Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Whale A Week: Firestone Walker 16th Anniversary

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.

Firestone Walker 16th Anniversary

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
Toby: 4
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!

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