§ucaba | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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5,076 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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Ratings: 5,076 |  Reviews: 893
Photo of emagana
4.47/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

batch 1
received a small pour at the brewery in Paso Robles. poured a dark brown with a small white head. you can tell there is some carbonation in this Barley wine.
the oak aromas seem to over power this beer. there is also a sweet malty back bone with small hints of smoke, bourbon and vanilla
at first drink the oak takes charge and can be overwhelming at first as the alcohol double teams the pellet. there is a lot going on in this beer. very complex as the flavors are of many different things. Chocolate, cherry, bourbon, vanilla, and coffee start to develope.
finishes great asking for more i say is not uncommon. well done firestone.
one of my favorite barleywines.

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Photo of MrTopher
4.82/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed this on tap today at the Tap Room in Buelton, served in a small 5oz snifter.

A - Is a super dark red almost brown, but more purple than brown. Not much of a head, it had dissipated rather quickly.

S - You smell some bourbon, but more vanilla and oak notes with some chocolate mixed in between. Also some spices were present, but they didn't dominate over anything else, everything seemed to mess very well together.

T - This is an awesome roller coaster ride of flavors. It starts out very clean and simple and then just progresses and get more intense as it goes across the entire tongue. There is dark fruit, chocolate, vanilla, and a lot of oak flavor with what could be described as leather. For being 13% you can feel the strength, but it's not something that overly burns the tongue, its quiet delicate and balanced while still being very complex.

M - For being a bourbon barrel aged is has a decent about of carbonation, its low to mild, I think the perfect amount. And it's on the thicker side, but an easy drink nonetheless, it's also very warming, great for the cold late winter/ early spring day it was.

D - For being 13% this is a masterpiece, I think this and Parabola are great examples from Firestone. I could drink this all the time.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.63/5  rDev -19.7%
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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Photo of Sammy
3.9/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at City Beer Store. Good barleywine aromas, creamy mouthfeel, A tad of creamy off-white head on brown. Carbonation was a tad fizzy. Decent drinkability, I could have much more in a meal. A decent barleywine,British in character though not exceptional on this day.

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

City Beer Store. This was my third time drinking Abacus (past two at Toronado). I'm not the biggest fan of bourbon barrel-aged barleywines, but this is an awesome beer. It pours a deep brownish purplish murk. Virtually no head. Somewhat ominous. The aroma is strong on wonderful bourbon. It's a much more delicate and complex bourbon aroma than most bourbon barrel-aged beers. Bourbon and oak dominate a bit - not that I'm complaining in this particular case - but there are some wonderful malty fruit flavors lurking beneath and even some chocolate and vanilla. The fruit notes come out even more in the flavor. It's sweet but not cloying. It tastes of malt sugars refined by barrel-aging. The beer is thick and warming. Abacus is probably the best barrel-aged barleywine that I've come across. Delicious stuff.

Edit 9/7/12: I don't know if the beer changed or my palate, but this beer has been a lot boozier when I've tried it since my review. It's still quite good, just a bit much. A small taste is all I really want at once.

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Photo of nrbw23
4.5/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A- Pours a murky and super dark red color. Not to much of a head just a very thin layer of bubbles here and there.

S- Quite a bit of booze is the first thing I noticed. A handful of different spices, a woody smell, a touch of chocolate and pretty much no hops here.

T- This one follows the nose really well. Alcohol is here but doesn't mask the overall flavors. Very solid tasting.

M- Full in body and carbonation is perfect. Creamy, smooth and perfect.

D- Insane, so easy to drink very lucky to have tried it. I would go after this one like crazy to have another glass.

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Photo of kaseydad
4.3/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Barrel Aged Blend

Amber colored beverage with some burgundy highlights and almost no head to be found. The aroma consists of molasses, maple syrup, candy and light malt. The taste is boozy with the alcohol on the forefront and a medicine-like aftertaste. Reminds me of a port wine. Slight burn on the swallow and a tummy warming sensation as well. It has a numbing effect on the teeth and tongue. As Mr. Furley would say "Smoooth." A definite sipper beer that would go well as an after dinner drink or with a nice cigar. Nice work on this creation.

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Photo of msimmons32
4.97/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I had this on tap at Aces and Ales thanks to Destral in Henderson NV. The beer group I met there was amazing and really made me feel at home. They knew owner there and he specially brought out the left over keg of Abacus for us. This was the one of the best beers I had the privelege to tastse.

If anyone gets the chance to taste this beer I hope you enjoy this beer as much as i did.

