Anniversary Post! Double IPA – Firestone Walker Double Jack

Just to start this post off, it’s our 1st Birthday today! The response we’ve got from this blog over the last year has been incredible. We’ve got to try some amazing beers, go to some amazing events and meet some great people! Thanks for coming along for the ride, it doesn’t stop here so thanks for your support and lets carry on spreading the word of good beer! Speaking of beer…

(PS. Apologies for the cheesy edit, I couldn’t resist)

What better way to celebrate a First Birthday than a Triple Dry Hopped, Double IPA from Firestone Walker?! This week’s beer is Double Jack, and if you’re living in the UK there’s going to be a link at the end on where to buy this beer! It also arrived very fresh, I’m not sure how it happened but the fact is I can have a beer I’ve admired for a long time without going all the way to California and smuggling back a few bottles!

Let’s start with Firestone Walker‘s description of the brew:

A dangerously drinkable Double IPA.  Double Jack opens up with bright grapefruit and tangerine American hop aromas. Beautifully crafted undertones of stone fruit are revealed upon first sip, followed by the essence of blue basil and pine. A sturdy pale and crystal malt backbone brings balance to high hop intensity. Complex and aggressively hopped, and flawlessly balanced.

A to the point description with this one, almost like a wine description with the amount of flavours suggested in the brew! However, Firestone Walker are from the Wine region of California so it’s understandable.

Let’s get on to the recipe, as this is a Double IPA lets start with the Hops. In this one, the bittering Hops are Warrior and Columbus, the late Hops Cascade and Centennial. After this is the crazy Triple Dry Hopping with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial and Simcoe for 3 days. As for the Malts, from the recipe it seems to pack a good Malt bill with 2-Row, Munich and Light Crystal. It’s fermented with a pretty Standard California Yeast.

This beer pours a lovely Golden colour with a Medium White head with great retention. Rings of lacing line the glass as you drink, making for a really attractive looking brew! On the nose there’s lots of Grapefruit, Orange, Pine, Caramel and that signature Firestone Walker Vanilla. On the Palate you’ve got a big initial hit of Tangerine, Mango, Citrus and bitter resinous Pine. This is all backed up by a fantastic Chewy Caramel backbone throughout which really carries the beer and makes it insanely drinkable for a 9.5% brew! This beer is very well bodied with medium carbonation and finishes quite dry.

This is one of my favourite beers, it’s been really hard not to fanboy during this one! As promised, you UK Visitors can grab this beer from: Bier Deluxe and grab a few other hard to get beers there too!

Now we’re off to Celebrate our First Birthday in style!

EST. CALORIES: 285   ABV: 9.5%

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Special – Travel: Beer and Food in Southern California Pt. 2

After trying more than my fair share of Beers at Stone the night before, it was time to go to Ballast Point Taproom and Kitchen at India Street, San Diego. Everyone told me that this is the best of the Ballast Point Taprooms, so I chose this to sample some of their beers and get some grub to line the stomach from the day before! The Taproom and Kitchen do fantastic food, we shared some Crispy Duck Nachos (Blue Cheese Sauce, Duck Confit, Pickled Onion, Arugula (Rocket) and Port Reduction) and as I was in San Diego, I went for the Fish Tacos. Both dishes were absolutely delicious, and very reasonable. As we had to drive back to LA (luckily I wasn’t doing the driving) later on in the day, I decided to try as many beers as possible before we had to go.

I started with a Sculpin IPA, the classic Ballast Point brew, which in my opinion is the IPA it’s hyped up to be and then moved on to a flight of Grapefruit Sculpin, Habanero Sculpin and the Black Marlin Porter. The Grapefruit Sculpin is coming up in my reviews next month but is a truly a World Class beer. The Habanero Sculpin was interesting, as I’m a self confessed Chilli Head I had to try it and I absolutely loved it. The nose is full of Citrus Fruit, Orange Peel and some resinous Pine in the background. On the Palate, there’s a nice initial Citrus and Pine from the hops with the Habanero building in the background. The Chilli isn’t for the weak hearted, but is a nice burn that builds as you drink. The Black Marlin was an equally good Porter, with Big Roasty notes on the nose with Raisins, Stone Fruits and a touch of Citrus on the finish. On the palate, a big Roasty Chocolatey note, with Caramel and Brown Sugar. Fantastic Mouthfeel on this one. Next up, I had a Ginger Big Eye IPA and the Sour Wench Berliner Weiss with Apricot and Peach. On the Nose the Sour Wench has a huge Apricot and Peach Aroma, with a little bit of woodiness from the stones of the Fruit and that familiar funky wheat and Lactobacillus Sour odor. This one is very tart to start off with, followed by the Sour Peach. Apricot lingers on the finish. As for the Ginger Big Eye – where do I start? Big Eye IPA is just as legendary as Sculpin. On the nose there was a big Ginger hit, with Grapefruit, Citrus and a little Soapiness. Although this has a huge hit from the Citrus, Grapefruit and Pine from the Hops, the Ginger is very prominent and compliments the Fruitiness from the Hops.

