§ucaba | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by SacoDeToro on 02-21-2008

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Reviews: 873 | Ratings: 4,971
Photo of JDV
2.1/5  rDev -52.9%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 1.75 | overall: 2

Pours muddy and with no head. Looks still. Smell is dark fruit, vanilla, and soy sauce in a this Chinese restaurant uses way too much sauce, kind of way. Taste is sweet and dark fruits and soy sauce with a quick finish. At least the booze is hidden very well, but with the lack of almost any carbonation, cloying nature of it and the soy sauce flavor, it was a big disappointment.

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Photo of caskstrength
2.67/5  rDev -40.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 2

Batch one with several months on it.

Gorgeous dark maroon pour with just the right carbonation. Can't get any better looking.

Boozy on the nose, barrels obvious but not rich and deep, more sharp and simple. Smells like other barrels too, not just bourbon, which the label confirms. Muddled hotness results. Maybe they should have just used whiskey barrels. Too much sharp and undefined alcohol ultimately.

And the tastes agree; too much booze here. Esters complement the alcohol in an unholy union. Hints of the rich carmel and dark fruit depth I crave in a barrel bw, but it doesn't deliver.
Aftertaste bites with unwelcome astringency and grainy ethanol.
Thickness cut down by the barrels, right in my sweet spot there.

Lots of reviewers I trust like this beer, and it sounds like something I'd love, a bourbon heavy barleywine. Oh well. At least I didn't trade for a case. (I have two more that are sitting in the cellar for at least 3 years.)

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Photo of jmarsh123
2.69/5  rDev -39.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Abacus 2011 vintage

Pours deep maroon with a small off-white head leaving some lacing.

Some sweet burnt toffee in the aroma along with heavy barrel presence. A lot of oak, vanilla and general boozy sweetness.

Heavy toffee and barrel presence in the flavor as well. Some earthy hops peak in, but this one is malty. Still pretty hot even after a year.

Booze is not hidden well. Good body and carbonation though.

Maybe KH has raised my standard for this style, but I thought this was awful. A hot boozy.

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Photo of Jon_Gamer
2.89/5  rDev -35.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

First time with the Firestone Sucaba/Abacus 2014.

Looks: very deep amber ruby color with a slight creamy white head the encircles the glass

Smell: Smells of wood and alcohol, the amount of alcohol I smell has me worried I tend to not like Beers that are to heavy on the alcohol.

Taste: Can't get past the amount of bourbon and alcohol. This beer may be a favorite for many but definitely not for me.

Mouth Feel: Gotta say though, I like the mouth feel. very soft and has a nice warming sensation.

If you're looking for a really deep, bourbon like ale than Firestone Sucaba/Abacus would be a strong choice. If you're not a fan of strong alcoholic beverages that taste like bourbon and wood I'd stay away.

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Photo of Wasatch
3.06/5  rDev -31.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Thanks goes out to Mess for this brew.

22oz. Bomber

Pours a nice dark brown color, nice carbonation, nice little fizzy light tan head, with sticky lacing left behind. The nose is malty, bourbon, slight chocolate/toffee. The taste is malty, slightly sweet, lots of bourbon, chocolate/toffee. Medium Body. OK, this is not an English Barleywine, since when do barleywines have bourbon in it.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.11/5  rDev -30.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Served on-draught into a snifter at Firestone Walker's taproom in Paso Robles (NOT tasting room) on its grand opening day. This was my first beer there as I was really excited to try it given its reputation. Reviewed from notes.

A: Pours no head at all. Not even a floater about the edges. Colour is a murky dark caramel brown-black; maybe black cherry (though that makes it sound far more appealing than it is). Not horribly appealing.

Sm: Fruit esters - perhaps cherry. Mulled wine, spice, a bit of vinegar, and fresh yeast. An attractive aroma. Mild in strength.

T: Black cherry alongside almond, alcohol, caramelized malt, and other clean malts. Decently balanced but far from impressive. Decently built, but nothing to write home about. How did this beer get such a good reputation? Very strange as a barleywine, and not in a good or experimental way. Warm alcohol comes through. Neither complex nor subtle.