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Photo of washburnkid
3.97/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I've been anticipating this beer for a while. Glad to have been able to finally try it! Reviewed from notes.

Black opaque, but when held up to the light, some deep browns and rubies are noticeable. Aromas are HUGE: fig, currant, vanilla, and some unmistakable vinous qualities. Lots of anise, too. Flavors are similar, with the anise and vanilla really dominating. A bit of dark rum and sugar in there as well. Plenty of heat on this very strong beer. Mouthfeel is a little thinner than I expected, and the carbonation is nice and mellow. I'd want to lay this batch down for about a year and see what happens to the dark fruit flavors. I couldn't drink very much of this at once, but I can see myself sipping on a small snifter of this beer after dinner.

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Photo of augustgarage
4.54/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had the pleasure of having this on-tap at the brewery yesterday. Served in a small snifter.

Color is described as "dark ruby," which is apt; much more concise description that mine: a sort of burgandy and copper-tinged rosewood with hints of plum and taupe. A thin whispy collar yields fine bubbles when swirled, a few colonies of which pause on the sides of the glass before receding back onto the surface, driven down slowly by the legs.

The base of 13 is perhaps even better on its own - the myriad nuances contributed by the barrel aging can be better appreciated without the overwhelming variety of aromatics in the blend. Vanilla, butterscotch, and molasses bleed into the malts. Rum, brown sugar, and a hint of oak are suggested as well. Sophisticated and powerful.

Dark cherry, chocolate, German malt, and a touch of Barbaresco on the palate. Nice tannic finish with incredibly deep rich malt complexity; leather, loam, cocoa, roast coffee beans, and tobacco all fight for attention. The hops seem rather restrained in this onslaught, which is the only deficiency I can note.

Light carbonation, mild astringency, maybe a touch thin, but still fairly velvet-like...

Heavy flavors and ABV, but so luscious...nearly impossible to put down the glass.

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Photo of emmasdad
4.6/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at GABF '09, and finally getting around to entering it here. Pours a very dark brown, mocha color, with just a hint of stone colored head. A very aggressive nose, with bourbon, oak and dark fruit (raisins, plums). Taking the first sip creates an explosion of incredible flavors--loads of bourbon, dark malts, oak, vanilla, dark fruit and maybe just a touch of chocolate. Alcohol is definitely present and noticeable, but adds to, rather than distracts from, the pleasure I get from drinking this one. An absolutely perfect example of bourbon barrel aging.

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Photo of hoppymcgee
4.37/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had on tap at Spuyten Duyvil in Brooklyn on 3/22/10.

A: Pours dark as heck for a barleywine with great lacing, and no head in sight. I really can't comment on the color as the lighting was dim.

S: Toffee, booze, dark fruits. Opens up as it's exposed to oxygen and warms to room temperature.

T: Complex and rich! Caramel, booze, brown sugar, and chocolate covered black cherries with a bitter finish.

M: Well carbed (as it should be from the lines), and warms the palate and everything else on the way down. Finishes dry.

D: Packs a boozy punch but is balanced because the beer is not filling.

This beer does not resemble a barleywine in my opinion, but what a treat anyways! Thanks to the guys at Spuyten Duyvil!

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Photo of JerryBullfrog
4.32/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Tasted at the brewery on 3/21.

A reddish brown color with a small, off-white head that dissipates quite quickly.

Aromas of stewed fruit (like raisin), cocoa, molasses, and Bourbon.

Not much in the way of carbonation. Flavors of chocolate, roasted malt, vanilla, caramel, coconut, raisin, and fig.

This is a Barleywine? I feel like I've been missing a lot with the others I've drunk, but everything works here. Much more drinkable.

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

Huge thanks to LtDan (from RB) for a sample of this one.

A: The pour is a dark, rich amber color with a small off-white (perhaps beige) head.

S: The nose has an incredibly rich fruitiness to it which I really was not expecting. Plenty of sugar, caramel, bourbon, vanilla and oak in the nose as well.

T: The nose gave this one a lot to live up to, and I'm happy to say the flavors delivered! A lot of caramel and toffee sweetness, obviously, but also some really great barrel character as well. The bourbon, vanilla, oak, and even some hop bitterness really round this beer out.

M: The body is very full with a low level of carbonation that works well here.

D: Normally you don't associate barleywines with easy drinking, but this one is so smooth and delicious that it's easy to keep going back for more. I can't wait until this is bottled.

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Photo of JBogan
4.52/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Firestone Walker brewery.

