Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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American Barleywine
Ranked #9
Ranked #906
4.29 | pDev: 7.46%
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States
Notes: 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.
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Reviews: 279 | Ratings: 1,067 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of leaddog
4.35/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2016 vintage No. 2 at 11.8%

Appearance - Pours a honey gold with a fingers of bubbly white head.

Smell - earthy, leafy, and floral hops, honey, toasted malts, hint of marmalade, lemon, hint of vanilla, and earthy yeast.

Taste - earthy, leafy, and floral hops upfront then quickly goes into the sweetness from the honey. The toasted malts, marmalade, lemon, and hint of vanilla follow suit. The earthy yeast rounds out the brew.

Mouthfeel - Medium to full bodied with moderate carbonation. Finishes chewy with the honey sweetness lingering alongside the warmth from the ABV.

Overall - A bold and flavourful brew. I like how the honey takes precedence over the hops as it makes for a nice engagable sipper.

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Photo of TooManyGlasses
4.31/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2016 Vintage 11.8%. Pours a clear copper colour with minimal white head. Certainly a little sediment in bottle but did not hit my 8 ounce pour.
Aroma hits with the bourbon and oak; notes of toffee and vanilla, slightly floral.
Tastes of sweet caramel malt, vanilla, bourbon; a bit bready and oak flavour, toffee, and a touch of boozy warmth.
Full mouthfeel - sweet but not cloying - tame carbonation, leaving a treacle like effect on the palate.

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Photo of Dan-Man
4.73/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2015 Firestone Helldorado, 650 ml
13.2% by vol., 3500 cases produced

Pulled this bottle out of my wine cabinet recently...
Pours with just a thin head...hazy golden color. Nose of Barleywine booze. Nice full balanced profile in each taste.
This blonde ale oozes butterscotch over the lingering alcohol. Long pleasing finish begs for another sip. Excellent representation of type.
2015 Firestone Helldorado.

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Photo of GarrettB
3.75/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

December 31st, 2015 - My last beer of 2015 is Firestone Walker's Helldorado, and it's a proper send off. Flexing it's muscles right from the start, it smells like carrots and salads mixed together with a huge alcoholic and boozy nose. But the flavor is stickier and sweeter, while still featuring that blinding alcohol note. I then catch flavors of ginger cookie, carrot cake, orange frosting, and a long burn that settles into a orange liqueur glow. It's rough and tough, and could probably stand a year or two more in time out before coming out to play again.

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Photo of ZebulonXZogg
4.63/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a cloudy brownish orange, small quickly fading head, no lacing, no oily residue.
Snot locker likes it, fruit, wood, toffee, leather bourbon.
Taste buds love it, matches the aroma.
Medium bodied, minimal carbonation, some heat from the 12.8%.
This quickly became the best Barleywine to date. Box says 2017.

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Photo of thebeers
3.93/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Hazed bronze and effervescent with a half-finger of sand-tinted head that’s quick to dissipate into a wisp and soupy crown. Sheets of lacing, for the most part, quickly drop back into the glass — save for a few spots of lacing here and there.

Wood, vanilla, toffee and coconut stand out most in the nose, perhaps with a hint of pear.

Vanilla, toffee, pepper and wood show first in the taste, with any sweetness tempered by herbal hop bitterness and moderate alcohol heat.

Light to medium bodied with a somewhat syrupy feel that’s cut by decent carbonation fizz.

Not as deep and mysterious as some from these guys, but a quality barleywine nonetheless. The wood definitely stands out here.

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Photo of DokiDokiLitFam
4.23/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A 750 ml bottle of 2016 Helldorado.

Pours a hazy yellow amber with a finger of white head. Some particulate floating about and such.

Nose is mild bourbon, wood, toffee/butterscotch, malt.

Taste is buttery toffee, mild bourbon and wood. Moderate floral peppery notes from the hops I'm guessing. Goes to bready malt with the bitterness lingering for a while.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with medium carbonation. Quite lively on the pallete.

Overall an interesting brew. Has a rich butter cookie flavor profile with a nice bittering hop quality to reel it in. I always wonder how much age affects beers as they sit on the shelf. And for this one it's hard to tell if this one aged well or not so well. Enjoyable, but not extremely vibrant.

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Photo of Todd
4.44/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2017 Helldorado is tasting fantastic tonight! Creamy, viscous, honey, herbal, pepper, vanilla, toasted malts, toffee, oak, and some char.

