Review: Firestone Walker Proprietor’s Vintage Series Sucaba Barleywine 2015

Review of Firestone Walker Proprietor’s Vintage Series Sucaba Barleywine 2015 from Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles, CA.

Beer Type: Barleywine Ale  ABV: 13.3%  IBUs: 42  Tried on draught.

Their Description: “A barrel aged English Barley wine.  Big boozy bourbon and American oak aromas combine with soft chocolate malt undertones.  Complex malt flavors framed in oak with hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, toasted coconut and a touch of dark cherry.  A sipping beer best served in a Brandy snifter.”

The Reality: As you’d expect there is no head, but there is a strong scent of malt & dark fruit. The color is and unfiltered dark brown, and it has more carbonation than I anticipated. It has a complex taste of bourbony oak malt, dates and caramel toffee. They mention “hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, toasted coconut and a touch of dark cherry”, and the only one I could detect was the vanilla. I think this beer would have been better if I could’ve tasted hints of dark chocolate, as the bitterness could have balanced the sweetness, which is fairly assertive. The sweetness does subside once the alcohol taste and a mild fruity tartness come through in the finish. I suppose the fruity tartness could’ve been from the “dark cherry” they mention, but I couldn’t pin it on that. It drinks heavy and the smooth aftertaste of bourbon malt coats your mouth and stays for a while.

Final Verdict: This is most definitely a finely crafted barleywine, but I felt it was a touch to sweet and could’ve been more balanced. I know this beer receives some of the highest scores and reviews, so maybe this is more of a reflection on the style, as barleywines aren’t my favorite, but I will say that I had a Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot barleywine last week and preferred it to this beer. Sucaba is complex, and there’s a lot to experience as you sip through the glass, so if you’re a barleywine fan you should try it. The word “sucaba” is abacus backwards, and when you use an abacus backwards while doing your taxes, you get audited. When you get audited and it’s obvious all your math makes no sense, the IRS is going to want answers, and you can’t say “I drank a few Sucaba barleywines and then used my abacus backwards”. Now you need to avoid tax fraud and jail time… blame it on the dog.