Beer of the Week: Firestone Walker XVI (Release Party Tonight!)

Categories: Beer

Everything changed when we turned back the clocks. We eat much more hot soup and porridge than usual, carefully consider our scarf options, and retire by 9:30 p.m. Now that hibernation time is upon us, it seems fitting to adjust our drinking habits. For the next couple months, we'll focus on brews that invoke fantasies of lounging on bear skin rugs by a roaring fire. If there's one line of beers that serve this particular purpose, it's Firestone Walker's annual anniversary series brew.

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When not monopolizing the award podium at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup, Firestone's brewers oversee one of the biggest collections of barrels in the brewing industry. Many of their beers age in used spirits barrels, while others ferment in neutral oak casks. This year Firestone is launching Barrelworks, a facility for creating barrel-aged sour beers in seclusion from the rest of the company's "clean" brews.

The anniversary series focuses on artful blending across barrel types and beers styles. The brewers pull samples from numerous oak barrels, then sit down with local beer experts and winemakers to create a harmonious blend. This year's XVI anniversary brew is a dark, rich brew with 42% of the final blend made up of barreled stouts with roasty notes of cacao and mocha. Sweet bourbon notes carry the beer, while bourbon and brandy barrel-aged barleywines offer notes of toffee and maple syrup. This year, the blenders included a portion of black rye IPA, which offers a bright citrus hop note and spicy rye character. Heck, there's even a portion of imperial buckwheat stout aged in Tequila barrels for good measure.

Fans of spirits, rich beers, and cocktails should rejoice at their first sip of this masterpiece. The brew can be enjoyed with an array of chocolates, but is complex enough to simply pair with a snifter. And a bear skin rug and roaring fire, naturally. The beer just began popping up at boutique beer shops, and will see limited distribution at Whole Foods and Bevmo stores. Call ahead for availability. For those who wish to sample the beer on draft alongside other Firestone specialties, Toronado is having a release party tonight at 6 p.m. Be sure to wear your finest robe and slippers.

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