since the Helldorado is such a slight percentage of the blend. The aroma comes at you in waves, layers of goodness. Very good flavors, but not as robust as the other years that I’ve had, but maybe that’s consistent with the Velvet Merkin dominating the blend. Overall, very enjoyable.

Mar 06, 2019
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cbutova from Massachusetts

4.51/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

A- 12oz stubby pours into a snifter with a deep brown mahogany body. The cap is light brown and has a foamy consistency rising to a cm high before slowly falling

S- For the most part the Quad and Barleywine contingents of the blend really shine in the aroma with the brown toasty sweet malts, rum barrels, brown sugar, booze, dried dark fruits, caramel and raisins really coming on strong with some spicy phenolics. The stouts are there but honestly they are outclassed by the sweeter less roasted beers in the mix. Slight roast grains, chocolate and coffee. The barrels are huge themselves with peppery whiskey, brown sugar toast rum, booze and vanilla beans.

T- As the aroma suggested this beer is decadent, full of complexity and just blended masterfully (this series really is the best anniversary series in the business). On the palate the beer feels more balanced between the dark and toasted beers that were placed into the blend. Sweet overall but the barrels really cut into that and prevent it from being syrupy or cloying as that extra booze plays a key role here. Opens up with caramel, spicy raisins, vanilla bean, spicy rum and bourbon before leading into roast barley, dark chocolate, coffee, big brown sugar, toffee, booze, toasted coconut (subtle), roast bitters and a touch of charred oak.

MF- Heavy body but as in the flavor the booze really cuts into the beer and thins things out quite a bit here. A low-medium level of carbonation and a just a bit of a foamy texture. Ends really warm but here it suits the flavors really nicely. A sipper.

As usually FW knocks it out of the park with their anniversary beer. This time the beers on the brown and sweet side trump the stouts by just a bit but in the end it is a Strong Ale type of beer that cannot be contested in complexity and depth of flavor. So many distinct notes can be pulled from this and that is what makes it magical.

Jan 02, 2019
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NoYouDidnt from Indiana

4.38/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours black with some slight brown on the outside. Thick tan head on top. Aroma- chocolate, little cherry, little brown sugar, and alcohol, little raisin. Taste- chocolate, alcohol, dark chocolate, slight coffee. Some nice caramel in the back too. Kind of milky. Very nice. Mouthfeel is very nice. Soft very light carbonation. Overall- tasty beer well blended.

Jan 01, 2019
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Phineasco from Massachusetts

4.5/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours brown with a medium off white head. It has low carbonation. The beer smells of caramel, raisins, butterscotch, and oak. It tastes of caramel, raisins, butterscotch, and oak. The feel is medium. I always enjoy these blends, I get more barleywine than stout.

Dec 29, 2018
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Tucquan from Pennsylvania

4.26/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Had this on 2018-12-25 in Columbia, PA from the 2017 12oz bottle

A - Opaque dark brown with a 1/2-finger light brown head and mild lace.

S - Burnt sugar, toffee, raisins, chocolate, licorice, vanilla, oak, coconut, toasted date-nut bread.

T - Echos the aromas but with more emphasis on the licorice, chocolate and toffee There's some roasted bitterness, cinnamon, earthy spice and a fine port wine flavor that I didn't notice in the aroma. The influence of the rum-aged Hellderado makes an appearance. Finish is malty with an emphasis on the date-nut bread and oak/bourbon/rum barrel character.

M - Thick body and light carbonation. Creamy, smooth, just right. The alcohol helps dry things out and makes-ready for the next sip.

O - Quite complex, well balanced and oh-so tasty.

Dec 25, 2018
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Franziskaner from Missouri

4.06/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black in color and impenetrable to light. There’s a fingernail of beige around the rim and covering a third of the top. The aroma is of rum, dark malt, fig, and caramel. I’m tasting a plethora of dark malt, bourbon, rum, caramel, and vanilla. The mouth is thick, sticky, and chewy.

Dec 24, 2018
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Greywulfken from New York

4.13/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Dark-colored blend of a bunch of their ales as described in the commercial description... I had their 19th Anniversary Ale and I loved it, but this I found uninspiring... Had about a year on it, being their 2017 release and this being 2018, and maybe the flavors kinda muddled... Seemed like dry barrel wood impressions took center stage - various chocolate and fruits were muted and indistinct... Medium body... I guess I enjoyed it, but wasn't "excited" about it...

Dec 09, 2018
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Damian from Massachusetts

4.11/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Drank from a 12 fl. oz. (355ml) bottle purchased at Harvest Wine & Spirits, West Hartford, CT
Served in a snifter

The dark mahogany body was topped by a frothy, finger-tall, khaki colored crown that slowly fell to a thick, bubbly mass. A lasting collar encircled the liquid. No lacing, except for a few droplets after each sip.

The aroma was pretty underwhelming initially. Somewhat malty and sweet. Subtle caramel and toffee notes. A dry, slightly powdery yeastiness was also apparent. Fairly boozy. Bourbon and rum notes were detectable. With time, the sweet toffee and brown sugar notes came forth. Bit of roastiness too.

The flavor profile was similar to the nose but punchier. Malty and sweet with big caramel and toffee notes. Dark fruits came through in the center. Slightly nutty. The beer finished nicely with notes of oaky bourbon, rum and a lingering dark fruit and toffee-like sweetness. As the beer warmed, the dark fruit character and the overall sweetness intensified. The booze came forth a bit more as well.

