Helldorado | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.80%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Part of the adventure of aging beer in retired spirits barrels is the synergistic interaction of different malt flavors with the oak and spirit flavors from the barrel. Darker beers like stouts and darker barley wines have typically been the favored candidates for barrel-aging, due to their deeper caramel and roasted flavors. Helldorado breaks that mold with a deep golden color from being brewed solely with English and American pale malts. The bready, honeyed flavors of pale malts pull out rich wildflower honey, vanilla and coconut notes from the oak, creating an overall flavor evocative of bourbon-glazed graham crackers that stands as singularly unique in our Vintage lineup. Helldorado may be lighter in color but it is a full-bodied and densely concentrated sipper.

Added by wethorseblanket on 10-21-2011

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Reviews: 184 | Ratings: 787
Photo of beergoot
4.1/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2015 Vintage, 13.2% ABV

Honey colored body; thin head. Heavy caramel aroma; oak. Flavor strongly follows the aroma; nutty; vanilla; tempered booziness with some hop bitterness far in the background. Heavy body; residual sugars galore; warm.

This beer delivers the big malt and heavy alcohol qualities of a hardcore barley wine. Like many high ABV beers, the head is sorely lacking in quality, but overall, it's a very satisfying.

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Photo of Furlinator
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2016.
Pours translucent honey gold. A thin, fizzy khaki head forms and quickly disappears completely. No lace. The smell is of carmel malt, vanilla, oak and alcohol. The taste follows with sweet caramel malt, vanilla, oak, mild hop presence and warming booze. Medium texture with low carbonation.

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Photo of zeff80
4.4/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured out a clear, golden yellow color with a small, off-white head of foam. It smelled very sweet and boozy. It had a strong sweetness up front with an alcoholic burn. Just enough bitterness for balance.

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Photo of BlurryVisi0n
4.12/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Vintage 2016 bottle served in a snifter glass.

Appearance: semi-cloudy Amber color with light sediments floating through the body. Off-white head wholich rose maybe a notch or so below a finger's length. Drops slowly with almost zero lacing.

Smell: Even as the beer warms the smell is super bland.

Taste: Super whiskey taste with a hard hit of malts. Comes off a bit sweet but closer to butterscotch body. Smooth bitterness but the alcohol feel is a bit on the extra side and not as subtle as I would like it to be.

Mouth: Very sticky and full bodied. Medium carbonation and subtle sweet finish.

Overall: tried to make this one short since I was in a middle of a great movie but overall great beer, lucky enough to grab two bottles. Always in a glass my friends...Salud!

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Photo of Roguer
4.24/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Perfectly clear; small head with little retention or lacing.

Nose features clove, banana, pine, bready malt, and bourbon.

Sweet and strong on the palate. A nice balance of malt and hops up front, quickly replaced by huge bourbon notes of coconut, vanilla, oak, and syrup.

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Photo of ricke49
4.28/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

For an "American" Barleywine this creation is rather malt-forward, without the astringency of some American hopped up barleywines. Vanilla and toffee-pudding malt sweetness predominate. Drinks nicely. I don't detect the 'heat' that some reviews refer to. A bit of aging would cool it down even more...but imho, that is not needed. Since I personally prefer English Barleywines to American style...I'm a happy camper with this offering.

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Photo of JohnCassillo
4.18/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a hazy, orange-copper with a very thin head that disappears pretty quickly after being poured into a Russian River tulip glass. Initial aromas are boozy, with hints of vanilla and sweet toffee. Taste is caramel, honey and barrel oak, plus some orange in the background, perhaps. You get a heavy mouthfeel, but that's only to take in the full flavor of the boozy barrel-aging.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
4.21/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A pretty copper color with no head.
Sweet malt aroma, honey, some vanilla. Definitely boozy.
Graham crackers and honey taste. Vanilla. Booze.
Sweet, maybe a touch too sweet, but I enjoyed it.

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Photo of Nugganooch
4.29/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

22oz bomber bottle with my FW snifter glass naturally
First tried fresh on 08/30/15 and once again with about 1yr age on it.
Definitely prefer this one fresh with the hops still brimming.

