Helldorado | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

184 Reviews
no score
Send samples

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

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.80%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Part of the adventure of aging beer in retired spirits barrels is the synergistic interaction of different malt flavors with the oak and spirit flavors from the barrel. Darker beers like stouts and darker barley wines have typically been the favored candidates for barrel-aging, due to their deeper caramel and roasted flavors. Helldorado breaks that mold with a deep golden color from being brewed solely with English and American pale malts. The bready, honeyed flavors of pale malts pull out rich wildflower honey, vanilla and coconut notes from the oak, creating an overall flavor evocative of bourbon-glazed graham crackers that stands as singularly unique in our Vintage lineup. Helldorado may be lighter in color but it is a full-bodied and densely concentrated sipper.

Added by wethorseblanket on 10-21-2011

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 184 | Ratings: 787
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.

 272 characters

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.

 846 characters

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

 844 characters

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!

 1,648 characters

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

 470 characters

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.

 1,856 characters

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!

 669 characters

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

 971 characters

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.

 1,899 characters

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.

 532 characters

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.

 310 characters

Photo of theopholis
4.05/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

They are calling this a "Blonde Barley wine" or a "Imperial Blonde Ale".

Look- Pours an absolute gorgeous "old honey" color with a tight, white head. Continually effervesces for quite some time.

Smell - A lot of residual malt sweetness in the nose, along with honey. Very low hops. No graininess.

Taste - To sweet for a barleywine. About right for what I would call an "Imperial Blonde". Nice honey notes. Very low on the hops. No vanilla notes,so this was obviously not finished in a bourbon barrel. I can't tell what kind of barrel it was finished in. Hints of yellow apple in the after taste. Maybe some yellow pear as well. Very subtle. The sweetness up front is a tad cloying.

Feel - Low carbonation. Full bodied. A bit sticky for my tastes.

Overall - this stuff will probably cellar very nicely. Wish I had the patience to cellar it!. Overall, quite nice.

 887 characters

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.

 507 characters

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.

 1,629 characters

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.

 609 characters

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.

 561 characters

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.

 449 characters

Photo of Stevem68
4.28/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours a golden blonde color with a uniform haze. Aroma is sweet malts, a little bitter hops and some booziness. Flavor is sweet maltiness up front with some crisp bitterness in the finish. Has some warm booziness in the aftertaste. Mouthfeel is thick and rich. Overall a really good barlywine.

 293 characters

Photo of Zythophile
4.52/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottle Date: 2015
Palate Contaminants: none

Appearance is a nice, dark gold. Almost orange. It's a bit like a cloudy apple juice. Not much carbonation at all.

Smell is very much sweet bourbon. There's also some buttery caramel, which I guess isn't that far from bourbon. I like this kind of candy scent. Not overbearing, like a Werther's.

The buttery caramel takes over on the taste, with some moderate woodiness. There's also some apple. (There you have it: the apple, the caramel, and the stick.) Some white grape in the background, too. I'll also note that the alcohol is not something in the background on this one; you definitely know that this is an adult beverage. And if you can afford a bottle, it's great to be a grown-up.

Feel is finely carbonated. The savoriness of the caramel and wood make it go down smoothly.

I'm not sure how much it would help to age this a little more. I imagine it might knock down some of the alcohol pungency, but I'll have to find out in the next year or two.

 1,003 characters

Photo of yesterdayfaraway
4.52/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

L: bright orange with a small whate head that fades fast
S: Typically Firestone, nice and smooth bourbon aroma. Sweet smelling for sure.
T: The barrell is outfront and the honey finishes.
F: Very smooth and balances. I get slightly more alcohol than the rest of their boxed beers, but nothing to complain about.
O: Haha, I love Firestone. Very smooth and sweet.

 365 characters

Photo of manfromanotherplace
4.39/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Looks like a murky orange with visible sediment, smell is oak and toffee, taste follows along those lines too. This is a very refined blonde barleywine, its what sweet repute and white oak are striving to be. This is excellent, not the best of the FW special releases but still a great beer.

 291 characters

Photo of Bartleby91
4.71/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Really unique hazy yellow-orange appearance. Aromas of bourbon, vanilla, oak, malt sweetness, alcohol heat, honey and a bit of floral notes. Tastes are bourbon, vanilla, honey, maltiness and some alcohol. The mouthfeel is really nice with lingering alcohol heat as well. Overall another amazing beer in the FW barrel aged program.

 330 characters

Photo of rodbeermunch
4.43/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Has the definitive look of a blonde barleywine. Yellow and orange, 1/4" white head on it. Good aroma of bourbon, citrus, American oak, toffee, caramel.

Taste hits all the notes of vanilla, coconut even, toffee, caramel. Very mild hopping. Not bitter. Very easy to drink, hides alcohol amazingly well. Just an amazing amount of mouthfeel and flavor from a beer with a relatively light body and appearance thereof.

 421 characters

Photo of JohnnyHopps
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance - The beer poured a beautiful golden color with little white bubbles along the sides.

Smell - One detects a sense of sweetness amid the hops. There is definitely honey here.

Taste - I don't think I have ever detected so much honey it a beer. The beer is not overly sweet. The honey actually blends well with the resinous hops. As the beer warms, the sweetness comes more to the front. There is a sense of warming in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel - The honey lets the hops stick to the tongue, keeping the tongue under repeated assault.

Overall - This is not my favorite barleywine, but I appreciate the style in this one.

 637 characters

Photo of Rimbimhoot
4.19/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: Blonde indeed, pale dark yellow
S: Bourbon, vanilla, light oak, caramel, brown sugar
T: Caramel, butterscotch, bourbon, light oak, dark fruit, orange peel, alcohol, honey
M: Medium heavy with light carbonation
O: Delicious lighter bourbon barrel beer. Second to DDBA in the FW BA barleywine line

 304 characters

Helldorado from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.24 out of 5 based on 787 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.