843: Anniversary Ale

843 - Anniversary AleName: Anniversary Ale
Brewery: Firestone Walker Brewing
Country of Origin: United States
City & State: Paso Robles, California
Style: American Strong Ale
Alcohol Content (ABV): 13.0%
First Brewed: 2006
Price: $18.99

Tasting Notes
Each batch has grown more complex as it ages; an ebb and flow of dark fruits, sweet noes of molasses, flavors of the spirits the barrels held before, and other notes associated with wood.

*We are drinking the Firestone Walker Anniversary Ale XVI.

Ricky’s Thoughts

I am STOKED to drink this. When this first came out, I grabbed a bottle having no clue what it was. Then I opened the box, and saw a letter from the brewmaster explaining the project. I was hooked. I was so impressed I decided to buy another bottle. The other bottle will cellar for a few years, but this one needs to be drank. Today the Skeptical Chymist announced they will be tapping a keg of this. I actually knew they had a keg of this, but didn’t know when they were going to tap it. If it is good in the bottle, I can imagine it is even better on tap! This beer has a BA score of 95, and folks on BeerAdvocate don’t mess around. I am stoked to try this.

Before we start drinking, I wanted to share more information about the beer per the letter and information sheet that was in the box. Yes, the beer came in a box. Not your average beer, here. I didn’t even realize it had a letter until I opened the box to see the bottle. On the front, it explains the beer, the goal, the puzzle, the inspiration, the barrels they used, and the beers included in this blend. Below you will find a complete list of the beers used and their percentage in the final blend:

  • Velvet Merlin (23%)
  • Stickee Monkee (22.5%)
  • Double Double Barrel Ale (20.3%)
  • Parabola (10.8%)
  • PNC (8.1%)
  • Helldorado (5.4%)
  • Bravo (5.4%)
  • Wookey Jack (4.5%)

These beers have all been aged in different barrels to provide even more complexity in this beer. The barrels they were aged in include:

  • Velvet Merlin – Aged in Bourbon barrels
  • Stickee Monkee – Aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels
  • Double Double Barrel Ale – Aged 100% in retired Firestone Union Barrels
  • Parabola – Aged in Bourbon barrels
  • PNC – Aged in Tequila barrels
  • Helldorado – Aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels
  • Bravo – Aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels
  • Wookey Jack – 100% Fresh, dank & hoppy 100% Stainless Steel

As you can see, a lot goes into this beer. To consider they make this beer every year to celebrate their anniversary, I can’t imagine the amount of research and attention that must be paid to making sure they have a solid product year after year. And at $18.99 a bottle, it better be solid! This was also VERY limited here in Arizona. Our Total Wine & More only got two cases of it. (There are only six bottles per case.)

Each beer is a different style. From stouts to pale ales, there is a lot going on here. I could keep talking about the beer, mention the goal of the release, and discuss the barrels a little more. But I would rather just drink. This release has come and gone, but I am sure they will release another anniversary ale next year. I wonder what that one will be like. Until next year, cheers to the Firestone Walker Anniversary Ale XVI. Bottoms up, people!

In the Glass: Black. It’s thick, too. Not motor oil thick, but it has a nice stout thickness to it. It also has the most impressive head I have seen in a long time. Considering how many different beers went into this, I am surprised it even produces a drinkable beer. When this first came out, I asked a guy about it. He said, “It has a really nice tequila flavor to it.” I didn’t, at the time, realize they used tequila barrels in this. Hopefully that holds true here today.

Nose: Granted, this is ice cold. I just pulled this from the fridge. But since it is a bomber, it poured a full tulip glass for both of us. It WILL get better as it heats up, and I am going to let the last drop get to room temperature before I enjoy the final sip. There really isn’t much aroma here. Considering how many beers are in this blend, I can see how they would eventually (especially after sitting in the bottle) all start to blend to a similar aroma. I am sure the flavor is complex, though. What aroma I am getting is dark fruits, currants, and maybe some caramelized sugar toward the finish. A second whiff has me smelling some raisins. I am sick of waiting. We have put SO much intuit his. Let’s see what this beer tastes like, shall we?