After this, we headed down to Pacific Beach to visit a smaller Brewerys Taproom – Twisted Manzanita. I got a flight here as time was running by and tried the Gillespie Brown (Brown Ale), Hot Chocolate (Chocolate Stout with Ancho and Habanaro Chillis), Rustic Horizon (Red Ale), Prospect Pale (Pale Ale) Iron Mountain (IPA), Enlightenmint (Milk Stout with Peppermint). I started with the Brown Ale, it pours with a Small Head but with great lacing. On the nose some Pine Nuts and Roasted Malts, when you taste it, it’s warm and boozy with Rasins, Piney Hops and a touch of Chocolate. Apart from the Enlightenmint, which I’ll be posting about on Friday, the Hot Chocolate was my favourite. It’s black as night with a tan coloured ring around the glass. On the nose you get big Chocolate and Coffee aromas and the Chilli is hidden very well, very sweet. On the Palate is where the Chilli comes into play, first a nice smooth Chocolate note that carries all the way through, then the Chilli kick, lots of Citrusy and Hot Spicy notes. Finishes smooth and spicy. The Rustic Horizon was a standard, well balanced Red Ale with Big Pine Notes and a nice Caramel Malt Backbone, The Prospect Pale was very well balanced also, with big Citrus aromas and a bready Malt Backbone. I’ll be Posting about the Enlightenmint on Friday, as it was probably my favourite of the entire San Diego trip!

I really liked Twisted Manzanita Taproom’s vibe, the staff were very friendly and knowledgeable and the decor was quite industrial and basic. The music in this place, and Ballast Point were the best of the entire trip. Although it was a short visit, it was time to leave San Diego.

The next day we made the long drive up to the Central Coast to Visit Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks in Buellton. Unfortunately due to the famous California Traffic, we missed our tour which was a shame. Luckily, Firestone Walker have a Taproom and Restaurant attached and we thought we’d take full advantage. By this time we were really hungry, and there was a table free for us straight away. I dived straight in with the Spicy Chicken Drumettes as an appertizer and a small measure of Velvet Merkin – a barrel aged version of their Velvet Merlin stout. Though I’d had it before when they came to visit in London, it really is a great beer and I wanted to try it fresh.  It’s Jet Black, and the Aroma was a little different. Lots of chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar, and toasted bread. The Palate had big brown Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Cocoa, Coffee, and Fig notes. There’s a distinct woody finish on this one. 

It was time to order the main course, and I went for the Sirloin Coulotte Steak with Shallot Butter, Fried Fingerling Potatoes and Chili-Lemon Broccolini and an Union Jack IPA. I must say again, that the food is truely delicious in this place and I really recommend having some if you visit. As for the Union Jack IPA, it was just as good as I remember. On the nose there was lots of Earthy Pine, Grapefruit, Citrus and a touch of sweet malt. The taste really is what makes this beer, some Pine Sap, Citrus, Grapefruit, Tropical Fruits with a great Malt Backbone riding throughout. What an IPA. I decided to skip dessert and go for an Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale and a Velvet Merlin on Nitro next.

The Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale was interesting, the fact it’s unfiltered really changes the aroma of this. Loads of Oak on the nose with Nutty Malt and a little bit of Vanilla Spice coming through. It tastes a little different too with big hits of Vanilla and Oak as well as the lovely Pale Malt backbone and fresh Bread Dough notes. What a great, simple beer! Next up was the Velvet Merlin on Nitro, I’ll start unusually by commenting on the Mouthfeel. The Nitro really improves this beer! The mouthfeel was like a Guiness, but this has way more flavour and aroma. On the nose there’s Roasty Coffee, Chocolate and a Milky Sweetness. The Palate is a tiny bit tart and dry, but with big hits of Milk Sweetness, Coffee and Chocolate. What a great way to end. After this I popped into the Barrelworks shop and picked up a bottle of the well known Parabola, which I’ll be reviewing in the future after it ages a little while!

