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Helldorado | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

143 Reviews
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Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States | website

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: 143 | Ratings: 630
Photo of jdwilliamson79
2.55/5  rDev -40.3%
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 -33.7%
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 -26.5%
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 -21.3%
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 Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -18%
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 -18%
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 ilikebeer03
3.68/5  rDev -13.8%
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 -13.6%
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 -13.3%
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 -12.9%
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 -12.9%
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 -12.6%
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 -12.2%
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 ArrogantB
3.79/5  rDev -11.2%
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 smakawhat
3.82/5  rDev -10.5%
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 -9.6%
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 -8.7%
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 -8.2%
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 -8%
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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Photo of Bsquirrelbrewer
3.93/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

On draft at strangeloves.

Very light brown color, almost a pale caramel.

Smell is pleasantly sweet and boozy.

Taste bring a nice blend of sugar and booze, but it lacks the caramel present in sucaba.

Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied. It lingers on the palate.

Overall another solid offering from Firestone!

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Photo of chefbigjon
3.96/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

To me, the least impressive I've had from this series. Potential is there, it just lacks something. Everything is there to be awesome just isn't as flavorful has I hoped it would be. I will reevaluate with some age on it, I have 3 more bottles, but I was hoping for more.

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Photo of Jjski
4/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Buttery,bitter, slightly hoppy with sweet bourbon notes. Agree with the noted wheatwine attributes: honey & grassy. Nothing grabs my well worn attention: too subdued, yet lacking the slickness of the anniversary brews, Scucaba, etc. perhaps the blonde malts?
IMHO underwhelming for a barrel FW beer. I'm going to age one.
The brewery is world class. I will drink anything they produce with relish. This offering is not quite there. I really enjoy BIG sweet barrel beers, yet this is not moving me. Not to be sentimental, but I've got 6 DDBA in the cellar waiting to mature. Some were way too hot fresh. Maybe I'm just stuck in my ways, and these Helldorado will turn into gold. Time will tell.
Alternative: Annularity from Fifty/Fifty was well executed.

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Photo of SteveB24
4/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Drinking this side by side with several others as part of a bottle share, the color is a, well, very honey like brown. Pours a small amount of head comprised of large bubbles that quickly dissipate.
This one might do better after a year or two, the booze is slightly overpowering. Nevertheless the honey is there, along with sweet caramel, oak, vanilla, and the honey, which imparts a present floral character. Worth trying, not sure if id spring for it a second time.

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Photo of Moose90
4/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance – (4/5) Coming packaged in the typical Firestone Walker box, it doesn’t really scream off the shelf, it blends in nicely with Sucaba, Stickee Monkey, Double DBA, and the like, sadly Parabola was not in attendance on said shelf. Once out of the box it presents nicely enough with some nice golden accents on the label, perhaps a hint of things to come. As it pours out of the bottle into the snifter, it’s got a massively heavy and thick appearance, honey-hued orangey yellow appearance into the glass. There is a tall white head that forms, but it fades and settles into a thin layer, leaves behind some sticky and clinging lace along the inside of the glass.

Aroma — (4/5) Lots of character here, and a huge alcohol hit. Very strong initially, almost harsh. As you dig you will find nice notes of oak, vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, bourbon, cognac. As it warms there is a really nice, fresh honey component, like a heather-honey floral component. Somewhat unexpected.

Taste — (4/5) A great depth of flavors abound in this brew, though there is an incredibly assertive and dominant alcohol punch, this beer certainly errs on the “hot” side of the spectrum, it’s almost too hot and booze forward, but thankfully there is enough depth of flavors to hold everything together without veering too far off course. Great notes of dark fruits, plums, figs, a light golden raisin presence. Balanced with a cinnamon and vanilla kick, little bit of brown sugar, vanilla, bourbon, and oak. Quite a lot going on.

Mouthfeel — (4/5) Full bodied, this is rich, thick, heavy, lasting finish. This is a sipper if there ever was one, really rich, heavy, bold, and boozy again. Really nice, though it would be difficult to get through the 22oz bottle in an evening.

Overall — (4/5) A great beer for sure, but in the family in which it lives, with brothers and sisters like Parabola and Sucaba, this one just doesn’t quite breach the same mark set by its siblings. It is very very good, but it comes across a little hot and sweet, could use either less alcohol, or more of a bitter punch. I have set one or two aside, to see how these develop with some time. If it is anything like the others, it should improve a bit.

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Photo of Kevinpitts
4/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Disappointing beer. Expected far more. Tasted like a lighter wheat wine beer to me. Nothing special about it whatsoever. Not terrible, but far over-rated IMO.

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Helldorado from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
94 out of 100 based on 143 ratings.
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