Brewers, Winemakers, and the Art of Blending

The time has come for “XXVI” – the latest edition of our storied Anniversary Ale, blended each year with the help of local winemakers.

“We’re talking about a ‘who’s who’ of Paso Robles winemakers,” said Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “We’re fortunate to call them our neighbors and friends, and they never disappoint when it comes to our annual blending session.”

The result this year is XXVI – a masterwork of flavor and complexity, blended from six distinct ales aged in bourbon and brandy barrels, and marking the brewery’s 26th anniversary.

XXVI is available now at our three California locations and online store, and it’s rolling out now to Firestone Walker markets. Use our Beer Finder to locate it near you.

The Session

Our collaboration with local winemakers dates back to 2006, when Matt was tasked with creating the inaugural Anniversary Ale to mark Firestone Walker’s 10th anniversary year. Ever since, the Anniversary Ale blending session has become an annual summer rite at the brewery.

“I’m not aware of any other beer that is blended like this, from so many distinct components,” Matt said. “That’s why we bring in the winemakers – they are, by nature, practicing experts in the art of blending.”

During the blending session, the winemakers are presented with a variety of component beers from our Vintage barrel-aging program. Friendly chatter mingles with smack talk as they are divided into competing teams. Each team is tasked with assembling their best blend. The different proposed blends are then blind tasted by the entire group, and votes are cast for the winning blend.

The team behind the winning blend is always awarded a coveted set of cardboard crowns. This year, the crowns went to the masterminds behind XXVI: Russel From of Herman Story Wines and Valia From and Emily Miller of Desparada Wines, along with Danny “Fullpint” Becker of TheFullPint.com.

Watch our recap of the blending event that resulted in XXVI

XXVI: The Final Blend

“This latest Anniversary Ale is just super delicious and refined,” Matt said. “It’s driven by two barrel-aged stouts, but it’s much more than that. It has this perfect balancing point with a lot of spirits barrel characters, and there’s an underlying freshness that elevates the mouthfeel.”

He added: “It was nice to have our classic Bravo brown ale back into the mix as a complement to our Parabola and Velvet Merkin stouts. Heavy Things contributed a subtle dimension of brandy barrel character. Finally, Helldorado and Wheat Wine added a splash of freshness to the beer.” See the full blend below.

Parabola РAged in Bourbon Barrels (32%)
Russian Imperial Stout

Velvet Merkin – Aged in Bourbon Barrels (32%)
Milk Stout

Bravo – Aged in Bourbon Barrels (24%)
Imperial Brown Ale

Heavy Things РAged in Brandy Barrels (6%)
Barley Wine made in collaboration with The Bruery

Helldorado РAged in Bourbon Barrels (4%)
Blonde Barley Wine

Wheat Wine – Aged in Bourbon Barrels (2%)
Strong Golden Barley Wine co-fermented with white wine grape juice

The Winemakers
Valia From and Emily Miller – Desparada Wines
Russell From – Herman Story Wines
Jordan Fiorentini and Kyle Gingras – Epoch Estate Wines
Matt Trevisan and Ryan Merryweather – Linnie Calodo
Sherman Thacher – Thacher Winery
Bastien Leduc – Seven Oxen
Scott Hawley – Torrin Wine
Phil LaMontagne – TH Estate Wines
Pete Turrone and Cameron Silzer – Booker Wines

From Outside the Wine World
Danny “Fullpint” Becker – Editor-in-Chief, TheFullPint.com
Brad Clark – Private Press Brewing
Greg and Jarrett Koran – Brewmaster’s Collective Club Members
Anthony and Patrick Patterson – Brewmaster’s Collective Club Members

Family Joining the Fun
Polly Walker
David Walker
Nick Firestone