Monday, December 3, 2007

Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale

For today's entry, I decided to re-taste a beer that has already been tasted on this blog. The first time that I tasted Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale was at the 2007 Great El Dorato BBQ, Brews, and Blues Festival on a hot July day in downtown Reno. While I enjoyed its flavor, this beer was not tasted in the most optimum conditions. Therefore, I decided to give it another try after getting it fresh from a bottle that has been sitting in my fridge for a couple of weeks. Plus, it will give me a chance to elaborate on the history of the beer and its brewery.

Firestone Walker was founded in 1996 by brothers-in-law Adam Firestone and David Walker, hence the brewery name. The two could not be more different: Firestone was an American former Marine Corps captain and Walker was a British expatriate, but they both found they had a mutual love of beer and the common dream to open up the perfect brewery. So that's what they did, originally on a corner of the Firestone Vineyard estate in Los Olivos, California and now at their brewery in Paso Robles. Firestone Walker is a brewery which combines Firestone's family legacy as a vintner with Walker's knowledge of British styles of beer brewing. (Firestone Walker Proprietors, Firestone Walker Brewery)

In fact, it was this knowledge that helped them create their flagship Double Barrel Ale. After a disastrous initial brew in 1995, where Chardonnay residue leaked into the beer from the used wine barrels they were using, Firestone and Walker decided to use their own version of an obscure 19th century oak barrel called the Burton Union system. This system was first used in Burton-upon-Trent in 1840 to feed Britain's shift to pale ales, and was an oft-used system in those times that fell into disuse over the decades. Firestone Walker developed their version in 1996, called the Firestone Union system, to brew a much more well-received Double Barrel Ale. They are the only American brewery to use such a system, which is patented. (Firestone Walker History, Firestone Union Brewing System)

Here come the stats:

Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale
BREWERY: Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA, USA
ABV: 5%
MALTS: Premium Two-Row, Maris Otter Pale, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate
HOPS: Mangnum, Styrian Golding, East Kent Golding
AWARDS: 2005 Australian International Beer Awards Silver Medal Award Winner, 2003 Real Ale Festival Gold Medal Award Winner, 2003 and 2006 California State Fair Gold Medal Award Winner and 2005 California State Fair Silver Medal Award Winner, 2002 World Beer Cup Gold Medal Award Winner and 2004 World Beer Cup Silver Medal Award Winner, 2002 California State Fair Gold Medal Award Winner, 2002 and 2003 World Beer Championships Gold Medal Award Winner

I got all but the calories, original gravity, serving temperature, and food pairings from the Double Barrel Ale webpage. A quick call to Paso Robles should get the rest of the info I need.

Now that I can actually see the beer, I can tell that it has a rich amber color with a slight white half-foam half-bubble head. It's scent combined a grainy aroma with the English and Slovenian hops that they put in the beer. I still tasted the hops, but it wasn't as pronounced as I thought due to the carbonation. I also tasted the graininess, but it too was muted behind both the carbonation and the hoppiness. The aftertaste still transitioned into that wheaty finish, however I got that gummy residue in my mouth a third of the way through the beer. I do appreciate its complexity, mostly because there were some flavors that I can't describe; I'll chalk it up to the barrel system, definitely a plus.

This beer is complex and unique and is for a beer lover who wants something a little different for a change. The barrel system helps to set this beer apart.


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