Last, but definitely not least, we visited the Libertine Brewpub in Morro Bay which was Excellent. Unfortunately I was driving, but still managed to taste one of their Sours along with two other very good beers. I started with the Libertine Framboise, a beer I’d wanted to try for a long time. The Sours Libertine make are famous, if not notorious with people that have tried them! On the Nose a lot of Belgian funk and Sour Strawberry, the taste was great. If you haven’t tried a Sour, I wouldn’t recommend this as the first one, but it is delicious. Lots of Sour Strawberry and Funky Lacto notes with a great Wheaty backbone throughout. A great beer, I witnessed someone else try it and pucker. The Barman pointed at the sign above the Bar – “Ya, We Know It’s Sour.”

Next up, we decided to share a small measure of the Lost Abbey 10 Commandments – As you can see above, it’s got Honey, Raisins and Rosemary. Lost Abbey make Belgian inspired beers, and this one is a 12% Dark Strong Ale. It pours Jet Black, on the nose Chocolate, Molasses, Ginger, Honey, Coriander, Light Coffee and Nutmeg. The Flavour on this one is so complex, Raisin, Caramel, Gingerbread, Thyme, Molasses, Pink Peppercorn, some toasted Rosemary notes and a touch of Anise.

Finally, we shared a Firestone Walker Wookey Jack, a Black IPA I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Partly because of the name, and partly because Firestone’s IPA’s and Maltier offerings are great and I was interested on how they’d do a Black IPA. It pours Jet Black with a Tan Head, on the Nose plenty of Roasty Notes with Pine and Citrus coming from the Hops. They must’ve put a lot of Hops in this one, because they really cut through! There’s also some traces of dark fruits. The Palate on this one is lovely, it starts with a big Roasted Malt kick and as it fades into the background the Clean Citrus tones from the Hops come through, building up to a Roasty, Bitter finish. What a great beer!

That’s it for California. I had a great time. The vibe in all the beer-centric places I went were amazing, the food’s great even if you’re trying to eat healthily and great Beer is everywhere. Join me next week for my adventures in Arizona. Sorry this post was late, we had some Computer trouble!

Special Post – Firestone Walker at Craft Beer Co. Covent Garden

Last Sunday I attended the Firestone Walker event at Craft Beer Co. Covent Garden.

When I visited San Luis Obispo, or as the Locals call it “SLO” in 2013 I tried my first Firestone Beer and I really enjoyed it. Ever since then I’ve always wanted to get my hands on their beers. I saw a bottle of Parabola in Bottledog when it opened and made sure a friend and I bought it to share. We loved every last drop. Unfortunately it was way before I started up this site, or it would’ve been the first review regardless if it was summer. Anyway, enough reminiscing. I’m going to be writing about the event itself and briefly review the beers I tried.

I arrived at Craft Beer Co. at around 3:15 due to the great British train system being “repaired” and me paying a flying visit to Bottledog.

The bar was surprisingly quiet to begin with, but I dived in and ordered myself a DBA (Double Barrel Ale) and a Union Jack as it was sure to get busy later on in the afternoon.

On the Left: DBA (Double Barrel Ale) On the Right: Union Jack IPA

I started with the Union Jack, an IPA at a good 7.5% as I’d heard a lot of good things. On the nose there was lots of Earthy Pine, Grapefruit, Citrus and a touch of sweet malt. As soon as I smelt this beer I knew it was a distinctly Californian IPA. The taste was a lot like the smell, some Pine Sap, Citrus, Grapefruit, Tropical Fruits with a great Malt Backbone that so many breweries forget about, Firestone Walker have this covered and this makes it toward the top of the list of Californian IPA’s that I have had the pleasure to sample. The beer is medium to full bodied and ends medium dry.

More people were turning up at this point I think it’s great at a place like this when everyone is discussing the beer and it’s always nice to hear what people think apart from yourself. The snippets of chat I heard were positive so far, but in all honesty the look on people’s faces after their first sip was saying it all.

