Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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Barleywine - English
Ranked #2
Ranked #94
4.55 | pDev: 7.91%
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States
Notes: Also known as Abacus

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.
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Reviews: 1,009 | Ratings: 5,481 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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4.88/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

2016 edition.
13.4% ABV
4,000 cases produced
Color: dark brown
Smell: brown sugar and chocolate
Taste: bourbon, chocolate, caramel and fruity berry sourness at the end

Yesterday at 07:06 AM
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Franziskaner from Missouri

4.17/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Deep brown to light black in color with minimal light penetration. Murky river water complexion which is true to barrel aged barleywine. There’s a fingernail of brown around the rim and covering a third of the top. The aroma is a plethora of malt, some vanilla, and some bourbon. I taste vanilla, sweet malt, and bourbon. The mouth is sticky, chewy, and boozy.

Mar 21, 2021
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Zythophile from District of Columbia

4.15/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

Bottle Date: 2018
Palate Contaminants: other beer, plus a nice fatty cheese

Medium brown color and off-white head. Lacing is present, but doesn't last too long.

First smell that hits me is flint. (That's... odd.) Scored sugar. Roasted pecans, honey-covered. This isn't the first time I've had this brew, but I don't remember any of this.

Maybe I should've downed this one and bought a fresher bottle to review because it has been one of my favorites, even if I haven't had it in years. I mean, none of this rings the ol' olfactory bell for me. Still, I rate the first bottle/can that's possible for me, so if there's wide dispersion in the quality, then it is what it is.

On the taste (of this bottle), if herbal rum were a thing, this would be it, right on down to the alcohol presence. And I suppose you can kick in a little lactose, butter variety. It's much more vegetative than I remember, too. It's more bitter than most FW barrel-aged offerings. Sweetness is moderate. (There's none of the savoriness that I remember.)

At least the build quality is still there. Good, fine carbonation, and there's a really pleasant woody/nutty aftertaste. Good medium-heavy weight. The overwrought alcohol presence is the only detriment.

I need to revisit this one.

Feb 21, 2021
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dcotom from Iowa

4.63/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured cold into a tulip glass and allowed to warm to cellar temperature. Dark brown in color (I'm guessing around 40 EBC), with a thick tan head that left some nice lacing as it settled. There's nothing subtle about this one. Huge aromas and flavors of caramel, molasses, dark fruit, and licorice, accompanied by notes of bourbon, oak, and vanilla. Very sweet and quite boozy, with a little sweetness lingering on the palate. These FW BBA barleywines are truly something special, and this one is well deserving of its lofty ratings.

Jan 31, 2021
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bminor7 from New York

4.43/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 edition.
Proprietor’s Reserve §eries No. 002.
27p-4.7p. 42 IBU. 36 SRM. 12.5%
Would love to have had another more recent vintage for comparison.

Jan 23, 2021
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gooddaydiablo from New Jersey

4.67/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

2018 sucaba, tasted on 2021.1.9
look: deep amber/brown, 75%black

smell: cherry, wood, booze

taste: deep, caramel, smoke, toffee, vanilla, bread

feel: balance! hide abv well, smooth and easy chugging tho you should not do it

overall: nice nice nice firestone walker, ganbei!

Jan 09, 2021
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Sandis from Minnesota

4.75/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2011 version (Abacus before it was changed to Sucaba). Sipped from a snifter 9/15/2020. This has aged extremely well. The typical toffee, molasses and caramel blend for this beer. A favorite.

Dec 09, 2020
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Bruno74200 from France

4.51/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2018 vintage enjoyed in the end of 2020
Dark brown with a one finger dark beige head quickly fading.
It's a lot on the caramel with notes of chocolate, vanilla, hints of coconut and tobacco.
The taste follows and remains balanced at all during the session.

