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Helldorado | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 13.20%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Honey infused Imperial Blonde Ale aged in Heaven Hill barrels.

Added by wethorseblanket on 10-21-2011

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Reviews: 166 | Ratings: 707
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 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 jrenihan
4.2/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A wonderfully blend mix of honey, bourbon, oak, caramel and some bread. Very smooth and drinkable despite the strength- very minimal heat. No obvious hop presence- hard to call this an American barleywine in my view. It's not wildly complex, but it is a very nice package.

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Photo of rand
4.49/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bomber into a tulip

2016 vintage

Whatever you thought about barrel-aged barleywines is about to be turned on its head. This is palatal whiplash - a big, high ABV, sugary barleywine that looks like a pale ale and drinks like a sweet digestif. It's actually more complex than that, but it completely defies expectations in its incredible drinkability.

The brew has a clear, copper tan appearance with moderate opacity. Boozy volatiles deliver sugary, decadent aromas of toffee and vanilla, contained by tones of oak. These desert-like aspects drive the flavor profile, as notes in the nose are joined by toasted coconut, honeyed bread, and bourbon-y sugar. Alcohol warms the beer slightly, but is almost completely, dangerously, masked. Relatively short finish and a light-bodied complexion leaves clean, sweet lingering residuals.

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Photo of BEERMILER12
4.24/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2016 Vintage

A: Pours a honeyed golden color with a fingers worth of head that fades down to nearly nothing

S: Lots of toasted maltiness, vanilla, bourbon, and light oak along with the floral sweetness to go along with the sweetness from the base and barrel

T: Follows the nose. Starts off with some bourbon and vanilla notes followed by some toasted maltiness, honey, and oak notes. Light floral and coconut notes pop up just before finishing with light boozey bourbon notes and a moderate sweetness

M: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Very clean

O: An extremely nice BW that is definitely on the lighter side in terms of maltiness, but not in terms of barrel goodness and complexity. A great sipper for a fall night or day off and one that opens up quite a bit as it warms. Definitely worth checking out if you can track one down

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Photo of Jeffo
3.62/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Got this one from ScottO a while back. Cheers man!

From a bomber into a snifter
Vintage: 2015
OG: 25.5*P
FG: 1.8*P
IBU: 25
British Ale yeast
Barrel aged blond barleywine ale

APPEARANCE: Aggressive pour yields a three finger, looser, foamy and fizzy off-white head with lousy retention. Really fizzy and noisy. Perfectly clear amber orange in color with piles of carbonation for the style. Foamy and crackly head rushes down to a full foam cap then stabilizes a bit, but soon hits a full wisp. Ring remains with a few falling dots of lacing down the glass. Nice color but lousy head and somewhat over-carbonated.

SMELL: A good dose of oak, bourbon, vanilla, toffee and caramel for sure. Some light grassy notes under all the wood and caramel malts. Bold enough.
TASTE: Lots of bourbon, oak and alcohol up front. Pretty boozy. A dose of caramel and wood at the swallow before moving into a big and boozy finish of bourbon, sweet caramel and toffee flavors, woody oak, vanilla, and plenty of alcohol lingering on the palate. Flavorful and intense with the 13% making a statement.

PALATE: Medium body and slightly higher levels of carbonation. A little foamier on the palate than hoped, goes down fine with a good burn and finishes somewhat sticky. Lots of heat lingers.

OVERALL: Another solid big FW beer. This is a solid barleywine with lots of good barrel character. It’s definitely boozy, no doubt, but there’s still enough of the good stuff here that the booze just adds to the show. The head could definitely be better and the carbonation could be toned down, but those are minor issues. Well worth checking out. Thanks again ScottO!

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Photo of SomethingClever
4.36/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.25

5 oz pour poured into a taster

A: Light gold yellow hue with exceptional clarity. Head was a soapy big bubbled afair.

S: Toffee, vanilla, caramel, nutty

T: Barrell is hard to find in this neer or it was so integrated you failed to notice its presence. Toffee, caramel, vanilla, no alcohol at all.

M: Very light and clean maybe a touch watery.

O: Loved it, like drinking a very light blonde ale but with massive barleywine flavors. The coloring was very nice as well

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Photo of ClavisAurea
4.02/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottling Batch 1 (2015 vintage) served at cellar temps in a snifter

Appearance: like all FW Vintage beers the bottle presentation with the cardboard box and very informative bottle is awesome. The beer is an odd duck to rate. It is far lighter than a barleywine should be however it is marketed as a Blonde Barleywine. The beer in the bottle had a bit of sediment floating around. The beer poured out a nice clover honey color with a decent white head and lots of bubbles. It appears to be medium to light body considering the ABV.