Like liquid sugar cookie dough. This is that kind of good.
Bright orange-blossom honey gold body with some fine clarity/conditioning. A sunny yellow-orange hue with some active streaming bubble show. Thin layer of white tops it off. Not much stick power here.
The lemony El Dorado hops shine through in the freshness. Slightly herbal and pungent. Backed by a massive wave of honey sweet caramelized malts. It really does come together like sugar cookie.
Throws down big with the malt but not in an overly roasted way. Maintains a nicely layered complexity of blonde and pale malts that offer up some sugary caramel sweetness without cloying the entire experience. The lemony hops compliment well and naturally here. Slightly herbal and with some earthy minerals. Vanilla and oak emerge but not distinctly whisky like to me. Alcohol remains shy throughout asserting itself every now and then with a solid warmth in the finish. Sticky and on the sweeter side but with a manageable body and light drying lift at the finale. Overall loved – love the concept of a blonde barely wine all together and this one is executed nicely. Preferred it fresh as it becomes more of a malt sugar bomb with age and those hops fading.

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Photo of Rcaros
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2016 vintage

Poured about a pinky of off white head. Golden honey color in the glass. Light carbonation

Barrel up front on the nose.. nice oak aroma.. there is a little citrus and alcohol on the back.. aroma is kind of subdued

A lot of oak in the taste, not much bourbon, nice malty sweetness

Medium to medium plus body

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Photo of GilGarp
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2015 vintage. Bomber served slightly chilled into a goblet.

Helldorado is a blonde barleywine and pours a suitably light color. Maybe strawberry blonde since there is a hint of red. The head is thick at first but settles pretty quickly and leaves just a thin layer.

Aroma is boozy with bourbon whiskey at first although it seems to fade after a few minutes.

Flavor is sweet up front with the huge malt bill and vanilla from the barrel aging.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied, not as heavy as barrel aged beers. Really well balanced with the bourbon and malt like most Firestone Walker beers.

Overall a very good bourbon barleywine although not as good as Abacus. Then again, few are.

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Photo of StoutElk_92
4.55/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2016 Vintage - No. 002 - 11.8% abv

Pours hazy golden amber with a creamy frothy white foam head. Smells like honey, caramel, graham cracker, toasty bready malts, coconut, vanilla, bourbon, oak, mild smoke, orange marmalade, apricot, with some floral earthy grassy pine. Tastes like honey, caramel, graham cracker, toasty bready malts, coconut, vanilla, bourbon, oak, mild smoke, orange marmalade, apricot, with floral earthy grassy pine. Feels medium bodied, creamy and smooth with low carbonation. Overall a real nice bourbon barrel aged blonde barleywine.

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Photo of ajm5108
3.77/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a honeycomb gold with virtually zero head or lacing. Aroma starts with a burst of sticky toffee and roasted nut, but as it opens there are more woodsy notes and some alchohol varnish that cuts the earthier, warmer aromas. The tongue acts much the same, but I think those sweeter flavors are better folded-in and the barrel doesn't overwhelm. Toffee and holiday chestnut, with definite whiskey notes on the backend. Not warm vanilla / oak notes but almost straight Kentucky bourbon flavors. There is a sweetness asserting itself somewhat in the background but I isn't instantly definable as honey; though, oddly, it does kinda taste like Wild Turkey American Honey, especially towards the backend. Solid beer, but the sweet bourbon doesn't fully mesh with those heftier Barleywine notes for me. Mouthfeel is good.m

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Photo of BlackBeerPirate
3.63/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Taste: Unique spices,complex, barley malts, bready, warm alcohol. Boozy, spiced, woody nose. Gold, unfiltered, not much head. Medium/Full body. Less chewy version of a Quad. 25 IBUs

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Photo of DefenCorps
4.14/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On tap at ABV the other night. 2015 vintage

Mildly hazy with a thin, off-white head with decent retention and lacing. The nose is super floral with honey, hibiscus, jasmine, rose, white honey, mildly nutty, white grape pomace and a bright booziness. Faintly sweet as well. The palate is sweet with honey, mildly dull and doughy honeycombs and some orange blossom. Wonderfully floral. Long finish, mildly boozy, with some brandy, grape must and toffee pudding and flan on the finish. Yummy full-bodied stuff, this.
2016 vintage notes (on tap at ABV)

Clear copper with a thin, white head with mild lacing. The nose is boozy with sharp, biting alcohol, just an immense amount of barrel character. A little bit of leafy, grassy, citrusy hops, along with a touch of lemondrop, is present. The palate is all booze with alcohol burn and grass. A rather unpleasant tequila-like spicy heat is present. Boozy and mildly astringent on the finish, a combination of oak tannins and booze harshness. Thin, this beer is rather awful

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Photo of Ciocanelu
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Golden color with off-white head. Aroma has sweet bourbon and some floral honey. Taste has lots of bourbon and wood tannins, sweet, clean malt in the background, aftertaste even has some hop bitterness. Sticky body with soft carbonation. Overall it's a really elegant, bourbon forward string ale.