Mf: Smooth and wet, suiting the flavours okay. Far from good. Not tailored to the flavours by any stretch. Way too thin for the style. Fails to adequately support the flavours.

Dr: Drinkable but not exceptional. Hardly hides its ABV at all. I expected far better given its reputation. I wouldn't have it again. People pay $20.00 a bottle for this? Trade your bottles away, lads. Get something worth your time.

I really hope this gets better with age. This isn't worth seeking out. As a fan of barleywines, I'm very disappointed.


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Photo of Ryan011235
3.18/5  rDev -28.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a Darkness tulip on 8/26/11; shared by MbpBugeye

2011 vintage

Medium brown pour; very dark brown in the glass. One finger head thins out quickly to a sporadic patch and collar retention. Basically no lace.

The aroma is weak sauce; I'll give it tame at the very best. Hardly any oak, but the vanilla note is ok. Dark fruits are most notable - raisins and plum. A bit juicy and watery. Roasted cocoa ghost note. Faint overtones of bourbon. Begins to smell a bit better as it warms.

Tastes every bit as potent as the aroma isn't. Alcohol heat immediately molds bourbon and vanilla. From there it becomes heavy with sugars, often hanging in burnt territory. Some faint chocolate tones. Notes of molasses. Lots of dark fruits - raisins, prune and such. Tastes pretty good, even of on the sweet side.

Pretty much full bodied; fairly coating, too. Decent shot of carbonation keeps the beer from becoming tiresome. Finishes sugary with a touch of vanilla and oak.

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Photo of SpeedwayJim
3.25/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a 16oz. growler filled on 4/17/11 at Bullseye Beverage in Smithtown, NY into a Darkness snifter.

A: Standard pour yields a barely rising off-white ring of head that dissipates quickly. Beer is a dark, nearly opaque but clear mahogany. Lacing is spotty and with little cling but beer has exceptional legs. Rather standard but the lack of head or lace really hurts this one.

S: Nose is big and boozy. Sweet dark prunes and plum, caramel, toffee, and brown sugar are all present but the alcohol heat in this one covers all but the most pungent smells. Aromatic but almost not in a good way. Stings the nose a bit.

T: Opens caramel, toffee, and brown sugar. Rich with ample amounts of heat that washes over the entire experience. Middle sees prunes and plums peak their head for the slightest instant before returning to the background. Finish is more brown sugar and caramel with a big alcohol sting right at the finish. Aftertaste is sweet brown sugar and some nuttiness. A lot going on in this one but the predominant alcohol kick covers some of the details. Still, a very intriguing and delicious beer.

M: Medium bodied with low carbonation. Slightly grainy and hot in the mouth with some bubbles going down. I can taste all 13% in this one. The comparably (to its style) body helps a bit though. Finish is messy with an aftertaste that lingers. Overall too much booze here and not enough subtlety.

O: Compared to Parabola (which I realize is a different style), this offering from Firestone Walker is overall a big dissapointment. So hot that the alcohol seems to cover everything in the nose, taste, and feel. I recommend sitting on this one for a very long time. There's a great beer behind that heat somewhere...

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Photo of mkotsayfan
3.28/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

On tap in a flute glass at the City Beer Store in SF. Pours a dark brown/red with minimal head. The aroma features a wide array of flavors, bourbon, oak, vanilla, and dark fruit. The taste has a lot of the dark fruit (boozy raisin?) along with the bourbon, oak, vanilla, and some caramel. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with an adequate amount of carbonation.

It was a decent barleywine, but the taste just turned me the wrong way, perhaps I'm not cut out for barleywines but the high alcohol presence, sweetness, and the pronounced dark fruit just turned me off.

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Photo of 4thelvofbeer
3.28/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Opened a 2013 vintage bottle on 18 March 2014.

This beer is good, but not great and in my opinion nowhere near a 100 rating.

Pours a very nice translucent deep brown red. Smell is ok, nothing really outstanding here.

Taste is muted, I can definitely tell it is a barleywine, but other than that nothing that really distinguishes it from your average "good beer". Taste is a bit watery from what I was expecting with this. It would be nice if this beer was a bit thicker.

