There are occasions when my wife accompanies me on my business trips. One such time was the week of our anniversary. I was heading for San Luis Obispo, and since we were passing through Paso Robles close to dinner time I could not resist stopping by Firestone Walker for samples and dinner.
It was definitely worth the effort; both the beers and the dinners were excellent. Since we were a little early for dinner we were forced to sit at the bar and sample their brews (how sad). I did a little more sampling than my wife. She wandered around and took pictures instead.
The place has a great atmosphere. I would call it upscale industrial with cool artwork on the walls. There was a conveyor belt running around the ceiling of the bar with a neon rope light, and bottles of beer on the belt. The patio features a fabulous fire-water feature that provides a cozy atmosphere after dark.
Firestone-Walker uses a lot of barrels in their brewing process. If you enjoy great beers you have to put this brewery on you list of must-see.
Pale 31 California Pale Ale
Pale 31 was so named because California was the 31st state in the Union. A very pleasant but not over powering hop aroma with a touch of malt. Crisp and slightly dry with a mild hop bitterness. Low to moderate bodied. The moderate malt balanced well with the hop bitterness. A very refreshing quaffable pale ale. Dry hopping added to the pleasing hop aroma and flavor.
ABV 4.9%, IBU’s 38
Union Jack IPA
Union Jack IPA is one of Firestone Walkers flagship ales. The hop aroma is fairly aggressive with little to no malt. The hop bitterness was pretty assertive but not what I would consider overpowering, and it did not linger. A well-balanced and drinkable IPA.
ABV 7.5% IBU’s 72
Double Jack IPA
This beer has a wonderful nose, with notes of tangerine, citrus and grapefruit. Malty and earthy. Moderate mouthfeel with a pleasing alcohol warmth. The hop bitterness lingered longer and was more aggressive than Union Jack.
ABV 9.5 % IBU’s 75
Wookey Jack Black IPA
Unfiltered black IPA. Very dark color. Brewed with rye. Nice medium to high hop aroma with hints of spice from the rye. Moderate mouthfeel with a spicy lingering citrusy hop bitterness.
ABV 8.5% IBU’s 85
UDBA British Pale Ale
Unfiltered British Pale Ale. British Pale Ale is usually lower in both ABV and IBU’s than an American Pale Ale. This was apparent in the aroma with a lower hop aroma and slightly stronger malt notes. This ale was fermented and aged in an oak barrel. There was a hint of oak and vanilla in the aroma and flavor. The oak was noticeable in the mouthfeel, but not overpowering. Smooth and well-balanced with a moderate dry finish. I give this one 4 thumbs up.
ABV 5% IBU’s 30
Walker Reserve Robust Porter
This porter has a great aroma with coffee, toffee, caramel and chocolate notes. Low to no hops. Medium to full-bodied, malty, complex and flavorful roasted malt character.
ABV 5.8% IBU’s 45
Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout
Rich, malty aroma with chocolate, caramel, and at least to my nose a slight hint of smoke, most likely from the roasted malts. A smooth medium mouthfeel. A slight taste of smoke, probably because I can detect a little in the aroma. The bitterness from the roasted malts was balanced with the oatmeal, which added a pleasant balance. A delightful oatmeal stout.
ABV 5.5% IBU’s 27
Nitro Velvet Merkin
This is their Velvet Merlin aged in a whiskey barrel and with a higher ABV.
I think I’m in love with this one. This has to be one of the top 5 beers I have ever tried. It would be worth the trip to Firestone Walker just to try it. Subtle scent of whiskey, low hops, moderate roasted malt with hint of caramel and chocolate. Complex, smooth, full bodied with flavors of milk chocolate, cherry, vanilla and coconut. The whiskey was present, but not strong and complemented the overall enjoyment of this beer. The alcohol warmth would make this one enjoyable around the fire on a cold winter night. Looking forward to my next visit so I can have another. Word has it that there will be 22-oz bottles in the fall. Since I should be back there in October I hope to pick up a couple.
My wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed our dinners. She had a blackened ahi tostada salad and I had fish tacos made with crispy halibut and a side of apple salad. Both meals were wonderful. The side of apple salad was too bitter for me, but our waitress (Shelby) replaced it with an order of sweet potato fries. Both of us are looking forward to our next visit.
Firestone Walker Brewery
1400 Ramada Dr.
Paso Robles, CA
Don Williams has been a home brewer since 2002. He is a recognized BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judge, and has taught brewing classes. Don’s job requires extensive travel, and he enjoys visiting brew pubs in various parts of the country. He and his wife live in Cottonwood, CA.