Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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Barleywine - English
Ranked #3
Ranked #96
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: 1,011 | Ratings: 5,490 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by PSU_Mike:
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PSU_Mike from Pennsylvania

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

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

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

Dec 26, 2014
More User Reviews:
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BeerStud187 from California

4.94/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Simply put, this is the best beer I have ever had and what I believe to be the best beer ever made. If you have not had this beer, you have not lived and have nothing to judge beers against.

What does it taste like? Butter. Now I know that sounds strange and weird for a beer, but it's true and legit. While this might not sound like what you want in a beer, you are wrong. It's this warm, thick, caramelly, buttery goodness that warms your soul and your dick. I tried this is a flight with several other high quality barrel aged beers and this made them look like Ghetto Black and Tan made out of Colt 45 and Boone's Farm.

If you've over had improperly barrel aged beers and don't understand the hype, try this. If you've ever had awful barley wines that taste like rubbing alcohol and want to discount the whole category, try this. If you are a human and have a tongue, try this.

Like most other reviews will say, this is a super heavy, thick, buttery, rich, complex, smooth, experience. But overall it is this, an experience. This beer changed my life. I don't want to do anything else in life other than drink this beer. If Lexi Belle wants to hang out with me, I hope that she has a bottle of Sucaba with her, because otherwise my attention span may wonder, that's how good this is.

Head is small but thick. Color is fairly light and does not foretell the quality inside. Do not let this ruin your future life changing experience.

Jul 12, 2016
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siskiyoucellar from Oregon

4.56/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

One of my favorite barleywines, so now that the 2018 is here I thought I’d do a little mini-vertical with a 2015 from my cellar. The rating is for the 2018 - I’d put the aged 2015 at 5 for taste and 4.75 overall.
Beautiful dark amber/garnet - the aged 2015 is a little paler, which is unusual in my experience. Rich and complex, beginning with a truly stellar aroma and moving smoothly into the dark fruit honey, tangy black pepper and spicy whiskey layers of the taste. Some time in the cellar has rendered all of this into a sublimely blended whole. A great beer, fresh and aged.

Mar 24, 2018
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neurobot01 from California

4.27/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

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

Jan 20, 2015
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stortore from Illinois

4.65/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 vintage, 22 ounce bottle into a snifter.

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

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

Jan 24, 2015
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guityler83 from Wisconsin

4.75/5  rDev +4.4%


A: One finger of head formed when poured from the bomber into a snifter glass and fell in under a minute leaving behind a small ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass. The foam is tan in color and made of medium sized bubbles mostly. Nice alcohol legs are kicked up on the edge of the glass when swirled, but very little foam. The beer is a deep mahogany color and that color only comes through with a back lite.

S: Sweet bourbon dominates the nose with oak and vanilla right behind it, medium levels. Raisins and prunes with sweet plums come next at mild levels. A light spicy hop character. Candy raisins and toffee notes also present. Alcohol is mellow and mostly in the form of bourbon. Nicely developed after the 2 years it was cellared.

T: Wow, beautiful bourbon barrel character. Smooth and tobacco tasting bourbon with vanilla, caramel oak flavor - very developed and up front. Sweetness is kept to a minimum and seems to be reduced by the bourbon. Bitterness is medium with a more neutral hop character. Malty flavors come through as the beer warms up with prunes and plums consistent with the aroma. Some milk chocolate notes come out as well.

M: A big tingly tongue sensation from the bourbon that leads to a nice warming sensation from the alcohol. Carbonation is on the lower side and very complimentary with the style. The tannins from the wood provide a slight drying sensation on the mouth and the body of the beer is in the medium range.

O: Fantastic BA Barley Wine, The barrel is up front with tons of character from the bourbon left over. The alcohol is there, but not offensive or difficult to drink. This beer aged perfectly. I would like to try a fresh version to compare, but as it stands this was superb.

Sep 25, 2014
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ajm5108 from Pennsylvania

4.72/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a deep ruby with a nice velvet lacing & gentle carbonation. The nose, as you would expect, is chock-full of caramel & toffee aromas, with warm bourbon quaffs floating in underneath. Lots of bourbon upfront, but on the mid-palate it shifts into decadent toffee flavors with vanilla and burnt sugar. Finishes with a boomerang of the bourbon heat but it is very smooth.

Jan 29, 2017
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SomethingClever from Ohio

3.81/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

2015 bottle poured into snifter

A: ruby red in color very dark amber with pretty good clarity almost no head just a little lace around the rim

S:lots of soft Bourbon, toffee, vanilla, a little butterscotch some alcohol smells light bits of hops

T: Light bourbon a little vanilla and toffee a touch of oak and a lot of alcohol very boozy on the tongue getting some banana bread taste too

M: very thin and a little watery the beer doesn't even coat the tongue its just watery

O: I have had this beer before the 2013 version and this beer tastes like it has been watered way down and has an odd banana bread taste I don't remember in the prior version. While Firestone can rarely do wrong when it comes to Barrel aging this 2015 is not what Sucaba should taste like. Although the 2013 version was an absolute pleasure to drink.

