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§ucaba | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

858 Reviews
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Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

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: 858 | Ratings: 4,849
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 ElGrecoVerde
4.35/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Red/Amber with a creamy off white head.

More roasted than I expected. Sugary caramel, toast, and dark fruits.

Caramel and toffee, a bit sweet with cherry tartness. Good balance with roasted malts, rich wood and hints of toast like flavors.

Superb. Very creamy and an excellent delivery system for the high ABV. This is a sipper but a great one at that.

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Photo of rfgetz
4.82/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I don't even want to review this beer because I am affraid there is no way I can give this beer the words it deserves. While it is labled a barleywine, its much more than that... at any point you could convince yourself you have an American Strong Ale, and Old Ale, an Imperial Stout.

Pours a dark color, only noticing the deep mahogany hues when held against a light, nice cap of tan colored head with good retention and lacing. Scent brings wonderul notes of fine burbon, oak, warm vanilla sugar, rich dark chocolate, ripe black cherry, coconut, leather. While beers with this nose tend to be harsh and warm, it was nothing but smooth... all of the flavors blend perfectly. The barrel againg is the star and FW has this method down. While a fantastic malt profile is the base of the beer, I cant get beyond the oak, warmn vanilla sugar, cocount an burbon. While most barelywines seem to go for clean and bright malts, this definitely brings in some from the darker side - chocolate, char, earth and spice present themselves. Body is full, smooth and creamy, no lingering tastes on the palate, moderate carbonation. Fantastic beer which I would love to secure another bottle of and let sit for a while.

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Photo of gford217
4.62/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Another FW bottle courtesy of Richie.

Pours deep, deep copper, darker than most barleywines, with a thin tan head that recedes slowly to small collar and some sticky legs on the sides.

Aroma is spectacular, everything I'd want in a BB barleywine. There is the deep, sweet caramel malts, toffee, vanilla and hints of hops, though this seems closer to an English BW than American. The bourbon is perfectly balanced in the nose, sweet vanilla, light wood notes and bourbon. Wow.

The taste is almost as good with smooth bourbon and vanilla up front, meshing perfectly with the sugary malts, toffee and caramel underneath. Nice alcohol burn in the finish, just tingling the tongue.

The mouthfeel is super smooth and medium bodied with lots of barrel character and soft carbonation.

This is a fantastic BA barleywine, one of the best I've had in a long time. FW certainly knows their way around barrel aging. World class.

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Photo of Daniellobo
4.57/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

An extraordinary barrel aged brew: complex, long, sweet, and quite the delicacy.

Presentation: 22 oz boxed brown capped bottle. Exposed cardboard box with the seal of the brewery presiding it and highlighting the name. Back box label notes history of the brewery, expertise aging brews in barrels, intent of ales and blending process, and Abacus overall release. Bottle offers a simple Firestone paper label with brewery branding and brew details, noting 2011 Reserve Series, O.G. 27, IBU 42, F.g. 4.7 p, British Ale yeast, 36 SRM, a production of 1500 cases, and 13% Alc. by Vol. Served on a snifter.

A - Clear deep brown pour, small brown head, moderate retention, faint surface memory and minimal lacing. Again nothing extraordinary to look at but in sync with a brew of this caliber.

S - Long, delightful and rich nose with notes of chocolate, roasted malt, charred wood, vanilla, caramel, and bourbon, with a nice spicy hint.

T - Taste stays on message with a nice expansion of flavor, charred malt, with a woody sense, caramel and chocolate sweetness, notes of bourbon tied to its vanilla oak, sugary touch… sticky range retrofeeding the taste to a spicy bourbon dash… what a rhythm..

M - Medium/full to full body, low carbonation, creamy stickiness with a nicely woven and showy boozy presence.

D - As good a sipper as a brew can be. Complex, long, and worth the reputation if one is into this range of barrel aged brews.

Notes: Not the 14th Anniversary but who would complaint when something is this extraordinary. Sure enough, one needs to be into barrel aged, complex, and boozy brews but this is another highlight… I'll keep a bottle, maybe two for the aging, if I can. But it'll be difficult.

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Photo of ShanePB
4.47/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle split between Nick and I at Craft Ale House. Served into two tulip glasses - Firestone Walker is in Philly, YES!