I've been waiting to try this one for years now. When I saw it avaibility on an European website, I didn't hesitate twice. Glad I could try it and share it with some friends. A great offering. Nothing in your face but very balanced and showing a great set of brewing and aging skills.
A very classy brew

Nov 23, 2020
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Tony210 from New Jersey

4.5/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a perfect hazy copper with minimal head. Aroma of sweet brown sugar, molasses, dark fruits. Flavor follows nose: light brown sugar, light molasses, ripe figs, nice barrel flavor. Pretty full bodied, abv is well masked. Overall a fantastic BA barleywine.
2016 vs 2019: ‘16 has a lot more flavor, a lot more depth. More caramel and dark brown sugar flavors. I like the 16 best.

Multiple vintages, bottles
4.5 rating

Aug 25, 2020
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Chickenhawk9932 from Pennsylvania

4.5/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours midnight black with some slight burnt umber highlights and a tan head.

Smells of apple, wood, earth, plumb, raisin, wine, oak, currant, grape.

Flavors follow nose : it is incredibly tasty and complex. Awesome beer.

Jul 26, 2020
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MaxBrews from Massachusetts

4.75/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75


I've had loads of Barley wines in my day and they can all be problematic; too much alcohol heat, too drying, a vague cough syrup taste; etc. They're big beers and if one aspect of them is over pronounced it can be a really hard beer to finish.

This 2019 §ucaba is nearly perfect. It's slightly sweet and subtly blends boozy vanilla and oak flavors together with a rich maltiness. There's not one flavor that really stands out it's perfectly blended.

It's one of those beers you have a tough time coming up with words for, you're too lost in the moment. The only downside is of course it's $15 plus 12 oz bottle and it goes too quickly.

Jul 09, 2020
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Fremont897 from California

4.49/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2019 batch. Picked up 6/20/20 at Zanottos Market on Naglee, SJ, Ca.
Look: Rich amber.
Smell: Brown sugar, maple syrup, alcohol
Taste: Initial alcohol heat, brown sugar and caramel bolus with a finishing kick of bourbon.
Overall: Simply sweet bliss.

Jun 21, 2020
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joberlander from Massachusetts

4.13/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2015 Caramel, vanilla, plums. Very typical barlewine flavors and nice mouthfeel. Really enjoyable, just not as complex as other firestone prop beers.

Jun 11, 2020
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HardTarget from Texas

4.6/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 2011, Opened May, 2020
Appearance: Black glass, clear brown with back light, a bit murky, no real head, a brief flash of tan bubble when poured.

Aroma: Bourbon barrel, malt, rum soaked raisins, bit of heady alcohol.

Taste: Bourbon candy, much like Goose Island Bourbon Stout. Sweet deep malt, barrel, toffee, hint of leather.

Mouthfeel: Hot, medium body, low carbonation, slick.

Overall: A cellar success, no off flavors, just deep melded bourbon barrel and malt, a fine sipper.

May 31, 2020
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BeerDawgs from Georgia

4.49/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2018 release - 12 oz bottle picked up in Vegas at Total Wine

L - Brown, no finger or head, but creamy looking. Very enticing

S - Sugar cane and booze...smells delicious

T - Like the aroma, lots of sugar and some heavy alcohol kick. Perfectly smooth and tasty

F - Medium body and creamy

O - An excellent barleywine - going to be hard to beat this one. Well done

May 29, 2020
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just1cho from California

4.57/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

*§ucaba 2019 Batch No. 008*

*Poured into a Teku glass from a 12oz bottle*

*Drank on: 05/18/20*

Looked a brown-amber and it was pretty clear when put up against the light, pretty predictable look for a barleywine style. Had a brown colored half-finger thick head but had little to no retention to it, but considering the age and ABV, it was pretty understandable.

The aroma was very barrel forward, you can definitely get a big hit of bourbon, ethanol, and oaky notes upfront. There were soft notes of leather, dark fruits, burnt caramel, vanilla, and toffee in the middle and back-end, but the beer was so barrel forward that these aromas were a bit subdued. Maybe some age will mellow out the bourbon and alcohol aromas and let the other notes shine.

