Tag Archive: Firestone Walker

Firestone Walker: Luponic Distortion: Vol 11 (USA: IPA: 5.9% ABV)

Visual: Light pale yellow. Medium white head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Guava. Crisp hops. Light hop oils. Light bitterness. Soft banana chewy sweets. Soft lemon sherbet. Light grapes.

Body: Bready hop character and gritty bitterness. Lemon hard sweet mixed with lemon sherbet. Light cardboard. Dry. Grapefruit.

Finish: Gritty bitterness. Fluffy hop feel. Grapefruit. Dry pineapple. Lemon sherbet. Dried and salted lemon.

Conclusion: This is a pretty dry IPA – well attenuated with a growling, bitter hop character over that. There is a slightly rough feel at times from the combination – slightly gritty – but generally it just provides a drinkable dry feel that works well as a base.

The aroma promises sweet fruit to go along with that – guava and banana sweet notes that, if present, would offset the dry style. Thus it was a bit of a shock when the main body actually gives tart lemon and grapefruit notes, giving a mildly puckering note to go with the dry body. Initially quite sherbety it soon becomes like dry, salted lemon. Again it complements the dry style, but does nothing to offset the rougher notes that came with that.

It feels like it could do with another flavour string added to the bow. The tart lemon and dry body is a nice base for a beer – good hop character, good tartness, but doesn’t go anywhere from there and keeps running into those rough spots.

Good, but not one I would recommend as there are so many other better IPAs out there. A good base that they should return to and experiment with, but not stand out for us drinkers. Yet.

Background: I’m a big fan of Firestone Walker – they’ve been bought up by Duvel Moortgat but the quality doesn’t seem to have changed. So, good for them. What first attracted me to them was their awesome IPAs, so when I saw this experimental series IPA at Independent Spirit I grabbed it to give it a go. From a quick google it uses Australian, German and USA hops, but I couldn’t find which. Ah well.

Firestone Walker: Leo Vs Ursus: Fortem (USA: IIPA: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Apricot colour with a light haze. Lots of small bubbled carbonation and a yellowed mound of bubbles for the head.

Nose: Floral. Vanilla. Tangerine. Pine cones. Crisp. Pickle touched hop oils deep in. Oily in general later on. Pumpkin. Apricot.

Body: Apricot. Prickling. Carrot cake. Peach syrup. Vanilla. Thick whipped cream. Slight sour cream. Sour grapes. Hop oils. Dill pickle touch. Sour dough. Creamy kiwi and lime. Oily bitterness. Pumpkin.

Finish: Oily bitterness. Mandarin orange. Peach. Prickling hops. Sour cream and chives. Dill pickle touch. Dried apricot. Creamy lime. Vanilla custard.

Conclusion: Firestone Walker, long time no see, hope you hold up to my memories. So, I was happy to see from early on onwards that it is complex and layered as all get out. It is lightly floral and tart at the start, then the aroma seeps into heavier, oilier notes bringing out mustier and thicker dried mango, pumpkin and apricot notes that finish off the nasal experience. That may sound bad, I mean it in a good way, a crisp introduction that leads to a full experience.

Now the hops are less prickly and bitter than you would expect. Then again I found out while drinking this that it is over a year old, so that could explain a lot. It is instead an oily, seeping slow bitterness instead of the fresh hop kick. Or maybe the beer was like that all along and age did nothing. If you have drunk it fresh please let me know.

The fruitiness hasn’t been reduced though – thick apricot matched against a savoury carrot cake contrast that also gives a heavier character to this – a fuller feel, made fuller still by a mild savoury cream and chives note which adds a slight sour tang under the sweeter character.

The beer starts initially only ok due to the lighter hop presence, but builds weight and matching thick, oily notes that bring huge fruit range and light savoury contrast. Now, not every note hits it out of the park – there is a dill pickle sourness if you dig deep into it which needs a bigger contrasting flavour to make it work. Then again that could be due to age again, and fresher hops would have matched it better. Any which way this is generally the kind of IIPA I like – Big, rewarding, not overly sweet, nor assault bitterness, but balanced in the elements.

So, now I wonder would this feel rougher fresh, bigger? Would I have enjoyed it as much young, or has age turned it into my kind of beer? I enjoyed it, that is the main thing, however it came about.