Nose: Again, with all FW vintage beers it is heavy on the barrel character which is not a bad thing at all. What else are you paying for here? Char, toasted coconut, marshmallow, rich toffee, caramel and dark fruits, light crackery malt and a bit of a floral thing. Very hot and boozy from the bourbon.

Taste: bold and powerful. The barrel is the star here as it should be. The only problem is that I'm having a problem finding any depth past the barrel. The beer offers tons of sweet alcohol and hot booziness. Coconut, toasted oak, bourbon for days, an interesting astringency in the middle of the mouth that extends to the finish. I don't know if it is a problem yet but it is interesting; possibly a drying sensation from the immense alcohol content in this beer. The body is quite thin for a 13.2% ABV beer. I would expect some more chew in the mouthfeel at those levels (2016 Parabola didn't disappoint in that category at all).

Overall: bourbon, bourbon, bourbon and a slight whiff of barleywine in there. I wish it had more body and barleywine character. The barrel character is awesome and it is what I expected from FW but I need more depth from this venerable barrel program. I'll let my other bottle sit for a while and see if the barleywine in this imperial blonde ale decides to show up to the booze party.

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Photo of SawDog505
4.27/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured into my Lost Abbey long stim tulip glass vintage 2016 at near room temperature. Pours a beautiful orange with a 2 finger fluffy white head that leaves behind some spotty lace.

Smell is vanilla, butterscotch, fresh baked biscuits, rum soaked raisins, clove, and oaky bourbon.

Taste follows nicely starting with vanilla and butterscotch up front with dark fruit, biscuit, clove,and oaked bourbon in the finish.

Mouthfeel is almost medium, lots of prickly carbonation for the style, fairly dry as you would expect from a barrel aged beer, and a sipper that drinks darn easy for its girth.

Overall this is my 1,100 beer and I wanted it to be special, it was!

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Photo of wordemupg
3.93/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

650ml 2016 bottle poured into tulip 17/9/16

A clear golden liquid, some fine particles upon close inspection, bubbles vary in size and speed, short lived film leaves a couple random patches

S smells like bourbon and honey, almost has a honey Halls cough drop thing going on, sweet bread, vanilla, and a fair amount of woody bourbon barrel

T less cough drop but still lots of honey and woody barrel, a little boozy, hard toffee, more honey and bourbon, not crazy complex but tastes pretty good

M not all that heavy for the nearly 12%, very oily on the palate, some heat going down, lots of honey and barrel lingering

O its good but I was expecting great, I couldn't shake the Honey Halls thing on the nose and the booze pops up a fair bit but I guess that's to be expected

I liked it but was hoping for something a little more, well and truly overpriced in the low 30's I can't see myself buying a second bottle to age and It needs age so hold if you got one

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Photo of biboergosum
3.81/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle, the 2016 version, @11.8% ABV (fuck those users who create new entries on here for such trivial things), and an awesome thing to see on the relatively new Firestone Walker account up here! Oh, and the homebrew wine bottle cap covering - gotta love it - smack!

This beer pours a hazy, medium copper amber colour (blonde, swuh?), with two fingers of puffy, finely foamy, and sort of creamy off-white head, which leaves a bit of low-lying berm lace around the glass as it evenly subsides.

It smells of rather sweet bready and doughy caramel/toffee malt, earthy honeysuckle, some musty under your parents' basement stairs 'character', acerbic wooden barrel notes (vanilla, grainy staves, and a weird boozy spiciness), a soft indistinct nuttiness, cheap leather, and some plain leafy, herbal, and floral green hop bitters. The taste is more saccharine grainy and bready caramel malt, a lesser biscuity toffee essence, clover honey, still acrid Bourbon barrel vanilla, oak, and spicy alcohol, sugar syrup, a muddled tropical and domestic fruitiness, and some swiftly waning leafy, weedy, and well-perfumed floral hoppiness.

The carbonation is fairly tame in its barely structure-forming frothiness, the body a decent enough middleweight, with designs on moving up, and mostly smooth, nothing really coming forth to make a party killing as of itself, right? Right? It finishes well off-dry, the big and amped right up the yin-yang blonde ale malt reveling in just the manner that it should.

Overall, I gotta say, despite the BA treatment, and the heady origin source, I'm just not feeling this one - sure, I will be later, but that's beside the bloody point. This is much more of an English version of the barleywine style, and thus well rendered, I suppose, but I'm expecting a hell (dorado) more for my north of 30 bucks in these days of stupid beer overindulgence, yeah?

