It’s anniversary time once again for California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company. The brewery recently dropped their 28th anniversary release which arrived to Drinkhacker HQ as part of the fall brew bundle in the distillery’s impressive beer club, dubbed Brewmaster’s Collective. We’ll dig deeper into that literal box of goodies at a later date, but today we’re giving this celebratory beer our full attention.
As always, XXVII is a labor of blending love shared by the Firestone Walker brewers and their winemaking neighbors and friends in California. This year’s mix features five different beers. A smattering of their classic bourbon barrel-aged expressions Velvet Merkin milk stout (12%) and Bravo imperial brown (13%) join an entirely new imperial stout collaboration with Side Project Brewing enthusiastically dubbed Rip This Joint (13%). At 33%, the bulk of this brew is comprised of Double DBA, an imperial special bitter aged for a year in Old Fitzgerald wheated bourbon barrels and bottled to commemorate the brewery’s 10,000th batch. Finally, the recipe gets rounded out with an equal-ish helping (29%) of Dividing Time, a barleywine aged in wheated and rye bourbon barrels and another Brewmaster’s Collective exclusive. We somehow missed XXVI last year, but let’s see how this one stacks up against their memorable silver anniversary brew.
The beer pours a dark mahogany color with a reddish, burnished copper tint and a thin, mocha-colored head. The nose is big with bourbon barrel-aged aromas, nothing too exotic but with all the classic notes dialed up to 12: dark, sticky vanilla bean, milk chocolate, nougat, chewy caramel, and freshly ground coffee. As it warms and opens up in the glass, a bit of pie spice arrives alongside a roasted malt note, offering a nice contrast to all those dark sweets. All of that may sound pretty typical for a bourbon barrel-aged beer, but it’s the intensity and concentration of those aromas that sets this one apart. On the palate, this is another deftly balanced creation with all five beers coming together in impressive liquid harmony. It’s surprisingly vibrant for so many dark, rich flavors with a high tone sweetness and marshmallow-like creaminess. Notes of maple syrup, chewy dark chocolate cookies, and cold brew coffee give way to a bit of dark cherry and blueberry on the midpalate followed by a hint of gentian and a subtle, almost herbal bitterness before a long, easy finish of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and cinnamon candies. Yep, it’s another winner.
A / $13 per 12 oz. bottle / firestonebeer.com