Background: Been a while since I did a Firestone Walker beer – a few stores seem not to store them since Duvel Moortgat bought them up. So, while I was grabbing a few rarities from beerhawk online I put in a can of this. Thought I would see how they were doing post being bought up for myself. I did notice during drinking that this was canned over a year ago. Now I am not part of the cult of freshness that says fresh is always better – even big IPAs I’ve found can sometimes do with a few weeks to month to settle down before drinking, but a year is quite a time for a hop led beer. Ah well, let’s see how it goes. It was very warm when I drank this, so was nice to have a good chilled IIPA to sip down. I put on Garbage V2.0 on to listen to – 20th anniversary of its release and it is still great. Also I feel old.

Firestone Walker DBA

Firestone Walker: DBA (USA: ESB: 5.0% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut brown. Thin small bubbled browned head. Low carbonation.

Nose: Fruitcake and Madeira. Shortbread. Whipped cream. Slight chalk. Gingerbread,

Body: Lightly chalky. Fruitcake and cherries. Shortbread. Dates. Lemon cakes. Cream. Sour dough.

Finish: Almonds. Fruitcake. Mild liquorice. Chalky. Slight sour cream. Bitter. Raisins and sultanas. Mild prunes.

Conclusion: Hmm, this tastes like a drier take on Fuller’s ESB – it has that full on fruitcake character but with a dry body that reminds me of the attenuation level on your average APA (Albeit that is pretty much the only similarity to an APA). That dryness comes with a slight matching chalkiness – the two elements combine to make the beer more easy drinking, but also trades that off to make the flavours feel slightly more muted. Overall not a bad thing, but just a different thing.

Flavour wise it digs a bit deeper for the notes than your average fruitcake, sultanas and cherries – there are more dates and occasional slight prune notes in the finish, against slightly muted but it works well to give a distinct character to the beer. There are also lightly creamy hints of wine and spirit notes that I am sure would come out at higher abv, but here are little teases that don’t expand out. Still interesting though.

I’d say I actually prefer the Fuller’s ESB – the more robust character leans towards my preference for the style – however this is very enjoyable, and even ever so slightly muted it is still packed with dark fruit.

Nothing really pushes it to the top leagues, there is nothing unexpected or super polished, however as a general drinking dark beer this is very well done. One for a general drinking quality beer session.

Background: Huh, looks like Firestone Walker is part of the Duvel Moorgat group now. That one had gone under my radar. Never mind, as long as the beers are good and they don’t do any horrid immoral act I’m fine with that. Anyway, had to a quick double check before doing notes on this one – it is “Double Barrel Ale” and I remember doing something with a similar name. Turns out that was Double DBA, or Double Double Barrel Ale, because that naming convention makes sense. Anyway drunk while listening to an English language cover of the “One Punch Man” theme, now I just need the anime to get a UK release.

Firestone Walker Pale 31
Firestone Walker: Pale 31 ( USA: American Pale Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Large mounded froth yellowed head. Small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Lemon meringue and creamy hops. Apricot. Key lime pie. Crushed digestives.

Body: Steam feel. Crushed digestives. Milk. Moderate bitterness. Earthy notes. Key lime pie.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop character. Steam feel. Soft lemon. Slight rustic earthy touch. key lime. Rye crackers. Pepper.

Conclusion: I may be coming to this a bit late for it to be at its best, but I’ll give it a shot. I find it interesting that they call this a Californian Pale Ale, mainly because my first sip of this brought to mind the mouthfeel of a steam beer, a beer style also known as the Californian Common. Wonder if that is just a coincidence or an aimed for stylistic choice. Anyway, yes this has the unusual mouthfeel of a steam beer, but with the hops pushed up a bit.

By the time I had got to that sip I already had high hopes for it, the aroma had been promising as well – the mix of fruit desserts, creaminess and hops that had put me in mind of the Union Jack IPA. That is seriously good – so the idea of a steam beer styled APA with Union Jack quality hop character was having me excited. The body fulfils some of that promise, but not quite the full shining, wondrous, vision. It keeps things a bit lower key, a bit more earthy and rustic alongside the steam character. However you can see the more playful notes at the edges, before it finally goes into the dry and pepper spiced finish.

It isn’t bad, and I have feeling it would be even better fresh. It is a nice mix, if suffering slightly from the over attenuated dryness I associate with APAs. Despite that though, I am enjoying the experience – they do add a lot to what can be a dull style for me.

So, not perfect, definitely so, but I have a soft spot for what it is going for. If I see this fresh in the USA on any of my travels I will definitely try it again.