Overall, very average, nothing really spectacular here. When I see a 100 rating backed up by so many reviews, I expect the beer to be a wow! This beer is nowhere near wow!

This beer is massively overrated and should rate somewhere around the low 90s.

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Photo of vinny21bal
3.29/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Really want to love this beer. I have tried a few vintages and I am a huge fan of Firestone and barley wines. I just don't think this is a superior beer. The booze is all there in the tasting. I think actually to much of the booze comes through in the flavor and that is the real problem with this beer. Behemoth is still my staple for barley wine.

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Photo of champ103
3.39/5  rDev -24%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A huge thanks to Dajtai007 for sharing a bottle.

A: Pours a clear dark ruby/brown color. The clarity is a bit surprising for me. A two finger beige head forms with excellent retention. Plenty of lace is left behind.
S: Up front is a lot of wood an barrel aromas. Very strong and sharp vanilla and sweetness. Fruit, molasses, and alcohol lingers. Lots of wood and alcohol.
T: Follows the nose. The barrel is up front and center. Wood, toffee, molasses. Very sweet.
M/D: A full body with good carbonation. So smooth and creamy. Easy to drink. This is a very nice treat.

I really do enjoy this, and am very thankful for being able to try this. Though there are other barrel aged Firestone Walker beers that I prefer. Still very much worth a try.

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Photo of mulder1010
3.42/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

bomber poured into a tulip

Thanks to Nicks 6217 for the beer

A-- Poured and settled a dark cola color. Shows lots of carbonation and a quick sprouting and fading light brown head, otherwise a light brown ring around the sides. Lots of ruby showing when held to the light. Not a lot of head retention to this at all.

S-- Carmel, lots of carmel. Undertones of bourbon, vanilla, and coconut. had a bottle in May and the vanilla and coconut nose was much bigger and the Carmel was a bit softer. Still a good nose though. Alcohol is quite well hidden.

T-- Syrupy butterscotch, bourbon, touches of oak, vanilla and noticeable alcohol. Gums got numb on first few sips of the beer.

M-- Thick, syrupy and slightly jam like. Get some notes of strawberry jam in the mouth. Bourbon and the barrel are really apparent in the mouth as well. Bourbon alcohol finish to this with touches of jam like qualities. I think starting to turn into a malt bomb. Medium full body and slightly more carbonation than it needed. A bit prickly at times.

O-- Thought much better fresher when I first had it. The barrel notes far more obvious in the nose then. Just starting to develop the jam like qualities that barlewines have. Careful cellaring might be really good for the beer, though I preferred the fresher version much more. Odd balance of strawberry and bourbon now than not sure I really like.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.42/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pour is dark cola brown with a dark tan head. Nose is wood, light bourbon, cooked brown sugar, lightly roasted malt and a touch of ash. Taste is strong barrel and bourbon, chocolate and brown sugar, slightly burnt. A bit of green hops in back. A hint too much sugar. Full bodied, thins in finish, strong carb, a hint slick.

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Photo of Crosling
3.42/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Draught, Boulder Strong Ale Festival. Ruby colored beer. Nose lacks depth, but shows some malt and barrel elements of caramel, toast, toffee. Upon tasting, not a lot from the original beer. Sweet, fruity, barrel accented, but not complex or concentrated. One of the weaker examples of barrel aged strong ale at the fest.

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Photo of hopsbreath
3.44/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Re-review 10-27-11
Thanks again to Arbitrator for yet another bottle. The signature Bay Area wax job let's me know it's genuine.

A: Unchanged. 5/5
S: Easy enough to smell, but the vanilla notes are gone. Still there is the bourbon and wood. Not sure it's really setting itself apart anymore. 3.5/5
T: Bourbon barrel forward still with a bunch of stone fruit right behind it. Sweet malts lingering but the overwhelming complexity is definitely diminished. 3/5
M: Unchanged. 4/5
O: I still enjoyed this beer, but it's not quite as distinctive now as it was fresher. More middle of the pack and forgettable albeit non-offensive. 3.5/5

Big thanks goes out to Arbitrator for sending one of these up my way. I'm still hoping to buy one off the shelf when (if) it hits Portland but at least now I can get a taste. Bomber split with TulipSnifter. I used a Captain Lawrence snifter and she used a Mad Elf snifter.