One of my favorite Barleywines.

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Photo of ryan1788a5
4.05/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

22oz bottle poured into a snifter. 2015 vintage.

A: Tawny colored with a uniform haze. Not unusual for beers with a certain amount of age on them. Virtually no head or lacing.

S: Lots of treacle and honey. Blonde brownies and toasted scones. Whiffs of golden raisin and sugar dates. Bread pudding. Sweet and dessert-y.

T: More or less follows the nose. Rich and dessert-like with blonde brownies, caramel, bread pudding, treacle and honey being called to mind. Traces of a mild and steely hop bitterness barley pull through. A gentle spike of alcohol helps tame the sweetness too. Toast. Vague fruity suggestions of dates and booze-soaked golden raisins. A mild taste of papery oxidation. Sweet overall, though it dries just a bit toward the back end. Caramel and toast finish.

M: Hefty and chewy body. Coating. Gently scrubbing carbonation. Warming alcohol.

O: Fortuitously I had bought some salted caramel cookies earlier in the day and they made for a great pairing here. It’s a fine beer, but I think I preferred it younger. This will not be one I hang onto for long in the future. It still hit the spot though. One of the better Blonde Barleywines out there, though there aren’t many.

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Photo of AyatollahGold
4.4/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From a 12 oz. bottle (2017) into a PAA Dino glass, this beer pours out like an iced tea, with plenty of sugar and lemon. It formed a thin crown, light butterscotch in color that dissipated quickly.

The nose carries in toffee, toasty caramel notes, figs, some fruit and leather.

The taste brings in bourbon soaked fig cookie crust or graham crackers along with lightly toasted caramel notes. I do get a light fruitiness, maybe touches of coconut.

The mouthfeel is warm, but not burning. It offers a dry finish.

Overall, this might be one of my favorites from the FSW barrel aged program that isn’t counting the anniversaries. I love the balances and nuances. Very good.

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Photo of DoctorZombies
4.34/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours an opaque coppery iced tea color at 52 degrees; quick white head; thin ring; minimal lacing; no cap retention; thin legs. Caramel intake; alcohol exhale; lite floral hop nose as it warms. Caramel, bitter spicy floral hops; not getting any honey, but there is plenty of oaky barrel vanilla. Medium minus body; light carbonation; slightly dry tongue coating; no warmth from 12.8%. Overall, nicely balanced and not as sweet or as malt forward as other barley wine style ales I’ve had from this brewery.

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Photo of sokol_1993
4.48/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Got one bottle for Keg and Bottle La Jolla.
An excellent beer, full of bourbon smell and taste, as well as dark fruits. Beautiful color as well! A bit too boozy though.

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Photo of Franziskaner
4.02/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Copper amber in color with a fingernail of off white around half of the rim and covering a small amount of the top. The beer has excellent clarity. The aroma is of biscuity British malts. I’m tasting a blast of the biscuity British malt, oak, and bourbon. The mouth is smooth for the ABV and a tad boozy.

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Photo of Cthulhusquid
4.37/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2016 Vintage.

Look: Half-finger white head, hazy orange-yellow body.

Smell: See below.

Taste: Bourbon, oak, crackers, mild honey, a hint of orange. The age might have decreased the flavor.

Feel: Medium body and carbonation, a hint of sweetness upfront with an off-dry finish. Warming alcohol presence.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.46/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle from Hinda65 traded in last year. 2017 vintage.

Pours a nice honey color with a bubbly 1/2 finger of head.

Aroma is pleasantly fruity - orange and lots of tropical pineapple; soft floral/open field aromas; honey, molasses, light candi sugar, alcohol heat, and more bright tropical fruit.

Barrel oak and alcohol heat open this up briefly, and then it blooms into sweet malt, honey, orange blossom, oranges, pineapple rind, brown sugar, pineapple candy, strawberry candy, and floral hops. The only flaw whatsoever in the flavor here is faded hops but that's to be expected with a year old barrel aged barleywine. They are very muted. Otherwise...it's all gold, man.

Feel is crispy and busy, with a lovely alcohol heat underneath, a great soaking tongue coating, and more heat on the finish.

Overall, this is one great BA Barleywine. The alcohol heat is tamed enough to just barely be dangerous, and the flavors pop and explode. You simply cannot go wrong with Firestone Walker's Barrel Aged beers. Everything from the cardboard boxes to the simple yet elegant bottle wrapping screams excellence to me.

