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 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 jdwilliamson79
2.55/5  rDev -39.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Man I wanted to like this beer but just didn't. I know it's 13.2% but my God it's boozy as all get out. No attempt to hide the ABV. Seriously, I think the barrel that was used was still half full with bourbon. No hop presence whatsoever, nor malts for that matter. Taste is booze, booze, and more booze. I love barleywines but this particular style was too much for me. Felt like a 11 ounce pour of pure bourbon. No thanks.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.83/5  rDev -33.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

BOTTLE: Comes in a fancy shmancy cardboard box - probably intended to evoke a fine Scotch. 2015 vintage. 650ml. Brown glass. Classy understated label design. Black papered-over pry-off crown cap.

13.2% ABV. 25.5 Plato. 25 IBUs. 3500 cases produced. 12 SRM.

Served cold into an oversized snifter/tulip hybrid glass and allowed to come to temperature over the course of consumption. Expectations are low given the batshit style and the brewery. Reviewed live.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

HEAD: 1 finger wide. Off-white colour. Decent thickness and creaminess. Recedes fully within 2 minutes. No lacing sticks to the sides of the glass.

BODY: Vibrant gold. No yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible within. Clean and filtered.

It's a nice look for a beer in general terms. More bonde ale than barleywine.

AROMA: Honey, booze, butterscotch, faint vanilla (probably from the barrel), pale malts, white oak, creme brulee, and ample malty sweetness.

Aromatic intensity is average. I don't pick up on any overt hop notes or off-notes.

TASTE: Boozy and honey-forward, with traces of lavender and heavy barrel sugar sweetness. Barrel presence tips more towards vanilla/creme brulee than oak, with no real rich white oak or toasted presence. Pale malts disappear beneath the barrel, which overwhelms the beer. Alcohol presence is obvious.

I like the vanilla, but I wish the sweetness wasn't so overt; it throws the beer out of balance. It's built alright, I guess, but it's neither much of a blonde nor much of a barleywine. I don't dislike it, but that alcohol presence is hard to get past. Average flavour duration and intensity. Below average depth of flavour.

TEXTURE: Heavy and viscous on the palate, with a somewhat syrupy presence. Thick and hefty. It's a lot to handle, and the boozy warmth is bothersome.

OVERALL: It's a decent sipper. I'm glad I have company to help me finish it. Far from world class, and not a beer I'd encourage friends to try. I wouldn't buy it again meself. We'll finish it with some effort. I'm not sure why it's so well-regarded, but then I could say that about this brewery as a whole. Overpriced and of subpar quality.


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Photo of SportsandJorts
3.14/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Appearance: pours a yellowish golden color. a finger of a white head that fades fairly quickly and leaves little lacing behind. strong clarity and brightness

Smell: boozy and astringent. a strong caramel and some light butterscotch and honey. strong vanilla.

Taste: opens up with some strong maltiness, grainy and full of caramel/crystal. different sugars come through hugely, with notes of honey, butterscotch and burnt sugars. bourbon is hugely present with notes of vanilla and slight oak character. Booze is often astringent.

Mouthfeel: light, boozy and warm. lingering sticky sweetness.

Overall: I love boozy, sweet beers but this one falls short. it comes of thin and watery. the sweet flavors lack any balance and the bourbon is fairly one dimensional

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Photo of mychalg9
3.36/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Look: Looks decent

Smell: Kinda flat. Sticky malty barrel kinda thing going on

Taste: Meh. Some barrel on top of weird other barrel flavors? Can't even make sense of it.

Mouthfeel: The best part of this one.

Overall: Would not buy again

Gotta be honest, this is the worst FW barrel aged beer I've had by far. Bring back DDBA please, it was loads better than this.

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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 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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Photo of GreatStoutman
3.5/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

2015 on draft, pours cloudy, bright copper. Small head recedes quickly and no lacing.

Smell is all bourbon barrel. I'm looking for the sweeter/fruit smells but just not getting it. Medium body and low carbonation combine for a pleasant mouthfeel. Taste follows the nose, its almost all bourbon and you definitely feel the booze in here. I'm used to drinking the heavyweights, but this is not well balanced.

