Listen, sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due. Yes, we know it was only two months ago that Firestone Walker Brewing won us over with their Velvet Merkin brew. But, there's a reason that the outfit has won the Great American Beer Festival's Mid-Size Brewery of the Year honor so many times that folks joke about re-naming it the "Firestone Walker Award." When Firestone releases a new beer, you can rest assured that it's been well-executed.
This sentiment surely applies to their annual anniversary release, a carefully curated blend from the brewery's deep barrel archives. Every year, the brewery invites industry insiders and neighboring winemakers to sit on a blending panel. The collaborative process fuses the collective palates of the participants, yielding a unique, complex beer.
This year's blend is anchored by an oak-forward imperial brown ale called Bravo (30 percent of the blend) and a barleywine with brown sugar called Sticky Monkey (25 percent of the final blend). Between those two beers, you'll notice the strong influence of bourbon, brandy, and whiskey barrel aging. Notes of molasses and caramel carry the day. The mid-section of the brew is rounded out by Parabola (a bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout) and Velvet Merkin, which contribute elements of coffee and chocolate. Double Double Barrel Ale (imperial English Pale) and Helldorado blonde barleywine offer a honey kiss, and a fresh batch of Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA ties the room together with some light spice and hop notes.
This is a beer to sip and savor as it warms up (put down the funnel, bro). With each sip you'll notice new aromas and flavors coming to the fore. We suggest taking notes and comparing them to an aged bottle in a year or two. Firestone XVII is beginning to trickle onto shelves now. Call your favorite craft retailer for availability.