Firestone Walker Brewing Company of California is best known for their hop-forward beers. They are one of the key breweries that contributed to the explosion in popularity of the “West Coast” IPA, defined by its burst of hop aroma and aggressive bitterness. Firestone Walker makes a full series of beers beyond IPAs including Opal, a dry-hopped saison. One of the great things I’ve found tasting saisons all Spring is the wide variety of ingredients and flavors that can fit under the saison umbrella. In particular I’ve enjoyed a number of American saisons that skillfully meld the fruity ester flavors from the Belgian yeast with the citrus fruit flavor and aroma contributed by many American hop varieties. Firestone Walker brews Opal with pilsner malt and wheat, hops the beer with Styrian Golding and Amarillo, and finally dry-hops with Hallertau Blanc. Opal is part of Firestone Walker’s Proprietor’s Reserve Series, available in 22 oz bottles.
Firestone Walker Opal pours a clear pale yellow with a solid white head that leaves nice lacing on the glass as you drink. The smell is pretty mild, some fruity esters from the yeast and a little hoppiness. The taste starts with the Belgian yeast, pepper, pear and some apricot. There is some solid hop flavor in a complementary role, notes of lemon, orange and pine. This isn’t IPA level hops in the taste or bitterness, but it adds a lot to the overall flavor. The malt backbone is very mild, just a touch of spiciness from the wheat. Firestone Walker Opal is light bodied and easy to drink. At 7.5% ABV it is quite a substantial beer(the alcohol can sneak up on you a little). The finish is clean with a little ester and hop flavor on the tongue. I am a big fan of the combination of American hops and expressive saison yeast strains. This is a solid example of this tasty combination. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5
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