A: Dark mahogany wood color with some defined maroon hues throughout the opaque body. A small beige head is on top with some splotchy lacing. A nice foam ring sticks around throughout the entire bottle. What a beautiful looking beer.

S: Strong and rich bourbon barreling notes are first, with some wood elements (maybe cedar or oak -like) coming through. Brown sugar, raisins, fig and some sweet vanilla tie everything together. This smells awesome!

T: Bourbon and Jamaican rum coat the palate, wood notes explode and throw your palate into shock. Vanilla comes through towards the end to smooth everything over. Seriously, this is one of the best tasting Barleywines I've ever had the pleasure of having. The barreled aged notes, vanilla, brown sugar and slight booze are blended masterfully into a single bottle. Fantastic.

M: Low carbonation, smooth, creamy and silky.

There's no doubt in my mind now that this is one you absolutely need to seek out. I feel honored that FW is finally in the Philadelphia market, because it will be hard to keep my hands off this stuff. If you want a barrel aged Barleywine done right, look no further - Abacus is your answer.

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Photo of Rizalini
4.7/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bomber into my Deschutes tulip...

A - Pours a very dark mahogony brown, with a slight tan head leaving a little lacing as it disipates.

S - First thing that hits my nose is bourbon. On second smell I get carmel, woodsey malts, and dark fruits. The smell is very inviting.

T - WoW. The taste is more complex than the aroma, letting way to dark chocolate notes, molasses, and even some espresso notes on the back end of the taste. A nice warming alcohol note does follow, but I expected that for 13%.

M - Has a medium-heavy mouthfeel, almost chewy. Great carbonation.

O - My first Abacus, and I'm blown away! To me, this brew is like The Abyss of the barleywines! So deep, so complex. I am very glad I bought 2 of these, and if there's anymore on the shelf when I go back, I might buy 2 more! Great, amazing barrel aged barleywine!

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Photo of xnicknj
4.77/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

on tap at monks in philly

Pours a deep brown almost black color, with some cherry hues which peek out in the light. Thick frothed tanned head dissolved into collar of beige retention, few spots of lacing.

Rich, strong bourbon and booze with earthy wood and oaked tannins. Light chocolate and caramel with a hint of brown sugar and raisin.

Smooth syrupy roasted malts, warm and a bit sweet with rich bourbon. Slight hoppiness cuts thru followed by plenty of barrel character with wood and earth. Some silky caramel, burnt brown sugar, heavy malt backbone. Hints of dark chocolate, raisins, and dates. Finishes boozy and sweet with plenty of lingering barrel touches.

Full syrupy body, milder carbonation, sticky velvet smoothness which wraps around the tongue. Surprisingly drinkable for the alcohol content (I ended up having multiple glasses bc I simply couldn't get enough). Excellent flavor, awesome bourbon barrel usage. One of the best barleywines or barrel aged beers I've ever had - Truly remarkable.

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Photo of charlzm
4.32/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Consumed April 13th, 2011 in a Triple Petrus snifter.

Beer appears a clear mahogany in the glass until held to strong light, when it becomes a clear, prune-colored affair. Virtually no head, just a tiny crown of off-white bubbles clinging to the edges of the glass.

Vanilla and rum greet the nose. Brown sugar? Or just a dark rum? Delicious either way. Sweet, with a caramel note.

Flavor is rum and raisin with some bitter oak and sweet brown sugar notes. Coconut. Vanilla. Slightly herbal and medicinal. Alcohol is a component as well, and brings heat as well as flavor. Pretty easy to sip, regardless.

Beer is silky smooth and thick.

One of the best barleywines I have had, I have no doubt this will age wonderfully (if I can let it).

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Photo of Rhettroactive
4.38/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From 22oz bomber to glass at Shannon's Big Bad Barleywine Tasting on 4/9/11.
*From notes

A BIG thanks to siege02nd for supplying this one. Cheers, John!

A: Rich mahagoney and rustic autumn leaves in color. It's a beaut. A generous pour yields a 1.5 finger head and thick, sticky lacing.

S: Utter bourbon bomb. Alcohol runs rampant to the point where I'm forced to remove the glass from my nose. This one burns. It's like sitting on the porch of a Kentucky B&B at dinnertime, with a plate of steaming, homemade Hot Browns in front of me. As I get past the whiskey, I find spotty hops and juicy prunes.

