Posts Tagged ‘firestone walker’

firestone walker: rough cuts & remixes trip

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

blogger_trip

last weekend I accompanied my fellow LA beer bloggers up to los olivos, buellton, and paso robles for another unforgettable blogger’s weekend held by firestone walker.

  • the event was a follow up to last year’s journey to the center of the barrel, a whirlwind of barrel-aging, winemaking, beer blending, and local-focused fine dining that left me  humble and grateful for the opportunity to participate.  honestly, I felt that last year’s experience was too over-the-top to be matched, much less bested, by any subsequent event.
  • I couldn’t have been more wrong – FW doubled down and pulled out all the stops to create an experience unlike any other.  upon our arrival david walker ushered us to FW’s original grassroots brewing facility, which is now the home of andrew murray vineyards.  andrew himself poured us a glass of his recent harvest and ran through some winemaking 101 before we all headed back to a luxe campsite for some amazing santa maria-style barbeque and some breaking news.
  • the news had to do with my favorite topic – wild beer.  DW and AM were joined by jeffers richardson and “sour jim” crooks from their barrelworks program, who poured samples of their upcoming (and very impressive) bretta rose and let it slip that many future wild projects were in the works.  I was stoked to hear that these projects involved collaborating with andrew murray and aging on both grape juice and pomace – we tried samples of both techniques and I was excited to see the potential for pomace aging (it imparted a vivid strawberry character that was very unique).  later that night I was able to share some bottles of cabrillo, vizcaino, and my kriek while talking shop with the whole crew.
  • the next morning we cruised up to the paso robles facility where head brewer dustin kral gave us a comprehensive tour of FW’s latest developments, including massive fermentation space increases as well as intricate kegging and canning(!) lines, which should help streamline production and make it even easier to get fresh beer in your hands (I’m pumped for the possibility of some canned pivo pils in the future)!  speaking of fresh beer, we also participated in a quality control tasting session, where we saw firsthand how age and warm temps warp fresh, hoppy beer into something less than desirable.  I’ll have to bring the whole QC thing up the next time AP questions the three beer fridges humming along in the basement.
  • the trip ended with a bang over at villicana winery, home to RE:FIND distillery.  alex and monica villicana treated us like family, walking us through their four-run distillation process on their alembic still and talking us through a gin blending session that resulted in one-off custom gin and tonics.  we finished the night with an amazing outdoor dinner provided by FW’s chef that was accompanied by outstanding custom cocktails and FW beers.  before leaving, alex and monica presented us with bottles of writer’s blanc, a white whiskey commemorating the LABB weekend that was made by distilling a massive quantity of FW’s 805 blonde ale.  I was humbled not only by the thoughtfulness and generosity of FW and RE:FIND, but also by the spirit itself – like their brandy, the whisky has wonderful character and body, especially when compared to many white/neutral spirits.  the fact that they re-purpose an otherwise disposable juice cut to make their brandy is icing on the cake.  I cannot overstate how cool this place was to visit.
  • on the ride back to LA my head was spinning (and not because of the parabola JV cracked open to share on the blogger bus).  collaboration, innovation, community pride/support, and local sourcing of high-quality ingredients to create a great product with a local identity are all ideas that FW champions, and those ideas make it easy to stand behind a brewery, regardless of whether they make a world-class product (which FW undoubtedly does).  the weekend left me inspired and motivated to not only continuously strive to improve my own brewing/business processes, but to also appreciate and support an area for what makes it unique.  thanks again for a great weekend!

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firestone walker journey to the center of the barrel

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

FW_SimonFord_8_barrel room2

last weekend I met up with other members of the la beer bloggers to embark on what would turn out to be an unforgettable beer expedition.

