(Paso Robles, CA) – What comes inside each specially marked box of Firestone Walker 14?
As noted in this press release, Firestone Walker 14 began to hit shelves this past weekend (and will take some time to circulate out into the market). The newest edition to the Proprietors Reserve Series is a barrel-aged blend of beer created jointly by brewers and winemakers in the Paso Robles region. Inside each box, you will find the following write-up by FW Brewmaster, Matt Brynildson, along with the full, geeky details as to what individual beers comprise the blend.
A Note from Matt Brynildson
Since founding our brewery in 1996, we have specialized in the rare art of brewing beer in oak barrels. In the fall of 2006, we released a limited edition oak-aged strong ale called 10 to commemorate our 10th anniversary. The experience was greater than any of us could have ever imagined. We now present 14, our fifth release in what has become an autumnal rite at our brewery.
Our 14th Year!
This beer is a celebration of another amazing brewing year! The FW family continues to grow along with the depth of our offerings. Our excellent team broke all of the records again this year making not only the largest volume but the largest varieties of beers the brewery has ever made. 2010 goes down as the year Parabola and Velvet (Merkin) Merlin were bottled as single components, Solace was born as our summer seasonal, Bavarian Hefe yeast thrived in the cellar and Double Jack was brewed for distribution outside of California! We also celebrated our 3rd World Beer Cup Championship in 2010 —winning the most awards of any brewery in the world’s largest international competition. Later in the year we stormed Denver and took home 6 medals at the 2010 GABF including the Gold for Pale Ale, Gold for Barrel aged beers (the Velvet Merkin included in this blend) and Gold for American Amber Ales. Most recently, our brewery took a gold medal in Germany at the prestigious European Beer Star awards … We are blessed with an amazing team and excellent fortune —I am truly the proudest brewmaster in the land!
We were once again honored to draw in five of the best winemakers from the Paso Robles region. The blend was created in a single evening session followed by a few subsequent winemaker visits during the actual barrel blending days. Matt Trevisan (www.linnecalodo.com) helped us again this year and continues to be one of my favorite Paso wine makers. His creativity and out of the box thinking never ceases to amaze me (along with his ping pong skills). Kevin Sass (www.justinwine.com) made his first appearance on the blending team this year. Kevin has been a great friend to the brewery providing some excellent wine barrels to our program including barrels for the Lil’ Opal project. Brock Waterman (www.Brochelle.com) is a brewer turned winemaker living on the Central Coast. Brock’s wines are bold and well executed. My very good friend Steve Martell (www.kaleidoswine.com) joined us for the fifth straight year and once again proved that he has a keen nose for both wine and suds. Eric Jensen (www.bookerwines.com) who developed the amazing Booker vineyard and winery on Paso’s west side was a vocal part of the blending this year and his blend pushed us to the final cut. Along with the wine makers, Tom Griffin who provides many of our barrels, BA Army General Justin Crossley (www.thebrewingnetwork.com) and Arie Litman sat in on the winemaker session. For the first time our owners, Adam and David, sat the session and watched the magic unfold. Special thanks go out to Jim Crooks and George Numair, for organizing the sessions and keeping the notes. This was our most organized and well executed blending session to date.
The Finished Piece
As a finished beer, 14 is brimming with amazing flavors and textures. DDBA leads the blend lending American toasted oak, English caramel toffee and light leather nuances. Newcomer, Sticky Monkey, folds in the taste of brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger and ripe figs. Parabola brings the familiar flavors of bitter dark chocolate and cherry pit. Velvet Merkin carries silky bourbon soaked chocolate cake goodness to the party while a touch of Black Xantus teases coffee and tobacco. Last, but not least, Good Foot brings the hops… hints of citrus zest and tangerine, which adds a pop to the aroma and nice finish to this big, sexy brew. 14 is best enjoyed in a half filled brandy snifter or wine glass. Allow it to warm to 55F to fully enjoy the pleasing and complex aromas. If left in a cool dark place, I suspect this beer will age well. It was an absolute pleasure making it and I truly hope you enjoy our fifth oak–aged blend! The journey continues.
The Vision Behind “Quercus Alba” (AKA our Barrel Aging and Blending Program)
To create complexity centering on oak, in a multitude of forms, by brewing high gravity beers in complementary styles, aging them in different barrel formats and then blending them together to achieve harmonious new flavors.
To blend these various components (or lots) to create a synergistic whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is done with the help of a few of our neighboring Paso Robles winemakers who are practicing experts in the art of blending.
Firestone Walker’s oak brewing tradition and our connection with winemaking. Of course until the advent of stainless steel, brewing was intimately linked to wood barrels and vessels. Brewing has a deeply rooted history in the alchemy of blending.
The individual lots were aged in oak barrels, many of which were hand selected from premium Kentucky spirits producers by Tom Griffin, who is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about bourbon barrels and beer. Each barrel lends its own unique influence to the final blend.
The Aging Cellar — The Components
Following are descriptions of key components with their original code names: (Final Blend %)
Double Double Barrel Ale (10.9% ABV) (31%)
* Aged 100% in retired Firestone Union Barrels
* Double Strength English Pale Ale
* OG= 24.0P FG=5.8P IBU=30 Color = 16
* A Double version of our flagship created by Ali Razi
Sticky Monkey (12% ABV) (29%)
* Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels
* English Barley Wine
* OG = 24P FG = 4.5P IBU = 45 Color = 28
* Brewed with Mexican Turbinado (Brown) sugar
Parabola (13% ABV) (27%)
* Aged in Bourbon Barrels
* Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout
* OG=30P FG=7.5P IBU=80 Color=Black
* Hopped with Simcoe, Bravo, Styrian Golding and East Kent Golding
Velvet Merkin (6% ABV) (7%)
* 100% Aged in Bourbon barrels
* Traditional Oatmeal Stout
* OG= 15P FG=5.5 IBU=32.5 Color= Black
* 15% Oats, Hopped with 100% US grown Fuggles
Good Foot (13% ABV) (3%)
* Aged in Bourbon Barrels
* American Barley Wine
* OG = 23P FG = 5.5P IBU = 80 Color = 26
* Brewed with copious amounts of American grown hops
Black Xantus (11% ABV) (3%)
* Aged in Bourbon Barrels
* Coffee Infused Imperial Stout
* OG= 27P FG = 6.8P IBU = 55 Color Black
* Rich Stout made with Mexican Coffee roasted locally by Joebella Coffee Company