A: Very dark garnet bordering on black at the thickest part of the glass. Other brewery's might try to call this a "black barleywine". Firestone Walker simply calls it "barleywine ale", like that's the way the style should be. A good two fingers of cappuccino like head forms on top with a vigorous pour. No lacing, but it has legs. Looks to be nice and syrupy. You drink with the eyes before the taste buds and my eyes like what they see. 5/5

S: The same -bal notes I find in Parabola are definitely here. Spice, vanilla, sharp wood, and some beautiful chocolate covered coconut sweetness promise quite a bit. My one complaint is that the aroma, while complex, isn't as strong as I would like. 4.5/5

T: Tongue numbing bourbon bites right off the bat. Sweet artisanal chocolate candies represent the malt base very well. Cherry cordials are one of those candies. Nice vanilla notes, sugary caramel, and some toast are other flavors I can pick well. I'm having a hard time not giving the perfect score here. Are there any faults? Do I wish something was better? I'm going to say it might be a touch hot right now. The bourbon is great but in 3-6 months I can see the directness of the heat smoothing out a little bit and really tying this thing up. 4.5/5

M: Thick and viscous with low carbonation. The finish is sticky but no more than expected for a 13% barleywine. I'm okay with a good rating here. 4/5

O: Quite the enjoyable beer. Big, boozy, sweet... Some of my most enjoyable characteristics of beers that get it right. FW delivers yet another winner. If these bottles ever get up to Portland, I'll be buying some more. I'd recommend anybody who see's these to buy, buy,buy. 4.5/5

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Photo of Arbitrator
3.45/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Re-review, batch 2.

I've left my comments for the original batch below. I tried approximately 18 bottles of it from release to September 2011, and I decided I do not like how this beer ages. Yes, you could make the argument that it hasn't finished aging, but since it fell off so quickly, I don't anticipate the trend reversing. On a general note, I don't think most barrel-aged beers need age, and I've found that Firestone Walker beers have nowhere to go but down, so this is how I've reached my conclusion.

That being said, batch 1 was spectacular fresh, so I picked up a couple of bottles of batch 2 to consume immediately.

A: The body is a clear chestnut color, though in the center of the glass it darkens and becomes murky. The head is a half-pinky finger of tan head that collapses quickly into a thin collar.

S: Bourbon, vanilla -- that rich barrel-forward character is back. Coconut, raisins. The beer is all barrel, carrying a noticeable heat that singes the nostrils. If you're looking for some of the base beer to shine through, look elsewhere.

T: Mild contributions of caramel and toffee suggest some of the base beer is coming out. But as in the nose, this is all barrel. Nutty bourbon with raisins (not the treacly, sharp profile of sherry oxidation, but rather the sweeter, fleshier end of the spectrum that suggests a dessert wine). Was this partially aged in wine barrels? Vanilla, oak, and heat in the finish.

M: Medium-bodied. It doesn't have the thick richness of something like King Henry, but its heat is quite brash and noticeable, with a strong warming effect. In my first review of batch 1, I predicted that the heat would die down and the flavor would be in balance. I was wrong; the heat lasted for the better part of a year, with the flavors becoming more mellow and less expressive as time passed. So I expect similar things here. I didn't get any bottles for aging.

O: This is quite good, but it's outmatched by other barrel-aged barleywines, such as Wooden Hell, King Henry, Arctic Devil, BA Hi-Fi Rye, and Kuhnhenn Bourbon Barrel Barleywine. I found King Henry especially rich and barrel-forward, as well, but it had enough base beer contribution to seem more substantial. I like Sucaba, but it's not in my top tier for the style. I enjoy it more than Mother of All Storms, at least.


Original review of batch 1:

Chilled bomber into a glass. It's not like we often have bad weather in CA to enjoy some of these big beers, so I make do. It's raining a bit. TIME FOR A WARMING BEER.

A: The pour is a clear, caramel brown, though the beer in the glass looks substantially darker (still brown, and still clear at the right angle). Against the light, it glows with ruby tint. Tan head on the beer.

