Tasting with Firestone Walker
Across the nation, craft breweries are popping up with their interpretation of traditional styles beer. The scene is rapidly growing, calling brewers to take risks and make their creations stand out within what has been described as a “crowded” scene. David Walker and Adam Firestone, owners of Firestone Walker, have ensured that while polishing their own techniques and ideas as brewers their beers are on the cutting edge and remain beloved by those who drink their brews. “Innovation was a hallmark from day one. We didn’t want to copy, but we wanted to contribute to [craft beer] brewing,” Adam Firestone said. On October 27, women participating in the Crafty Ladies organization gathered at Highland Tap & Burger with Firestone Walker representative Elizabeth Isenbart to learn about Firestone Walker’s craft brews and enjoy samples of each paired with an accompanying dish.
The first up was Pivo, released in 2013 as their first lager in mass production. It is a pilsner that drew its inspiration from an Italian style. Pivo, named after the Czech word for “beer”, was described to be a “bohemian, hoppy twist.” Pivo was paired with Highland Tap & Burger’s own duck fat fries with truffle aioli creating a light, refreshing duo.
Next up was their Double Barrel Ale paired with hard pretzels and DBA mustard. DBA is a British style pale ale that is brewed in American oak barrels, which contributes to the ale’s color and flavor. These particular barrels create an environment for active fermentation and give the beer an “oaky” and biscuit-y” taste according to Elizabeth. This brewing system is patented by Firestone Walker, and the American Oak barrels are used to actually make the beer versus putting a finished product in barrels to age, which is a commonly implemented brewing system.
The Opal saison was the third beer sampled, paired with a seven year aged cheddar cheese. This saison is dry hopped, which according to Elizabeth is common in Firestone Walker’s process. Dry hopping is similar to making tea – the hops are put in a bag and are the last thing added to the boil, creating a clean finish similar to champagne or wine. Elizabeth put it plainly, “it is the last thing you add and the first thing you smell.” Following this was the Wookey Jack, a black rye IPA, paired with meatballs in a BBQ bourbon sauce.
Elizabeth explained that when the alcohol content is high, more hops are added for balance. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the beer will taste heavily hoppy, and the Wookey Jack proves this point with its by being dark, roasty, and well-rounded in flavor. Lastly, the Crafty Ladies group was surprised with homemade chocolate cupcakes paired with an oatmeal stout, Velvet Merlin. This is a seasonal release by Firestone Walker that is a true oatmeal stout with a smooth, dry finish.
Throughout the evening, Firestone Walker’s innovation shined through with their diverse selection of beers seen in their brewing style, taste, and presentation. According to David Walker, “innovation is what a lot of people look to us for.” And innovate they have and will continue to do.