After recently having the Luponic Distortion IPA (Revolution #1) on Memorial weekend, my thoughts have been veering towards how awesome and amazing Firestone Walker Brewing is. Needless to say, I’m honored and excited to be attending the Firestone Invitational Festival this weekend - in the heart of California’s wild west, Paso Robles.
I’ve always admired Firestone Walker and their unique origins. Borne out of the Firestone family vineyard in 2001, they’re now the 4th largest craft brewery in the country producing everything from oak aged to hoppy ales, and winning hearts and awards ever since.
I think their success is attributed to a variety of factors including growth in barrel programs, product offerings, canning lines, consistent quality and solid partnerships (i.e. Duvel) but the pinnacle of their world-class status comes from their intimate relationship with their customers. Or fans. Or hardcore geeks and nerds. And even me. How do they do this? Keeping an ear close to the ground and listening to their customers. This could be in the form of demand of certain beers, or the media implications of certain business decisions, or holding top uber festivals like FWIF year after year.
Without going into explicit details (as I could go on forever), here are a few thoughts:
Their lineup is uniquely pushing the standards, often resulting in new creative categories. Helldorado is a barrel-aged blonde ale. STiVO is a collaboration pilsner of STS/ Pivo (which both won the Gold/Silver GABF medals 2016). Their yearly anniversary series (XIX currently) are blends of existing beers, created by local winning wineries for that year's competition. The expansion of Barrelworks, their wild ale program located in Buelton where many of their beers are aged in wine, brandy, and tequila barrels, is evidence of their commitment to pushing boundaries.
Any newly released beer- Parabajava, yearly vintage series, Barrelworks wild ales- is widely trusted and regarded as world-class within aficionado circles. Not only in consistency, but they’re often sealed to encourage safe aging for years to come. There’s no cooler feeling than unearthing a vintage ale, opening the box marked by the lion and bear, reading through the pamphlet indicating its blend, attenuation, and any geeker information you might choose to absorb, and cracking open the wax knowing that its you’ll get what you purchased.
Not acquisition. Last year, Duvel Moortgat Brewery in Belgium, who also owns Ommegang and Boulevard, combined operations with Firestone to expand its operations. This means a second brewhouse in Venice without compromising on focus, quality, and all the good stuff I mentioned above. Also, new taproom is LA? Yes. When said in context, this move simply makes sense when it comes to building these expensive establishments on cash flow alone. At least it ain’t InBev.
Firestone Invitational, here we go.