T: After the nose, I was a bit scared - as I felt this may be too young for early consumption. Happily, this isn't the case. For as brash as it is, it's addictively drinkable now and deceptively smooth. Massive amounts of malt and barley grains are followed by a Costco sized serving of smokey bourbon. A ghosting of hoppy bite interweaves with overwhelmingly chewy tannins and mild, sweet alcohol on the finish.

M: Rich and thick. I wouldn't go comparing it to an Impy Stout, but it's certainly one of the bigger AB's I've had.

O: Firestone Walker's Abacus is simply awesome. This is a delicious beer. For as drinkable as it is now, I would recommend cellaring this for a dime and basking in it's amazingness.

This one's worthy of the hype. It's one of, if not the best American Barleywine I've had the pleasure of drinking.

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Photo of Blanco
4.3/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Lighting was somewhat pour but beer was very dark. Minimal head. Smell was sweet with a light bourbon hint. Taste was similar with hints of vanilla, bourbon, molasses, dark fruit. Very smooth and refined, the mouthfeel was medium bodied. Alcohol presence was very well hidden and almost no warming sensation. Overall, this was a fantastic brew and I was quite surprised how well rounded it was.

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Photo of corby112
4.7/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Draft at Monk's Cafe.

Pours a deep dark copper/chestnut color with dark ruby/mahogany edges and a one finger frothy off-white head that quickly settles into a thin lasting ring. Sporadic small spots of lacing left behind.

Amazing complex nose with a blend of earthy oak, luscious vanilla, sweet boozy bourbon, dark fruit and earthy/leathery malt. The barrel character is very prominent with lots of toasted oak without smelling burnt. Sweet bourbon and lots of vanilla and marshmallow mellowing things out. As it warms the malts become more prominent with hints of leather, toffee, hazelnut and caramel. Slightly vinous with hints of cherry, grape and plum. Smells amazing and the bourbon is well integrated in the nose without overpowering the other elements.

Medium bodied with the perfect balance of earthy barrel character, boozy bourbon, sweet malt and alcohol heat. Very similar to the aroma with a prominent barrel presence up front. Earthy oak that is slightly toasted with sweet bourbon flavor that is prominent but not overly hot. Although the bourbon flavor is strong, it's not overpowering and the other flavors are able to stand out. There are also notes of vanilla and toasted coconut from the barrel, mellowing things out. Slightly hot with some nice burning warmth in the finish but the ABV is pretty well masked at 13%. Underneath there is a nice blend of earthy/leathery and sweet malt flavor. Slightly earthy barleywine flavor with hints of sweet caramel toffee, rye and faint cocoa. Vinous with dark fruit flavor, especially dark cherry as well as some grape, plum, raisin and fig. More heat toward the end of the swallow but this beer is excellently balanced, delicious and dangerously drinkable. One of the best barrel aged beers I've ever had. Amazing!

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Photo of oglmcdgl
4.6/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

On tap at one of the best spots on earth memphis taproom. Big ups to Brendan for always being awesome.

A- comes to me with a finger high sudsy ring around the glass that then settles to a thin but solid ring. A good swirl bring a finger of foam up but quickly settles back. Deep chestnut brown in color with a nice deep red glow at the edges when lit from behind.

S- wow what a nose. Deep dark fruits, with dates and figs. Sweet chocolate, vanilla, dark brown sugar. The bourbon character is so well done, just the right hint of booze.

T- opens up with smooth bourbon, sweet caramel and chocolate, dried fruits with dates and raisins taking the lead. There's a vanilla and toffee hit that rolls into a nice bit of very well used booze heat.

M- on the fuller side of body with a touch of sticky slick to it. Nice smooth carb that does just enough to keep it light and moving but understated enough to let you really get into the brew and the brew get into you. There's is some heat I'm not going to lie but hell this is a barrel aged barley wine.

O- I'm totally digging this brew and I had been hoping for good thing and this far exceeded my expectations. One of the best ba bw I've come across. Its super easy to drink yet at the same time you could spend all day picking it to pieces.

