Continuing with coverage from the 2015 LA Beer Blogger pilgrimage to Firestone Walker, we experimented with barrel aged firestone beers and practiced blending them to create an FW Anniversary prototype #LA2FW3
Let’s take a second and talk about the taproom at Firestone. Aside from it’s beautiful interior, rustic outside patio, and classic pub fare, it’s also one of the only places you can get unfiltered DBA (UDBA). That’s Double Barrel Ale and no it’s not named after a shotgun, which is likely what instagram’s @yourpicsuck would tell you. It gets it’s name from the classic firestone union system, which you can read more about on their website. The DBA we get on draft and in bottle is filtered, which clarifies and stabilizes the beer, but also alters the flavor. The only place to get this unfiltered version is at the Firestone taproom in Buellton and at the brewery in Paso Robles. This beer is classically delicious and especially so on cask, which they had there that day.
After a taproom lunch and cask conditioned unfiltered DBA, the group headed over to the barrel building. In it, from floor to ceiling, sat barrels aging various versions of Helldorado, Bravo, Parabola, Merkin, and other beauties.
I’ve been in this building several times and each time I enter, I love what I smell. Char, oak, vanilla. It’s like walking into a wonderful workshop of anticipated greatness. There are so many barrels varieties, spirits, wines, virgin, and each one will produce beer vastly different than the next. Maybe I’ll apply to that Barrel Sniffer position I keep hearing about.
Along the same lines as the sensory panel for sours, we participated in a tradition that’s been going on for 9 years in Paso Robles, the Firestone Walker Anniversary blending. With the help of veteran vintner and blenders Sherman Thacher as well as FW brewer Sam Tierney, we broke up into teams blending a full line-up of FW barrel aged brews which included: Helldorado, Stickee Monkey, Parabola 2015, Velvet Merkin, and Bravo as well as Double Jack and Wookie Jack for good measure.
After all teams had finished their blends, the recipes were collected, larger portions were blended in brewery, and the results were presented to the group. Eight blends were created and each one was scrutinized and then voted on. And the crown goes to?
Another great learning experience and palate training opportunity. It’s amazing to me how these barrel aged beers interact with each other. One combination magnifies oak and char while another propels sweetness and cherry esters. Each blend was/is vastly different and very special. When FWXIX comes out laster this year, I’ll definitely approach it with an new level of understanding and appreciation for both the beers that go into it and the people that did the blending.
If you’re interested in the newest Firestone Walker Anniversary (XIX), keep your eyes peeled and ready when October roles around. Last years release (XVIII) was October 25th so it’ll likely be around then that you can expect to see an announcement for XIX.