Wine & Beer

Firestone’s Barrelworks turns 5: Here’s what’s next for this sour beer pioneer

Take a look inside Firestone Walker’s new brewhouse in Paso Robles

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.
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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.

Creating traditional-style sour beer and wild ales takes time and patience — and so does building the brand.

It’s been five years since Barrelworks got its own space in Buellton, and “Sour Jim” says Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s sour and wild ale program is starting to hit its stride.

“2018 marks the first time all the elements are in alignment,” said Jim Crooks, Barrelworks’ master blender.

And there are new projects in the works.

With releases limited to draft and bottles so far, Barrelworks is hoping to roll out cans sometime this year.

They’re also building a coolship at Firestone co-founder David Walker’s vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley where beer can ferment in the traditional Belgian way — open and absorbing yeast and other microbes from the surrounding environment.

As far as manipulating these beers, Crooks said, “We’re just scratching the surface.”

Crooks and crew are also playing with adding fruit into Bretta Weisse, a Berliner weisse-inspired wheat beer, similar to what they’ve done with Bretta Rosé, an iteration made with local raspberries whose fifth batch is being released this week.

“We want to highlight the ingredient side while still focusing on tradition,” Crooks said. “Our beers are unique to this area, with the cultures and the barrels,” many of which come from the area’s wine industry.

Barrelworks began with a few clandestine barrels stashed around the Paso Robles brewery. It’s grown into a cathedral of barrels, with 2,000 vessels of various shapes and sizes spread around the glorified warehouse.

It’s just a tiny fraction of Paso Robles-based Firestone’s overall production, about 0.6 percent, Crooks said, but he believes they can grow to about 5,000 barrels.

Barrelworks’ 5th Anniversary

Celebrate Barrelworks’ birthday and the release of Feral One Batch No. 5 from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Buellton taproom at 620 McMurray Road. Tickets, which include bottles of the new release as well as beer sampling, live music, a pig roast and other small bites, are available at firestonebeer.com.

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.

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