In terms of the flavor profiles, I felt like the taste followed the nose for the most part. Delicious and complex, I also found that this beer struck a nice balance between the sweet/caramel notes of the malt and the boozy/earthiness of the bourbon oak barrel. You get the bourbon and the oakiness upfront, which eventually just dissipates to a bourbon flavor and dark cherries in the middle. Towards the end, I got a bit of the burnt caramel, toffee, and vanilla characters which left a combination of a sweet and bitter aftertaste, though the bitterness wasn't strong at all.

This beer was medium to full bodied with light carbonation. Again, this had a sweet and bitter aftertaste which lingered for a while, but the flavors weren't super bold or strong.

I felt like this was a very sold representation of a barrel-aged English Barleywine style. Big malty characters of caramel and toffee, but the flavors were balanced with the booziness and earthiness of the bourbon and oak. Very solid, and will review again after a year!

May 21, 2020
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opieo from Virginia

5/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Can't always find this but when I do, I buy it. Rich and full bodied. Complex flavors in a superbly balanced brew. I love taking my time with this sipper. Better after warming a bit.

May 20, 2020
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Dan-Man from California

4.99/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2016 22oz bottle from my wine cabinet,13.4% by volume.

Thin ring of brown foam when poured in tulip glass.
Reddish tint to the medium brown color.
Aromas of barrel booziness and mashed dark cherry.
Evenly balanced, mature barley wine flavors melded with oaked bourbon.
Long pleasing finish with cherry notes.
A perfect example of an aged barley wine ale.

May 03, 2020
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Wolvmar from Michigan

4.49/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

May 2020 Review
12oz bottle, 2018 vintage, purchased near Santa Cruz (A.J.’s I think) in May 2018. Numerical rating is a composite of two reviews.

Pour: dark brown with hints of red. One finger tan head that leaves some clouds and a nice ring. Minimal lacing. 3.75

Nose: dark stone fruit, booze, sweet malt. 4.25

Taste: follows the nose with caramel, burnt toffee, hint of coffee. Complex but clean and simple if that makes sense. Extremely well balanced. 4.75

Feel: low carbonation. Super smooth, substantial but not too thick. Just a little viscous. Drinks really easy. 4.5

Overall: an amazing beer that I wish I had more of. Not sure if they have done vintages in 2019 or 2020 but, if so, buy it. 4.5


Late 2018 Review
Pour: 12oz bottle. 2018 vintage. Purchased in May cellered since then. Pours mahogany brown color with red tones on the edges. One finger tan head that leaves clouds through. bubble lacing as well. Really attractive. 4.75

Nose: toffee, bourbon, dark fruits. Sweet malts, as if added sugar like turbinado. 4.25

Taste: burnt caramel, dark fruit, dark chocolate. Alcohol is present but well balanced. Bourbon with maybe a hint of rum. Could also be coconut coming through. Vanilla/sugar/malt sweetness with slight bitterness on the backend. Complex, balanced, delicious. Not quite a desert beer but definitely on the sweeter side. 4.5

Mouthfeel: moderate carbonation. Viscous but not a mil shake leaving it an easy drinker. Clean finish. 4.25

Overall: a great BBA beer. Absolutely worth seeking out. I have one left that I will cellar for a few years. Can’t wait to try again! 4.5

May 03, 2020
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LosDosAmigos from Arizona

5/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2016 vintage from 22 oz bottle, 13.4% abv. From Quality Liquor Store out of San Diego, CA.

Beautiful and unique dirty amber color. First served around 45 degrees F, the beer just explodes with flavor. Smells similar to the best imperial stouts but immediately informs you it is in fact a barleywine upon first drink. Very lovely on the palate.

Blooming yellow-brown head that disappears almost entirely as quickly as it came.

The booze greets you with every drink, unyielding. Which is a good thing.

Think "W00TSTOUT aged in delicate wines" and you're on your way to an idea of what it's like.

