IPA’s are still far and away the most popular non-macro beer style, easily outpacing the sales of their maltier counterparts. This presents a few issues for larger scale breweries with national distribution. The biggest issue is freshness. One of the best parts of an IPA is the burst of hop aroma from a fresh batch, but these aromatics begin to dissipate quickly. It is hard for bigger breweries to stack up against smaller outfits who sell the majority of their beer onsite, guaranteeing ultra-fresh beer. Printing born-on dates helps, but you are still relying on bottle shops to keep track of their inventory and consumers to check before they buy. Firestone Walker adopted a more thorough strategy for their new Luponic Distortion series of IPAs. They brew a completely new batch with a new recipe every 90 days, and each can clearly advises the consumer to check the date and make sure to consume within 90 days of canning. Luponic Distortion also taps into the fact that many IPA lovers crave what’s new and cutting edge. Each beer features experimental hop varieties, most of which have never beer used to brew commercial batches. This series should help Firestone Walker produce exciting and innovative IPAs while maximizing the chance that they will be consumed at the peak of flavor and aroma. Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion #1 is now available on draft and in 12 oz. cans.
Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion #1 pours a clear golden yellow with a massive white head. The scent is a big burst of hops, mostly citrus and tropical fruit. The flavor is very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, tangerine, mango and fresh herbs along with a soft bitterness. The beer is balanced by a lighter malt backbone, hints of white bread and biscuit. Luponic Distortion #1 is light bodied and very easy to drink, at 5.9% ABV it is on the lower end of the IPA alcohol spectrum. The finish is clean with a touch of lingering hop flavor. I really enjoyed the first entry in the Luponic Distortion series, I can see why this is getting rave reviews. I look forward to trying the new experimental beers that follow! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5
Previous Firestone Walker Reviews:
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack, Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest, Firestone Walker Opal Saison, Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA
The biggest news in the beer world over the last few months has been the partnership agreements between some of the world’s large brewing conglomerates and a couple of the highest volume independent brewers in the US. These agreements are always met with mixed emotions by vocal beer lovers. While the idea of expanded production and distribution are great, there are always a few people who accuse the smaller brewer of selling out and vow to stop buying their product. Fortunately these people are a very small minority, I don’t think breweries like Boulevard, Goose Island and Blue Point are hurting for business because they no longer fit into the established definition of “craft beer”. One very interesting deal is the agreement between Duvel and Firestone Walker that was announced in July. Duvel purchased a portion of Firestone Walker as an investment partner, Firestone Walker is still free to run their business and brew their beers as they see fit. I am guessing that Duvel will use some of their distribution power to help expand the Firestone Walker blueprint (probably in Europe), and Firestone Walker will use some of the cash to help expand production. I am all for this deal, especially if it means expanded production/distribution of some of Firestone Walker’s rare/barrel aged beers. One of the beers that you’ll probably start to see everywhere is Wookey Jack, Firestone Walker’s black rye IPA. Wookey Jack is brewed with a diverse malt profile including rye, wheat and de-bittered black malts and then hopped with Magnum, Citra and Amarillo hops. It is available year-round on draft and in 12 oz. and 22 oz. bottles.
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack pours a deep brown with a solid tan head. The scent is mostly fruity New World hops along with a little roasted barley. The hops lead the flavor, notes of lemon, grapefruit, mango and pine along with a soft but noticeable bitterness. The dark malts are also well represented, touches of milk chocolate, coffee and toffee along with just a little spicy rye. The beer is medium bodied and goes down smooth, but packs a surprising punch at 8.3% ABV. The finish is crisp with a bit of lingering hop and roasted malt flavors. I usually don’t care for the use of fruity hops in black IPAs, I think the pine/grass/earthy hop flavors are usually a better complement to the dark malts, but this beer is really good. Regardless of who is involved in their finances, Firestone Walker knows how to make great beer and this is a stellar example. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Firestone Walker Reviews:
Firstone Walker Oaktoberfest, Firestone Walker Opal Saison, Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA
I started reading beer blogs as a way to pick up suggestions of tasty new beers to try. When I decided to write this blog I hoped it would be a great way to get more recommendations, and my readers have complied! I love it when I get a tweet, comment or facebook message either endorsing a beer or asking if I’ve tried a new release and hoping for my thoughts. This fall I asked my readers for help identifying some good malty lagers, and I got some impassioned responses. One was from Deadspin beer writer Will Gordon, who heaped praise on Firestone Walker’s fall seasonal, Oaktoberfest. Will later called this the best beer of fall, his full review can be found HERE. Deadspin now has a regular feature called Drunkspin with beer/booze reviews, it is definitely worth following. Oaktoberfest is Firestone Walker’s take on the German marzen style. Despite the name the beer isn’t aged with oak, instead it is a tribute to the brewery’s hometown of Paso Robles, Spanish for “Pass of the Oaks”. Oaktoberfest is available in the fall on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.
Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest pours a clear copper with a mild white head. The scent is a mixture of earthy hops and some semi-sweet malt. I was surprised by the flavor of the first sip, I expected the full bodied malt flavor typical to the marzen style and instead got a solid kick of hops. For an American craft beer drinker with an IPA-every-day palate this isn’t a hoppy beer, but you get some solid notes of grass, pine and lemon. The malts are also present, crackers, grain and a little toffee, but subdued for the style. The beer is crisp and drinkable at 5.0% ABV, followed by a clean finish . Overall I enjoyed Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest, although it was very different from what I expected from a traditional marzen. When I drink a beer in the Octoberfest style I am usually looking for a drinkable malt-forward lager. That being said, this is a good beer for hop heads looking to start to branch out from IPAs. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Firestone Walker Reviews:
Firestone Walker Opal Saison, Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA
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
Previous Firestone Walker reviews:
Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA
Firestone Walker Brewing Company of Paso Robles, CA is one of the most highly respected craft breweries in the country. There have been numerous awards and honors bestowed upon their beers, and the brewery has been named the mid-sized brewery of the year at the World Beer Cup four different times. One of Firestone Walker’s flagship beers is Union Jack, a West Coast style IPA originally released in 2008. This is one of the aggressively hopped IPAs of the West Coast that helped define American craft beer which started the rise in popularity of craft beer in general. Union Jack uses Magnum, Cascade and Centennial hops during the boil followed by aggressive double dry-hopping with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Chinook and Simcoe varieties. That’s essentially a who’s who of popular American hops. These hops are balanced with Munich, CaraPils and Light Crystal malts. Union Jack is sold in 12 and 22 ounce bottles as well as on draft.
Firestone Walker Union Jack pours a clear light orange with a mild white head and solid lacing on the glass as you drink. The hops dominate the smell, scents of pine, woodsy earth and a little citrus. In the first sip, the hops are evident, with notes of cut grass, pine trees and some lemon. The hop flavor is nicely balanced by some malt flavors with tastes of cracker, toffee and bread. The beer is aggressively bitter, it is listed at 70 IBUs (which isn’t insignificant), but tastes like even more. Union Jack has a full mouthfeel for an IPA, and at 7.5% ABV it has substantial alcohol although it doesn’t come through in the flavor. The finish is pretty clean but leaves a noticeable lingering bitterness on the tongue. This is a solid IPA, balanced flavor that highlights the great characteristics of American hops. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.