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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: Firestone Walker Eleven

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we stay in California wine country, but this time enjoy a special anniversary beer.

Firestone Walker Brewing is located in Paso Robles, Calif., and is run by a family that also has holdings in California vineyards. While they sold off the majority of their wine business, including the Firestone brand name to the Foley Wine Group last summer, the company is still focused on turning out some of the more interesting beers coming from California.

Firestone Walker ferments its brews in a British-style union of oak barrels. The company has won its share of medals at brewing competitions, including being named the Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year at the 2003 and 2007 Great American Beer Festival. So it was no surprise that when it released a limited edition beer called "Ten" to mark its 10th anniversary last year that it became one of the more sought after beers by beer fans. Reports surfaced of retailers selling the 22 ounce bottles for as much as $100 as supplies sold out.

Firestone Walker has followed that up with Eleven, a strong ale that is aged for 18 months in oak barrels. Only 500 cases of the beer (12 22-ounce bottles per case) are being shipped to retailers for a scheduled released on Nov. 30th. A suggested retail price of $16.99 per bomber bottle has been placed on the brew.

Brewmaster Matt Brynildson approached this ale as if it was a meritage of beer. He used Bravo Imperial Brown Ale, Rufus Continental Imperial Amber Ale and Parabola Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout in a blend that was aged in American oak. Some of the barrels had previously done time at distilleries aging spirits. The result is an 11 percent alcohol by volume brew with 42 IBUs.

The sample that we tasted over the Thanksgiving weekend was a rush of flavors. There was a clear alcohol hit with plenty of oak, some wine-like characteristics and even hints of raisins to the beer. It is a rich dark color with touches of molasses in the nose. This beer is not overly sweet and has some nice earthy balance filling out a complex flavor profile.

This is a very satisfying beer with which to end an evening. A 22-ounce bottle can easily be split three or four ways, with everyone having plenty of enjoyment in their glass. Firestone Walker has once again come up with one of the more intriguing beers on the market.


KevBrews said...

This news couldn't be more timely. I just opened my single bottle of Ten last weekend and enjoyed it so much that I was wondering if there would ever be anything similar from FW. Thanks for the news!

Rick Lyke said...

Ten was a great beer and I think Eleven is going to go down as one of the more unique specialty releases of the year. Between this brew and the Avery 14 there is something special taking place in the "anniversary beer" segment -- if it really can be classified as a segment. Good stuff. More brewers should join the fun.