On March 1st, I had the opportunity to participate, with the company of the LA Beer Bloggers, in an exciting experience at Firestone Walker. The event, Journey to The Center of the Barrel, was an educational field trip through the collective mind of Firestone Walker. We were intimately guided through Firestone’s past, present, and future by David Walker himself along with the help of the Firestone crew.
Windrose Farms – The journey’s first stop was the bio-dynamic Windrose Farms, where we participated in a farm to table lunch and learned about what makes bio-dynamism and Windrose so special. The freshest greens and ingredients were painstakingly assembled by Firestone chef Arlis Borden and paired with the new Bretta Weisse and the Firestone barrel reserve line-up.
Brewery Tour and Winery – The beer bloggers made their way through the brewery stopping at the new 60 BBL German brewhouse. When efficiency is this top notch it becomes more like an art. Everything is brand new with bright and shiny stainless steel. Pivo Pils was waiting for the group along with an intro and QA with brewmaster Matt Brynildson, who having just had a baby, still took time to meet each and every one of us in person. The tour continued through the brewery where we sampled pre-filtered versions of the Firestone line-up and ended in the Barrel Room where they store Parabola, Sucuba, and Firestone Anniversary, to name a few. We participated in a unique straight out of the barrel tasting where we sampled Parabola in its Whiskey, Brandy, and Tequila barrel forms.
We left the brewery and took a short drive to a nearby artisanal business, the Herman Story Winery, where we were told we would participate in a tasting of 11 wines. Charcuterie, cheese, and copious amounts of water were also provided. The beer bloggers even had the opportunity to throw a tennis ball for the winery dog super star, Hank, who recently appeared in a winery dog calendar.
Tap Room Dinner – Dinner was held at the brewery’s tap room. Many of the home brewers in the group had the opportunity to share their beers with the Firestone team including myself. I broke out a special Thai Tea Kolsch, Commercial Gams-Bart, and Lievre Noire for the occasion, and they all went over very well.
Paso Robles Inn – The bloggers stayed over night at a small hotel in Paso Robles called the Paso Robles Inn. There was a country style tavern upstairs along with dancing and a live country band.
BarrelWorks – Post breakfast and alka-seltzer, the beer bloggers were off to Barrel Works in Buelton. Upon arriving we were given the short and sweet tour of the facility and then corralled into a side room for lunch and one of the coolest things I’ve experienced, a blending session. Sour Jim pulled three samples each from a different barrel and each a different style, ABV, acidity, and flavor. The object was to simulate their commercial blending practices. The bloggers broke into groups of 2-3 and worked on the perfect mix. The Bretta Weisse was also thrown into the mix. Each group came up with something different and some even shared their concoctions with David Walker to get his approval.
Verdict – I can’t speak for everyone that went on the trip, but I can say for myself, the Journey to the Center of the Barrel was an adventure I will not soon forget. The level of detail, care, and effort Firestone Walker put into the weekend’s festivities was far beyond what anyone expected. That coupled with the personal touch by David Walker tagging along during the whole journey, it’s tough to top. I’m incredibly excited to see what Barrel Works puts out in the next few years. The caliber of sours we tasted over the weekend was exceptional.
This is one blogger that will be thinking about his Journey to the Center of the Barrel the next time he cracks open a bottle of Parabola.
#LA2FW – @LABeerBloggers