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Photo of jethrodium
4.42/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bottle. 2011 release. Pours a cola brown with a very small light tan head that leaves small spots of lacing around the glass. The aroma is wonderful. Caramel, toasted coconut, light oxidation, vanilla, brandy (not sure if any of this was brandy barrel aged, but I get it in the aroma), some light cherry notes, a decent amount of bourbon, some light alcohol, a light leather note, and a bit of oak. The barrels certainly come through in the aroma. All of the different aromas work quite nicely together. The initial taste is sweet with caramel, brown sugar, coconut, and vanilla. Then a little brandy and a light oxidation comes through as well. Bourbon and a bit of leather on the finish with a light bitterness. A light alcohol heat, but much less than you would expect for a 13% beer. Medium-heavy body. Very smooth mouthfeel. Manages to be sweet without being syrupy. Low carbonation works very well for the beer. Overall, a great beer. Probably the best barley wine I have had so far. The barrels certainly dominate the nose and taste, which I quite enjoy. I found myself not wanting to finish my glass just so I could continue to enjoy the aroma for a few extra minutes.

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Photo of Shumania
4.69/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

10 ounce pour at Rustico in Ballston into a strange. I would have prefered a snifter or tulip but beggars can't be choosers, especially when Abacus is on tap.

a: I expected a dark amber color typical of most barleywines. This was dark black with a slight hue on the edges. No light was getting through this beer.

s: Bourbon hits you immediately. The vanilla and molasses come through as well. You can tell this is going to be a hot one.

t: Again with the vanilla, molasses, toffee and some oakiness. The bourbon warms you up at the end, which was appreciated on a rainy night.

m: Creamy and smooth going down and the ABV is felt, but not overpowering. This is a definitely a beer to sip and enjoy.

If you get the chance, Abacus is absolutely worth the try. The barrel aging makes this beer amazing. I would love the chance to try this with 3 years of age!

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Photo of ChugginOil
4.26/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a snifter @ The Barley House Algonquin. Thanx to Brophmonster for the heads up on this.

Pours a very dark murky brown, almost black, with light cola edging. A thin ring of off white head sits only around the edge of the glass.

The nose offers some faint bourbon accents akin to vanilla, molassess, butterscotch and a touch of cocoa. There is a boozy heat noticed within a short whiff.

The taste is wicked. Some sweet/bready malt is noticed up front and is then immediately surrounded by the barrel aged impressions. The caramel and vanilla is met with some woody characteristics. There is an entire absence of hops here but i'm not complaining. This monster ale packs a punch at 13% ABV and you can taste it. Besides the overbearing heat on this one, it is delicious.

The mouthfeel is very full and satisfying. It goes down smooth and creamy and then bites your palate at the end with high alcohol content.

Overall, impressed and looking forward to tasting improvements with my cellared bottle. Nice bourbon presence that isn't too in-your-face.

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Photo of AgentZero
4.05/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - A very dark brown beer that turns red on the edges with some light yellow on the very outer edges. Nice, slightly off-white head of fine bubbles, side of the glass left clean throughout consumption.

S - Caramel, toffee, some burnt wood, vanilla. It smells very smooth and good, but not quite as complex as I was hoping for.

T - Caramel, little bit of booze, dark fruit. One of the more defining characteristics of this beer seems to be the barrel precense: great oak and vanilla. There is a lot of brown and slightly burnt sugar and a slight nuttyness. Taste is exceptionally smooth. While good, I'm just a little disappointed as I was hoping for epic.

M - Smooth, light carbonation, very full bodied.

O - A really good beer and barleywine, the 13% is felt in the buzz, but you don't really notice it while you're drinking. Not as good as I was hoping for, but still a great beer.

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Photo of DNICE555
4.7/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

R Moe Nay. My brother. And now my companion in the search for nerdy beers. He Busted this one out for the big Larse, Denise, Greg, mandate tasting. Cheers.

A: Dark for the style with reddish tints.

S: Oak, malt, chocolate, vanilla. Almost smells like a stout.

T: Caramel, toffee, malt, oak, wood, chocolate, vanilla, bourbon. WOW. Almost like a stout. This is one BA barleywine. My favorite was the SN Bigfoot before... now The ABACUS. This is so bold and beautiful.

M: Very big, so heavy for a barleywine.

D: Smooth, rich, HUGE, and so drinkable for 13 percent. This is a tasty beer.

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Photo of boMD
4.3/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Tap @ Bailey's Taproom... Poured near opaque, deep brown with a light, tan head.

