Saturday, April 7, 2012

Firestone Union Jack IPA – The Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, CA


As some of you may know, yours truly hails from the quiet (not so much) city of Montreal, Quebec but that I now make my home in Gig Harbor, WA (with a pit stop in Northern New York). That said I have a fair appreciation of both Coasts and the great beers that they provide. At least I have the northern portions of the coasts covered. My lovely wife on the other hand is from Southern California, and she is quick to remind me that only the California coast truly matters. Up until a couple of summers ago, my only experience in California had been near Barstow, CA and Death Valley (a great vacation destination at the U.S. Army’s expense). Trust me, this is not where you want to take the kids for that long-awaited summer trek. But as I said, two summers ago, my better half led the way to Solvang, CA (her hometown) and the neighboring city of Buelton. Between the Danish hospitality of her hometown and day trips to Santa Barbara, I fell in love with this “other” California. Now, it’s a consistent vacation destination for us, where we hope to find some of my wife’s family members, such as her cousin Dee Dee, sipping local favorites at her favorite Pub.

In addition to windmills and a great Surf/Skate Shop, the community offers up a great Taproom and Brewery that goes by the name of The Firestone Walker Brewing Company. One of their signature brews is their Union Jack IPA, and we’re testing it out tonight. It’s pretty exciting for me, because it’s pretty hard to find on the East Coast, but as luck would have it, my local shop had it in stock this past week. Here’s what the website has to say:

THE BEER:

Union Jack

India Pale Ale

Union Jack abounds with hop aroma and character. In fact this well balanced, west coast IPA is double dry hopped, giving it more and more of the grapefruit, citrus hop aroma and flavor it is known for. Overall it utilizes over four pounds of pacific-northwest hops per barrel.

REMEMBER: Watch for bottled on dates located on the necks of our beers.  Our beer is not pasteurized, so it is best when stored at 44F or below, out of light and within 110 days of the bottled on date...this ensures freshness and ultimately a great Firestone Walker beer!

Brew notes

Style: American IPA

ABV: 7.5%

Fermentation: 100% Stainless Steel Fermentation

Malts: Premium Two-Row (Metcalf & Kendall varieties), Munich, Cara Pils, Simpson's Light Crystal

Hops: 4 lbs/BBL: Bittering—Warrior, Simcoe; Late Kettle—Cascade, Centennial; Dry Hops—Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Simcoe

Availability: California / Nevada / Arizona / Washington / Oregon / Colorado
6 pack, 22 oz bottle & draft (13.3g/5.2g)

Awards & Press

2011            Bronze Medal            -            European Beer Star
2011            Silver Medal              -            Australian International Beer Awards
2010            Best IPA                    -            Maxim Magazine
2010            Gold Medal               -            Australian International Beer Awards
2009            Top Pick                    -            Draft Magazine: Top 25 Beers of 2009
2009            Gold Medal               -            Great American Beer Festival: American IPA
2009            Silver Medal              -            Australian International Beer Awards
2009            Silver Medal              -            European Beer Star
2009            Silver Medal              -            California State Fair
2008            Gold Medal               -            European Beer Star
2008            Gold Medal               -            Great American Beer Festival: American IPA
2008            Silver Medal              -            World Beer Cup: American IPA


THE BREWERY:

It began innocently enough: a couple of brothers-in-law sitting around debating the subject of good and bad beer. Instead, their search for decent ale to led them to brew their own. Given Mr. Firestone’s winemaking bias and Mr. Walker’s complete lack of fermentation experience, they believed 60-gallon oak barrels were the appropriate vehicle in which to create their perfect elixir.

OK, so initial attempts were forgettable. But like so many great ideas, out of that disaster was born a handy invention – the Firestone Union. Based on classic brewing traditions from Burton-Upon Trent, this bizarre and unlikely system of linked barrels has the ability to produce rich and complex ales. In 1996 the accidental duo shelved their endless discussion on better beers and settled for building a world-class brewery that bore their names on California’s Central Coast……the debate was now over.

Here at Firestone Walker the brewing process begins with sourcing the best ingredients from all over the world.  We incorporate imported malts and hops into our flagship, DBA, to produce British pale ale as close to those in the UK as possible.  Other beers like our Pale 31 and Union Jack IPA use American hops to produce more aggressive bitterness and fruity aroma.

The brewing process can be divided into three parts.  The Brewhouse, the Cellar and Packaging.

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.

Firestone Walker’s ales are selectively fermented in the Firestone Union oak barrel brewing system. The Firestone Union incorporates 65-gallon, medium and heavy toast American oak barrels.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company continues to grow as the palates of Americans migrate to craft beer. Our brew staff have picked up “Mid Size Brewery of the Year” at the World Beer Cup an unmatched three times.

THE WEBISTE:


THE REVIEW:

Wow, this is a much better brew than I thought I would get. I truly was not expecting such a clean, packed with flavor beer. I don’t know exactly why though. Firestone has been pretty consistent at putting out quality brews, but still, I had no idea that the Union Jack IPA would be so good. The pour was clean and crisp. Plenty of citrus overtones give the Union Jack a great aroma. The head was tight, and clung just right. But the taste is what really blows you away. A truly complex brew hits you like a ton of bricks. The Hopped up flavor is there, but not too heavy. The taste is very refreshing. Please note the production date though, as this brew can go bad. All in all, you get a really refreshing, clean IPA that is meant for sharing.

THE RATING:

8.5/10 – Meant To Share

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