Each year Matt Brynildson invites local winemakers from the Paso Robles area to his brewery to assist in blending Firestone Walker BrewingAnniversary Ale. This was no different this year when the blend was made that has become XXII Anniversary Ale.
This new blended barrel aged beer will make its way to all of Firestone Walker markets in single boxed 12-ounce bottles for a limited time starting next week. XXII Anniversary Ale will debut at all Firestone Walker locations this weekend, starting at the annual Anniversary Party in Paso Robles on Saturday, November 3rd. Tickets to the party may be purchased at FirestoneBeer.com.
Bringing in winemakers is a wise and decision on Brynildson’s part as the palate from a winemaker is one of the most distinguished in the beverage business. “Winemakers are practicing experts in the art of blending, which is why we have sought their involvement ever since making our first Anniversary Ale in 2006,” said Brynildson, Firestone Walker’s Brewmaster in a statement.
“Usually by late summer the stress of the impending harvest starts bearing down on our winemaker friends, and some of them can’t make it to our blending session,” said Brynildson in a statement. “Not this year—and the result was one hell of a blend created by one of our largest groups ever.”
The Anniversary Ale blending session has become an annual late-summer rite at the brewery, and the 2018 session took place on September 4 with 30 participants in attendance. The outcome is XXII, signifying the Firestone Walker’s 22nd year brewing on California’s Central Coast.
In blending XXII Anniversary Ale, Brynildson selected four distinct beers aged in spirits barrels: Stickee Monkee (Central Coast quad, 44%), Parabola (Russian imperial oatmeal stout, 22%), Bravo (imperial brown ale, 22%) and Helldorado (blonde barleywine, 12%). However, this year the wild card was the inclusion of Helldorado aged in both rum barrels and gin barrels.
“Even though it’s a small percentage of the final blend, the gin barrel Helldorado adds a lot to this beer,” Brynildson said in a statment. “It brings this interesting botanical quality with spicy notes that we’ve never had in our Anniversary blends before.”
A unique synergy also emerged in the final blend of XXII. “There’s this distinct marzipan-meets-cherry note that comes from just the right amount of Parabola blended with Stickee Monkee and Bravo,” added Brynildson in a statment. “We saw that in ‘10’, our very first Anniversary Ale. That’s the magic of blending—drawing out these flavors that have nothing to do with any individual component.”
To create this beer, the winemakers were divided into teams. Each team created their own preferred blend from numerous components, and then all of the blends were blind tasted by the group to determine the favorite—which became the basis for XXII.
This year, the winning blending team was helmed by Terry Hoage and Phil Lamontagne of TH Estate Wines; Sherman Thacher and Daniel Callan of Thacher Winery; and longtime brewery friend and master bread baker Arie Litman. This team walked away with the coveted “cardboard crowns” that are passed along each year.
Firestone Walker Anniversary Ale XXII: The Final Blend
Stickee Monkee (12.9% ABV)Aged in Bourbon Barrels (44%) Central Coastal Quad OG=27P FG=6.5P IBU=45 Color=Deep Brown / Brewed with Belgian Candi Sugar and Mexican Brown Sugar
Parabola (13.7% ABV)Aged in Bourbon Barrels (22%) RussianImperial Stout OG=30P FG=8.5P IBU=80 Color=Black / Hopped with Columbus, East Kent Golding
Bravo (13.6% ABV)Aged in Bourbon Barrels (22%) Imperial Brown Ale OG=26.5P FG=3.0 IBU=35 Color=Deep Brown / Hopped with Bravo and Columbus
Rum Barrel Helldorado (14.5% ABV)Aged in Rum Barrels (7%) Blonde Barley Wine OG=21P FG=5.5 IBU=32.5 Color=Deep Gold / Hopped with Styrian Golding
“This beer is all about the barrels. Bourbon, rum and gin barrels combine forces to create incredible complexity. The stout percentage is restrained, allowing the wood to speak and be heard. I especially like the way the Gin barrels bring new spice notes that we have not seen before in an Anniversary blend. I will let you discover the rest. This beer is unfiltered and unfined, so there will be a small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. XXII is best 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. The true complexity of this blend is revealed as the beer sits and breathes in the glass, so take your time. If you wait to open your bottle later, store it in a cool dark place. Like our other Anniversary offerings, this beer will age well and change favorably for years to come. It was an absolute pleasure in the making. The journey continues.”
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 20 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter at @hopapalooza.