Monday, February 25, 2013

Firestone Walker, Quality From The Central Valley

I'm not sure why I was sitting on this post, but Today I would like to share a brewery, which is now in my top 5, with you all.

Firestone Walker Brewing Co. is an easy enough establishment to find. It is just off of the 101 Freeway as you are coming in to Paso Robles. About an hour north of San Luis Obispo and somewhat 3 hours south of San Jose from the north. You can literally see the building below as you drive by on the freeway, but the dead giveaway are the grain silos.

Now, I go to my local breweries ALL the time, and I've been to a few others like Stone, but there was one characteristic that I got from this place that the others all seem to lack, the insane bubble of wort aroma wreaking havoc on my smell receptors in my nose. Don't get me wrong, it isn't a bad thing. I actually love the smell. The wort is the part of the beer making process that contains the boiling water and the malt, whether it be extract or actual malt grains.

I really was interested in taking the tour. I have toured several other facilities(to varying degrees), such as Noble Ale Works, Bootleggers Brewery, and Stone Brewing, and I was very interested to see what a middle level brewing facility would look like. The lobby contained a small tasting room. They had most of their regulars on tap that day, such as Wookey Jack, DBA, and Union Jack along with some imperial variants DDBA and Double Jack. 

There were some special releases that day which made the trip special for me, Velvet Merkin, featured in the photo just above, and §ucaba barleywine, not pictured.

The brewery tour was quite an experience. They have several different departments with which they do research many people would never have thought would take place at a brewery. They have an entire lab that caters to all of these needs. one of the machines tests the liquid to determine the amount of alcohol for one of their product lines and it can tell them if there is anything wrong so the brewers can find out what they did wrong easier. 

The other main science they do is yeast reclaim. They can use a batch of yeast for up to 8 different times. Then its kind of exhasted. So they take up a sample of spent yeast and they regrow the same strain of yeast. It gives them the same taste. Using s different batch of yeast, no matter if its the same style, can throw off the flavor ever so slightly, but could be noticable, which is not good when you are known for excellence and quality.

Bottling line as seen from a window outside the lab.

One of the brewers is releasing the steam from the wort by opening the lid on one of the brewhouse tanks. Stand back. That steam is really hot and shoots out very fast.

These batrrels are in the fermenting step. The barrel actually gives off a slight smokey flavor that effects the final product. I think the guide said these were full of the DBA (Double Barrel Ale). The version of DBA you buy in the bottle  at the store contains 10% of product from the barrels and the other 90% were aged in the normal steel fermentors.

This bucket is full of used yeast.

Gotta stay on schedule.

This guy was loading a pallet with full kegs. Its gotta be a hard job.

A weird random fact about Firestone-Walker is that they actually brew house beers for several restaurants. The one that comes to mind is the Yardhouse. I went to another place right on the border of Little Tokyo that had their house beers made there as well. Its an interesting deal to have. that must be what those few without any product name on the schedule above were. 

This brewery was indeed a sight to be seen and it is most definitely one of those places that are one timers. Ya really gotta go see it at least once. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience much better than Stone Brewing. There was no real snobbyness and the service was incredbile. The only thing I didn't enjoy so much was the burger over at the taproom. It seemed to me to be one of those pressed premade burger. Everything else made up for that tiny tiny point.

You can view the rest of my pictures from the shoot over on my Smugmug page

Are there any brewerues local to you that you would reccomend?