Wine & Beer

Firestone releases 3 new beers — and one is a blast from the past

A lager made by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles is one of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Top 25 Beers of 2018.
A lager made by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles is one of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Top 25 Beers of 2018.

Firestone Walker Brewing Co. is refreshing its lineup, bringing back an old recipe for a crisp Bavarian-style lager.

“It’s a very clean, easy-drinking beer made in a classic, old-world style,” Brewmaster Matt Brynildson said of the new Firestone Lager, released to the broad market in 12-ounce cans Wednesday, accompanied by playful marketing and even its own Spotify playlist.

In the U.S., most so-called lagers add corn and rice fillers to the barley malt and water down any hint of bitterness. But Firestone is aiming to find converts with its more traditional Munich Helles-style version.

“If you order a beer in Munich, this is basically what you’ll get,” Brynildson said. “We’re hoping that people discover this a surprisingly refreshing beer that’s locally made.”

But while it’s designed to be easy drinking, lager is actually one of the harder beers to brew.

The cooler fermentation and maturation needed to produce crisp, balanced flavors takes at least a week longer than typical ales.

Lager 2
A lager made by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles is one of Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Top 25 Beers of 2018. Firestone Walker

Plus, Brynildson said, “There’s no strong flavors to hide any flaws behind — it’s critical to have really sound brewing techniques.”

A lager was actually Firestone’s third release back in late 1990s, and a favorite among the brewery crews, Brynildson said. But it was cast aside when hoppier beers came into vogue and Firestone rolled out Union Jack India pale ale.

“Eleven years later, we’ve come full circle,” he said, noting that the lager has been well received by early tasters. “People are stoked to have a sessionable beer they don’t have to think too much about.”

Two more new beers

The lager joins the recent release of Firestone’s first canned nitro beer, Nitro Merlin Milk Stout, which uses a touch of wizardry to deliver nitro’s thick foam and creamy mouthfeel.

For the Firestone team, the widgets typically used in nitro cans allowed for too much oxygen, which can reduce freshness and shelf life. So they sought another solution and found it in a liquid nitrogen drip machine.

Firestone Walker Brewing Co. is putting the final touches on a two-year, $15 million expansion of its Paso Robles brewhouse and new visitor center.

The machine releases a drop into the can, which flashes into nitrogen gas. Part of the gas fills the headspace as the can is filled with beer; the rest remains suspended, only to be released when the can is cracked.

“It took a lot of work to dial in everything on the canning line, but we are really happy with the result,” Brynildson said.

Craft beer fans have another treat to look forward to with the upcoming annual release of Parabola: Coconut Parabola, a limited bottling made by racking the highly acclaimed Russian Imperial stout on toasted coconut before barrel aging.

But they’ll also have to say au revoir to another: After 17 years, the brewery is pulling Pale 31 from its lineup. With the Luponic Distortion rotating hop series filling the pale ale niche and plenty of other beers to be brewed, Brynildson said he’s putting the recipe in his back pocket for now.

“That beer has won more awards for the brewery than any other, by spades,” he said, including 12 Great American Beer Festival medals and four golds at the World Beer Cup. “It’s a little sad for the brewery team, but it’s been a good run.”

Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at sallybuffalo@gmail.com.

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Take a look inside Firestone Walker Brewing Co's main brewery in Paso Robles as co-founder David Walker talks about the beginnings of the business and the craft beer revolution in the United States.

Taste the new Firestone Lager

What: Sample Firestone Walker’s newest beer with free tastes and cans available for purchase, with all proceeds going to Studios on the Park. More details on food and music to come.

When and where: 5 to 8 p.m. March 7, Studios on the Park, 1130 Pine St., Paso Robles.

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