Paso Robles has cultivated a reputation as a reasonable alternative to more prominent wine hubs like Napa, Sonoma and Santa Barbara. Still, there are certain mavericks that believe wine isn’t the be-all and end-all of beverages. Adam Firestone was so convinced of this belief that in 2007, he sold Firestone Vineyard to Bill Foley of Foley Wine Estates. Firestone and David Walker started brewing at his family’s Los Olivos winery in 1996 and opened a larger Paso Robles facility in 2001. With brewmaster Matt Brynildson’s help, they’ve gained an increasingly positive reputation among beer geeks and have multiplied their market share.
Longtime Firestone Walker employee Veronica Jaurez led us on an informative group tour of the brewery, which just received some new fermentation tanks and is on the verge of scoring a new bottling line. As Firestone Walker expands to new states, they need to keep pace with production.
In 2008, Firestone Walker produced 60,000 barrels of beer and just expanded so they can produce an additional 800 barrels per week. The facility brews Firestone Walker, Nectar and specialty beer lines. No matter the label, they use Paso Robles water, which is neutralized using a five-step process that culminates in reverse osmosis. Eco-warriors would be pleased with some of Firestone Walker’s initiatives. For example, a nearby farm takes away spent grain daily to feed their livestock.
Firestone Walker ferments in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, then blends the brews. Barrels have a 30-day lifespan. A different barrel is retired each Wednesday, then turned into tables for use at assorted beer events.
In Los Olivos, while producing 15,000 kegs per year, Firestone Walker brewers hand-kegged. Now the process is automated so they can fill 40 kegs per hour. The production split is 45% kegging to 55% bottling.
Firestone Walker’s current bottling line fills 118 bottles per minute and takes 6-7 people to produce 2000 cases per day. Their new bottling line will result in 300 bottles per minute.
The tour was interesting, but nobody comes to the brewery just to learn. Veronica turned us loose in the tasting room, which featured 10 different Firestone Walker beers on tap. If you’re looking for food, this isn’t the place unless you’re hungry for 50-cent bags of pretzels and Double Barrel Mustard.
My sampler plank consisted of four different beers. Hefeweizen was golden hued and cloudy, a light unfiltered beer with banana and light citrus notes. Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale was cloudy and tan, with a mildly bitter flavor. Walker’s Reserve was a creamy porter with a nearly black color and a chocolate caramel flavor. My favorite beer of the day was Velvet Merkin, an opaque oatmeal stout with clear coffee notes.
If you’re visiting the Paso Robles area, Firestone Walker Brewing Co. offers a welcome alternative to all the wine tasting rooms.
firestone walker brewing co
March 18, 2010 at 10:46 AM
[…] Distributing, covering the greater Phoenix and Prescott Valley areas in Arizona and K&L …Food GPS Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Paso Robles, CA …Firestone and David Walker started brewing at his family’s Los Olivos winery in 1996 and opened a […]