Bravo Imperial Brown Ale | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

96 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Bravo Imperial Brown AleBravo Imperial Brown Ale

Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: American Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 13.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
A single-hopped strong brown ale brewed using the hop variety Bravo. This beer is then aged for up to a year in circa 1990's used Heaven Hill bourbon barrels.

Added by rayjay on 05-31-2007

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 96 | Ratings: 329
Photo of GRG1313
3.75/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

I like Firestone Walker beers - really. However, this is simply a good and decent and better than average brown ale - there is nothing special about it. Well made, high quality and tastes good. Certainly my opinion is that my 3.75 expresses that opinion. I am a firm believer that the ratings are grossly inflated because it's FW and comes in a box and they make you believe that it's "special." Good for them. Shame on us for the inflated score.

 452 characters

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.74/5  rDev -13%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

On tap at Firestone Walker Barrelworks in Buellton, CA.

Pours a hazy orange-brown with a foamy tan head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace slowly drip into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of malt, brown sugar, toffee, caramel, citrus zest, wood, and alcohol aromas. Taste is much the same with malt, brown sugar, and citrus zest flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of hop and wood bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer that is tasty but has a slightly better set of aromas in my opinion.

 661 characters

Photo of StonedTrippin
4.49/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

best brown ale ive had in ages, huge thanks to claystation for bringing this one over. if i understand it correctly, this was brewed only to be a thread in various blends over the years, and is finally coming out on its own for the first time. they have been hiding a real treasure! soft reddish brown color far lighter than i had it in my head that it might be, looks barrel aged though, sort of thick, a little hazy, and not a ton of bubbles, looks mature, steadfast. it smells like heaven! the first thing i get is very high quality bourbon, vanilla forward, charcoal, and honey. a bit of a lighter malt base, not even chocolatey really, maybe some light cocoa powder type, but mild for sure, and seemingly more focused on a caramely sweet malt side of things, and letting the barrel do a lot of the work, which it sure does. heavy bourbon in the flavor too, equal parts whiskey and wood, with vanilla and brown sugar right behind it, a dusty dried cocoa complexion, a little toasted nuttiness, sweet grains, and just a pleasant warming alcohol dose to finish. its hard to imagine its this strong, there is no sign of that kind of aggressive heat, really mellow and enhancing, not forced. its so smooth and complex, lighter for a brown but so much more flavorful than most, a different slice of the malt spectrum here, almost like it was built for these special barrels, its genius. weird its named after a hop, as i didnt get a whole lot of that in here. i couldnt get enough of this one, and admire the price point as much as i admire the beer. absolutely decadent!

 1,570 characters

Photo of metter98
4.21/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: The beer is rather hazy brown in color. It poured with a short off white head that left a thin layer of bubbles covering the surface and a thick collar around the edge of the glass.
S: Light to moderate aromas of bourbon from the barrel aging are present in the nose.
T: Like the smell, the taste has strong flavors of bourbon along with hints of chocolate malts.
M: It feels medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer has strong flavors of bourbon but hides its alcohol very well.

Serving type: bottle

Note: 2017 vintage

 571 characters

Photo of largadeer
4.47/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at City Beer. Listed as 13% ABV.

Dark auburn body with little head formation. Nice color and clarity when held to the light.

Smells strongly of caramel and toasted coconut, stewed fruits, dates, brown sugar. Great aroma that's reminiscent of Firestone's 11th anniversary ale. Pretty well integrated bourbon barrel character, and little discernible alcohol.

Palate of caramel and toasted coconut, mellow bourbon booziness and brown sugar, this is quite good. Sweet and rich with a full body, carbonation is gentle as usual with Firestone's barrel aged beers. The barrel is present but integrated, and it finishes semi-sweet with slight char from the barrel, finishing with toffee and tobacco. Great stuff, one of the better barrel aged beers I've tried from Firestone.

 777 characters

Photo of Kegatron
4.59/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at The Stone Brewing Bistro & World Gardens on 11/13/09 during their Firestone Walker 13th on the 13th event. Served in a snifter.

Pours a deep, somewhat clear, dark brown (just a wee bit of light is peeping through) with a thin covering of off-white foam. There is more of lightish look to the retention and lacing but the flare-up has a nice moderate look to it. Bourbon really comes out boldly here in the aroma, with some deep notes of burnt molasses. Fortunately, I'm also getting a get bit of the brandy too, as it gives off more of a dry and fruity feel. The Brown Ale is under there somewhere (with roast and caramel coming out the most) but the barrel blend seems to add most of the deep sweetness to this. Earthy tannic wood and some vanilla add a slickness to the nose.

