Firestone Walker markets itself as being on the cutting-edge of brewing techniques and beer manufacturing. They have a stat-of-the-art facility on the West Coast and have been brewing excellent beers since the mid-1990s. The brewery has expanded rapidly in recent years, which increased distribution to the point where you can find Firestone Walker beer nearly everywhere in the country.
Due to the different personalities of the two owners (Adam Firestone and David Walker), the microbrewery introduced a Lion v. Bear line of beers, which includes multiple styles and types. The new series replaced the recently retired Double Jack and Wookey Jack IPAs. Fortem is the first beer under the Leo v. Ursus category, a brewing series the company hopes will test the limits of hop variance and taste.
Fortem’s name is derived from latin, meaning ‘the strong’ which makes a ton of sense for this beer. It is an unfiltered imperial IPA with dense blended hops and a high alcohol content. It pours a color more golden yellow than orange, and is cloudy. Even though the beer is cloudy, you can tell that the bubbles are numerous and are pretty easy to see through the haze. The head looks thicker than it feels on the palate and dissipates pretty quickly in the glass.
Because it is unfiltered, the various hops are well-rounded with no distinct hop flavor emerging as the dominant one.”
Although this beer is marketed as “highly aromatic,” the aroma does not linger very long. When you first pour it into a tulip glass and take a sniff, you’ll get a burst of citrus (mostly orange with slight tangerine) followed by hints of grain, most notably, wheat. A few short minutes later, the aroma dies down significantly.
Fortem has a medium-bodied mouthfeel despite its Imperial status. The beer is crisp and the carbonation you can see through the haze in the glass tingles your mouth immediately when the brew hits your palate. When you taste this beer, you will find a citrus-forward flavor with a bready aftertaste with hints of wheat. Because it is unfiltered, the various hops are well-rounded with no distinct hop flavor emerging as the dominant one. The flavor lingers a bit with a very bright and clean finish; overall, Fortem has a well-balanced flavor profile.
This is a very drinkable (read: dangerously good) Imperial IPA. Despite the 8.2% alcohol by volume, there is little to no noticeable traces of alcohol in either the initial taste or the finish. The beer is smooth and goes down easy, but make no mistake, a couple of these and you’ll certainly feel this beer packing a punch.
Firestone Walker is trying to push the envelope on new beer styles and tastes. While Fortem is not exactly unique in its style and flavor, I can understand what they’re trying to do. In an effort to become more rustic, kicking off a new series with an unfiltered Imperial IPA is pretty ambitious.
With Fortem, they are off to a good start.