There’s a saying that it takes a lot of good beer to make a great wine, but a group of actual winemakers walked into a brewery in Paso Robles…and came out with an anniversary ale.
Firestone Walker Brewing Company released its XXVI Anniversary Ale Friday, making it the 17th anniversary blend that was created with the blending expertise of several local winemakers.
“We’re talking about a who’s who of Paso Robles winemakers,” says Matt Brynildson, brewmaster. “We’re fortunate to call them our neighbors and friends and they never disappoint when it comes to our annual blending session.”
The annual blending session took place at the end of June. Winemakers from Desperada Wines, Herman Story Wines, Epoch Estate Wines, Linne Calodo, Thacher Winery, Kaleidos, Seven Oxen, Torrin Wine, TH Estate Wines, and Booker Wines all came to blend and taste the ale blends. Brewmasters from Private Press Brewing and Brewmaster Collective Club, as well as the editor of TheFullpint.com and family members also joined in the blending and tasting process.
The way it worked is that the winemakers broke into teams and then created different blends of barrel-aged components.“We offered up a perfect spectrum of beers to choose from: a light and a heavy stout, an imperial brown ale, a golden ale and two styles of barley wines,” Brynildson says.
Next, the winemakers and brewers blind tasted all of the candidate blends, then voted as a group to crown the winner that would become XXVI.
The winning blend was created by Valia From and Emily Miller, of Desparada Wines, Russell From, of Herman Story Wines; and Danny “Fullpint” Becker, editor-in-chief, of TheFullpint.com.
This latest Anniversary Ale is just super delicious and refined,” Brynildson says. “It’s driven by two barrel-aged stouts, but it’s much more than that. It has this perfect balancing point with a lot of spirits barrel character, and there’s an underlying freshness that elevates the mouthfeel.”
The winning blend that became the XXVI Anniversary Ale consists of: Parabola, a Russian imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels (32%); Velvet Merkin, a milk stout aged in bourbon barrels (32%); Bravo, an imperial brown ale aged in bourbon barrels (24%); Heavy Things, a barley wine made in collaboration with The Bruery aged in brandy barrels (6%); Helldorado, a blonde barley wine aged in bourbon barrels (4%); and Wheat Wine, a strong golden barely wine co-fermented with white wine grape juice (2%).
“It was nice to have our classic Bravo brown ale back in the mix as a complement to our Parabola and Velvet Merkin stouts,” Brynildson says. “Heavy Things contributed a subtle dimension of brandy barrel character. Finally, Helldorado and Wheat Wine added a splash of freshness to the beer.”
Firestone Walker’s collaboration with local winemakers dates back to 2006, when Brynildson was first tasked with creating the inaugural Anniversary Ale to mark the brewery’s 10th anniversary.
“It’s a tall order to blend all of these distinct beers into a harmonious whole,” Brynildson says. “That’s why we bring in the winemakers. They are practicing experts in the art of blending.”
XXVI is rolling out now in limited quantities to all Firestone Walker markets, and is available at each brewery location and online at FirestoneBeer.com for a limited time.