Overall, I don't really care for it. I'm not getting any balance or complexity, and the honey flavors seem to get lost in the mix somewhere. Probably won't have this again.

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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 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 ilikebeer03
3.68/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a light orange. Decent head . Nose is soft bourbon, honey sweetness. Taste is soft bourbon oak a slight touch of vanilla, malty sweetness. Carbonated nicely. A good beer, but I've had better BA barley wines.

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Photo of TheSixthRing
3.69/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

2015 release

Apppearance - Pours cloudy with a hell of a lot of sediment (not that I mind) with less than a finger's width of off-white head. Sub-par retention results in a completely bare surface with few clumps of suds around the edge. Virtually no lacing.

Smell - Predominantly boozy, with lesser notes of honey and lemony citrus. Maybe a hint of lemon cake? Hot, sweet and slightly tart booze is the best I could generically describe it.

Taste - Follows the nose. Sweet honey with lesser notes lemon and white bread, quickly met by a punch of bourbon booze and coconut to round out the predominant flavors. Hints of caramel? Rum raisin and oak come through mid-taste and into the finish. Quite hot as it peaks and slowly drifts into the woody, coconut-like aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - Full in body with low carbonation. There's certainly a quality of light stickiness behind it, and there's also a moderate level of difficulty with each swallow.

Overall - Not too far off from their usual 'BA brews' but lacks the ideal depth that accompanies their more palatable offerings. Parabola has plenty of flavor outside the Barrel Aging influence. This one? Not so much. If you like your BA brews without the heavy boozy influence, look elsewhere. Like your local creepy neighbor, this one is naked and aggressive. That's obviously a joke, but buyer beware. Do you like straight shots? If so, go for it. I can appreciate the effort, but this one is not for me. Like DDBA and Velvet Merkin, the base beer simply doesn't hold up to the harsh BA process.

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Photo of Mattygross44
3.7/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This def needs to be aged like 2 years its not like the other vintage ones in the series where you can pop a 2015 parabola and it still is amazing... This has a very sharp dirty taste and after taste that lingers. Its very boozy which i like but like a cheap beer boozy going on which i dont like. I was very disappointed just hoping it gets better in time because i have 6 more bottles i bought.

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Photo of Shroud0fdoom
3.72/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

22 ounce Bomber into a Wine Glass.

I am stoked to have this brew in my presence, these FW Box Beers usually sellout within a few Hours. So I am excited to see what this Muvfaka has to offer...a New Style Threshold got my beer bones aching! Let's see what this Biatch is talking about. First popping the top and pouring her out, she is Golden Honey with a bit of mysterious haze about her. Her crown was white as snow with tight bubbly texture...looking like a Relaxing Bubble Bath! She looks the part.

Aroma is going to take this brew to the next step! I twirl her around and take a deep whiff.. That is some Bourbon Goodness there! Rich Char and Vanilla takes your Nostrils on a Bourbon Journey. After the Vanilla leaves there's a Cinnamon Spice character that is present giving you a Warm invite. Mild toasted Coconuts is present adding a nice depth to this brew. Also faint Booze is detected. Just an amazing smelling Brew!

Time to taste this muv! Ok, let's discuss this. This doesn't taste as insanely great as the Aroma. The flavor first hits with some Honey Sweetness that flows with Barrel Notes (Charcoal, Vanilla, Coconuts and Spice). There's mild notes of Fruity esters toward the finish that seems out of place. This finishes Weak and Boozy with some alcohol bitterness on the sides of the Palate. The feel isn't improving anything for this, it's very light and carbonation is Cola-Esque.

Overall: This had potential to march a new trend in Beer Style Perversions. Making a Blonde Barleywine sounds pretty great if executed correctly. This though, not really providing a push to forward this type of Style Trend. This brew has a Great Aroma if you love Bourbon. It melts your face with its Barrel Notes, but the flavor is South of the aroma's Greatness. The flavor would be better if the Booze was tuned down a bit leaving for a better drinking experience. This proves to me that Firestone Walker can make a not so impressive brew. This brew is worthy.

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Photo of Sludgeman
3.72/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured into a snifter at Rustico/Arlingon.