The taste is pretty similar to the aroma, with burnt maple syrup and char mixing in with a flush of fruity cherries. Notes of vanilla and oak weave mingle in, giving this smoothness. This is just so sweet and sticky, with the flavor moving effortlessly in and out of each other. The finish matches this, being warm, syrupy, and sugary on the lips. The mouthfeel is full bodied; with a bit of a heavier prickly carbonation up front, giving way to a slick and more viscous feel underneath. This definitely wears it's ABV on thee ole sleeve, having an assertive beef to it, but luckily that anticipated alcohol sting never comes. Really steady sipper here for the size.

I'd really like to see more of these bourbon and brandy blends done, as I love how each brought a different type of deep sweetness to the profile, yet they still played off each other brilliantly. Really tremendous stuff here that was definitely up there as one of my favorites from a pretty outrageous night of Firestone Walker beers.

 1,796 characters

Photo of MasterSki
4.35/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I'm a little perplexed by the name/listing here - the description in the FoBAB program (presumably supplied by Firestone Walker) reads "A single-hopped strong brown ale brewed using the hop variety Bravo. The beer is then aged for up to 1 year in circa 1990s used Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. 12.5%"

A - Pours with a finger of tan foam that settles to a thick ring and partial cap. The body is a pleasant transparent amber color.

S - The aroma is big in vanilla, bourbon, caramel malts, molasses, and light coconut. Any trace of the Bravo hops is long gone from the aroma.

T - The taste is fairly similar but verges more into a toasted coconut and toffee direction, with some tannic oak, and a moderate level of earthy and roast bitterness in the finish.

M - Smooth medium body, low carbonation, and a tannic bite to the finish. Surprisingly little heat for 12.5%.

D - I'm a little shocked by the ABV on this one - I would have pegged it at 9% or so, as it seemed at most as boozy as all the other barleywines I sampled. I guess it's similar to Abacus in that vein. This brew is not very subtle - it's a bunch of sweet stuff in a bourbon barrel - but it is delicious.

 1,172 characters

Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.5/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This one pours a dark-ish brown, with a small white head, and no lacing.

This smells like decadent caramel, bourbon, high quality chocolate, coconut, oak, creamy vanilla frosting.

This is very tasty, but it's very barrel dominant. It's basically entirely carried by the barrel, which seems to be why it's usually used as a blend with other beers. However, the barrel character on this one is awesome, with tons of vanilla, oak, and bourbon, and just a hint of coconut. The base is still a little bit showing up underneath the delicious barrel, with caramel and toffee providing a really nice sweetness. This is pretty sweet, but it's definitely a pleasant sweetness.

This is really quite creamy, with a normal level of carbonation for the style. There's absolutely no booze present, which is quite nice.

I'm super happy with the format change here, and it also helps that this is a really fun beer. It's a showcase for Firestone Walker barrel awesomness. Highly recommended.

 978 characters

Photo of dar482
4.31/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer comes in a deep ruby brown color, with dark ruby crystal shiny in the light.

The beer hits of bourbon throughout, medium sharp qualities of it as it drives on the back of the palate. There's vanilla ice cream, deep toasty bread crusts shoving off Maillard, with caramel drizzle, brown sugar, though leaning on malt depth than caramel sweetness. Nuttiness drives with Maraschino cherry and raisins rising up along with shaved coconut and toasted oak chips. A woody bitterness and oak tannins enter on the finish along with a alcohol warmth on the way down.

 565 characters

Photo of Zorro
4.28/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Chill hazed brown colored ale with a tiny tan colored head.

Smells sweet and boozy even from a considerable distance. Scent of whiskey and brandy with strong burnt sugar and toasted grain aromas. Vanilla and fig scents are strong. Caramel and raisin scent. Grape and cherry on rum scent. Scent of walnuts. This smells like a high quality rum soaked fruitcake.

Starts out sweet with a strong taste of caramel candy and grapes. Tastes like brandy. Astringent on the tongue like strong tea or a wooden tongue depressor. Burnt sugar flavor and a range of caramel flavors. Medium level of vanilla. Mildly sweet and mildly bitter. Faint taste of coffee.

Mouthfeel is good.

Overall a tasty boozy ale.