Background: Another beer break – This one took a while to get across form the USA – it was bottled 20/03/2015, so I thought I had best drink it as soon as possible. I am a big fan of Firestone Walker, their IPAs especially. This, described as a Californian Pale Ale, was picked up from Corks of Cotham. I grabbed a few beers while I was there, they are a bit out of my way but well worth visiting. Drink with a bit of Iron Maiden in the background, because I am still a fan of the old Irons.

Firestone Walker Wild Beer Co Violet Underground

Firestone Walker: Wild Beer Co: Violet Underground (England: Sour Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow to blond. Small off white bubbled head.

Nose: Tart raspberry and tayberries. Cider. Tart apples. Light horse blankets. Vanilla. Dried apricots.

Body: Sour grapes. Tayberry and tart raspberries. Acidic. Light apples. White wine.

Finish: Light oak. Sour grapes. Apples and cider. Raspberries. White wine. Chalk. Strawberry touch.

Conclusion: Ok, maybe my expectations were too high, but I expected more from a Firestone walker and Wild Beer collaboration. Not that this is bad, but over £10 a bottle I kind of expected a lot more.

It is hard to put my finger on what lets it down. Everything they have listed as an ingredient has an influence, the wine and oak notes, the Wild Beer Co traditional cider character trademark stylings, the berries from Firestone’s end. It is all there. It just doesn’t seem to add up to all that much. Just berry cider in oak. Not more that its parts is what I am saying. Sometimes the ingredients just don’t gel that way.

I’m wondering if what is throwing it off is something in the fizzy feel. Despite not being overly carbonated it feels fizzy texture wise, even in the finish. Beyond that it is even slightly chalky at that. The flavours are ok, I have decided, but the feel doesn’t really match which makes it hard to deliver the elements it should. Maybe a few years ageing will sooth things out and integrate it better, but, again, at the cost it is, I’m not going to pay that much just to experiment with that.

So, an average sour that seems worse than that due to a mix of high expectations and cost. Not worth it at that price point.

Background: The Rainbow Project year 2! This year pairing a USA brewery with a UK one and giving them a rainbow colour to base the beer on. Wild Beer Co always seem to get the hard colours, with violet this year. I love Wild Beer co, and Firestone Walker so anticipation was high for this one, though it was a tad expensive to grab, and from what I can tell there were more expensive places than where I bought it. Which was Independent Spirit, yes I know no one is surprised by that anymore. Drunk while listening to a bit of B.Dolan. – I’m not much of a hip hop fan but his stuff is great. Anyway this beer is a mix of Somerset Wild, a new Golden and Sunrise Raspberry Ale, fruit, candied violet petals and French oak ageing.

Firestone Walker Easy Jack IPA

Firestone Walker: Easy Jack IPA (USA: Session IPA: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow. Moderate white head. Some carbonation to the body.

Nose: Resin. Lemon. Popcorn. Hop bitterness. Passion fruit.

Body: Good bitterness. Crisp and dry. A lot of hop character. Dried fruit and trail mix. Grapes. Some vanilla toffee as it warms.

Finish: Bitter and hoppy. Dried passion fruit. Flour air.

Conclusion: You know, people are going to think I don’t like session IPAs- that isn’t true. Beavertown’s Neck Oil for example is bloody fantastic and I can drink it for ages. However, that is not the beer I am talking about now. I am talking about this, a session IPA from the highly reputed Firestone Walker, and I find it, like many others, leave me slightly cold.

I think it is something in the drier body that comes with the lower abv – a similar impression I get from the American Pale Ales – The body seems to give the hop bitterness grip – no problem – but it really seems to find it hard to use the texture to give grip to the fruity flavours that the hops should showcase.

It is all a bit dry, it almost feels like someone dusted flour over it. I was hoping the legends that are Firestone Walker could do something with the style to overcome the oft found shortcomings but, while it feels competently put together – crisp and well textured – it feels like it has the same flaws and merits as the majority of the style I have encountered. Unique to it is how much the bitterness clings so it doesn’t even feel that sessionable in flavour. Without the contrasting sweetness the roughness builds up too quickly – it is interesting to drink as a single beer, but not as one of many.

Ah well, back to Neck Oil I should review that one day.

Background: Firestone Walker are awesome, and make brilliant IPAs – so when I saw that they were doing canned beers – found at Independent Spirit, I had to grab one for a try. Drunk whilst listening to some Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Alleujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! to be exact.