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Photo of PicoPapa
4/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle, 2016 Vintage and 11.8% ABV. Pours a translucent copper color with almost no head. Minimal lacing. Boozey aroma with notes of toffee, caramel, vanilla, wood, and maybe a hint of toasted coconut. The taste is woody bourbon upfront with vanilla, and caramel. Lots of alcohol heat, as expected. Leather and apple towards the end. Bourbon finish. Lighter mouthfeel than expected. When I see a Firestone Walker beer in a box I always buy it. This isn't one of the best of the group but still very good and worth buying again.

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Photo of q33jeff
4.06/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25


LOOK: dark blonde, hints of orange color, clear, small white head that lasts.

AROMA: brandy, wine, leather, light fall flavors, squash,.

TASTE: vegetable, leather, rummy finish.

FEEL: bubbly,full body, despite lightness of color and flavor.

Really Nice. Bottle#2 Will be aged.

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Photo of jakecattleco
4.34/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2015 bottle into a shifter. Pours slight hazy copper with half finger of low density white head that dissipates quickly, but never fully. Nose is Boozy and a little sweet. Taste is complex, very nice. Starts sweet, then a bit of sour fruit, then some citrus, and caramel malt undertones throughout. Finishes surprisingly clean with little ABV burn, palate seems left with subtle vanilla. Mouthfeel is thinner and carbonation low. The oak shows up more and more it warms. Will definitely buy again.

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Photo of Damian
3.47/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Drank from a 1 pint 6 fl oz (650ml) bottle purchased at Pemberton Farms, Cambridge, MA
2015 Vintage
No. 001
Served in a snifter

The hazy, amber-tinged golden body was capped by a frothy, light tan, near finger-tall crown that faded to a lasting bubbly collar. Spotty lacing trickled down the glass after each sip. As the beer warmed, the chill haze dropped and the liquid turned crystal clear.

The aroma was more subtle and simplistic than I anticipated. There was a noticeable candy-like sweetness. Bit of honey. The nose became somewhat more pronounced with time. Caramel and toffee notes appeared. A strong booziness came forth as well. As the liquid warmed, the alcohol began to overwhelm the other subtleties in the beer.

The flavor profile was rather harsh and simplistic. Bit of malty sweetness on the front end. Faint caramel notes. There was a generic fruitiness in the center. The hops kicked in at this point as well. Punchy, citrusy hops. Slightly bitter. Lots of alcohol heat and more bitterness in the finish. I felt like the booziness from the barrel came through big time but I could hardly pick up anything else.

Light, fluffy mouthfeel. Much thinner than I anticipated for the style. The liquid contained a spritzy, zippy effervescence that made the beer feel rather airy. As the beer settled on the palate, it turned a touch smoother and frothier.

The year of age I put on this bottle seemed to do little to temper this beer's alcohol prowess. Like many of the offerings in Firestone Walker's anniversary beer component series, this one is raw and boozy and surprisingly thin in both flavor and mouthfeel.

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Photo of nawpnawp
1.77/5  rDev -58.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 1 | taste: 1.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 1.5

2015 vintage.

Pours a nice golden yellow with a finger of head that leaves no lacing. The smell is awful. I'm not really sure what it going for, but it smells like dish soap, cheap whiskey and a hint of coconut. The taste fares a little better, but nothing like what you would expect from FW and with such good reviews. Perhaps I should have let it sit a few years more? There is some sweetness balanced out by a very strong bitter profile. Honey and lemon cough syrup.

I don't know if this is just off or what, but it is one of the worst beers I've ever had. I am struggling to finish a 4 oz pour.

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Photo of BSiegs
4.37/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A clear, amber-gold color with one finger of white head. Retention and lacing are average. The aroma is superb. Barrel and whiskey are absolutely the dominant notes. Also vanilla, molasses, honey, caramel and some alcohol burn. On taste, again, the barrel and whiskey notes punch you immediately. Rich vanilla, honey, and caramel dance in the background. This is a massive beer. Body is full and rich, almost syrupy. Moderate carbonation, definitive sweetness, but is balanced on the finish. This is an excellent beer, but drinks like a rich whiskey. Delicious.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a dark golden color ale with a nice large foamy head with good retention and some lacing. Aroma of strong residual sugar notes with some maple and vanilla notes. Taste is a heavy mix of strong residual sugar notes with some vanilla, maple and bourbon notes with strong cereal notes. Body is full with good carbonation and light alcohol notes are perceptible. Not bad but sweet as hell which makes it hard to drink in large quantities.

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Helldorado from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.24 out of 5 based on 707 ratings.
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