 710 characters

Photo of lupercmda
4.71/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Hard beer to rate as in style is it a brown ale or a ba beer. So here goes. Nice toffee brownish color with small head retention. Nice malty taste with a toffee lingering taste. Man is that bourbon smooth on the back end. Maybe the best brown ale I have had.

 259 characters

Photo of clayrock81
4.03/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured a brown body with minimal head and lace ring around glass. The smell is comprised of dark fruits and a bit of breadiness along with some malty goodness and hint of booze (really tame). Sticky, medium body with great balance of dark fruits like figs and possible raisins, a caramel/toffee malt bite that is sticky thick but is easy drinking thanks to the barrel aging and finishes so clean with a little bit of vanilla/booze sugary sweetness. Not a big fan of brown ales but this one is well worth having.

 514 characters

Photo of HopHead84
4.79/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Numerous 8oz pours consumed in a snifter at Stone's Firestone Walker night on 11/13/2009. This beer is incorrectly classified as an Imperial Stout on this site. It is an Imperial Brown. This iteration of the beer was aged in bourbon barrels. The beer is dark brown, bordering on black, with a small light brown head.

Big bourbon nose with strong notes of brown sugar. Vanilla is apparent, as is caramel. Really nice. Light booze accompanies a touch of
earthiness. The beer showcases a great blend or vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, and bourbon, with just the right amount of sweetness.

The flavor opens up with sweet caramel and strong bourbon. Light vanilla notes are evident, as is a touch of brown sugar. No roast or alcohol is apparent. Bravo is moderately boozy with a delicious bourbon caramel finish.

A very tasty barrel aged Imperial Brown. In fact, I can't think of a better one. My favorite or all the wondrous epochs.

 931 characters

Photo of Davepoolesque
4.24/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Toasted coconut, dark chocolate, some toffee, hint of vanilla and earthy malt. Semi dry, oaky finish. Definitely retains the essence of the brown ale base. Lower, balanced sweetness. Medium feel. Pretty good.

 208 characters

Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
3.95/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 fl oz bottle sealed with FSW pressure cap.
poured into HF wine stem.
2017 vintage
Appearance: Dark brown body with a garnet red hue. Off white head that pours a full 3 figners tall and quickly fades down to thin cap.

Smell: Bourbon, caramel, toffee, vanilla, and dry oak. This is a very barrel forward aroma. Figs, dates, and cream soda. Smells like this might be a little hot and boozy.

Taste: The flavor is just like the aroma. Big barrel in this beer. Much of the same barrel characteristics and flavors that are found in the aroma. Finishes with dry oak, spicy bourbon, and a light earth hop bitterness. It has some big booze factor in the flavor.

Mouthfeel: medium body with moderate carbonation. Boozy. Not really thick body, but appropriate for a brown ale that is over 13%.

Overall: The barrel takes over this and does not let the brown ale's base beer come through with those great toasted and nutty malt notes that a brown Ale showcases as a hallmark of the style. This one needs a little time to mellow as it barrel character is a bit over the top as a fresh beer.

 1,085 characters

Photo of Jwale73
3.98/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2017 vintage served in a Spiegelau tulip. Pours a lovely mahogany hue with a translucent clarity and a slick of off-white foam that disperses into a band around the edges. Copious tiny bubbles are present effervescing in-solution. Very nice nose - spirits hit upfront, followed by toffee notes and a hint of oak and vanilla. Taste consistent with nose with the ethanol also lingering lightly between quaffs. Mouthfeel is light-medium in body with an assertive carbonation and a slight oiliness to the texture. Overall, solid but not worth the price tag in my opinion. Perhaps consider some cellar time (6 months to a year) to round out the solvent characteristics attributable to the alcohol.

 699 characters

Photo of cosmicevan
4.5/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle picked up locally a few days ago (and I hope I can find more tomorrow!!!!). Love the single serve FW BA brew and this one packs a punch, but very refined flavor. I mean it is FW so you know the barrel aging will be spot on. The heaven hill is just the perfect marriage for this imperial brown. as decadent as a BA stout but the lightness of a brown ale. simply magnificent. I will be seeking more of these!

 419 characters

Photo of ArrogantB
3.76/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

On tap at Hops and Pie, first time I've seen this one and I'm excited based on FW XI. Amber color, not as dark as I'd expect. Aroma is booze, barrel, sugar. Flavor is sweet barrel, vanilla and way too much alcohol. This beer works much better in a blend than as a solo beer.

 274 characters

Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.34/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Pours a somewhat clear dark ruby color. The head is damn near non-existent - it's simply just a thin off-white film. Retention? Lacing? Nah.