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Photo of josanguapo
4.75/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

De craftbeer-shop. En copa Teku. Viendo Los 100 5x08-09. Asombrosa integacion del roble en la birra, dando lugar a un sabor marcado a la madera pero sin saturar. Abv sorprendentemente bien oculto

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Photo of LampertLand
4.39/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Firestone Walker 'Helldorado' @ 11.8% , served from a 650 ml bottle , 2016 vintage
A-pour is a blonde gold from the bottle to a hazy gold in the glass with a smallish off-white head leaving a spotty lace along the tulip
S-boozy , honey , wild flowers
T-big , a smooth oak barrel aging thanks to the honey , very warming
MF-mild carbonation , feels full bodied
Ov-share this beer with friends , too big for one sitting
prost LampertLand

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Photo of beersampler6
4.01/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Very nice, smooth, rich barleywine that was very decadent and enjoyable. Pours a deep honeyed brown with some mild lingering head and spotty lacing. Smells of deep malt, honey and some bourbon and wood. Tastes similarly, along with some dark raisin, plum, molasses and brown sugar. Smooth thick mouthfeel, good carbonation. Very tasty, just rich and thick and definitely a sipper with the high ABV.

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Photo of justme
4.85/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Wow. This was one of the best beers I’ve had in a long time. Find it comparable to JW Lee’s Harvest Ale. Similar flavors, but Firestone controls the alcohol taste slightly better.

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Photo of siskiyoucellar
4.29/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Yeah. I know this beer well and I’m finally getting around to reviewing it. It’s always something special and this one has been in my cellar for 40 months. I think it’s among the best barleywines in the world and it ages superbly. Deep golden honey in color, it briefly shows a tight off-white head that quickly fades to a lovely ring. The aroma is rich and buttery, suffused with honey, vanilla and a hint of black pepper. The taste follows perfectly, building on the themes of wildflower honey and pale malts while adding more spice, juicy tropical fruit and even more honey. Hops are there but delicate, it’s more on the English side of the style. Mouthfeel is amazing; the carbonation is still strong and smooth after more than three years, perfectly supporting the silky, buttery viscosity. Yeah.

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Photo of Viaduck
4.27/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy honey color with almost no head. Definitely one of the prettiest aromas ever, very sweet smelling with honey & fragrant flowers. Taste is sweet but not as much as it’s aroma implies. Very pleasing flavors: honey, caramel, vanilla, malted grain & plenty of alcohol (it is 12.8 after all). Kind of like a mixed drink with whiskey. There’s enough alcohol & flavor that the lack of carbonation isn’t even noticed. Rich & complex & delicious!

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Photo of gatornation
3.88/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours a clear golden orange color with a minimal head. smell has a bourbon presence with honey, herbal notes and slight coconut. Taste follows nose with nice caramel and wood notes ,herbal flowers ,subtle coconut with a wood bourbon finish. Mouth feel is not heavy but does have a barrel taste and finish. This one grows on you as it warms.

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Photo of dafla67
4.68/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

pours gold-ish; aroma is sweet with bourbon, vanilla and some honey. The taste is amazing -- a balance of the aroma along with malts and caramel. It is medium feel. Outstanding.

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Photo of scream
3.77/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Not sure what to make of this. It does not taste like any barley-wine I have had in the past. I think it is lacking in the charcter I would expect from a barley-wine - maybe there is something that I do not understand, it being called a blonde barley-wine style ale. It is probably dangerous at 12.8%.

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Photo of metter98
4.25/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is hazy amber yellow in color—too hazy to see if there is any visible carbonation. It poured with a short white head that quickly died down, leaving only a thin film of bubbles on the surface and a narrow collar around the edge of the glass. The head died down further, leaving only a narrow collar around the edge of the glass.
S: Moderate aromas of coconut and oaky vanilla are present in the nose.
T: The taste has flavors of rich caramel malts with notes of coconuts and finishes with lots of oaky vanilla.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied on the palate and has a low amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is exceptionally easy to drink consider its strength as it hides any traces of alcohol from the taste; however the taste is very interesting and makes for this to be a beer to slowly sip and savor.

Note: 2017 vintage

Serving type: bottle

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Helldorado from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 95 out of 100 with 1067 ratings