Next up was the DBA (Double Barrel Ale), a British Style Pale Ale/Bitter at 5%. The aroma consisted of a lot of Toffee and Caramel Notes, a slight hint of Red Wine and some Bready malt in the background. The first thing I noticed about this after my first sip was how smooth this beer is, it is insanely smooth and clean. The taste was like a typical English Pale ale to begin with Biscuit and Light Caramel, I then detected a tiny bit of Red Wine/Summer Fruits (Possibly from the Oak Barrel method?) some Vanilla and some Floral Dryness on the finish. This is a great example of the style and it still has that slight Californian character to it. It finished medium with a medium body. This would be one of those beers that you just wouldn’t get bored of during a session!

Velvet Merkin

After this, I opted for a swift glass of water and got the next Firestone Beer – Velvet Merkin. An Oatmeal Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels at 8.5%. On the nose I got so many complex aromas, Vanilla, a touch of Merlot, Oak, Coffee, Chocolate and Bourbon. When I tasted this beer I can honestly say it was one of the best Oatmeal Stouts I have had. Loads of Coffee, Chocolate, Light Bourbon notes, nice rounded roasty flavours and lacto sugar. The mouthfeel of this one was almost creamy, like Chocolate Ice Cream/Milkshake. It ended with a light dryness and some dark fruit lingering.

Whilst drinking this one I met one of the Firestone Team – Tommy, who takes care of the Sales in the Southwest of America. He was kind enough to Introduce me to David Walker, the co-founder of the brewery and a lot of the team which was really nice of him. He then extended the offer to a beer, which was great of him and David told him to put it on his tab. I thought to myself – hang on a second, you guys are meant to be guests here! What a nice gesture.

I was bought an 8% Saison spiked with Brettanomyces called Seizoen Bretta from a brewery near where Tommy lives called Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales. On the nose there was a big Tropical, Pineapple brett aroma and I thought I was in for a super sour beer. I tasted it and although there was some sour notes in there, there was also a lot of Funky Yeast, Tropical Fruits, Pepper and Wheat. It had a long, fruity aftertaste and the Brett really did ride all the way though. What a great brew and something I definitely need to try again.

After this, I met a few more of the Firestone guys, as I said all really friendly guys and down to earth.

Stickee Monkee

After this, the Stickee Monkee was on tap and after hearing all the good things about it I had to try it. Stickee Monkee is brewed with the ingredients of a Belgian Quadrupel, Turbinado brown sugar from Mexico, Belgian candi sugar and then aged in various Spirits Barrels reaching its final ABV at 13.4%. This was most definitely my favourite beer of the entire Afternoon. On the nose loads of Vanilla, Chocolate, Toasted Coconut and Oak. If you could pick any Firestone beer to try, this would definitely be it! When I tasted this beer I really could appreciate the complex flavours the barrels had added to it, lots of toasted Coconut and Vanilla, Chocolate, Bourbon, Sweet dried fruits and Woody oak. This beer finished sweet, the alcohol was there but it was well rounded off with the Spirits Barrels.

Pale 31

Finally, after chatting for a while I tried the Pale 31 – a Pale Ale at 4.9%. I’m pretty sure this is the beer I tried when I visited San Luis Obispo. On the nose lots of Light Citrus, Orange Zest, Pineapple and a touch of other Tropical Fruit. When you taste this beer you get lots of Citrus, Orange, Caramel and some Grassy notes. This beer is also so clean tasting and well balanced. It ends bittersweet. Firestone Walker really do make some world class beers.

Me and the Firestone Walker guys

I had a truely enjoyable evening and lots of fun with the Firestone Walker crew. I didn’t meet one that didn’t want to chat, and I ended up having a great night with them. They all have a great relationship and are all so passionate about beer – and that’s what I like about this rising beer scene. My only regret was not buying them drinks in return for mine – seriously thanks again guys!

I managed to grab myself a bottle of Firestone Seventeen – an anniversary ale that I will be reviewing around Christmas time. It sold out in 5 minutes, and that shows how sought after and world renowned this brewery is. It was nice to have you in the UK Firestone Walker. Come back soon! Craft Beer Co. were also a fantastic host as usual, they’re doing great things for the UK Beer Scene.