At Firestone Walker Barrelworks, well-seasoned brewers Jeffers Richardson and “Sour Jim” Crooks barrel-age sour and strong ales. The space resides in back of Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Buellton gastropub and features metal and wood decor and a wide view into the barrel house, which features wall to wall oak barrels. Informative panels on the bar walls have plenty of detail about the barrel-aging process, in case you’re interested in taking a deep dive into a seemingly bottomless pool of craft beer knowledge. Then again, you can just sit at the shiny bar, on a barrel stave stool, and order tasters to your heart’s content.
Wild Ales generally register under 6% ABV, while Strong Ales start at 13% ABV. 3-ounce tasters cost $3.25 apiece, and Barrelworks has the ability to arm 18 different taps. I enjoyed the hell out of SLOambic 2015, a Marion/Boysenberry Wild Ale, and also appreciated the joys of La Piccola Pepe di Sichuan, a dark saison brewed with peppercorns. Still, my favorite sips were of Krieky Bones, a 5.7% ABV wild ale brewed with cherries, a la a kriek. The color was brilliant pink-red, and the flavor was beautifully tart. My wife is a picky beer drinker, but she immediately wanted to grab a bottle for Thanksgiving. Sadly, by the time we turned to the grab-and-go fridge, the last bottle was long gone. At least we got to try the Krieky Bones, and my craft beer radar will definitely be up in hopes of experiencing the beer again.