In craft brewing, collaborations are all too common and many times the whole is not greater than the sum of all parts. This has been especially true during the pandemic when many were truly dialed in via email or a Zoom call.
However, when Firestone Walker Brewing invited Russian River Brewing to make another go at its 2016 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival collaboration, STiVO Pils, the results are exceptionally greater than just that of the parts. In early December 2021, Matt Brynildson, Brewmaster of Firestone Walker, invited Vinnie Cilurzo, Owner/Brewmaster of Russian River Brewing, down to Firestone Walker’s R&D facility, The Propagator, in Marina del Rey, California for a redux of STiVO Pils.
When STiVO Pils was first brewed in 2016, the two breweries came together to brew a new Pilsner that was inspired by Firestone Walker’s popular Pivo Pils and Russian River’s STS Pils. The resulting beer was a hit at the 2016 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival and made a return in 2018 on draft at Firestone Walker’s taprooms. That same year, this version of STiVO Pils went on to being awarded Gold at the 2018 World Beer Cup.
On this go-round of STiVO Pils, Brynildson and Cilurzo tweaked the original recipe and worked with Sam Tierney, Brewer of Firestone Walker’s Propagator R&D Brewhouse, to brew up 20 barrels of the beer that sits at 5.3% ABV. And for the first time, STiVO Pils has made its way into 16oz cans with beautiful label artwork from Nachi Eltit.
This beer is built upon the mutual respect and friendship that the two brewers have for one another, a friendship that spans over 15 years! “Vinnie and I respect each other immensely as brewers, but more important, we’re good friends,” said Brynildson, in a statement.
Brynildson recalls that when Cilurzo and his wife Natalie built their brewery, Cilurzo would call regularly seeking technical input. Conversely, when Firestone Walker established its Barrelworks wild ale facility, the brewing team leaned on Cilurzo for his expertise. Cilurzo even gifted his original bottling line to Barrelworks.
In 2014, when Russian River was undergoing a brewhouse expansion, Firestone Walker temporarily brewed the brewery’s iconic Pliny the Elder to help keep the taps flowing. “That was the ultimate collaboration,” Brynildson says.
STiVO Pils is an unfiltered, Keller-style pilsner taking inspiration from the breweries popular Pilsners. What is nice about this Pils is that it gets its malt backbone from European Malts and is spiced with European Hops. STiVO Pils uses pilsner malt from Weyermann in Bamberg, Germany, German Saphir hops, and French Aramis hops. The beer is fermented cold with Firestone’s house German lager yeast for a clean, dry profile, and a whiff of struck-match sulfur character that is typical in a fresh German lager beer. It is then lightly dry hopped for a more complex and vivid hop aroma. The overall profile has a pleasant mix of floral, herbal, and fruity hop notes, balanced by clean and bready German pilsner malt sweetness and a clean lager fermentation profile for an eminently drinkable lager with a refined and moreish bitterness.
“We’re both mad about pilsner brewing,” Brynildson says. “We just love these types of beers and the simple recipes surrounding them.”
As a Keller pils, STiVO presents a hazy appearance. “We leave it unfiltered in the Keller style because we both love visiting breweries and drinking pilsner straight from the lagering tank,” Brynildson says. “This is a small non-production scaled brew, so we can afford to leave the beer this way.”
“STiVO is everything Vinnie and I love about a new-age craft pilsner—clean and aromatic, with a subtle hop imprint,” said Brynildson. “It’s a true passion project.”
We second that as this version is so damn good! Hopefully this collaboration can be brewed on the large brewhouse in Paso Robles for much larger distribution in the near future. Well, we can hope. If not, we did learn that Pivo Pils will be returning to cans this year.
STiVO Pils is available at all three Firestone Walker Brewing locations and all two Russian River Brewing locations. Direct shipping is available to nine states – CA, DC, KY, NE, NH, ND, VT, PA and VA – directly from Firestone Walker Brewing at FirestoneBeer.com.
To learn more about the brewing of this version of STiVO Pils, Danny Fullpint at The Full Pint recently had both Brynildson and Cilurzo on his podcast discussing the brewing of STiVO Pils, their friendship and a bit about what the New Year will bring for both breweries. This conversation can be heard by clicking here.
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 25 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 the archives of Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram at @hopapalooza.