§ucaba | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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5,215 Ratings

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

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by SacoDeToro on 02-21-2008

Bros Score:
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 5,215 |  Reviews: 936
Photo of angelogarcia3
4/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

At The Lark having a beer sampler my favorite is Firestone Walker Abacus.  13% ABV really good with caramel taste and aroma.  Dark color with a creamy white head. An excellent barleywine. Unexpectedly good taste, flavor, mouthfeel, and aroma. Who would of thought I would have liked a barleywine style beer.

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Photo of Sean9689
4.42/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Finally opened one of these during our Firestone Walker tasting. 22oz bottle poured into my Bruery tulip.

A - Pours a amber brownish-red color, light carbonation, thin collar, some whisps on top.

S - Candy sugars, fruit, smooth booze, no real alcohol heat. The sweetness and smooth booze is exactly how I want my barleywine to be. For 13% and fresh, I can't believe it's so smooth.

T - Burnt sugars, caramel, fruit, smooth booze. The alcohol is there, but not "hot" at all. Very smooth, rich, and adds to the overall enjoyment. The fruity sugars and caramel are excellent as well, not overly sweet, just right.

M - Medium, smooth and rich, light carbonation.

O - Excellent barleywine, in my book. The smooth alcohol, sugars, and sweetness were just right for me. I can't believe how smooth this is right out of the gate. Looking forward to seeing how this one ages. Recommend.

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Photo of Briken
4.29/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown with light red highlights thin light brown head with no retention or lacing. Strong boozy bourbon vanilla and oak aroma. Molasses and alcohol up front mwllowing into the bourbon vanilla sweetness. Balancing hops and alcohol with a light sour and clean finish. Silky smooth and robust feel with light fuzziness.

I’m very torn on this one. I usually like a challenging barleywine and this is so smooth and easy, especially for a beer with 13% abv. There’s a very strong warming but it’s very pleasant without a trace of burning. The flavor is strong and clear all the way to the end but it’s hard to call it really complex. It’s not a chore to finish nor difficult aside from the abv but it did get almost boring. Fantastic as a single glass so the bottle is definitely something to share. It certainly wasn’t as deep or dark as “Black Swan” (my movie pairing of choice) but it is certainly as mentally debilitating.

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Photo of Trilogy31
4.74/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Wow what a great beer. Pours a dark tawny port with the faintest wisp of a head which quickly departs, poured this gem at about 55 degrees into a tulip. The nose hits you with a complex mix of rum soaked raisins, figs, buttery caramel, rich toffee, slightly smoked oaky vanilla with a classic fortified wine oxidized/rancio note, really impressed. The taste brings a mouthfilling richness with almond roca, toasted coconut candy, dark caramel and finishes with a satisifying mouthcoating oilyness and just enough carbonation. There is a slight note of alcohol at the end but for being 13% it is barely perceptible at that degree. I really wanted to like this beer before i opened it and often i think i set myself up for failure with such high expectations, abacus though did not let me down.

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Photo of fear025
4.57/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Aroma:I really like the aroma. It smells of caramel, sweet malts, dark fruits like figs, and a little bourbon.

Appearance:Pours a deep mahogany color. Nice head, but quickly dissipates. Great lacing.

Taste:The flavors are well balanced and subtle in this beer. The foretaste consists of sweet malts, and mild dark fruits. The bourbon makes itself known in the midtaste, and lingers on into the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel:This beer has a thick body, with good carbonation, and a bunch of alcohol warmth.

Overall:I really enjoyed this beer, it's really well balanced, and a great sipper. It reminds me a lot of sipping on a nice bourbon. I believe this one should age really well.

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Photo of Azurescens
4.58/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle 2011 batch, poured into snifter, reviewed on 5/20/11

A: Pours a clear dark red with thin light brown head that dissipates rather quickly.

S: Tons of delicious aromas, toffee, oak, vanilla, alcohol, chocolate and bourbon in one amazing melody.

T: Wow, insanely smooth, ridiculously rich and delicious. Similar to the aroma but with less alcohol, tons of sweet caramel malt, vanilla, oak and toffee with surprisingly not much detectable alcohol for a 13% ABV barrel aged barleywine. Perfect.