Double DBA

Firestone Walker: Double DBA (USA: Barley Wine: 12% ABV)

Visual: Cherry red. Small off white dusting for a head.

Nose: Caramel. Honey. Sweet raspberry syrup. Flapjack or oat biscuits. Port. Raisins. Brandy cream. Figs.

Body: Smooth but slightly sherbety. Lemon sherbet. Fruitcake and raisins. Honey sponge cake. Flapjacks, Dried apricot. Brown sugar.

Finish: Barley biscuits and honey. Lemon meringue. Glacier cherries. Vanilla toffee. Marzipan. A gin air.

Conclusion: Why do the strong beers often come in such large bottles? Ok, I guess they do age better but seriously with a bottle this big it is a bottle to be shared

This is a big beer in a Hair Of The Dog: Matt style, with a hint of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. Aroma is like a fine spirit, the body has spirit flavour but is smooth as can be. It keeps the beer heritage by emphasising the oak biscuits and flapjack take on the sweetness. That may sound not the most beer like of elements but, honey drenched though it is, those elements give a texture that calls to what oatmeal stouts would be like if they were made as a barley wine. That sentence may make sense outside my head but I’m not sure. What I mean is it feels as if that oatmeal thickness has been added.

It is very sweet and pretty damn complex. Notable more so in the part of the pour that gets the sediment. If you are sharing, fight for the last pour as it has much richer flavour. Either way as you get into the finish the oat flavour comes in again gradually and becoming drying in the feel.

There is a lot in there, dark fruit, dessert elements, all flapjack and fruitcake which have been doused in brandy cream and port. It is an intoxicating experience in flavour as well as the abv. The barley biscuits flavours also come in very evidently and when it does then never has the term barley wine seemed so appropriate.

The mix of high sweetness to grounded oatmeal is interesting and delivered smooth as can be, however in the big guns of beer stakes HOTD Matt and Brodies Elizabethan does beat it. This has the crime of the very minor flaw of a gin air to the finish that gives the alcohol dryness too much grip. Frankly a tiny flaw, but it does seem to permeate the beer by the end and gives too much alcohol feel if not burn, and at the top even little flaws can keep you from being number one. Any which way it is still seriously nice, but just doesn’t quite take the crown.

Big, sweet yet grounded and with a huge range. Slightly over gin influenced as time goes on, but taken in moderation, and shared with friends you can experience it at its best.

Background: Oh my, a big beer from Firestone Walker who have grabbed my respect over the past year. They call it a Imperial Special Bitter. This thing is the 2012 edition, drunk 2013. Firestone make their beers with what has been explained to me as a variant of the Burton Union system. This was drunk while listening to a bit of Hayseed Dixie and kicking back to relax.

Wookey Jack

Firestone Walker: Wookey Jack (USA: Black IPA: 8.3% ABV)

Visual: Black. Massive froth tight bubbled beige head.

Nose: Massive hop bitterness. Wholemeal crackers. Grapefruit. Curry powder. Smoke. Pineapple. Bitter coffee remains.

Body: Toasted. Smoke. Huge hop bitterness. Peppery. Smooth texture. Sweet grapefruit, lime and pineapple. Slight tartness. Chocolate liquore undertones. Gooseberry. Paprika. Apricot. Cadburys cream egg,

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Rye crackers. Peppery and spices. Very bitter hops. Raw cocoa. Gooseberry and peach syrup. Apricot. Chilli seeds. Very dry. Slightly earthy.

Conclusion: A rustic citrus black IPA. Those are the slightly odd mix of words that come to mind as I drink this.

There is that rustic, rough, earth edged note that feels very old school British Burton IPAs which, when mixed with that rye cracker taste and roasted black IPA elements makes for a very down to earth feel. Then, oh then, there is the other side of it, the big sweet citrus grapefruit hops that I could smell even as I had barely half cracked the cap off the bottle. Sweet and sharp fruit flavours mixing with a creamy and smooth texture.

So how do two such different beers live together in the same glass? One moment you breath in smoke and massive hop bitterness, the next sharp tantalizing pineapple, then a mix of the two together. The body sweet and smooth, then spicy and rough flavoured. It really is an old world IPA, with new world rye drinks, NZ tartness and USA fruity hops.

It is a less extravagant beer than say, sublimely self righteous ale, that beer is the young punk with all the good tunes, this is the wise old man leaning back on his chair, tough as nails and with all the good tales. Both are great and very different.