The prevalent aromas of caramel, milk chocolate, and brown sugar are not only vibrant, they make the ale esters seem more assertive - I'm picking up a ton of raisin, cherry, fig, and currant. Also assertive is the bourbon barrel characteristic. Waves of vanilla, marshmallow, oak, and coconut show up. After opening up, a bit too much burnished toffee shows up - otherwise, the nose is as complex and alluring as expected.

The flavor, though...I'm not entirely convinced. Bourbon shows up on the front of the palate, offering notes of oak, vanilla, and coconut. The middle is where the base shows up, and is where it stumbles. Caramel, molasses, toffee, and brown sugar are intense to the point where it smothers the fruity ale esters that would have given it more than a few dimensions. The Bravo hops don't really register. For 13%, I expect more depth and complexity. Even worse, it doesn't seem terribly balanced in terms of how the handful of notes come together.

Give credit to the mouthfeel, as it hits a nice medium between being fairly rich and not being overbearingly heavy or sweet. Carbonation is gentle - this one is more reliant on oak tannins to dry the palate. It's a bit boozy, but not overly so, and has a fairly clean feel for over 13%.

Subjectively, the molasses-meets-caramel attack offered doesn't appeal to me personally. But objectively, I find it lacking in both cohesion and depth, and the ever-tantalizing barrel notes Firestone Walker are known for are overshadowed. Worth a try, but not one I'd ever seek out.

3.34/5: I can't quite say "bravo" toward this one

 1,735 characters

Photo of cjgiant
4.06/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 2.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Okay, this thing poured flat as hell. I tried and couldn't get a head. Clear amber brown would be enticing if there were some froth atop it.

Nose is coconut-leaning bourbon barrel are. Nicely sweet, but with the base beer providing just a little toasty background note.

Taste is light but sweet, vanilla toffee with a bourbon boozy accent. Expected notes that are nicely put together. Toffee, bourbon vanilla, tickling carbonation, date, light brown sugar, and just a little whole grain toast deep back in there.

This is no more a brown ale than Founders Sumatra or Palo Santo. It's a quad without the thick to syrupy nature that style can bring. Lighter than expected for the ABV, the alcohol isn't hidden, but isn't dominant, either.

 754 characters

Photo of stephenjmoore
4.31/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Most bourbon-heavy beer I've had by far. Barrel is at the front and center. Really big and boozy with significant bourbon on the nose and in the flavor.

 152 characters

Photo of arizcards
4.44/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a 12 oz bottle from the Craft Beer Quick Stop on Wednesday for $9.99. Released initially in February but was lucky to catch a surprise release.

Beer poured brown with a small off white head that dissipated quickly.

Nose is vanilla with hints of bourbon barrel, very nice.

Taste is vanilla and dark fruits over a light bourbon accent. Dangerously drinkable as the alcohol is not prevalent in the flavor profile. It is a bit sweet but not cloying at all.

Mouthfeel is full and very smooth and satisfying.

Overall this is a very drinkable brew, probably the easiest drinking of the Proprietor series. Seek this brew out, definitely worth the price of admission!

 679 characters

Photo of beergoot
4.34/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Fine dark brown body; crystal clear, short yet lasting, creamy head. Might blend of deep caramel sweetness, bitter, roasted nut qualities; charred sugars; brown sugar; boozy. Heavy, viscous mouthfeel; warm and chewy.

Definitely a heavily malt-forward beer, replete with dark, roasted grain qualities infused with some nice, boozy warmth and kick. An outstanding find...

 370 characters

Photo of BEERMILER12
4.39/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a mahogany color with 2 fingers of head that fairly quickly fades down to a thin ring of lace around the glass

S: Bourbon and sweet malt up front along with some vanilla and oak. Lots of barrel influence here

T: Follows the nose. Starts off with bourbon, vanilla, and sweet caramel maltiness and slowly picks up some oak and fruitiness from the alcohol. Some earthiness also makes its way in there. Oak and bourbon linger into the finish

M: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Fairly smooth

O: A very nice brown ale that packs a punch. Carries the 13.2% with ease, which makes it quite dangerous even with the new smaller format. Definitely worth checking out

 677 characters

Photo of Wowcoolman
3.75/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Ethyl alcohol notes pretty strong here. Some nice caramel, some leather and polished wood, some graininess. Alcohol notes dominate the finish and make it hard to savor.

 168 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Bravo Imperial Brown Ale from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.3 out of 5 based on 329 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.