oak barrel fermentation
Our Firestone Union was inspired by the old Burton Union system, once a staple of British beer making. The Burton Union was developed around 1840 as English tastes shifted from London porters to pale ales crafted in Burton-Upon-Trent. The Burton beers were bright and clear with a firm, satisfying bite: a taste unique in its time-and still unique today. We believe we are still the only brewery in the United States to currently employ the union brewing method.
Our patented union of barrels uniquely incorporates 60-gallon heavy or medium toast American oak barrels into a brewing process that yields beers of extraordinary character and complexity. This system improves the fullness of the palate, enhances hop maturity and lends a clean briskness to the finish. The influence of the toasted oak also imparts unique hints of smokiness and vanilla, as well as a subtle fruitiness to the flavor profile.
Historically, brewers using union systems experienced different ambient temperatures that produced inconsistent flavors. Scaling the Firestone Union to smaller vessels meant that the barm-back did not require open air for cooling, thus eliminating ambient temperature fluctuations and preventing contamination.
The technical advantages of the Firestone Union are bright beer, stable fermentations, good attenuation and healthy pitching yeast. Equally important, the Firestone Union resurrects a time-honored brewing tradition, one that embraces handcrafted quality and ensures regional character.
Our oak barrels are used for a set period of time (usually about 20 weeks) before being retired for use in our barrel aging program. The wort spends 6 days in the barrels before being racked into stainless for secondary fermentation lasting about a week. From this point the wood fermented beer follows a similar path to stainless steel fermented beers. In the case of DBA, 20% of the oak fermented beer is blended with beer fermented in stainless steel, filtered and force carbonated then sent to a 550 barrel (17,325 gallon) bright tank until the beer is ready to be kegged or bottled.
We feature a 100% oak barrel fermented and unfiltered version of our DBA in both our Visitor's Center and Taproom Restaurant at the brewery in Paso Robles and at our Taproom Restaurant in Buellton. It is a local favorite.