  • as guests of firestone walker, we were given an all-access pass to the brewery, barrel houses, and environs in an attempt to experience what sets FW apart from other craft breweries.  after a quick trip up north on a chartered bus (made quicker by a bottle share and a steady supply of 12 oz firestone staples provided by our gracious host), we arrived not at the brewery but windrose farm, a local family farm that provides produce to FW’s restaurant.  bill and barbara, who live on and run the farm, kept everyone educated and entertained with discussions of biodynamic practices and responsible agriculture while we feasted on freshly picked greens and house-raised lamb expertly prepared by FW’s head chef and paired with an intense lineup of FW specialties ranging from bretta weiss to parabola.
  • after hitching a tractor ride back to the bus, we headed over to the brewery, where matt brynildson and dustin kral gave us the VIP tour.  beers in hand, we went from the brewhouse to the lab to the roof of the facility, finally ending up in the barrel house, where dustin grabbed a thief and proceeded to pour everyone a three-barrel flight of a one-off beer aged in straight oak, bourbon, and tequila barrels.  minds already blown, we were then whisked away to herman story wines, where winemaker russell had a full spread and barrel sampling lineup at the ready.  after a few more hours of debauchery we ended the night at FW’s taproom restaurant with some great eats and a homebrew share (punctuated by some on-the-spot homebrew/food pairing suggestions by FW’s head chef).
  • the next morning, having shook the cobwebs out of our heads and limbered up, we headed down to buellton to check out FW’s new barrelworks facility.  “sour jim,” the resident master blender, gave us a tour of the growing barrel stacks and set us up with a wild beer blending session after a fantastic lunch.  after the session, GN sweet-talked jim into supplying us with some sample bags to take home some barrel bugs, and after talking shop for a while (over a full flight of FW one-offs and wild beers) jim snuck us back to the barrel room, where he started pulling nails and let us in on some of his long-term projects.  the trip finished off with a drive down the coast and yet another bottle share.
  • oh, and the kicker? the whole even was hosted by david walker, the co-founder himself.  david was a generous, receptive, and intelligent host who made everyone feel at home in paso robles.  the event left me with not only a great admiration for the care, passion, and innovation FW brings to the craft brew game, but also with a profound respect for all parties involved with the beer scene in paso robles and the surrounding areas.  that sixer of DBA in my fridge never looked so good.

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FW_SimonFord_5_table2                          FW_SimonFord_15_david talking

FW_SimonFord_16_tractor thanks

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FW_SimonFord_18_brewery2               FW_SimonFord_21_lab

FW_SimonFord_9_kingsley fill up2                                  FW_SimonFord_25_winery_fillup

FW_SimonFord_12_winery             FW_SimonFord_13_winery

FW_SimonFord_27_barrelworks outside2                 FW_SimonFord_32_blending at barrelworks

FW_SimonFord_28_sampling the wild barrels

FW_SimonFord_31_dba at barrelworks               FW_SimonFord_30_logo

FW_SimonFord_4_hosts

 

alpine village, great BBQ, and sweat equity

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

last thursday night, AP and I went over to alpine village for some legit german food and brews.

  • ever since I dropped by AV a little while back, I was eagerly anticipating our return.  I knew it was going to be a great night right when we walked in the door, and were seated immediately and given a healthy serving of liverwurst and rye.
  • thursday was swing night, and there was a full band in attendance along with an impressive singer.  we were definitely the youngest in the crowd by a few decades, but it didn’t keep us from cutting a rug in between courses and beers.
  • ah, the beers – AP got one of her staples, hangar 24’s altbier, and I had weihenstephaner’s kristall weissbier.  well, I ordered it, and ended up with an unfiltered wheat instead, so who knows what I put down.  later AP chatted up the bartender and tried the kristall weiss after the fact, which was definitely tasty and probably the variety of the style that I would pursue ifwhen I brew another wheat.
  • on sunday AP and I rang in the 4th with some heavy BBQ and great beers.  I’m talking a 10lb pork shoulder, 8lb brisket and two dozen brats in the smoker with all the fixins – it was definitely a good time.
  • unfortunately, I was out of homebrew for the occasion, but the food was very well complemented with some firestone walker variety packs and a sixer of stone’s IPA, which was better than I remembered.
  • I also snuck down to the basement for some bottles, including stone’s 14th anniversary empirial IPA (uncomfortably bitter with not enough aroma to balance it out, probably due to the hop selection), lagunitas’ hairy eyeball (killer as always, malty and delicious), and new belgium’s eric’s ale (definitely one of my favorites, the most drinkable sour I have come across).
  • on saturday and sunday JF helped me out with some “brewery expansion construction”: using an angle grinder and some bootleg jig I threw together based off a modification of this idea from homebrewtalk, we cut the tops off of a couple of kegs that will soon enjoy long lives as an HLT and mash tun.  we also installed some weldless ball valves, thermometers, and sightglasses.  once the third keg makes an appearance and all my quick disconnects and other fittings come in, the setup will be revealed, but until then the project will remain shrouded in mystery.

