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: 174 | Ratings: 739
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 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 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 (to hell with 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 ass 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) of a lot more for my north of 30 bucks in these days of stupid beer overindulgence.

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Helldorado from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.24 out of 5 based on 739 ratings.
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