Friday, March 1, 2013

560. Firestone Walker 14 Anniversary Ale

I’ll start by noting that there are a lot of adjectives we could use to describe this beer. A lot. It has a lot of layers. A lot. As in numerous. And, not surprisingly, all of them are delicious. As well, this is our third beer from Firestone Walker; previous indulgences—good, but not so nearly good as this—include Solace and Union Jack IPA. I’m just sayin’.

14 Anniversary Ale pours a rich brown sugar molasses with a thin, wispy tan head. While dark, it is crystal clear in the glass. The nose is rich, thick, and deep: molasses, caramel, and brown sugar dance in the nose, along with a slight tannic oak-scented vanilla creaminess. There is also cherry and tobacco; even with all of this, it is bright, clean, and open—nothing is muddled or indistinct. Flavors are rounded, chewy, and chocolate-y. The front is molasses, brown sugar, and cocoa before moving chocolate and dark fruit richness. As it moves into the finish, there is a richer chocolate and cocoa mixed with a slight roast tang. The mouthfeel is sweet, chewy, rich, and rounded; while clean, the sweetness and the slick smoothness coming from the stouts gives the beer a delicious aged presence on the palate that is soft and simultaneously delightful. While this beer is delightful across the board, the nose and mouthfeel really stand out. While the flavor profile is delightful and complex, the nose is seductively transcendent—it is an aromatic delight that is stunningly rich and rewarding. It is probably one of the most interesting noses I’ve found in a beer in the last several years. Yes, it is that good. Or, as might not be surprising, was that good. In other words, having finished the beer about 25 minutes ago, I’m still struggling with adequately describing the delightfully ephemeral olfactory sensations that are still dancing in my mind. Maybe I’ll find more of that when I crack the 15 in another year or so. I certainly hope so. Time will tell.

From the box: “Since founding our brewery in 1996, we have specialized in the rare art of fermenting beer in oak barrels. In the fall of 2006, we released a limited edition, oak-aged strong ale called ‘10’ to commemorate our 10th anniversary, thus beginning an annual autumn rite. This year, we present 14, our fifth release from our barrel aged program. 14 was crafted from separate lots produced over several months and years, then carefully blended into this truly unique and complex brew. Each of the contributing lots was aged in oak barrels, some previously used by American spirits producers, others used in our Firestone Union. Each barrel lent its own bit of soul to the flavor profile, including nuances of tobacco, chocolate, and molasses. Local Paso Robles area winemakers and our brewers collaborated to taste each individual lot and lend their expertise to the final blend. The resulting limited production brew offers immense depth and complexity with long, intense flavors that beg to be sipped and savored. 14 is a one-of-a-kind beer built to last and will reward careful aging for years to come.”

ABV: 12.5%

P.S. That bear is gonna kick the crap out of the lion. Trust me on this one.


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