S: Bourbon, coconut, vanilla, raisins. I've noticed coconut in several barrel-aged beers from FW. They're doing something right in this regard. It's unique and very pleasant. There's a mild heat that reveals the big nature of the beer. It's obvious that Abacus is very barrel-dominated; I'm not even sure what the base beer is supposed to smell like, because I'm not picking it up. It's great if you're a barrel fanatic, though.

T: Like the nose, this is very barrel-dominated, though some hints of the base beer some to come through. Lots of brown sugar and bourbon. Some coconut and vanilla. The raisin flavors might be some wine barrel contribution, but they taste more treacly than wine grapes to me. Caramel, nuts, and a touch of toffee. Again, this is great for the barrel lover. I like barrel aged beers, but I'd love for the base to emerge more strongly than it does.

M: Carbonation is low-medium. It's just right for a beer of this size. The body is hefty; I'd peg it at medium-full. There is a very noticeable heat to this beer. I like my beers silky-smooth, but I'm not suggesting this is a deal-breaker. With time, I see the mouthfeel reaching perfection.

O: Wow. Hell yes. This one could use 2-3 months to cool off, but it's damn near ready to drink right now. It's very fairly priced and it's absolute quality. Get it.

UPDATE 06/12/2011: Either there's some bottle variation, or the bottles are falling off quickly. I still enjoy the beer, but I find it a little more one-note than I previously did, and the heat is more bothersome. It's still good, and I'm still enthusiastic about it, but I bumped my scores down a notch. In retrospect, I prefer the approach that Arctic Devil brings to the style, and this follows a little behind.

UPDATE 09/27/2011: Bottles are continuously falling off. Gone is the rich vanilla and dark fruit character, leaving a general sweetness with some bourbon, while the heat remains. This beer was awesome when it came out. It fell off a cliff. I will only buy 1 or 2 of the next batch, and drink those quickly.

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Photo of brystmar
3.47/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2012 bottle labeled "Sucaba".

Boring appearance, minimal head, poor retention. Kinda fits the style, though some of its peers definitely excel in this category.

Malts, dark fruit, and booze in the nose. Some oak notes to supplement, but nothing remarkable.

Plenty of malt and fruits, also plenty of booze. Lots of barrel character from a spirit I cannot finger. Bourbon, oak, and something else. Regardless, the beer itself is an above-average English barleywine but nothing to write home about.

I've had Abacus (and now Sucaba) a number of times each, and I never understand why these receive so much praise. There are MANY superior barleywines out there; don't waste your liver capacity on this one.

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Photo of Jeffo
3.48/5  rDev -22%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Tuesdays with Doopie turned into the Beer-In-A-Box showdown. FW Abacus vs. Parabola 002. Let the best boxed beer win!

From a boxed bomber into a snifter.
Brewers Reserve 2011

Note: Drinking an $ucaba no.002 right now and making a few comparison notes as I go. Got a couple of these from SliverX and Stupac. Thanks gents! Scores are still for the 2011 Abacus.

APPEARANCE: Pours a small, super fizzy, thinner looking, light bronze colored head with horrible retention. Head quickly fizzes down to a ring only. I think this is fizzier than Coke. Transparent dark ruby body with no carbonation evident. A ring remains until the end but leaves no lacing down the glass. Fizzy and fizzy. By comparison, the 002 has a more normal head and isn't at all fizzy. Much nicer to look at.

SMELL: Big nose on this one, with lots of barrel. Bourbon, oak, vanilla from the barrel aging, with some caramel and toffee in there from the barelywine. A hint of raisins as well. The barrel is more present but doesn’t dominate the base beer. Good nose. The 002 was slightly more mild but had all the same elements.

TASTE: Still quite hot. Bourbon barrel with oak and vanilla up front, then lots of caramel and toffee sweetness through the middle into the finish. A big dose of alcohol at the finish as well. Bold but relatively dry aftertaste of sweet caramel and toffee, bourbon, vanilla, a touch of mik chocolate, and plenty of alcohol linger mildly. Despite the boozy barrel, the base beer still shows through. Nicely done, though a bit too hot for my liking. The 002 followed suit exactly here.