M: Smooth, full bodied and creamy with very little heat and lower carbonation. This is awesome.

O: One of the best barleywines ever, this is absolutely fantastic!

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Photo of OddNotion
4.45/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured into my monster 22oz snifter.

Appearance: One half finger light tan head on top of a dark ruby/light brown body. Nice lacing around the edges.

Smell: Dark fruits, chocolate, some booziness, not a lot of hoppiness. Some barrel aging is apparent. A lot of sweetness.

Taste: Bready, no bitterness to be heard of, some booziness. More complexity in the nose than the taste. Some dark fruits poke their head out at the end of the sip. Given that it is 13% the booze is hidden relatively well but it is still apparent.

Mouthfeel: Light carbonation, thick.

Overall: Solid beer. Not quite sure why there is all the hype around this beer, its not bad but not the best barleywine I have had by any stretch of the imagination. Given the ingredients and the taste this should certainly be classified as an English Barleywine. I can have a good quantity of a lot of different beers but there is no way in hell I would be able to finish a whole bomber of this one in one sitting.

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Photo of hotliquor
4.42/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Clear but dark brown. When held to the light, it is a reddish brown. Light tan foam.

Smell: So complex, and amazing. Spirits, oak, vanilla, caramel, dark fruit and toast. Nutty and bready. Complex malt and oak.

Taste: Strong malt taste with lots of complex barrel flavors. Bourbon, vanilla, coconut, and lingering malt complexities. Nice toasty malt with a strong dark fruit flavor, but finishes dry enough. Maybe some hop bitterness helps balance the intense sweetness? A lot is going on, and frankly I am just overwhelmed.

Mouthfeel: on tap, so the carbonation is okay. Drinkable, but strong and more of a sipper.

Overall: I bought some bottles, I can't wait to compare. I wish I could have bought a whole glass.

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Photo of GregSVT
4.22/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

22oz bobmer into a snifter

A: Pours a dark red/brown with a small off-white head that fades to a ring and leaves no lacing on the glass.

S: The nose is amazing...full of vanilla, molasses, dark fruits, charred wood, and toffee. Smells like an Englsh Barleywine more than an American one.

T: The taste is just as good as the smell. Big flavors of vanilla, toffee, dark fruits, charred oak, a touch of molasses, and a hint of hops.

M: The feel is thick and a bit undercarbonated. You can get some carbonation if you chew the beer in the mouth but it's not nearly as creamy as it should be.

O: This one is tough to rate. The nose and taste are amazing...2nd only to MoaS in my experience. The carbonation issues detract from the beer slightly though. I also think this is more of an English Barleywine than American...unless the barrel aging has significantly muted the hops. Still damn tasty and I'm glad I have a few more to drink over the next year.

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Photo of Luvzsurfrz
4.75/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottle opened on 5/14/11 with dinner, poured into a tulip.

A: Pours a brownish-burgundy with a very thin film of tan/ivory head that dissipates down leaving very little lacing on the glass.

S: Smells warm with bourbon, vanilla, raisins, with a carmel and toffee sweetness. Stronger alcohol tones were present as it warmed.

T: Caramel sweetness that is overtaken by the boozy warmness with each sip. The vanilla notes helped to tame down the alcohol presence, but regardless this is one highly superior Barleywine.

M: Very heavy with flavor, and moderately syrupy as it warms up. Good carbonation presence, and enjoyable lingering warmth.

O: This is one of my favorite barleywines. The complexity in the flavor is one that I have grown to love with each bottle I've had.

Aging a few, can't wait to try the next!

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Photo of John_M
4.44/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into my Thomas Hardy snifter, the Abacus is an attractive rootbeer brown color with fairly good head retention and decent lacing. The nose on this bad boy is very, very attractive, showcasing considerable brown sugar, caramel, light chocolate, rum raisans and vanilla. The flavor profile replicates the nose in this sweet boozy beer, though right now I think the sweetness and noticeable alcohol detract just a bit from the enjoyment of this beer. Mouthfeel is full, with a long, smooth, sweet and boozy finish. Drinkabilty is fairly good, though I get a bit of heat on the finish from the 13% abv.