More like a hot Belgian dark strong ale. But the light color fools your taste buds a bit. Good but not a typical barleywine. - 3.75

A - Pours a beautiful, slight cloudy golden orange with almost no head. - 4.25

S - Alcohol, spice, raisins - 3.5

T – Dark fruits, spicey, more bitter than malty, some residual sweetness though, hot (even a bit solventy). - 3.75

MF - Medium heavy, Semi dry finish, warming - 3.75

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.73/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A - Bright medium yellow colour; translucent. Definitely true to the "blond" barley wine label.

S - Barrel aromas dominate: vanilla, toasted oak, bourbon and a light coconut aroma all come through. The base beer adds some cereal, toffee and caramel notes.

T - Barrel up front, as the nose indicated: toasted oak, vanilla and bourbon all come through. A big caramel sweetness is present from the base beer along with a touch of honey. Very sweet overall with an alcohol presence providing some balance.

M - Medium body, bordering on full body. Slightly over-carbonated for the style.

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Photo of lupercmda
3.75/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours a thick caramel golden color. Smells of cotton candy predominantly. Taste is overly sweet and the barrel gives it some oakiness but does not balance out the sweetness of this beer for me. Moderately thick mouthfeel.

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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 ArrogantB
3.79/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle $16.99. Blonde color, not much head. Aroma was bourbon barrel, sweetness. The flavor had a touch of honey and bourbon barrels (or some kind of booze). It has a really good barrel character but I just didn't care for it in comparison to their other boxed proprietor's series beers. I'm glad I only bought a single bottle.

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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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Photo of smakawhat
3.82/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from the bottle into a large snifter glass. Vintage 2015.

Bright apricot to peach orange, with a lighter lemon hue out of the bottle. Mild filmy top, but also quite clear and very shiny. Head manages faint tan of about two fingers to dissolve to a good bubbled collar. Quite nice looking and very nice dark blonde appearance.

Woody oak, and mild sensing caramel notes hit at first. A bit of booze action though as well. Small sensing stone like fruit a bit, but the caramel action and sweetness is large, but also very good. Fairly good mix of barrel aging, but not sure where this is going.

First sip is quite wet surprisingly. Palate though gets a lot thicker like flavors but also comes out with lots of honey syrup qualities. Very noticeable boozy finish, and quite warm. Wet candy like taffy fruit of peach and orange, almost a little Splenda like strangely. Large but without a lot depth to it. Real fleeting and flat finish that doesn't last, even traces of banana.

It's got some great barrel character, but the base beer is just not really taking this well. Surprisingly wet and not full rounded mouthfeel, but also some great oak and caramel to butterscotch notes.

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Photo of johnnnniee
3.86/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle from Bert's
Crystal clear deep golden with a decent sized bubbly white head that shows moderate retention. Brown sugary caramel maltiness with bits of dried fruit and an earthy woody bourbon note. Light vanilla. It's a bit thin and a little boozy but tasty.

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Photo of Rollzroyce21
3.9/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

- 2015 vintage
- 22oz. bomber poured into Lost Abbey Teku on 29-Jul-15

Straight up tasted like a barrel-aged high malted DIPA with some heat that could benefit from some aging to settle it down.

Of all the FW BA brews, this one is on the lower tier when fresh. But overall enjoyed the bottle and looking forward to seeing it develop more as it ages.

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Photo of TruePerception
3.92/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Firestone's Helldorado, blonde barley wine. 13.2% ABV.

A: Slightly dark orange/sienna. A finger of head; fades to just a thin ring. Decent sheeting. Thin lacing.

S: Deep, warm oaky caramel. Slight earthy/hay note. Toasted oak, toffee.

T/MF: Grassy/vegetal toffee hits around mid-tongue. Subtle, sweet, milky caramel on the tip. Wood pulp on the finish. Interesting collection of flavors. Slight bitterness on the finish. I think it could use some bourbon or anejo tequila to smooth it out. Slight coconut husk.

Poured from a 22 oz. bottle, into a Belgian tulip glass.

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

This is a beer that requires more appreciation for the style, I think. There is no head, and near medium body. It's not atypical of the style, but possibly not what one might generally expect of a barrel-aged beer that weighs in at 13+ABV. Nice caramel taste, nice oak. But doesn't measure up to the other FW barrels.

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