Firestone Anniversary Ale XXII
Firestone Walker’s hometown of Paso Robles, California is one of the country’s best wine regions. So what happens when the town’s flagship brewery invites the area’s best winemakers to blend a beer? The answer is Firestone Walker’s Anniversary Ale. Each summer, small teams of winemakers work to produce a beer that is a blend of various barrel-aged beers. The teams create and blind taste test several combinations and then pick a winner. The resulting beer often transcends the qualities of the already intriguing individual beers. It’s an impressive feat.
A nod to availability and affordability, Firestone Walker XXII is sold in single boxed 12oz. bottles. The labeling and box are have a stark white scheme, a contrast to the usual “recycled” brown of their other reserve releases. The beer pours dark brown, with a moderate foam collar and slow carbonation. The complex color likely comes from the blend: the 2018 is 44% Stickee Monkee Quad, 22% Parabola Imperial Stout, 22% Bravo Imperial Brown, and 12% Helldorado Blonde Barley Wine.
This is a monster ale, but it’s executed with a masterful hand”
XXII’s aromatic profile is as varied as that blend—there’s fig and plum esters, strong caramel and coffee notes in the malt, and big toasty vanilla oak from the barrel aging. There are also some intense botanical scents of orange, pepper, and juniper as the ale warms. A call to the Firestone Walker tasting room revealed that a bit of the blend came from a gin barrel-aged variant of Helldorado, and it seems to have left a mark.
XXII presents a cornucopia of winter flavors: orange, fig, cherry, and baking spice. The blend’s barrel-aging comes through via roasty caramel, vanilla, and coffee flavors. The alcohol is warming and noticeable, but well integrated for a 12.7% ABV. The beer’s finish sails on for a solid 30 seconds—this is a monster ale, but it’s executed with a masterful hand. A snifter of XXII would be an ideal dessert course, either solo or paired with a cheese board.
A blended beverage that pairs well with food sounds like the description of wine rather than beer, which means that Firestone Walker’s winemaker friends have succeeded in their latest beer-blending foray.