An excellent beer and one I think will probably improve with time. Hopefully, I'll get to find out.

Edit from 3/14. Bier Stein recently had a 4 year vertical in honor of the 2014 release. The best of the bunch was easiiy the 2011, though none of the years were exactly awful. The current rating is based on my review of that vintage, now that it's 4 years old.

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Photo of Dreadnaught33
4.15/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This beer is nice, but it was really young when I had it on tap at the Sunset Grille in Boston in April. I think maybe it's a little overrated at this point but it's definitely good.

A: Maroon colored with light brown highlights, no lacing and a very small head that dies quick.

S: Complex notes of fruit and cinnamon with a nice edge of the bourbon barrel. Some vanilla, dates, and nutty pecan like smells as well. Interesting and nice.

T: Very complex with plenty of bourbon whiskey and bright alcohol character to it that hits first. Fruity with dark dried fruit, dates, plums and a little brown sugar on top. There appears some bittersweet notes at the back of the palate after the initial bourbon sweet and savory attack. Leather persists. This is great now but will be better later.

M: Way too hot right now, and a little too medium in feel but I give it the benefit of the doubt because of how coating it is.

O: This will be great with age. Said the same about FW 14th, we'll see about that. Looking forward to having a bottle in 2 years or so.

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Photo of veinless
3.9/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown with good translucence. Head dissipates fast leaving no lace on the glass. Body is striking though, with reds and browns everywhere.

Nose is complex but understated; wood, caramel, sweet sugar, a bit of molasses, and maybe a touch of vanilla are what I get, along with some light fruit. All those aromas combine to form a potent amalgam, which ends up with a bubblegum note as a result too.

Taste is ok at the start, with light melon and mellow malts coming out. However, as the beer moves to the finish an intense vanilla caramel butterscotch ice cream flavor dominates - it is fantastic to be sure. Alcohol is just barely in the background and utilized well.

Mouthfeel is smooth and slick with a bit of coating left in the mouth after sips. Body is between medium and full and is just enough to hold up the taste. Drinkability is fine, but the finish is so rich and fully flavored that it gets tough to down after a bit. Still, great beer.

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Photo of djmichaelk
4.47/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle, courtesy of stx00lax (thanks, Jacob!), into a CCB snifter (and a goblet for my girlfriend, who will be copiloting on this review).

A - Pours a very dark amber, with only a bit of light making it through the edges when held to the light. Not much in the way of a head, which is expected given the high abv. Just a thin ring of bubbles around the edge. For what it is, it's nice looking.

S - The barrel certainly makes itself known right off the bat -- it's strong and forward in the nose, and gives it a slightly boozy aroma that works well with the burnt sugar and vanilla notes. I'm not getting much else, but I really like it so far.

T - Wow. Lots of strong toffee and caramel notes, vanilla, and toasted almond. And plenty of bourbon. I can't place what it is, but something reminds me of german chocolate cake, only without the chocolate. And then there's a bit of the oak in the finish. Fantastic.

M - Smooth and creamy, good carbonation, and just a little heat from the booze at the end.

O - Firestone continues to impress with their Reserve series. Parabola was and still is one of my favorite beers, and this one is almost that good. Certainly one of the best barleywines that I've ever had. Another reason that I wish I still lived on the west coast.

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Photo of t420o
4.97/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- Dark red-brown. Little head is produced from a fairly aggressive pour. Very enticing. Held up to the light there are hints of ruby red

S- Vanilla, sweet syrupy bourbon, sherry, coconut, dark fruits , caramel, and candied sugar. Superb smelling

T- Wow!!! This is even more amazing than I ever thought. Taste follows the nose. Vanilla, sweet bourbon, dark fruits, candided sugar, coconut. I wish I could describe the wave of flavors that I am experiencing. It is a beautiful beer. Not a hint of alcohol which is amazing as well, just a slight warmth that is very welcomed. Easily a 5. Nothing can be improved on this.

