Two new brews — neither of which spent a second in a bourbon barrel, for once — from California’s Firestone Walker, plus the introduction of Cali Squeeze, which doesn’t carry Firestone branding and which is confusingly a new line of both beers (all hefeweizens) and seltzers, all made with California fruit. We only received the Cali Squeeze beers, not the seltzers, for review. Let’s give these brews a whirl.
Firestone Walker STiVo Keller Pils – Two operations known for their IPAs — Firestone Walker and Russian River Brewing — have collaborated on what? A pilsner! This mashup of both breweries’ flagship lagers was previously a draft-only release and is now available in cans. The results are fine, if short of anything enthralling. Big notes of banana bread and walnuts pave the way to a gently bitter character that begs to be paired with a fat pretzel and some mustard. Grassy on the finish with lingering hops. Ultra foamy but a bit light in body, it’s an inoffensive beer that ultimately doesn’t come across as an improvement over either original. 5.3% abv. B+ / $NA (16 oz cans)
Firestone Walker Hopnosis IPA – Made with Mosaic Cryo Hops. I was expecting a boldly tropical beer, but Hopnosis comes across with a surprisingly gentle approach, its pineapple fruit layered with rumbling, earthy hops and a modest bitterness. The body does feel appropriately juicy, balanced with light notes of coconut, tangerine, and gently honeyed sweetness. More straightforward than I expected, but never short of enjoyable. 6.7% abv. A- / $11 per six-pack
Cali Squeeze Mango Hefeweizen – Aggressive mango on the nose and attack leads to a sweet, tropical palate that is nothing if not fruity — almost candylike. A peachy note complements the mango character — but only if you have a bit of a sweet tooth — with a lengthy, slightly saccharine finish soon emerging. No hoppy bitterness in effect here. This may not be a seltzer, but you’d never know it. 5.4% abv. B- / $13 per six-pack
Cali Squeeze Tropical P.O.G. Hefeweizen – POG — passion fruit, orange, guava — is a classic Hawaiian beverage, and you catch that unmistakable quality immediately on the nose of this brew. Not quite as sweet as the mango, the guava element tempers the brew, giving it a slightly sour, ruddy quality. Here the passion fruit — normally the centerpiece of POG — is dulled by a lightly hoppy component, the finish folding in a layer of earth that is unexpected in a hefeweizen. 5.4% abv. B / $13 per six-pack
Cali Squeeze Blood Orange Hefeweizen – Huge blood orange notes on the nose give this an immediate pop of citrus, the beer moving from there to a mildly bitter but largely anonymous character on the palate. Ultimately harmless, with a bit of a Hi-C character to it, and slightly watery on the finish. 5.4% abv. B- / $13 per six-pack