Served a dark brown with a very small off white creamy head. Minimal and somewhat oily appearing lacing left behind.

The aroma was caramel, molasses, lots of bourbon, oak and perhaps a bit of raisin.

The taste was a mixture of the above, with what seemed like chocolate and even vanilla in there as well. Very complex and the character changed as the beer warmed. The alcohol also provided plenty of warming too.

The mouthfeel was slick, smooth and creamy, and without the stickiness found in many barleywines.

I'm not a huge fan of barleywines, mainly due to the overly sweet and sticky properties so many of them seem to have. This Abacus however was nothing like that at all. Easily one of the best, if not the best barleywine I've ever had. If you happen to see it anywhere, it's definitely worth a try.

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Photo of MisterClean
4.25/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Lucky me! Still on tap toronado day 2.

A - Pours black with 2 fingers of capuccino head. Dissipates moderately leaving a 1/2 finger ring. Leaves little lacing.

S/T - Roasty caramel with bourbon and oak. Pretty rich. No alcohol.

M - Full-bodied, malt dominated. Very sweet. Very bourbony too.

D - Great overall. Not that I would want to session it, but ya know.

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

Had a couple snifters on-tap at the Rose & Crown in Palo Alto.

a - pours a deep golden color, pretty hazy, one inch ivory head with decent retention and lacing

s - lots of caramel malt and toffee mixed with lighter notes of citrusy hop, some bourbon note with oak and vanilla, very interesting aroma

t - very nicely balanced taste with big caramel and tofee notes mixed with citrusy hop bitterness, mid-palate has a considerable but not overwhelming bourbon and oak component that mixes very well with the caramel and citrusy notes, finish is mildly sweet with prominent bourbon flavors, not overly sweet and well-balanced for a big barleywine, the alcohol is there but not as prominent as many barleywines

m - medium-to-full bodied, moderate to lower carbonation, slightly sweet finish, very nice alcohol warming

d - incredibly drinakable for the style, not overly sweet or alcohol, relatively easy on the palate, and a complex taste

This definitely lived up to the hype and exceeded my expectations. Very nuanced and drinkable big barleywine. I look forward to Firestone bottling this later this year.

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Photo of nickd717
4.34/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Whelp, this bad boy just hit the top 100, and I'd like to shovel some more coal onto the hype train to keep it going, plus as a shameless ticker I'd like to keep as high of a count of top 100 beers as I can on here. Actually, never mind the "whelp" part - it reminds me of a dog giving birth, and that is disgusting. Look up the word if you don't know it. So after reviewing this awhile back on "the other site," it's time to slide another bead across the rod on my personal abacus as well as the abacus counting the reviews for this beer, Abacus.

Tap at Toronado 22nd Anniversary, then later at Monk's Kettle in SF for the Firestone Walker dinner.

Murky dark brown color with purplish hues and a small off-white head.

Aroma is sweet malt, oak, roast, bourbon, and dark fruits. Smells prettty, prettty awesome.

Flavor is caramel malt, roasted malt, bourbon, plum, fig, raisin, vanilla, oak, and alcohol. Really complex and good.

Palate creamy with low carbonation. Slight booze, but not much for 12% ABV. Drinkability is not awesome, but it's pretty high for what the beer is.

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

Cellared keg from 2008, enjoyed on draught at Beachwood BBQ. Pours exceptionally dark in color, which could easily confuse it for an imperial stout. Compact and dense dark tan head is under a centimeter tall. Aromas of toffee, brandy, and spicy hops come through. Tastes of toffee, raw sugar, brandy, leather, and maple. Finish is increasingly spicy, with a floral, almost phenolic finish. Heavy in body, chewy and smooth, yet with prickly medium carbonation that makes for a perfect barleywine feel. One of the best barrel aged barleywines on the planet. Exceptional flavor that can be savored for extended periods of time.

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

Finally! I've wanted to try this one for so long and it's been around in a couple bars in San Diego but I've just never been able to make it over to taste this. After sharing a few beers with fellow BAs floydster and hophead84 on Oct.31st we decided to head over to Hamilton's for a pint or two. I had been checking Hamilton's tap list pretty much every day for at least a month because they had Abacus on their "On Deck" list and to my good fortune something tapped out while we were there and what do they replace it with? Abacus! I still wasn't done drinking my first pint but I went over to the bar right away and got me a nice 10oz pour of Abacus to warm up while I finished my first round.