Oct 07, 2015
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hopsputin from New Jersey

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

2015 Batch. Drank 3/6/15

a: a murky dark brown color with some deep purple and ruby red notes. no real head, just some off-white bubbles hovering around the side of the glass - probably being kept there by the etching at the bottom of the glass

s: a very rich and luxurious aroma. vanilla, oak, tannins up front. baking chocolate. plums, fig, raisins. dark rich sticky caramel. dark sweet cherries, a very small hint of licorice. ends with the mellow barrel character

t: oak and vanilla tickle the front of the tongue. dark cherries, fig, prunes, raisins. sweet caramel, some of that bitter baking chocolate. there is a tingle of alcohol on the tongue, and it is there on the back end of the flavor along with the (bourbon?) barrel - but it isn't harsh, which is amazing given that this is coming in at 13.3%. very well crafted beer. if left to sit, and the the alcohol mellowed this would be taken to a whole different level

m: surprising light. its medium with a lot more carbonation than i expected. no head, but definitely a bit fizzy in the mouth

o: my impression is that drinking this fresh (as i am) i can tell this beer is extremely well-made, and on its own its really good. very nice base flavors in here that are harmonized well. also the fact that this is 13.3% and drinks as well is it does is super-impressive. well done. i would definitely recommend getting one and sitting on it for at least 1 year. if allowed to blend in the bottle further, this will be something extremely special

Mar 07, 2015
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Ciocanelu from Romania

4.65/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Very balanced and extremely drinkable for a barleywine. Alcohol is present only in the aftertaste giving a warming sensation as it goes down. The barrel is very present, along with a lot of caramel and even some hops on the finish. Syrupy body, very easy to drink.

Jul 18, 2014
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Celtics17 from California

4.05/5  rDev -11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

-Big boosy flavor. Huge character, with little hop character. You get your normal barrel character from this beer. This is my least favorite from Firestone's barrel collection, but overall it's good.

Feb 09, 2016
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MonkeyBread from Nevada

4.77/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 22, 2014
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Red5StandingBy from Maryland

4.56/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12oz bottle into Snifter glass. 2018 vintage.

L: Cloudy brown, thin khaki head has little retention.

S: Dark fruit, plum, apricot, fig, caramel, toffee, vanilla, bourbon.

T: Dark fruit is the main presence here, very rich and tasty, smooth caramel and toffee notes with nice vanilla from the bourbon. Excellent.

F: Medium body, crisp, lingering vanilla.

O: Magnificent.

Jun 06, 2018
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StJamesGate from New York

4.47/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Tan crust over glowing garnet. 4
Golden raisin, brandy, and hot buttered rum. 4.5
Demerara sugar, butterscotch, rum, wood, orange essence, a hint of coffee, Seville orange rind and a vague hint of citrus hops. 4.5
Honey-herb cough lozenge end and sweet cappuccino cream end.
Medium, round, a bit hot. 4

Deep liquor nose and no darkness - all clean, bright golden notes, like sweet sherry. Vanilla, cakey loveliness. The model for aged barleywine and the perfect pairing for Christmas pudding with brandy butter.

Ambrosia. 4.75

Jan 12, 2016
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lordofthewiens from New Mexico

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

This was courtesy of @SomethingClever.
In a snifter the beer was a dark red/brown color with a miniscule tan head.
Aroma of booze, caramel, and vanilla.
Wonderful taste. Caramel, toffee, bourbon, vanilla. The alcohol was complimentary, not overwhelming.
Incredibly smooth and easy to drink.

Jul 02, 2016
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apasternak from District of Columbia

4.1/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One of the few FW beers that gets better with age

May 22, 2015
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Marius from Netherlands

4.72/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2015 vintage, 13.3% ABV.
Very dark ruby-brown pour with a modest head that gives way to a thin tan head. Smells of bourbon, caramel and a bit of barrel sourness., followed by more delicate notes of chocolate, raisins and cocoa. The taste is dominated by bourbon and caramel and well balanced by hop bitterness. The alcohol is quite present in the taste, but in a pleasant way. Hot aftertaste due to the alcohol. Soft mouthfeel, medium body. It would have been a bit better if it were thicker.

Dec 30, 2015
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Pete_Simpson from California

3.5/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Too boozy. Need 3 more words to submit review.

