From Paso Robles, with a Quick Nod to Maryland

Firestone Walker Brewing Company

Pale 31

A pale ale which pours (surprise!) pale gold with little head, bread malt nose and mild but distinctive citrus hops laced with floral aromas. The flavor leads with those citrus hops but continues with a good malt backbone, with the malt easing its way over the hops in the end. Its mildly bitter finish simply emphasizes the aroma and flavor hops. 4.9% ABV, 38 IBU

fire_Pivo PilsPivo Hoppy Pils

Pours like a classic Pilsner, clear straw with a foamy white head of long duration. The nose gives slightly tart fruity esters and a hint of yeast and bready malt. I would almost think this was a hefeweizen of uncharacteristic clarity. The European hops are subtle and earthy, and take things up a notch from the classic. The flavor dispels that weisse illusion, coming in as dry pilsner with a slightly metallic bitterness, a hoppy pilsner indeed. Out on the finish there’s a surprising note of brown sugar balancing the hops. Nice beer! Raise a glass or a stein! 5.3% ABV, 40 IBU

fire__EasyJack_labelEasy Jack

This session IPA is new to me, and it’s pleasant to make the acquaintance. Crystal clear gold, with nice effervescence supporting a persistent foamy white head. Strong aroma hops emerge, rich in grapefruit and melon, my introduction to Hallertau Melon hops but also with Bavarian, American, and New Zealand hops. The flavor delivers crackery malt and a medium body, with slightly more bitterness on the finish. The continuing effervescence definitely emphasizes the aroma hops. Very sessionable. 4.5% ABV, 45-50 IBU

fire__UJglassUnion Jack

This is a classic, hefty California IPA, almost canonical for the style. It pours light amber with easily an inch of foamy white head. The nose gives great citrusy aroma hops with a lot of bread dough maltiness. The flavor brings in piney hops and crisp orange with a hint of plum. The finish is dry and restrained with moderate resin and bitterness. 7.5% ABV, 70 IBU

fire__2014DJ_22oz_bottleDouble Jack

Take Union Jack and (ahem) jack it up. It’s amber in the glass with a brief white head but laces the glass The aroma gives medium-strength piney citrusy hops. You know you’re in for a hop treat. The full-bodied malt is in balance with hefty hops with light fruit and herbal touches coming in. Moderate bitterness in flavor and finish reflects great balance, considering that the presenter said that this is 100 IBU. Non hop lovers liked this in sequence when tasted in this sequence, working up from Easy to Union to Double Jack. Brown sugar flavor mellows the hops. 9.5% ABV

fire__WookeyJackWookey Jack

This is a black rye IPA. Since that isn’t an official style, the brewers have lots of freedom. Complex hops, resiny, herbal and citrusy, ride on rye bread malt. Roasty coffee comes in, and the bitterness is more like coffee than hops. There is slight caramel in the flavor, mellowing into a toffee with a faint hint of dried fruit. The lovely hop finish lingers a long time. 8.3% ABV, 80 IBU

There’s a serious hop afterglow from four straight IPAs! Of the last 3, my favorite is whichever I’m drinking at the moment, but if I wanted to drink a bunch of them, the Easy Jack would be the way to go.

A real treat followed!

fire__HydraFirestone Walker / Flying Dog Hydra Cuvée

Brewed in collaboration with Maryland’s Flying Dog. This is a very complex brew, hitting me with barleywine richness. The presenter described it as a blend of four beers, and let me quote from the Firestone Walker website:

Hydra Cuveé is a blend of four different beers—two barrel-aged beers, a robust imperial porter and a black rye IPA. In keeping with Greek mythology, the Hydra represents three distinct parts—the Lion, the Bear (both from Firestone Walker’s insignia) and the Flying Dog.

One barrel-aged beer was selected by a brewer from each brewery, the porter was brewed for the occasion (and inspired by Gonzo, from Flying Dog), and the Black Rye IPA is none other than Wookey Jack. Pours dark reddish brown. The nose surges in with rum, molasses, vanilla, and oak, which leads to a flavor of stone fruit, dark malts, and a huge deep Cinnabon sort of malt. The hops are quite restrained, then the finish goes on forever. This was created specifically for the SAVOR festival in Washington DC, so sadly we’re unlikely to get any more! 10% ABV, 46 IBU

Double Jack image courtesy of Firestone Walker
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