Nose had traces of buttercorn, molasses, toffee, and butternut squash. Decent carbonation, a little fizzy on the tongue. Full bodied and thick palate.

Very malty and the alcohol tones played like bourbon whiskey and toasted oak. Buttery toffee (not diacetyl! But imagine cracker jacks caramel buttery sweetness). Characters of burnt sugar, caramel, and creme-brulee. Dark fruits like figs, dates, raisins, prunes and hints of earthy honey sweetness. A little bit floralness crept in to balance the sweetness and a big malted grain finish.

As it warmed the whiskey notes really became more evident.

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Photo of kscaldef
4.66/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Bailey's Taproom

Poured into a snifter with virtually no head. Color is a dark murky brown, with some red showing when light shines through it.

Aroma hits you first with caramel and toffee, then vanilla, bourbon, and a hint of prunes.

On the front of the tongue this tastes like candy, then there's chocolate further back in the mouth and cherry in the finish. This is very, very smooth and not at all cloying. It should be sipped slowly, but it's hard not to drink it faster than an 13% beer ought to be.

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Photo of jminsc76
4.45/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Into a wide-rimmed glass, pours a bright ruby body. Quite vibrant and oh so pretty. Didn't really notice the head too much, but from what I can recollect it wasn't substantial. Look at that ruby body though...

A bouquet of strawberries, hints of toffee, and just a little bit of graham cracker/sweetbread. Intense yet very well-balanced between all of the aforementioned aromas.

The flavors are complex, complex, complex, with the prior-mentioned strawberries and toffee nearly stinging the palate with intensity. Also some biting bitterness, with an overall smoothness that's just right.

Mouthfeel is ebullient upon swishing, thinner without.

Overall, this is a fantastic barleywine. Reminds me very much of Greenflash's Imperial Red, though with a lot more of the toffee and caramel notes that GF's IR just doesn't showcase. I could potentially knock back an entire bottle, though not sure what that would do for my constitution other than make me REALLY happy. OoOo:-]

(Update: had it on draft last week, and it's even better. All of the flavors were amplified, especially the sweetbread, toffee, and strawberries; my inspiration had led me to conclude this ranks with Parabola as FSW's top specialty-release)

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Photo of joshuaseresse
4.62/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Received this bottle in a trade with cbeer88, thanks Carl! Split with my girlfriend and served in a snifter:

A - Pour produces a small, thin head at first that dies into thin foam ring around the edges with murky bubbles in the middle and a cloudy sworls in the middle. Eventually, there is just no head or foam at all. Color is nearly black with brownish hues coming from the sides. Light can sort of pass through but when I tip it toward the light there are nice brown and amber/ruby tints come through. No lacing retention.

S - The smell is a bourbon cream with a light roast and chocolate. A little bit of toffee and caramelized brown sugar. The bourbon is not in the forefront but compliments the beer quite nicely. A really great smell.

T - Bourbon and oak. Nice caramel and brown sugar. A bit of sugary candy and chocolate cake. The roast is in the middle and toward the end with the smooth bourbon in the front that levels off toward the end, but there is just a touch of heat but it is expected for 13%. Really delicious.

M - Very smooth and creamy. A bit of a tingle from the ABV but pretty well done considering how high it is. A tiny bit of a smokey char that leaves it a tad bit dry.

O - Wow, this is a great beer! So smooth and delicious. I know that this beer is pretty fresh but I am so glad that I have a few bottles to age because I know it is going to get better. Considering the high ABV I am just downing this beer. Great, just great!

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Photo of jimmy82063
4.35/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a brandy snifter. Have had this bottle for about a month.

A) Ruddy brown color, little to no head, mild lacing.

S) Caramel and vanilla, a faint trace of bourbon.

T) Now for the fun, the caramel and vanilla are backed up by a bit of chocolate, this is sweet (of course) but there is a nice balance towards the end with some slight hoppy bitterness and a little "oaky" smokiness!

M) Smooth with just a bit of an alcohol burn. This will age very nicely.

O) Another great beer from Firestone Walker and yet another reason to do my beer shopping other than in Connecticut!

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Photo of CrellMoset
4.05/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

22 oz. black foiled bottle picked up at Wine Warehouse, Charlottesville, VA. Poured in to a 22 oz. brandy snifter.