After warming the sharpness of the mouthfeel starts to subside (a bit).

May 02, 2020
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colts9016 from Idaho

4.91/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Today is a wondrous day for me personally! I crawled into the depths of my cellar and pulled this five-year-old beer out. I removed the black plastic off the cap. I hesitated and then carefully cracked opened the bottle. I waited in anticipation for the hiss. Gradually, I pried the cap off, a majestic hiss released along with a heavenly smell. The beer is 56 degrees and served in a tulip glass. The pour of the beer produced two-finger head. The head retention was short-lived but satisfying. The murky brown substance falls around SRM 22. The beer had a mahogany hue. The appearance of the beer is beautiful.

The initial aromas in the beer are toasted fresh bread, caramelized sugars, English toffee, and raisins. The next, I smell, bourbon, oranges, yeast, earthy, figs, molasses, roasted malts, vinous, treacle, sherry, port, wood, oranges, floral, leather, and vanilla.

The initial flavors in the beer are toasted bread crust, caramelized sugars, bourbon, treacle, molasses, raisins, and English toffee. Next, I taste, figs, , oranges, wood, leather vanilla, sherry, vinous, nutty, floral, tobacco, hay, rich toasted malt, dried fruit, and a hint of Maillard.

The mouthfeel of the beer is warming, chewy, and subtle carbonation.

The body of the beer is full, medium carbonation, a complete finish.

The complexity of this beer after five years made turned this beer into something amazing. I know it is a barleywine with an alcohol warmth and intricate malt body. The malt mixed with the yeast and hop profile marries perfectly. This is the reason why excellent barleywines have become another beverage I enjoy sipping the night away. I need to find a few more bottles of this beer and age them to enjoy later. Excellent beer!

Mar 26, 2020
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folkstar from Rhode Island

4.6/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Look - Amber, syrup like color.. with a decent head that settles into a thin ring that persistently lingers.
Smell - dark fruits, earth and wood and some bourbon
Taste - dark fruit, plenty of wood/barrel, some spice/earthiness and bourbon warmth toward the end of the sip.
Feel - very balanced and smooth, very enjoyable. Some creaminess. pleased to find this is not overly sweet.
Overall - though I didn't think I was a barleywine fan, this one is fantastic. glad I tried it!

Feb 24, 2020
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TooManyGlasses from Canada (AB)

4.5/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2019 Vintage acquired last February in San Diego.
Pours a clear reddish/ruby dark amber leaning to brown with 1/2 finger of short lived creamy khaki head.
Aromas of bourbon, vanilla, oak, with caramel malt, raisin, and dark fruit - hint of chocolate.
Tastes of bourbon, sweet caramel malt, dark fruits, toffee, brown sugar, vanilla - definite boozy, sweet and warming.
Rich smooth mouthfeel - sweet but not cloying - warming booziness lingers in the back of the throat.
Amazing barley wine - highly reccomend.

Feb 17, 2020
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Anders91 from California

4.38/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

4.5 Look: brown with amber edges, thin white head

4 Smell: malt, dark fruit, bourbon

4.5 Taste: bourbon, malt, dark fruit

4.5 Feel: super smooth, slides right over the tongue

Jan 14, 2020
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mntlover from Tennessee

4.61/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Pours a brownish red with small tan head that falls to ringed bubbles quickly.

Aroma is sweet caramel big figs, sugar coated plums, leather earthy notes, oak vanilla light bourbon notes for being in barrel for a year. Complex sweet and inviting with only light alcohol hints.

Taste is wow like the nose sweet caramel, big dark fruits, brown sugar, molasses sugar coated plums. Old leather oak barrels and vanilla through out. Very nice sweet goodness without being cloying, very complex a real treat.

Mouhfeel is medium not as full as you would think. Carbonation is smooth though.

Overall this is very nice, enjoyable very nice.

Dec 24, 2019
§ucaba from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 100 out of 100 with 5481 ratings