Fans of Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Wookey Jack, Double Jack and Opal beers would be wise to stock up now — the company is phasing out the bottled specialty beers and expects them to be out of distribution by the end of the year.
“It’s a bittersweet occasion,” Firestone co-founder David Walker said. “Each of these beers was forward-thinking and representative of some of our best brewing efforts, but they are now stepping aside to make room for the next generation.”
The move comes as Firestone celebrates its 20th anniversary and continues with expansion plans following its 2015 merger with Duvel Moortgat USA.
The Proprietor’s Reserve line — the black rye IPA Wookey Jack, imperial IPA Double Jack and dry-hopped saison Opal — represented well-received smaller-batch brews alongside Firestone’s main Lion & Bear offerings and limited Vintage Reserve barrel-aged line.
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But with new brewing capacity coming online, the company is shifting toward rotating offerings with a focus on freshness, Brewmaster Matt Brynildson said.
“The suspension of the Proprietor’s Reserve tier will create a void that the brewers here are extremely excited to fill,” Brynildson said. “It opens up a brand new canvas.”
The popular beers aren’t totally dead, however. Brynildson assures fans they will make reappearances once the company’s new Propagator pilot brewhouse in Venice kicks into operation.
“They may make curtain calls as special limited releases, or get reimagined into something more fantastical, or both,” he said.
As work continues on the Propagator, the main brewery in Paso Robles is also undergoing a major expansion, estimated at $15 million, that includes new energy and water recovery systems.
Underground and foundation work recently was completed, and steel beams are going up. New brewing vessels are being shipped from Germany, expected to arrive later this month, with the goal of being operational by spring.
“The expanded brewhouse will solve our current capacity constraints and set the table for our next 20 years and beyond here in Paso Robles and on the Central Coast,” co-founder Adam Firestone said.
In celebration of those 20 years, the brewery released “XX” Anniversary Ale, which is hitting store shelves this week.
An annual tradition for the last decade, the anniversary ale consists of several barrel-aged Firestone beers blended with input from more than a dozen esteemed local winemakers.
“These are our brothers in fermentation science,” Brynildson said. “They know a thing or two about blending.”
This year’s winning blend, from Torrin Wine’s Scott Hawley, consists of:
▪ 40 percent Parabola, a Russian imperial oatmeal stout aged in new oak and bourbon barrels.
▪ 20 percent Stickee Monkee, a quad brewed with sugars and aged in bourbon and brandy barrels.
▪ 17.5 percent Velvet Merkin, a traditional oatmeal stout aged in bourbon barrels.
▪ 12.5 percent Bravo, an imperial brown ale aged in bourbon barrels.
▪ 10 percent Helldorado, a blonde barleywine aged in bourbon barrels.
“There is just so much going on in this beer,” Brynildson said. “It’s big and complex, with all of these different facets from our barrel-aged program that are so seamlessly integrated. We wanted to produce something really special for our 20th anniversary, and I think we did it.”
The ale is available in 22-ounce bottles for $23.99 at the brewery in Paso, Barrelworks in Buellton and area stores.
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