PALATE: Medium body and medium carbonation. A little lighter on the palate than hoped, but creamy enough. Goes down fine with a scratch and burn at the swallow, and finishes somewhat sticky. Plenty of heat lingers. The 002 was perhaps even lighter on the palate here, amazingly enough.

OVERALL: Good thing this one came in a box. An enjoyable beer, and the base beer was still able to play a role in the flavor profile despite the big barrel presence. However, this one is till too hot to be top class in my books, being much hotter than the Parabola 002 we drank immediately afterwards. Moreover, the head on this one was just atrocious, reminding me of Rice Krispies doused in Coke. Noisy and obnoxious stuff. While this was an enjoyable beer I’d drink again if it were convenient, for me, Parabola 002 was the superiorly crafted beer in a box. Thanks again for sharing Doops. Good times! As far as the $ucuba 002 goes, it's a solid brew, but nothing worth going nuts over. I would probably still score it the same, though the scores for look and feel would be reversed. Cheers!

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Photo of DavoleBomb
3.54/5  rDev -20.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter. 2011 vintage. Thanks to psiweaver for this.

3.5 A: Clear (I think) deep brown, nearly black color. One finger of fizzy head falls quickly and leaves no lacing.

4.5 S: This nose has it all and by that I mean it has a big hit of bourbon AND a very respectable beer underneath. The bourbon is lightly leathery with perhaps a touch of peat. Also included is a moderate fruitiness that borders on the floral, good bit of vanilla, and nearly as much oak. Lots of caramel and toffee with plum, prune, date, and fig fruitiness. Brown sugar and a very reasonable booze level for the ABV. Really complex and pleasant. Borderline 5.0.

3.0 T: I can't believe what I'm tasting. This beer has such a nice nose, but the taste is straight up boring. Boozy bourbon with a light charred, peaty flavor. Still a decent amount of vanilla and oak. The beer itself is the problem with the taste. The taste follows the nose for the most part, but all the dials are turned down to a three from what were eights. All subtlety is lost behind the booze. Really disappointing and certainly not better than average.

3.5 M: The mouthfeel is indicative of what is problematic with this brew. A 13% barleywine had me thinking thick, velvety, and rich. Having had Parabola a few times, I figured that was the route this would go as well. Instead, this has a medium body and a moderate creaminess. Seems like the potential malt flavor went away with the potential heavy body. Not bad, but not what I was expecting.

3.5 D: Totally disappointed. I loved the hell out of Parabola and thought this would be the barleywine version of that. It isn't. Not quite sure how this is getting the scores it does. Maybe bottle variation. Who knows? Not confident this will age well, but I have another bottle and I'm going to give it a go.

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Photo of Sabtos
3.57/5  rDev -20%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Dark copper to burnt garnet with a moderate sized fluffy tan/yellow head that slightly clings on the edges.

Smell is rich caramel, grape, prune and fig with a hint of charred wood. As it warms, a bit of cologne, spruce, and/or eucalyptus develops, with molasses and gingerbread.

Taste is grape, caramel, toffee, toasted charred oak at first, with bourbon coming in strong on the back end with some prune finishing. Some round and waxy toasted coconut and cashew fills in the aftertaste. The heat and strength get a little overpowering towards the second half of the bottle.

Medium body with a fizzy froth and semi-dry finish.

2016 vintage

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Photo of tewaris
3.57/5  rDev -20%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber (Spring 2011) into a Darkness tulip on August 13, 2011. Thanks drDogBeer! Dark wood to rust colored with good clarity. A small light tan head formed but left rather fast.

Aroma is signature barleywine - dark fruit, specifically raisins and figs with notes of chocolate and toast. Very restrained booze. Tastes flavorful with notes of dark, dried fruit; some chocolate and vanilla, but as with the aroma, the bourbon is very restrained. The finish is very clean and the feel of the beer in general is closer to a Quadrupel than a barleywine - light body (for the style!), cleaner flavors and high carbonation. I am not digging it all that much.

