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 one of us could have ever imagined. We now present XX, our 11th release in what has become an annual autumn rite at our brewery.
The Vision Behind Our Barrel Aging and Blending Program Is Still the Same!
The Goal: 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.
The Puzzle: To blend these various components 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.
The Inspiration: 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
We blended together 250 oak barrels containing five different beers creating something rich, complex and 100% original.
Following are descriptions of key components with their names:
Parabola (13% ABV) Aged in New Oak and Bourbon Barrels (40% of final blend)
Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout
OG=30P FG=7.5P IBU=80 Color=Black / Hopped with Magnum, Styrian Golding and Hallertau Tradition
Stickee Monkee (12.3% ABV) Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels (20% of final blend)
English Barley Wine
OG=27P FG=5.4P IBU=45 Color=34 / Brewed with Belgian Candi Sugar and Mexican Turbinado (Brown) sugar
Velvet Merkin (8.5% ABV) Aged in Bourbon barrels (17.5% of final blend)
Traditional Oatmeal Stout
OG=15+P FG=5.5 IBU=32.5 Color=Black / 15% Oats / Hopped with 100% US grown Willamette
Bravo (12.9% ABV) Aged in Bourbon barrels (12.5% of final blend)
Imperial Brown Ale
OG=26.5 FG=3.7 IBU=35 Color=32 / Hopped with Bravo and Styrian Goldings
Helldorado (13.5% ABV) Aged in Bourbon (10% of final blend)
Blonde Barley Wine
OG=15+P FG=5.5 IBU=32.5 Color=Black / 15% Oats / Hopped with German Tradition
Distinguished winemakers who came together for the 2016 blend:
Scott Hawley – Torrin (Winning Blend)
Sherman Thacher and Daniel Callan – Thacher Winery
Matt Trevisan – Linne Calodo
Connor McMahon and Kyle Jury – Booker
Terry and Natalie Hoage –TH Estate Wines
Russell From and Philip Muzzy – Herman Story
Molly Lonborg and Kevin Sass– Halter Ranch
Brock Waterman – Brochelle Vineyards
Justin Smith – Saxum Vineyards
Mark Adams – Ledge Vineyards
Arie Litman –Bread maker and friend
Neil Collins and Chelsea Franchi – Tablas Creek Vineyard
Ken Weaver – All About Beer Magazine
A Note from Brewmaster Matt Brynildson
Our 20th Year of making Double Barrel Ale!
This year marks a major milestone in the history of our brewery and XX is our way of celebrating! It was 20 years ago that Adam and David took the plunge into the world of artisan beer making. They knew the business of viticulture and winemaking well and they took that knowledge, applied it to water, malt, hops, yeast and oak barrels to fulfill a craft beer void that existed on the Central Coast. Their dream was a modest one – to create fresh, balanced and refreshing beer for the local community, which consisted mainly of farmers, winemakers and the visitors that the fruits of their labors brought to the Central Coast. What came naturally to them was relatively foreign to the greater American brewing scene. Their innovation was the Firestone Union – a brave approach to fermenting clean craft ale in wooden barrels imparting beautiful oak nuances to English inspired ales. If you think back to 1996, you will recall that there were very few breweries that were using barrels to produce beer for trade outside of a pub or brewery environment. The breweries that were using barrels were racking stouts, barley-wines or other strong beers in oak to age and mellow them. The idea of conducting primary fermentation in a wood barrel was something found only in the brewing history books; however, this was a common practice and second nature in the winemaking world. Our barrel-fermented Double Barrel Ale (DBA) was born and so started a 20 yearlong relationship between our brewery, the winemakers who surround us and the barrels that we share in common. The local community has been so supportive of our brewery and I can’t think of a better beer to celebrate 20 years of beautiful friendship! The icing on the cake is that DBA was just awarded a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival for the second year in a row – a perfect toast to our amazing brewing team who works so hard to make our flagship beer so good.
For the XX blend we offered the winemakers seven of our barrel-aged beers to work with, and for a second straight year, eliminated the option of blending in our hoppy stainless steel finished beers. We had the most winemakers ever join us for the event and the competition was strong. In the end, five beers made it into the final beer and those beers and the blending ratio was determined by our good friend, Scott Hawley, of Torrin Vineyard. Scott and his wife, Viquel, have been good friends ever since we moved the brewery to Paso Robles back in 2001. They operate a small family winery making delicious local wines that you really need to try!
As a finished blend, XX is a beautifully textured and complex brew, with layers that unfold as the beer opens up. At first there is a burst of brandy soaked cherries, then chocolate cake combined with distinct boozy new American oak notes. The flavor develops full of molasses rich brown sugar and fruitcake with a touch of caramel and cinnamon spice. Overall the beer is silky smooth, incredibly balanced and finishes with a touch of kirsch filled truffle – a perfect blend of everything we love about our vintage barrel program! This beer is unfiltered and unfined, so there will be a small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. XX is best enjoyed poured carefully into a half filled brandy snifter or wine glass. Allow it to warm to 55F to fully enjoy the pleasing and complex aromas. As the beer sits and breathes in the glass the true complexity of this blend is revealed, so take your time. If you wait to open your bottle later, store it in a cool, dark place. I suspect, like our other Anniversary offerings, that this beer will age well and change favorably for years to come. It was an absolute pleasure in the making and I truly hope you enjoy our 11th oak-aged blend! The journey goes on and it continues to be just as fun and exciting now as it was back in 1996.
This beer is dedicated to our incredible and ever-growing brewery family– thank you for 20 years of amazing beer!