According to their website, “Firestone Walker Brewing Company brewed its first beer in 1996 in a small facility rented from the Firestone Vineyard estate in Santa Barbara County. In 2001 owners Adam Firestone and David Walker purchased the SLO Brewing Company located in Paso Robles, CA.” Since that time Firestone Walker has produced numerous award-winning beers, developed a legion of avid beer fans, and been awarded Brewery of the Year three times (2003, 2007, and 2011) at the Great American Beer Festival. Master brewer Matt Brynildson leads the brewing operations. The brewery employs a brewing process inspired by the old Burton Union system of brewing originally established in England.
My wife and I arrived at the Paso Robles location too late to visit the brewery, but we had dinner at the adjacent brewery restaurant – called The Taproom. The Taproom specializes in brewhouse bistro cooking while celebrating the unique tastes of the Central Coast. Open for lunch and dinner, The Taproom not only serves excellent food but also features Firestone Walker beers on draft as well as a collection of library beers from past vintage releases.
The restaurant’s ambiance echoes the brewery environment, including brushed steel, corrugated metal, rustic wood and copper appointments.
I had the Panko Crusted Ahi for dinner and can state that this was by far the finest dish I experienced on our trip and one of the most delicious ever.
A great way to try a wide range of Firestone Walker’s many brews is to get one or more beer samplers. Each sampler consists of four beers. I tried four beers while at The Taproom. My tasting notes follow.
Firestone Walker Taproom IPA (6.7% ABV / 60 IBUs): Served only at The Taproom, this IPA is created from a base of pale and crystal malts and aggressively hopped throughout brewing with final hop addition in the conditioning vessel. This beer pours a beautiful and clear copper color with beige foam that leaves a nice lace. Taproom IPA has a stunning aroma of subtle malt with powerful bouquet of pine resin, grapefruit and other citrus, and floral notes. The beer is medium to full-bodied with mild prickly carbonation. One swallow and Taproom IPA delivers integrated flavors of pine resin and grapefruit, followed by tasty caramel malt, and then followed again by an assertive hops bitterness. The beer finishes dry with lingering notes of pine resin. This beer is absolutely delicious and extremely impressive in its ability to deliver complex, integrated, and refreshing flavors. Saddle me up honey, I’m ready to gallop back for another one!
Firestone Walker Union Jack West Coast IPA (7.5% ABV / 72 IBUs): This beer is double dry-hopped and uses over 4 pounds of Pacific-Northwest hops per barrel. Union Jack has also won a slew of awards including Gold Medal at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival and Silver Medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup. The beer pours a crystal clear copper gold color with off white foam that leaves a nice lace. Union Jack has a very intense hops floral aroma with a strong grapefruit/citrus bouquet. The beer is medium-bodied with moderate carbonation. Union Jack has a great up front taste of malt with an assertive hops bitterness. Personally, I thought my sample of Union Jack was a little weak in the finish. For me Union Jack was like the horses I bet on, they leave the gate great but come to a disappointing finish. Based on all the awards, I need to try this one again and see if it was the tasting jockey and not the beer horse.
Firestone Walker Walker’s Reserve Robust Porter (5.8% ABV / 45 IBUs): “This brew employs five specialty malts, as well as oat and barley for added complexity and flavor.” Walker’s Reserve pours a very dark brown color with creamy tan foam. The beer has a great roasted malt, coffee, and dark chocolate aroma. Walker’s Reserve is light-bodied. One sip releases flavors of sweet malt, toffee, caramel, and bittersweet chocolate. The beer has a chocolate and coffee finish. Walker’s Reserve provides a delicious integration of flavors. This is a very good session-like porter but didn’t have me chomping at the bit for more.
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Unfiltered Black Rye IPA (8.5% ABV / 80 IBUs): Wookey Jack is Firestone Walker’s first foray into black IPAs. Winner of a 2012 GABF Gold Medal and Draft Magazine as one of the top 25 beers of 2012, Wookey Jack has left the gate with a BANG! This beer pours a dark brown color with tan foam that leaves a very nice lace. Wookey Jack has a citrus/grapefruit aroma and is medium-bodied with mild carbonation. One taste releases an explosion of malt, rye, smoked wood, and chocolate flavors that are expertly integrated. The beer has a semi-dry finish with grapefruit/citrus flavor, hops bitterness, and lingering dark chocolate. This beer is delicious and outstanding. Honey, I think I’ve found a winner!
What a great way to end our beer tasting tour. Firestone Walker has some very good and some world-class beers. I was really hoping to try Firestone Walker Parabola on tap that evening but they had just run out. I did buy a couple of bottles and will review that beer later.
I’m looking forward to my next Firestone Walker beer and hope to get back to The Taproom soon.
Thanks again to my wonderful and lovely wife for supporting this beer tasting excursion that we appended to our attending a family wedding.