Flavor: Complex doesn’t even begin to explain it. From the second it hits your tongue, flavors are shooting off in every direction. There is some sweetness on the front of my tongue, then it floats across to a spicy flavor, then hits me with a smooth and obvious heat from the alcohol. As I swallow, the heat continues and produces a nice warming sensation as you swallow. Then, as my tongue just sits there, some dryness takes over. Basically, from the second you start drinking well into the aftertaste, you get a bunch of different flavors. I am not sure where the tequila comes in, but this is a tasty beer.

Now… I will say this. It’s too cold. But, this is NOT a beer that you chug. This is a sipping beer. This is a beer that would also pair well with a nice meal, or a cigar. It’s good, and I am impressed with the amount of beers they used in this to produce a drinkable beverage. BUT I would not write home about it being “the best beer I ever had”. It reminds me of the Dark Lord. I had a lot of expectations going in, and while it didn’t blow me away, it was a great beer. Similar situation here. I hope the bottle in the cellar will get better with age.

Mouthfeel: There aren’t a lot of bubbles here, and it is easy drinking. It slides across the palate leaving a nice fluffy feeling until the heat from the alcohol kicks in. That might be the worst part about this beer, actually. I call beers like this “hot” since you can taste the booze. That isn’t always a bad thing, and that will mellow out as the beer sits. After all is said and done, I think the flavor and the aftertaste are my two favorite things about this beer.

Aftertaste: A beer like this should provide a nice, lasting aftertaste. Firestone Walker XVI does just that. The heat hits right as you swallow, and then fades as you sit there and continue to swallow. The finish is hot, but the aftertaste is somewhat dry and has a nice sweetness that reminds me of dark chocolate. I bet a piece of chocolate would pair nicely with this beer.

I had some pretty big expectations for this beer. Considering I like everything else Firestone Walker makes, I expected this to “wow” me. It didn’t, but that’s OK. Not all beers can. It is a good beer, with a great story, and one that I look forward to trying next year. They don’t make much of this, so I am glad it was on our list and that I was able to get my hands on a bottle. Maybe we will review the one we cellar in a few years to see how it compares. If you get the chance to try this, do. It’s worth trying. I am excited to try this on tap in a few weeks. I am also ready for this to heat up a little bit. Hopefully that will help this beer release some more flavors.

Anniversary Ale – The bottle says: “NA”

Rating: 3/5

Sheryl’s Thoughts

I was the one that suggested tonight’s beer.  If I remember correctly, we bought this beer from Total Wine because it was something special and rare that came in, and we didn’t want to miss it.  Also because it sounded good.  Firestone Walker is a pretty popular brewery around here, and I’ve even won a pint glass and some other merchandise with their logo on it.  I’ve tried some of their beers, and while they’re not bad, I really don’t have one that sticks out to me just yet.  Maybe this will be the one.

This beer looks like one I might like, being very dark and thick.  Those are the best ones!  I can’t see through the glass, and the color is almost black.  I tried smelling this beer in the kitchen before we even brought it in to write our blogs, and I didn’t get much smell from it.  Smelling it again, it’s still not really strong, but what I do smell is some chocolate and malt.  Good stuff.  Let’s see how good it tastes.  Ricky said it’s too cold, and it might be a little bit, but I also like my beers a bit colder than he does.  So here we go!

Yum!  This beer is really good.  Definitely worth the money we spent on it.  It reminds me of the Bourbon County Coffee Stout from Goose Island, which is one of my all-time favorite beers.  It’s got a lot of heat to it.  I’m sure this is a high ABV, and you can really taste the alcohol here.  You can also taste a lot of the flavors of the barrels this was aged in.  It’s like beer on steroids.  There’s just so much flavor coming through.  I taste the chocolate and malt I smelled, but also a lot of alcohol flavors too… bourbon, tequila… like I said, all the flavors of the barrels.  This one deserves a standing ovation.  Good job, Firestone Walker!  I can’t wait for their next anniversary.

Rating: 5/5

842 bottles of beer on the wall…

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