Overall it's certainly a good beer but it's not the ultimate barleywine. It's a shame that Mirror Mirror 2009 got infected, otherwise that would have been a much superior alternative. Well, I can always cough a few bucks more and go for J.W.

Appearance 3/5; Aroma 3.5/5; Taste 3.5/5; Mouthfeel 3.5/5; Overall 4/5

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Photo of Spider889
3.58/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2011 bottle, shared by Boatshoes.

A - Decent clarity. A dark cola brown, quite dark actually for the style. I imagine that's the barrel talking. Cream colored head with a nice ring of bubbles around the edges of the glass.

S - Very sweet, boozy, lots of vanilla and heavy char off the oak barrel. Chocolate is there too.

T - Smooth char and dry oak. Mild vanilla and quite malty. I'd have preferred more hoppiness in a barleywine, even in spite of the barrel. Mild coffee flavors on the finish.

M/O - Extremely smooth, low carbonation. Finishes hot, deep in the throat - but this is more residual rather than immediate.

A nice beer, but compared to the other BA offerings from Firestone Walker this was nowhere near as complex or enjoyable.

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Photo of BlackBelt5112203
3.58/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

22 oz bottle poured into a wine glass at cellar temperature.

L – Ruby brown color with a 2-finger bubbly tan head. Pretty good retention but not much lacing. Clear with a good amount of bubbles.

S – Lots of bourbon and lots of woody oak with some vanilla notes. There’s a touch of caramel and molasses and a hint of earthy hops, but I’m mostly getting bourbon and oak.

T – Follows the nose unfortunately. Starts off slightly sweet with some caramel and molasses but bourbon and oak take over quickly. There is maybe a little bit of earthy bitterness that creeps in at the finish but it is overshadowed by the dry, hot, and astringent alcohol. Hardly anything in the way of dark fruits is apparent.

F – Medium-to-full-bodied with good carbonation, a sticky and smooth but astringent mouthfeel, and a woody, earthy, and dry finish. Oak dryness and astringency lingers and accentuates the heat from the alcohol.

O – I’ve got to say I was disappointed by this beer. I was looking for a big, rich, malty beer but what I got was basically weaker, carbonated bourbon. While I do like bourbon, and I do like bourbon-barrel aged beers, I don’t like my beers to taste only like bourbon. The malt and hops are there somewhat but they are completely overshadowed by the taste and aroma of bourbon and oak. The only reason why this isn’t getting a lower score is because this is what can happen with English barleywines if they’re aged long enough. They lose some of the malt and hop characteristics and take on a more sherry-like or port-like quality. However, while I can understand losing some hops, they should not lose this much malt character. I’m not quite sure what the hype is all about with this beer, but I’ve had better barleywines.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.63/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Sampled at 1702, Tucson; April 2010
This beer arrives from the tap with a dark, concentrated amber / brown color that shows a clear'ish hue in the light. It is topped by a thin, creamy textured, dark tan to amber-tinged colored head. Bourbon aromatics jump out at me from the get-go; notes of vanillin, coconut, a hint of woody spiciness, lots of oak-wood like fresh cut plank aromas and even a touch of alcohol heat are noticeable. The aroma is quite nice, but leaves me wondering were the aromatics from the base beer are.

The beer is sweet tasting as it first hits my mouth, with a viscous, chewy character that finishes with a hot alcohol and Bourbon spiciness that lingers on the palate; it actually does remind me of sipping on Bourbon. There are lots of flavors reminiscent of vanilla and toasted coconut; wow, the Bourbon barrel really just completely dominates this beer. Luckily the malt is big and sweet enough to carry all the barrel character, but you better really like Bourbon if you are going to enjoy this beer. The base beer really plays a subservient role here. The Barley Wine does contribute a lush texture, with caramelized malt sweetness and some toasted malt character. The beer finishes with a really spicy, almost hot at times, peppery barrel character that lingers on the palate for quite some time.

The vanillin and coconut notes are nice in this beer and it is well accentuated by the malt sweetness, but this is too hot and too Bourbon dominated in the end. If you really like Bourbon then I can see this being quite the enjoyable tipple, but it is perhaps a bit too much for me.

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§ucaba from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.46 out of 5 based on 4,971 ratings.
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