Beer: Firestone Walker 22 (XXII) Anniversary Ale
Brewery: Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)
Style: Strong Ale – American
12.7% ABV / 32 IBU
Beer nerd alert! This Firestone Walker anniversary blend – the 13th in an annual series – comes in its own box, with detailed notes from Brewmaster Matt Brynildson on the brewery’s storied history and the alchemy that went into making a final blend. The whole thing looks like an elder scroll, like something Nicholas Cage would find behind a hidden panel that contains a treasure map. In this case, you don’t have to look far: the treasure is definitely in the bottle. It’s seriously wonderful, from the first sip to the last drop, and it’s an amazingly complex blend that speaks to the continued genius of Firestone Walker.
Don’t be confused by the “Strong Ale” label here. It’s the best possible descriptor for a blend that is actually four different high-gravity behemoths aged in five different ways:
*Stickee Monkee, a Belgian Quad aged in bourbon barrels (44%)
*Parabola, a Russian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels (22%)
*Bravo, an Imperial Brown Ale aged in bourbon barrels (22%)
*Rum-Barrel Helldorado, a Blonde Barleywine aged in rum barrels (7%)
*Gin-Barrel Helldorado, the same but aged in gin barrels (5%)
Blending that many different styles is an art. Can you imagine if you just took four or five different bottles of beer in your fridge and poured them into a giant pitcher? I guarantee that you would not want to drink that, because it would be a total fucking disaster. To be fair, all of the components of here are barrel-aged and have taken on some of the character of those barrels, making the blending process akin to mixing scotch. You’d never straight up mix beers like that unless you were making a black and tan.
That said, Firestone Walker Twenty-Two is a revelation. The beer pours with a light head that dissipates quickly, with minimal carbonation and lacing, and a very beautiful dark amber color. Brynildson claims in the accompanying manifesto that the gin barrels add new spice notes to the blend; I think that’s a little harder to discern in the flavor, but you can really smell the juniper on the nose. For me, the dominant character in the oakiness of the bourbon barrels (it is, after all, 88% bourbon barrel-aged) and the sweeter, sugary notes of the Quad (the base), but thinned out and balanced a bit with the more toothsome Russian Imperial Stout and Barleywine. It’s wild how much of the Barleywine comes through, but that’s a testament to the masterful formulation, which offers something for pretty much every beer enthusiast. Cop this immediately.
More more info, check out Firestone Walker here.