Appearance: Pours a brown beer bottle, dingy, russet auburn, transparent at the offset, but - as it begins to fill up the snifter - increasing progressively in opacity until it's entirely devoid of internal light. A fizzy, bubbly, chaotic head - slightly tan, creamy and fine-bubbled albeit severely lacking in the stick and retention normally necessary to coax the descriptor "creamy" out of me - fades to an incredibly fine, thin ring inside ten seconds. An initial burst of carbonation kept the head alive for that brief time, but this burst fades to a stream of slowly creeping effervescence around the periphery of the snifter. At 13.0% with a barrel aged beer, you don't expect much more, but it's still slightly disappointing, given what you would expect to be a pretty high hop protein concentration.

Aroma: Brown sugar, maple, caramel, and toffee toastiness mingle citrus notes, tropical fruits, and a slew of astringent barrel notes. It's a little harsh and a little muddled, nicer when chilled rather than warm, with a few pleasant spicy and sweet coconut, vanillin, cinnamon notes emerging when chilled (as well as an interesting rum-like undercurrent from the booziness mingling with the dark fruits), contrasted with a much harsher nose as it hits room temperature.

Taste: An interesting taste profile - initial impressions, this is one that both soars in places but also stumbles in just a few. First, the malt profile is fat but not over the top. It's about one step past an equal-parts sweet/dry mixture - towards the sweet side, that is. Honey notes blend with intense caramel roastiness which merges seamlessly with darker toffee, brown sugar, and a hint of butterscotch which themselves meld in to a few heavier, toasty notes: cocoa, well-done toast, a few earthy, biscuity, dry notes. There's also plenty of citrus and fruit - a definite mango presence mingles nicely with a slew of vaguely tropical fruitiness, tons of hoppy citrus, pineapple, and, unsurprisingly, coconut (more on that soon). The remaining fruity notes are darker, but they seem to be more subdued - cherries, stronger dates, a little figginess, some pretty pungent raisin notes, hints of plum, and even some slightly tart prunes.

The barrels, on the other hand, are a bit ... well, muddled. Brandy fruity notes, rye spiciness, bourbon sweetness ... it's all a bit lost amidst a barrage of heat, unpleasant spice, and astringency. There are a few pleasant vanilla notes and plenty of toasted, barrel sugar-esque coconut notes that emerge from this party, but the big takeaway is that there's a lot going on here, and most of it doesn't jive with most of the rest of it.

Mouthfeel: Smooth regardless of the carbonation level, and maybe this beer's best quality. About as creamy as you'd want with the hop level and spicy spirit notes and about as erratic as you'd want with the sweet malts and barrel sugars, the end result here is balance. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good.

Drinkability: I was a little underwhelmed by this beer. It's no Parabola - it's hotter, more astringent, and a little less flavorful. And at 13.0%, it's going to kick your ass if you're not careful ... and maybe even if you are. Drink this one with food (specifically, with dessert), and don't drink it alone if you can help it. I think this beer could be a lot more if they became a little more focused with the barrel aging, and maybe even a little more focused with the baseline malts and hop profile ... thinking back on the "big picture" of this beer makes it even a little more hazy. Regardless, on the whole it's definitely an above average brew, one I'm glad to have tried, though I question its price tag.

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Photo of glazeman
4.23/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Split with the trusty airohead2001.

A: medium dark brown with some dark amber hues when held to light. There was a ½ finger light brown head that faded into a crown and oily swirl.

S: The main smells I get are butterscotch and alcohol that comes through with a smell like that of acetone. There's a little bourbon, but not much. Also of note, the beer is devoid of dark fruits, caramel, but has a little bit of vanilla.

T: Thankfully a lot better than the smell. The bourbon comes through very well and is smooth, not overpowering. The main flavor I get is butterscotch, but it doesn't stop there. There are nice layers of oak, caramel, and a pinch of molasses. The alcohol is fairly well hidden, but a get a mediocre amount of "hotness" at the finish.

M: Nice level of viscosity, appropriately low level of carbonation for the ABV and a pretty good after taste give this a great mouthfeel for the style.

O: Overall I'm glad I was able to find several of these to lay down in the cellar as I really feel this will get better with age. Definitely one of the better bourbon barrel barleywines out there.

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§ucaba from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
99 out of 100 based on 858 ratings.
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