The mouthfeel was creamy, smooth and supple. Thinner bodied however for a beer of this magnitude. The liquid contained a larger bubbled, fairly aggressive effervescence that turned light and fluffy on the palate. By the drink’s end, the liquid left a slightly sticky film on my lips.

I purchase Firestone Walker’s Anniversary Ales every year and usually find them pretty disappointing. Twenty-one, however, may have been one of the least impressive to date. Moving forward, instead of simply tweaking the percentages of the individual components, I would really like to see this beer utilize a completely new recipe. The current approach seems to have run its course.

Nov 26, 2018
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JamFuel from Sweden

4.29/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours almost black with fine, light brown foam.

Smell is sweet and rich, with notes of vanilla, oak, chocolate, coffee, golden syrup and a hint of peat.

Taste is intense and a bit raw and boozy. Notes of rum,vanilla, chcolate, burnt sugar and molasses, and a robust bitterness.

Mouthfeel is medium, well carbonated. Expected more body...

Overall, a very good beer that smells fantastic. The taste is a little bit too raw and it's a bit to thin though.

Nov 18, 2018
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Shantzak from Pennsylvania

4.34/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Just a great great beer. I love the diversity of the rum barrel, but cannot decide whether it’s takes away from the balance of the blend or adds another flavor dimension. Either way this beer is a gem...

Nov 02, 2018
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ScruffySouthpaw from New York

4.51/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a snifter glass from the bottle.

Appearance: Deep dark cloudy amber which comes off almost opaque with medium bubbles to the body. I have almost no head with a ñn aomost vigorous pour. At most rising tenth of an inch off the body with an off-white head.

Smell: Light toffee with hint of whiskey and wood. Has an even more appetizing scent when you let it warm a bit.

Taste: Complex brew right from the start, medium bubbles with a sweet butterscotch feel and hint of whiskey. Very addicting taste which is hard to put down.

Mouth: Super sticky with a deep stickiness and deep malts. Finished almost perfect. Hard to be patient with this beer because of the fact it taste so good.

Overall: Might be the perfect beer to end the night but God honestly after this long day I will squeeze one more. Incredible brew and a mistake if I see and leave it on a shelf. Always in a glass...Salud.

Oct 29, 2018
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beergoot from Colorado

4.38/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Dark ruby hued body; thin yet lasting head. Deep, rich aroma of roasted grains and sweet, dried dark fruits; plums and dates; woody barrel-aging notes. Booze and cocoa flavors; bittersweet chocolate; anise and licorice. Heavy body; cross between velvety and oily; alcohol warmth with a deep, muted sweetness overall.

A very interesting blending of Firestone Walker barrel-aged beers of varying styles. Overall, a rich and complex beer, exuding dark warmth and dried fruit flavors such as figs and dates with a steady boozy undercurrent. Intriguing and enticing.

Oct 18, 2018
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CHickman from New York

4.72/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours opaque black looking with a 1 finger khaki colored head that was full of tiny bubbles, dissipating slowly and leaving good spotty lacing. Strong ales don't have sexy looks to me in general, so this was on par for the style.

Smells of tobacco, caramel, toffee, dark rum, bread pudding, brown sugar, floral hops, light vanilla, oak, faint molasses, a bunch of dark fruits, sweet boozy malts and alcohol. It really smells like a barrel aged barleywine, with no real distinction between the bourbon barrels and rum barrels used. It gets better as it warms and is basically perfect IMO.

Flavor is stupidly complex with a malty tug of war between the blends and barrel influences. I really like how the sweetness is minimized by the alcohol, which allows the bready and oaky flavors to let the vanilla, brown sugar, toffee, and then the hints of cinnamon, peppery spices and piney notes bleed through. It comes off metallic and oxidized at times and the booze brings heat even a year after bottling, but it's crazy complex adding burnt coconut like a girl scout cookie, lightly roasted notes, raisins, dates and bread pudding that had caramel on top baked with a torch. I love bread pudding so perhaps that happy place subconsciously blends with this XXI happy place, but either way the flavors are similar. Even though this is a malt bomb it had balance with a bunch of hoppy and grassy notes which bring a nice level of bitterness.

To me the rum barrels added more sweetness and dragged down the burnt coffee and roasty accents of prior anniversary blends, but this was still an outstanding beer. Firestone Walker Anniversary Ale's are always world class, and while the alcohol may still be a bit hot right now, I still consider this an excellent beer worth every penny.

Sep 16, 2018
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Prager62 from Colorado

4.47/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A 12oz. bottle purchased in June after they started distributing to Indiana. Poured in a twelve ounce tulip for the review.

Look- Pours a cola colored brown tinged with mahogany leaving a creamy thin cap of light tan foam in it's wake. No lacing to speak of, but there is a thin oily residue clinging to the glass.

Smell- Bourbon, figs, dates, vanilla and damp oak.

Taste- An odd but pleasant twist of bourbon and rum followed by dark chocolate covered cherries, vanilla, toffee, burnt caramel, dates, figs and oak.

Feel- Creamy and silky smooth. A little heat in the finish. Wonderful for such a big beer.

Overall- I've been a fan of the Anniversary series since they launched in Chicago with XIV. While they're always different, they never disappoint. This one comes in at or near the top for me. I'm glad I have one more for the colder months ahead.

Aug 20, 2018
Firestone 21 - Anniversary Ale from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 95 out of 100 with 323 ratings