M- Low carbonation from the barrel aging which produces a creamy mouthfeel. Viscosity of it is nice also. Great

O- One of the top beers I have ever had. Amazing beer worth the hype and praise. Also worthy of its price. Have four stored away for aging and special occasions that I am looking very forward to. Cheers

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Photo of SteelersX
4.72/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

This beer was amazing

Love the fact the several people were willing to trade for it

tons of bourbon(go big or go home)

Fruits and bourbon
malt and bourbon
bourbon and bourbon

would love to try a cask Ba barleywine
this would be the best

love this amazing Barleywine.

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Photo of kzoobrew
4.72/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Huge thanks to Abecall98, Sarro and Spdkilz for bottles.

Poured into Stone Double Bastard glass. Deep ruby colored body. the body is rather clear of sediment. 3/4 finger sandy head is set atop momentarily, works its way back in short order. A good amount of lacing clings to the wall of the glass.

The aroma is absolutely stunning. Very rich and well integrated aroma. Gooey caramel and bready malt provide a sturdy base. Dark fruit and oak fill out the aroma behind. An assertive chocolate smell lingers through out separates Abacus from many other Barleywines I have enjoyed in the past. Vanilla and soft bourbon meld into the aroma as a whole.

If I am impressed by the nose I am blown away by the flavor. Each scent picked up in the nose is intensified on the tongue. Rich bready malt, toffee and caramel coat the tongue. Bourbon and oak flavors develop as the beer head towards the midpalate. Again a chocolate characteristic is noted. While it may not be common for the style the flavor seems to be right at home here. The flavor gains layers as it moves back rather than replacing previous. The deep dark fruit flavors and subtle and sit on the back of the tongue. Smooth vanilla flavor ebbs and flows through out though gains intensity towards the back of the palate.

Full bodied Barleywine, carbonation is low. Rich, syrupy, luxurious mouthfeel. The flavor digs in deep, leaving a long and enjoyable finish.

Absolutely stunning beer. Without a doubt my favorite Barleywine. The flavor shows amazing complexity and integration. There is a bit of warming booziness but it adds more character opposed to becoming abrasive. Very smooth overall, a definite sipper. Flat out awesome beer, great work FW.

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Photo of whitemomba
4.75/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Split this with my gf. Poured from my bomber into my snifter.

A - Dark ruby/brown. Aggressive pour yielded little tannish head that dissipated very quickly. No lacing at all really.

S - A bit of vanilla and bourbon.

T - Wow....with the smell of this i thought it was going to be quite boozy. This beer is perfectly balanced. The bourbon stays around for the whole pour. I get a bit of oak as well. I cant believe this is 13%. Very good job masking the alcohol with everything else in here.

M - Perfect. Very smooth considering the ABV. Very little alcohol burn. A little syrupy. Slightly dry.

O - Very good brew. Perfect balance between booziness and drinkability. Highly recommend.

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Photo of zaphodchak
4.42/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 vintage.

Aggressive pour yields a minimal tannish head that recedes quickly. Clearish garnet-amber body. Laces decently.

Nose is vanilla, rich vanilla, and bit of oak? There's probably more here but allergies are preventing me from getting the rest of it.

Taste is fantastic; wouldn't be out of place in a top-tier imperial stout, the same vanilla from the nose, some subtler oak and a a faint bit of hops for a clean finish. Faint coconut aftertaste. Oaking has really taken the edge off of the hops to let everything else shine through.

Mouthfeel is nice and creamy; it would be easy for this to get syrupy otherwise.

This tastes fantastic, but one for sipping and sharing. I could see it with creamier cheeses (brie) and raspberry. Could also pair with steak.

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Photo of Urbancaver
3.86/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a clear yellowish brown. Not much head. Noth really special appearance. Smells bourbony and boozy. Lacking on the nose. Tastes sweet and bourbon heavy. Definitely too boozy at this Point. I would like to see it at 2-3 years. Mouthfeel is dry and a bit lacking as well. Overall is good but not great

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Photo of Gosox8787
4.8/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Presentation: Split a 22 oz. bomber bottle with two friends. Poured into my Smuttynose tulip glass at room temperature.

