Firestone Walker has grapes and grains in its veins. Founded on the plot of a family vineyard in the midst of California’s Central Coast Wine Country in 1996, the brand began fermenting beer in oak casks and continues to draw inspiration from winemaking.
Today, the Paso Robles-based brewery is also known for a dizzying array of award-winning IPAs, fruited sour beers, and lagers.
Here are 11 more things you should know about Firestone Walker.
IT STARTED STRONG.
Firestone Walker’s first beer, DBA (double barrel ale), is a British pale ale partially fermented in a patented oak barrel brewing system called Firestone Union. The name was inspired by the Burton Union system, a fermentation method created in 19th-century Britain.
IT’S STOKED ON OAK.
Since brewing that first batch of DBA in 1996, Firestone Walker continued refining the barrel-aging method. The company now has one of the most extensive barrel-aging programs in the country, Barrelworks. It features more than 1,500 barrels, many of which are reclaimed from local wineries.
LIKE THE UNIVERSE, IT KEEPS EXPANDING.
Firestone Walker was founded in 1996 in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley. In 2001, it moved operations to Paso Robles, taking over the former SLO Brewing Company facility. In 2012, it unveiled a new brewhouse in Paso Robles, too. The following year, it launched the Barrelworks facility in Buellton. It added a new kegging facility and expanded its barrel-aging room there in 2014.
In 2016, after partnering with Duvel the previous year, Firestone Walker opened another new location, a pilot brewery, and restaurant called the Propagator in Venice. It also broke ground on another major brewhouse expansion in Paso Robles, completed in 2017.
IN-LAWS, LIONS, AND BEARS. OH MY!
Firestone Walker was founded by brothers-in-law Adam Firestone, “the bear,” and David Walker, “the lion,” a British expatriate married to Firestone’s sister. Before partnering, Firestone, an avid homebrewer, was in search of a business partner to start a brewery. He wooed Walker with an early batch of DBA. The rest is hoppy history.
FIRESTONE WALKER LOVES ITS HOPS.
Thanks to the hop-loving ingenuity of Brewmaster Matt Brynildson, who joined the brewery in 2001, Firestone Walker has released many beloved IPAs. Union Jack IPA medaled at the Great American Beer Festival (2013), California State Fair (2013), and European Beer Star (2011, 2012, 2013). Brynildson also created Easy Jack IPA, a pillar of the session IPA style.
Luponic Distortion is a series of fruit-forward (but not fruit!) IPAs currently in its 11th iteration. And in January 2019, Firestone Walker launched Mind Haze, its first official “hazy IPA the Firestone way.”
ITS WILD SIDE IS ALL THANKS TO ‘SOUR JIM’ AND JEFFERS.
Barrelworks is helmed by Jeffers Richardson, the company’s original brewmaster, who returned to head up sour beer production in 2012. Jeffers works with master blender Jim “Sour Jim” Crooks, who kicked off Firestone Walker’s experimentation with wild ales in 2007.
IT MADE A DEAL WITH THE DUVEL.
In 2015, Firestone Walker sold to Duvel Moortgat, an independent brewery based in Breendonk, Belgium. The California brewery maintained its “craft” status after the sale because Duvel itself is independently owned. With Duvel as its parent, Firestone Walker gained two new siblings, Boulevard Brewing and Brewery Ommegang.
IT’S PRETTY INTO CANS.
Firestone Walker launched its first beers in cans in 2015. By way of its own canning line, Union Jack IPA, Easy Jack IPA, and Pivo Pils became available in 12-ounce cans. The brewery now offers a plethora of canned beers, from that original lineup to a milk stout, to a recently released beer-wine hybrid.
FIRESTONE WALKER MAKES BEER ROSÉ.
In January 2019, Firestone Walker announced the launch of Rosalie, a new year-round offering (in cans!) that combines the brewery’s love for beer and wine. The beer is co-fermented with juice from local Paso Robles wine grapes, a hint of hibiscus, and finishes at a refreshing 5 percent ABV. Brewmaster Matt Brynildson calls it “the rosé lover’s beer.”
To make the beer-wine hybrid, Firestone Walker worked with nearby Castoro Cellars winery, which harvested 200 tons of wine grapes, including 100 tons of Chardonnay along with a mix of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Muscat Canelli, and Orange Muscat.
Firestone Walker says Rosalie’s label is a nod to California’s winegrowing heritage, the brickwork of the historic Paso Robles Inn (a local landmark), and the scales of justice, depicting the beer’s balance of grape and grain.
IT BREWED A UNICORN.
In February 2018, Firestone Walker launched Firestone Lager, a macro-beer-defying pale lager whose debut included a unicorn-themed website, Instagram account, and Spotify playlist. Despite its mystic quality, this beer is very much real and was even ranked one of VinePair’s best beers of 2018.
IT HAS ITS OWN BEER FEST.
In 2012, the brewery launched the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest, an “epic yet intimate” gathering of top brewers and beer lovers at the Paso Robles Event Center. The eighth annual festival will take place on June 1, 2019 — tickets go on sale Feb. 8 at 8 a.m. sharp (PST).