Jun 13, 2015
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dbrauneis from North Carolina

4.62/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served on tap at Mugs Alehouse in Brooklyn, NY

A: Pours an opaque dark brown with some slight amber tones. The beer has a thin beige head that reduces to a thin ring of bubbles at the edge of the glass. Moderate lacing is observed.

S: Some slight hints of alcohol, mostly bourbon, are present but not like the burn you sometimes associate with high ABV beers. There is a lot of malty sweetness, caramel + toffee, as well as some oak, charred wood, and vanilla notes.

T: Nice roasted malts with some caramel sweetness and lots of bourbon barrel flavors (oak and vanilla). Very nice balance and a lot of complexity to the flavor.

M: Medium to full bodied with low to moderate amounts of carbonation. Very smooth.

O: This beer has an inviting aroma and is delicious as well as incredibly smooth - it gets better with each sip and I was just hoping the glass would never end. Super easy to drink and hides the alcohol well, I could sip on this all day long and never tire of it....hmmmm, maybe that should be my plan.

Mar 12, 2012
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Livyatan1996 from Missouri

4.46/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2019 bottle, 11.3% abv and a stupid cardboard box thats been taking up my fridge. poured into a tulip a dark brown, only some ruby notes separating it from a black void, with a tan fizzy head that slipped down to a nice ring, lots of little legs and spots. nose is a big blend of brown sugar, caramel, toffee and booze. It's sweet but very subdued. taste follows with a starting brown sugar, caramel and molasses sweetness that slowly turns into bits of vanilla and a booze warmth. full-bodied and nice to drink with a bit of warming lingers for a minute, which is nice to contrast just how subdued everything is here. would like to find another to let sit for a year or two, really glad i decided to clean the fridge.

Feb 19, 2019
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BSiegs from Illinois

4.79/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

My 200th review! A dark, murky reddish brown with one finger of slightly off-white head. Retention is superb. The aroma is a fantastic mix of bourbon, oak, raisin, fig, caramel, spice, vanilla, and molasses. Complex and prepares you for a treat. Quite simply, the best bourbon barrel aged barleywine I have tasted. Same notes -- dark fruit, caramel, spice, vanilla, molasses -- with a perfect blend of bourbon and barrel. Full bodied, low-moderate carbonation, balanced, and moderately dry. An absolutely phenomenal beer.

Jan 08, 2017
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lochraneg from New Hampshire

4.18/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Not my favorite Firestone Walker, but their vintage series never ceases to impress. If you are into Barley wines than definitely pick this up. I aged mine for roughly a year. Had another almost immediately after purchasing. The older one was much better

Oct 10, 2015
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ccg from Virginia

4.23/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2015 Sucaba, opened 2017-02-17. Side-by-side comparison with a 2015 Central Waters BA Barleywine and a 2014 Bourbon County Barleywine.

Cloudy with a medium-brown color. Slight carbonation. Not as dense and goopy-looking as the BCBBW.

Smell is dominated by oak and bourbon with plenty of sweet malt. Also caramel and vanilla. The sweetness comes through almost like cola. Hint of sweet dark fruit in the background, like red grapes.

Flavor is similar to smell but mellower and more subtle. Lots of caramelized sugar, vanilla, oak, bourbon, and malt.

It feels fairly dense and oily, but it doesn't have the viscosity of the BCBBW. Alcohol is well-integrated It's listed as 13.3% ABV -- higher than the BCBBW -- but there's no bite or burning.

This is probably the second-best BA barleywine I've had. It's quite good, but in a side-by-side with Bourbon County, it doesn't have quite the smoothness, richness, or density to come out on top.

Feb 17, 2017
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Alieniloquium from Florida

4.51/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bottle poured into a tulip.

Appearance - Dark ruby body. At first glance, it looks like a light stout. With some light, you can see the flecks of red in the body. Not a great head and no lacing. It's 13%, so that's expected.

Smell - Bourbon up front, followed by dark fruits. Plums and figs. The bulk of the aroma is caramel and brown sugar. Wonderful aroma. The best barleywine I've ever stuck my nose in.

Taste - Perhaps the slightest bit less interesting than the smell. Bourbon burn right at the front. A lot of caramel and brown sugar in the body. I get hints of dark fruits, but not as much as the smell. The finish has a hop bitterness and is boozy with a strong bourbon finish. Very nice.

Mouthfeel - Thick and syrupy at first, but it goes away at the end. It has a strong alcohol burn, which is really the only complaint.

Overall - The best barleywine I've had. Bourbon is the bacon of beer. It makes everything better.

Aug 17, 2011
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midlifec from Michigan

4.75/5  rDev +4.4%

Jan 15, 2014
§ucaba from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 100 out of 100 with 5490 ratings