So yes, up there with the very best Black IPAs and a stand alone beer as an example of a great mix of different beer styles pedigrees. Exceptional.

Background: Firestone walker, woo, I’ve got hold of some bottles of their beers now. Including this, a rye black IPA. So far my experience of Firestone Walker hoppy beers have been excellent, so I was looking forwards to settling down with this one. This one was drunk while relaxing late at night with The Pixies playing in the background.

Double Jack

Firestone Walker: Double Jack (USA: IIPA: 9.5% ABV)

Visual:  Clear gold. Quite frothy head, but settles quickly leaving dregs around the edge of the glass. The head itself is an off white colour.

Nose: Creamy with a slight lime cheesecake or key lime pie. Caramel. Hoppy character but mainly sweet. Dried apricot.

Body: Big apricot sweetness and low hop bitterness initially, though it quickly rises. Toffee malt. Custard,

Finish: Good bitterness. Fresh lime. Shortbread. Custard. Kiwi and apricot. Slight dry granite feel.

Conclusion: So after the stupendous Union Jack, I was eager to try this. Double IPA, double the fun? Well this one follows in Union Jacks footsteps quite closely, but comes in creamier and slightly more closed off. The flavours are heavier and more noticeable, but at the cost that some of the lighter notes are lost.

Now that isn’t to insult the beer, the flavours are still very good with calls to the more unusual citrus notes that Union Jack had so well. The key lime pie styling are here and still excellent. The only issue for me is that they don’t roam as much and the dry finish cuts off more quickly giving less time to just savour it.  Again to emphasise, these are only criticisms in relation to Union Jack. As a beer in itself it is forthright, oddly mellow in bitterness until a sudden punch at the end, and a good mix of apricot and citrus. Frankly not a beer you will ever regret drinking.

Overall a very nice double IPA, powerful and yet smooth, and very creamy giving an ease to it’s alcohol. Probably dangerously easy to drink, but does at least give a hint to the abv behind the punchy flavours. Another good beer from Firestone Walker that only suffers in comparison to their own, better, beers.

Background: After a recent review of Union Jack, G-Lo mentioned Double Jack was also worth trying. Then this turned up at Brewdog Bristol. How could I not try it?  I had a nice chat with one of the staff members at the pub while I was drinking this, he was explaining about how the linked casks method of brewing this was first used in Burton (of burtonisation fame) the linked cask allowed the beer to be poured from a single tap at the end, and the smaller casks allowed a large amount of liquid contact to give the smooth taste. Which I had been wondering around for a while, so that was cool. Thanks.

Firestone Walker: Union Jack IPA (USA:IPA 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Small burst of white to caramel edged frothy head.

Nose: Smooth and creamy. Key lime pie. Butterscotch and buttery shortbread. Sugary dried apricot.

Body: Smooth but with a hop kick and big bitterness. Buttery shortbread and lime jelly. Kiwi fruit cheesecake. Juicy peach. Lots of hops. Toffee.

Finish: Big hops. Passion fruit. Butterscotch. Creamy.

Conclusion: All that time in the USA and I finally find this beer back here in the UK. Sod me this is good. The smoothness of the texture is the first great thing. The hops prickle and tingle but the beer itself just slides down. Oh aye this is a good ‘un.

Then the flavours, smooth citrus and sweet biscuit dessert flavours mix. The bitterness is bracing but despite that is but a backbone to the key lime pie aroma, kiwi cheesecake flavours and a whole host of subtle crafted elements.  It is a perfect match.  The residual bitterness on the finish should be enough for any hop head. It is never excessive nor ever lacks a punch.  The wonderful thing is that the flavour is that bit more graceful and better defined than usual, creating these citrus dessert images on drinking.

Frankly this is probably the beer that finally takes the old school Punk IPA from my top spot of IPAs to drink. It is just perfectly balanced, surprises you  at every turn and kicks when needed. If only it was easier to find it would quickly become a standby beer for me to drink

Frankly excellence in a glass expressed as an IPA.

Background: I’ve been hearing things about Firestone Walker for a while, from their use of connected oak barrels for fermentation, to their amazing reputation. I missed their beers in Brewdog Camden so when I saw this in Brewdog Bristol I leapt at the chance to try it.  Apparently the Brewdog bars are the only places in Europe to have got their hands on the beers for now.  I tried it a few times before tasting noting it, only pulling out my notepad when the staff mentioned they were nearing the end of their supply!

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