Appearance: Deep ruby tones throughout a dark brown to black body. Pours a nice one finger beige head that fades nicely into a thin lacing on top.

Aroma: As soon as I popped the cap, huge notes of brown sugar, molasses, vanilla bean, milk chocolate and bourbon all just explode. Considering the ABV, there is not much alcohol burn in the nose, but near the end of the glass I did begin to detect some. Nicely balanced and integrated.

Taste: The big bold aromas translate perfectly into thee taste. Caramel, molasses, and brown sugar all provide tons of flavor and balance. This beer is incredibly sweet, but manages to keep away from being cloying. Vanilla bean, coconut, and milk chocolate notes all support the sweet malt notes of the beer nicely. The bourbon is really nicely integrated and completly avoids any harshness while contributing plenty of flavor from the barrel. Flavorful and balanced incredibly well.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and a tad syrupy. Plenty of carbonation for the style/

Overall, possibly the best barleywine I've ever had. Incredible balance and great integration of the barrel really set this beer apart. I only wish I had a couple more bottles.

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Photo of IKR
4.21/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Dark brown color with ruby highlights on it's edges when held up to the light.Moderate light beige head that slowly faded but held on strong for a 13% ABV beer. Nice looking beer.

Smell: Toffee, Bourbon & brown sugar. Nice aroma but not much of it.

Taste: Toffee, well balanced Bourbon notes, brown sugar, and vanilla. Some hints of roasted malts and hops creep through in the finish. The alcohol is hidden for something 13% ABV.

Mouth-feel: Medium body with a moderate level of carbonation.

Overall: Fairly pricey but I can't remember being this impressed with any other Barleywine I've had recently. I'm glad I bought two so that I can see what some age does this one.

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Photo of JohnnyChicago
4.52/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Split a 22oz bottle; poured into a snifter.

A: Pours an oak brown. There is a bit of head initially, but that fades in moments.

S: Rich and beautiful. There is sweetness: vanilla, oak, brown sugar. There is also the bourbon heat, booze, a bit of medicinal hops.

T: Taste is full and delicious. The bourbon is present throughout, but there is little heat. The oak and vanilla a big here as well as candy sweetness and a dry finish.

D: For 13% this is crazy drinkable. Mouthfeel is viscous and syrupy. There is little heat, so I don't think this can benefit much from cellaring, but I'm going to put one aside anyways.

Overall: Excellent brew. Well worth the asking price. This should be savoured like a fine cognac and should be shared with great friends. Recommended!

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
4.55/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured out a reddish orange color, minimal head. And thanks to jh1982 for breaking this out after the baseball game, super cool. Aroma was rich, sweet, a little boozy.

Taste, not boozy at all, jeez, I think I liked this better out of the bottle than I did on tap. Talk about hitting the nail on the head, caramel, sugar (brown?), light hopping, wood, caramel, vanilla, what seems like a white chocolate type of vibe, everything possible to absorb alcohol heat, at 13% this was very decadent, allowing lots of flavors, but completely immasculating the alcohol. Phenomenal. You know its a good BW when you start to think to yourself, "oh shit, can I really rate something higher than Bigfoot, my favorite barleywine for 15 years running?" I dunno, we'll see how the numbers play out. The fact I can get 3-4 as much Bigfoot for the $ I guess hurts this overall score relative to it.

Just amazing mouthfeel, pick up all the tasting notes, but also, a slickness, glides off the palate, comes and goes without an aftertaste backlash. This stuff is excellent now, makes me a little leery about aging it. Can it really get any better?

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Photo of Dobby
4.67/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into my Duvel Tulip, 22oz bottle.

A: rich dark brown, barely any head, looks exquisite

S: Oak, vanilla, tobacco?

T:follows the smell, a little oak up front with some great vanilla, and cocoa flavors coming through. Very coating, a little heat but overall drinking very well.

D: for a 13% beer the alcohol is very well hidden. a little heat, but nothing another 6 months cant cure. Very impressed overall.

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§ucaba from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.52 out of 5 with 5,215 ratings