Firestone Walker Brewing Company Helldorado (2016) – Barley Wine at 11.8% ABV | 24 IBU

Firestone Walker Brewing Company Helldorado (2016) Barley Wine at 11.8% ABV | 24 IBU (C$31.99 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 18-Sep-2016, reviewed 8-Aug-2019)

Appearance: clear medium amber with a short off-white head diminishing rapidly to nothing, no lacing. (4/5) Aroma: bourbon, coconut, honey, oranges, tropical fruit, vanilla, floral. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter. (9/10) Palate: medium slightly slick body, medium-lively carbonation, sweet sticky warming finish. (4/5)

I figured, what the hell, it’s still summer but let’s stick with Barleywines for a bit, since I’m now sort of calibrated for them with my last couple of reviews. (And hey, it’s only a bomber at nearly 12%, what could possibly go wrong, right?) This is definitely a much different beast from the more traditional examples of the style I’ve had: the lighter colour provides an advance indication of that, and the relatively hoppy nose quickly confirms it. Sure, there’s probably been quite a bit of fading (“mellowing”?) in that regard since it’s now three years in the bottle, but what’s interesting is how much actually remains, particularly citrus and tropical fruit, with some floral notes in the finish. Very nicely balanced between barrel, malt, and hops, and almost reminiscent of a whiskey cocktail (maybe a Gold Rush?). I waffled a bit on final score here, since it would seem that I’m ultimately ranking it more or less equal to Sam Adams Utopias, which isn’t precisely true – but since it’s less than one-half the ABV and one-seventh the price of that particular bellwether, it’s a close enough comparison considering those factors. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze

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