This time on A Whale A Week, we break out a special Anniversary beer from California's Firestone Walker Brewery. I've been a huge fan of this brewery for years, but alas, distribution into Minnesota is still a no-go. I've really liked every beer I've tried from the brewery.
In 2006 the brewery put out their 10th anniversary beer, a strong ale aged in barrels. Since then, taking a cue from the local wine makers, they've started a program of blending several different batches of their strong ales into a special anniversary release. The bottle I had was from their 16th anniversary and was brought back for me by Rob Wengler when he went to the release event. For this batch they blended 226 barrels of 8 different beers into the final blend. The brewery hosts a small group of local winemakers in to help them out with the beer blending! The final product for this year is 13% ABV. It has a rating of 95 on Beer Advocate and 100 on Rate Beer. Here is the very complete info from the website:
The following are descriptions of key components with their original code names:
Velvet Merkin (8.7% ABV) - Aged in Bourbon barrels
-Traditional Oatmeal Stout (23% of final blend)
OG= 15P FG=5.5 IBU=32.5 Color= Black / 15% Oats / Hopped with 100% US grown Fuggles
Stickee Monkee (12.5% ABV) - Aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels
-English Barley Wine (22.5% of final blend)
OG=27P FG=5.4P IBU=45 Color=28 / Brewed with Mexican Turbinado (Brown) sugar
Double Double Barrel Ale (14.2% ABV) - Aged 100% in retired Firestone Union barrels
-Double strength English Pale Ale (20.3% of final blend)
OG=25.0P FG=5.1P IBU=30 Color=16 / A Double version of our flagship created by Ali Razi
Parabola (13% ABV) - Aged in Bourbon barrels
-Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout (10.8% of final blend)
OG=31P FG=8.5P IBU=80 Color=Black / Hopped with Simcoe, Bravo, Styrian Golding and East Kent Golding
PNC (13.0% ABV) - Aged in Tequila barrels
-American Strong Buckwheat Stout (8.1% of final blend)
OG = 25P FG = 5.0P IBU = 80 Color = 100 / Brewed with Buckwheat
Helldorado (11.5% ABV) - Aged in Bourbon Barrels and Brandy barrels
-Blonde Barley Wine (5.4% of final blend)
OG=24.7P FG=4.5P IBU=24 Color = 8 / Brewed with buckwheat honey & 100% El Dorado hops
Bravo (13.4% ABV) - Aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels
-Imperial Brown Ale (5.4% of final blend)
OG=26.5 FG=7.7 IBU=35 Color=32 / Hopped with 100% US grown Fuggles
Wookey Jack (8.3% ABV)- 100% Fresh, Dank & Hoppy 100% Stainless Steel
-Black Rye India Pale Ale (4.5% of final blend)
OG= 18P FG = 3.0P IBU = 80 Color =black / Extremely hoppy double dry hopped BIPA
For this tasting I had over Toby Schneider, a local craft beer enthusiast previously of the beer-crazy Pacific Northwest. He is also the owner of LocalBrewSwag, a new company aimed at partnering with local breweries to produce brand-related swag using a co-op model, as well as social media marketing. As always, my wife Sj was in the background making jewelry, drinking the beer, and making salty comments.
Aroma: (In which Toby tries his hand at describing beer aroma.)
Eric: Deep toffee and caramelized sugars (dark brown, demerara, molasses). Sweet alcohol leading to a nasal tingle. Mild oxidation (paper/wood). Very little hop aroma.
Toby: Coffee. High alcohol.
Appearance: (In which Toby sees a disturbing vision of Jason's mask in his bubbles...)
Eric: Deep brown in color--darker than copper. Very fine off-white head that fades rapidly to almost nothing. Slightly murky.
Toby: Iced coffee. Hazy, clearer at top. Looks dense. Mahogany color. Looks like Jason...
Flavor: (In which Toby gets more stout and I get more barleywine.)
Eric: Much like aroma--sweet toffee and crust from a nice creme brulee. Vanilla is strong at first as well. Has some bitterness and roast to balance the sweetness though. Hint of licorice root. Mouthfeel medium--not as thick as expected. Mild oxidation flavors as it warms up of oak, paper, raisins. Alcohol warming is pleasant. Has a dry, almost chalky finish. Minimal hop flavors.
Toby: Stout. Chocolate, coffee. Sweet. Chalky.
Eric: Very different from previous tasting over a year ago. At that time this reminded me more of a complex DIPA and now much more like an aged English Barleywine. Very complex and tasty! 4.5
Sj: Licorice flavors don't belong in beer. 3.75
Overall Rating: 4.083
It was interesting looking at the blend information after tasting the beer. I got much more of the Barleywine (Stickee Monkee, Helldorado) when I was tasting this, while Toby picked up much more stout character (Merkin, Parabola, PNC.)
Photo details: For this picture I took a shot of the empty bottle label, then cropped most of the rest of the shot out. I struggled with what to do in this photo since anniversary numbers weren't very exciting to me, then I realized I could play off the lion and bear Firestone Walker seal. I superimposed a picture of a stone lion to the upper left. Next step I took a macro shot of a toy bear and superimposed that on the right upper side. Done!