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Photo of azurel
4.23/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours a golden amber with minimal head... Aroma is of oak, booze and light malts, caramel, toffee.

Taste follows aroma with booze up front, vanilla from the barrels as well as oak with toffee, caramel, sweetness underlies the boozyness.

Mouth feel is clean, light an easy sipper.

An absolute amazing beer...

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Photo of Eamonn-Cummings3
4.13/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 22oz glass into a barrel aged speiglau glass.

Look is a pretty clear golden orange with absolutely no head.

Aroma is lots of charred oak and vanilla coming from the bourbon. Not much beer poking through, but a lot with the barrel.

Lots more of the beer coming through on the taste. A nice combination of hot barrel and new beer.

I have a 2015 aging too, but wanted to try it fresh. Definitely interested in seeing how this mellows. But a damn good beer.

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Photo of SargeMcCluck
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours a bright, sunshine honey-orange; there's not much of a head to speak of.

The nose tickles with some uncommon aromas - brandy, cherries, flora, butterscotch, anise and coconut join the vanilla and oaky bourbon backbone. Some of this complexity is lost on the tongue, where the hot, honey bourbon really takes centre stage. The prevailing boozy sweetness leaves this very much a homely, desert sipper, though the thinner mouthfeel might have things catching up to you, if you let it.

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Photo of 1000lbgrizzly
4.41/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very cloudy honey-golden body with a small amount of debris at the bottom, even on the initial pour from the bottle. Virtually no head is produced on the pour. Nose is warm, even hot, with sweet booziness, butterscotch, molasses, oak, and vanilla. The body takes these unrefined elements and elevates them to new heights; the booziness has merged with the caramel, butterscotch, and vanilla for a sweet but deep initial flavor. Honey and floral lavender appear next, adding another level of sweetness but also expanding the flavor. Raw malt and oak join all of these flavors on the warming finish for a grand finale that beckons for another sip. The body is, unexpectedly, only a middleweight; it's almost fluid and light on the tongue, minimally sticky, and the delicate effervescence is restrained.
Next-level flavor. I wonder why they named this after the undetectable hops within it, which also hint at abrasiveness and intensity. It was intense, but in a warm and sweet way. The alcohol bared its teeth on the nose (for the positive), but apart from that it was a smooth and delicious brew. Just get that sediment out of my glass next time.

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Photo of lighthabit
4.11/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

not super complex for a barley wine, but, man, that honey does a wonderful twist on hiding its 11.8 abv. a bit sweet to drink a lot of, but a tasty, pleasant, easy-to-drink desert beverage for a late night.

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Photo of Radcpa
4.56/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Light brown appearance with a good head and carbonation. Nice aroma. The taste is smooth from the aging without any strong alcohol aftertaste. Feel is a little thin.

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Photo of Wiffler27
4.07/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

pours an orange gold with a solid head, looks like an IPA.

smell hits after opening it. a malty sweetness to it. some honey notes. up close, this smells boozy.

taste is malty and sweet with plenty of whisky notes at the finish. finishes with boozy whisky notes and not much else. not a thick beer but certainly not thin.

not a bad beer but nothing special. i'm not a big barrel aged guy but this is interesting.

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Photo of Buck89
3.99/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a tulip. Hazy golden color with a thin, shy foamy cap. Prominent oak, bourbon, and vanilla aromas. The taste follows with caramel, sweet malt, vanilla, toffee and bourbon. A prominent heat on the finish. Very nice - would like to revisit after a year to see if it mellows.

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Photo of LinusBohman
4.45/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Short review this time. This beer stands out from the rest of your sea of good craft beers. There are several layers of taste and smell with the barrel coming through nicely and together with the malts give you a nutty, vanillacoated and a bit boozy smell and flavour. Silky smooth and beautiful golden liquid. Would probably benefit much if it was aged for some years.

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Helldorado from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.24 out of 5 based on 787 ratings.
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