Firestone Walker, in a box, must be good, right? Absolutely. Firestone Walker has been churning out fantastic beers for quite some time now. This iteration is somewhat of a rarity, as it has been draft only for a number of years. This beer was originally brewed simply as a blending agent, to be used in their ever popular Anniversary beers, which are typically a huge blend of Barrel Aged beers, some fantastic, some not so much.
So what do we have with Helldorado? Billed as a “Blonde Barleywine” what can we expect? Expect a huge hit of barrel character, as well as a big, rich, boozy, sweet malt body. A total hodgepodge of flavors, and appearances. It’s going to look light in color, but be seriously rich and boozy, sweet, thick, rich, and bitter.
Brewery: Firestone Walker — Paso Robles, CA
Beer: Helldorado — Blonde Barleywine
ABV: 13.2% / 25 IBU
Cost: $16.99 / 22oz
Availability — Extremely Limited
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 Monkee, 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.
Also . . . If you want to try this on tap, it will be on 9/18 @ Elizabeth Station for Firestone Walker Tap Takeover, don’t miss out!