Once upon a time, there was a little boy. This little boy had big dreams. Dreams of exploration, fame, fortune — being a columnist who talks about different kinds of beers and exbeeriences. Of making up words like exbeerience. This boy, of course, was me and was only considered little by his 82-year-old grandma, but still.
Here we are, now. While the fame is dependent on how bored you are in class, and the fortune is just plain non-existent, the exploration is still there. And this week, I went exploring out of the safety of my living room.
This week’s beers are from a local favorite that has gotten some national and international attention, at least as far as awards go. That’s right, ladies and gents, this week’s beers are from Firestone Walker Brewery. Now I know most of you have probably already tasted and formed your opinions about these beers. But hey, you haven’t heard them talked about by a professional (term used extremely loosely), right?
Also, I’ll be incorporating some things I learned from the unique exbeerience that I had, as a columnist for the Mustang Daily, of touring Firestone’s facilities. Yes, a unique experience that you, as a lay person, cannot have but vicariously by reading this column. Or by showing up at the brewery on Saturday or Sunday at either 1:30 or 3:30 in the afternoon. Or probably by just sweet talking them into giving you a tour some other time.
Oh, and just to be sure there is no confusion, I’m not talking about Firestone Grill in downtown San Luis Obispo. I’m talking about the brewery located in Paso Robles. Now that that’s all cleared up, let’s get going.
I shall start at the beginning. When we got there, we were a bit unsure as to what to do, but quickly figured out that we order at the bar and then take a seat. So we did, but not until after we got the sweet tasting set-ups! Apparently, they serve their samples in the paddles from “Dazed and Confused.” OK, maybe not, but they are seriously paddles.
They serve four four-ounce samples; one each of their Pale, Double Barrel Ale, Union Jack (IPA) and Walker’s Reserve (porter). Each mini-snifter glass sits in its own hole in the paddle, and you can pick the whole thing up at once! Sweet. But that’s not even the best part — with the $6 tasting, you get a free pint glass! Overwhelming, I know.
Anyway, the first beer I tried was the Pale 31. This is a light-bodied pale ale, and it is has a nice golden color and white head. The aroma is floral, and permeates throughout the tasting of the beer. It is quite crisp, which is to be expected of a pale ale, and is moderately hopped, which is what Blue Frog would probably be considered highly hopped. This is as tasty a pale as you will find at a brewery that brews more for the masses and less for the, uh, not masses.
The next was their signature Double Barrel Ale. This is their rendition of the British Pale Ale, though according to their Web site, they think it’s better than any Brit can do. I’ve no opinion as far as that goes, but the beer is a tasty one. It was, I think, the mildest of the four as far as flavor goes. It gets its name from the fact that it is actually brewed in oak barrels for a period of time during the brewing process, which allows some of the milder flavors from the wood to make their way into the beer. A fun fact: if you go at the right time to the tasting room, you can get the DBA unfiltered. Sadly I didn’t go at the right time, but apparently it has a much better flavor.
Next up is the beer that was probably my favorite — the Union Jack IPA. Tasty. It was quite the lovely contrast from Blue Frog’s “balanced” IPA. It was hopped up and deliciously bitter with 72 international bitterness units, which is pretty high. On top of being hoppier than the preceding beers, it does, as you would expect, contain a bit more alcohol — 2.5 to 2.7 percent more alcohol by volume, for a total of 7.5 percent to be exact. It is also a citrusy beer, as opposed to the floral ones above. Full in flavor and hops, this is a tasty beer that is worth the extra couple of bucks it costs to get a six pack of this rather than the Pale or DBA.
And finally, the black sheep of the group: the Walker’s Reserve Robust Porter. Of course, this is a combination of coffee, chocolate and smoked flavors, as it seems most American porters are. As they go, it is pretty mild. I liked that the prominent aromas and flavors weren’t smoked, but rather highlighted the chocolate and coffee aspects.
According to the Web site, there are also hints of toffee and caramel, though even after all of this tasting for you people, my buds aren’t quite that trained. I’ll just keep trying. This was a very smooth, not bitter, easy-drinking beer. If you’re looking for a chocolate-coffee drink but don’t want to get a frappuccino, go grab a porter. While nothing necessarily extraordinary, this would be a good, balanced choice, and trying it gives you a chance to see what Firestone can do beside pales.
All in all, the tasting and tour were enjoyable and informative exbeeriences, with my favorite being the Union Jack IPA. I would recommend going, if for no other reason than to get a cool pint glass and to check out the paddles that they use. If you want an even more unique visit, call ahead and see if they have their unfiltered DBA on tap. Let me know how it is.
Now, it seems that with every good experience comes a bad one. For example, while I was having a good time at the bars this weekend, I had the misfortune of having to hear Ke$ha’s TiK ToK. Before I could use my meditation practices to tune it out, though, I heard her talking about brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack, which I presume to mean Jack Daniel’s Whiskey.
I would just like to remind you that sadly, Ke$ha has now made a ton of money. This means that she can afford to pay a chauffeur to drive her around after she finishes a bottle of whiskey.
Do be sure that you have the same arrangements made, even if that means paying a friend to be designated driver for a day of wine, beer or whiskey tasting — or even just a night of drinking downtown or at another friend’s house. Be safe out there and drink responsibly. As I’m sure Ke$ha herself would say, if you are arrested on account of alcohol, nobody is going to be “blowin’ up” your “phones phones” in jail.