second annual IPA festival at naja’s place

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

naja’s place just had their second annual IPA festival, and it was pretty epic.

  • I was impressed not only by the beer selection, but also by the organization of the event and the friendliness of everyone involved.
  • AP and I rolled up early (4:15ish) to find a line to the door about 15 people long.  I think we hit the wait apex, however, since the line dissolved in about five minutes (thank god) and never reappeared from what I could see.
  • in general, the whole LA beer scene feels pretty relaxed when compared to the capacity crowd events happening in SF these days.  case in point – my buddy ML stopped by a few hours into the event and was still able to snag a pour of coveted pliny the younger.  in fact, I don’t think any keg kicked before I left at around 7.
  • this keg longevity was facilitated by the fact that festival glasses held only a few ounces.  this turned out to be a great idea, as it allowed for tastings of a wide variety of beers, instead of getting burned out on a full pour of some 10% hop bomb.
  • between AP, AP, ML, and myself, we managed to try a pretty wide variety of beers: avery’s maharaja ’08, ballast point’s tongue buckler and dry-hopped sculpin cask, bootlegger’s knuckle sandwich, firestone walker’s double jack, flying dog’s double dog and raging bitch, marin’s brass knuckle, russian river’s pliny the younger, tustin’s death by hops, and strand brewing’s double dry hopped 24th st. pale.  phew!
  • standouts for me were the cask sculpin, which had a great aroma and finish, even after half a dozen pours; and marin’s brass knuckle, which had a unique finish that I can only compare to instant iced tea.  weird, but good.  bootlegger’s knuckle sandwich was pretty intense, with a strong malt back that was refreshingly different.
  • yeah, younger was good too, and was well-balanced, but I expected a little less alcohol heat on the finish.  maybe a fresher sample would have enough hop aroma to tackle that.
  • overall, this was one of the best beer events I have been to.  I don’t think I waited longer than a minute to get any of my pours, there was plenty of water available, and the bathroom line was nonexistent.  we got a table with zero effort, and had pretzels and other snacks on constant refill.  I felt like I had won the beer lottery.

sean paxton collaboration beer dinner

Monday, February 15th, 2010

toasting with some of FW's finest

AP and I were free last thursday, so we searched the ol’ couch cushions and came up with enough scratch to meet up with DH and JQ at sean paxton’s collaboration beer dinner.

sean talking about the meal

first round

special delivery

the dessert lineup

sf beer week opening gala

Monday, February 8th, 2010

getting a pour of the imperial barrel aged common

last friday I was lucky enough to attend the opening gala for sf beer week over at the yerba buena center for the arts.

  • the brewer/beer lineup was great, and I was able to try quite a few brews I had been missing out on, like firestone walker’s lil’ opal and anchor’s humming ale.
  • however, my favorites of the night came from unlikely sources.  drake’s 1500 dry hopped pale really opened my eyes with its great aroma and bitter bite.
  • also, valley brewing’s cuvee d’evil was pretty fantastic.  pomegranate honey and brandy barrels? sign me uuuup.
  • in fact, all of valley’s offerings were memorable – I would have to say they were my favorite booth of the night.
  • it was also great to meet some big names in the SF beer scene.  jay over at brookstonbeerbulletin, jesse over at beer and nosh, and sean the homebrew chef were all very approachable and friendly in spite of the packed house.
  • the gala turned out to be a well-planned (and well-attended) event, and I was glad I had the opportunity to hit it up.  on with beer week!

the first pour of the night

lil' opal pour

the crowd at the gala

strong presentation!

music to go with the brews at the gala