This beer was pitch black for a barleywine, seemed more like a stout than a bw. No head adorned the top of the beer as it was poured too cold.

The aroma was pretty darn good and the beer first greeted me with some roasted malts, toast, chocolate, vanilla, oak, bourbon, raisins, brown sugar, and hints of grapes. A subtle note of alcohol hid in the background.

Wow, didn't think the taste would be better than the aroma but it was. Bold toast flavor, chocolate, raisins, toffee, almonds, flaked toasted coconut in the finish with vanilla and oak. Notes of bakers chocolate. This beer was delicious. A low carbonation helped to bring a creaminess to the beer, making it run down smoothly down the tongue. I could have easily had another one of these if we didn't have to leave so early. Will have to try harder to make it to any bar that has this one next time.

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Photo of flannelman808
3.9/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had the luck of getting to enjoy a few pulls from the last keg of the year of Abacus at a Firestone tasting at Bottle rock in Downtown LA.

A: very dark brown and very opaque. Fair amount of tan white head with pretty small bubbles. Head retention is pretty good, lacing is good.

S: bourbon barrel aged... Why yes SUPER bourbon character on the nose... a blind tasting might make you think it was a mild bourbon on the rocks. Also there is a good amount of chocolate as well as vanilla bean.

T: Very rich, vanilla bourbon sweetness with some oak as well. This one is sweet finishing and I would definitely say it's a dessert beer. I get long finishing flavors of chocolate and toffee. There is a little bit of warming alcohol but not in a bad way. Not tons of complexity, but pretty freaken good.

M: sooo rich and mouthfilling its silly

D: mouthfeel draws you back for more more easily than it should be to drink this rich viscous liquid. So points for that but overall not very drinkable.

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

Sampled at Toronado 2009 Barleywine Festival.
This is the second beer I've had at this event that has simply floored me with its silky rich yummy goodness. Pours deep amber to near dark brown and micro thin tan head. Wow! Another knee buckler aroma with a smooth blended mixture of wood, molasses, rich dark fruity esters and more rich molasses. The wood notes become mildly brighter upon further inspection. The taste is just amazing with some smooth bourbon flowing into deep rich dark fruity esters accented with well rounded smooth wood notes. Just a smooth beer that gets almost velvety for a while. It dries out a tad into the finish.

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Photo of francisweizen
4.5/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

super fruity reddish brew
interesting near purple hue

Aromas heavy fruit and malt
spicy sweet and lovely fault

Taste is heavy, but somehow light?
berries, cherries, bready-nice!

Mouthfeel thick, and warming too
man this stuff is good for you!

I could drink this everyday
off the tap at 555 haight

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Photo of Georgiabeer
4.2/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on-tap at Toronado in San Francisco during their anniversary celebration this August. Served in a small Port wine glass. Poured black with little head, very dark stout-like color. Smells sweet, rich and fruity with prunes. brown sugar, dates, slightly roasty and almost tar like on the finish. More tar flavors in the taste, some roastiness, quite bitter- almost quinine like, followed by vinous qualities that are fruity and strong, almost reminiscent of Port wine. On the finish there is a hit of unsweetened black licorice. Strong and thick in the mouth, this beer bears more than a passing resemblance to an Imperial Stout, but with some rich sweet notes of an American Strong as well. I wouldn't really call this a Barley Wine, but whatever it is it's mighty tasty.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.62/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Toronado a couple times - got a preview before the big party thanks to an extremely generous and amazing bartender. Served in a small tulip glass.

A - One and a half fingers of tan foam with surprisingly good retention that dissipates to a ring - pretty impressive considering the alcohol. Attractive hazed dark red/brown color, although I think it gets darker as one nears the bottom of the keg.

S - Burnt sugars, dark fruits, vanilla, chocolate, bourbon, wood, cocoa, molasses, a touch of booze. It's amazing - the only knock is the slight harshness of the alcohol as it warms up.

T - Thankfully the alcohol heat doesn't show up at all in the taste, which otherwise is just as good, if not better, than the aroma. The complexity and depth of flavor is immaculately preserved. When I think of barrel-aged barleywines, this flavor is my reference sample.

M - Low carbonation, medium-thick body, some light alcohol heat as it goes down. Pretty much spot on for the style.

D - It's a slow sipper, and at 12% it can quickly wear down my sobriety, just as fast as the intense flavor wears down my palate. Just a touch less drinkable than the awesome 10, as this batch seemed a little younger and hotter.

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§ucaba from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 4.52 out of 5 with 5,076 ratings
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