Welcome Firestone Walker

David | Blog | January, 20 2011 | No Comment

Chicago beer drinkers may have never had it so good. Three or four new local breweries have opened in the last couple of years, while extra-regional breweries are finding distributors here who can get their beers in front of the hop-thirsty masses.  And now the two are happening together.  In a couple of hours, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., the third established California brewer to make a recent entry into the market, will celebrate that entry at Piece Brewery and Pizzeria, whose guest handles will now include offerings from Firestone Walker.

Piece used to be the new kid on the block among Chicago breweries, but now it’s a snotty-nosed teen, at least in brewpub years. You should soon be able to sample Firestone Walker beers at Revolution and Haymarket, the city’s two newest brewpubs.  Firestone Walker, born way back in 1996, is based in Paso Robles, Calif.  The award-winning brewery is unique in that it uses the famous Burton Union fermentation arrangement (dubbed Firestone Union, at the California brewery) to produce a line of pale ales with British leanings.  The brewery also offers a Proprietary Reserve Series of special high gravity beers, some of them barrel aged. This line will spearhead the Chicago expansion, but other products may follow several months from now, says national sales rep John Bryan.

Bryan and founder David Walker are in town this week for the launch, making the rounds with representatives from Chicago Beverage Systems which is distributing their products here.

I had a chance to taste the three featured beers last night at the Small Bar Division, starting with the Walker’s Reserve Porter, and Double Jack Imperial IPA. I’ve been on a porter kick lately and the Walker’s Reserve was a nice hoppy representation. The Double Jack was clean and bright with a huge citrus/bubble gum aroma and flavor from seven different American hop varieties.  The keg was the first of the three to blow at Small Bar. The Anniversary 14 is a fine, big blend of barrel-aged beers. A bit too much coconut and almond for me, but that’s a personal bias.

The party doesn’t end with tonight’s event at Piece. West Lakeview Liquors has invited some Firestone folks over for a Friday evening sampling session, and next week, beer geeks in the near south suburbs can stop in at Brixies in Brookfield and try the beers. Most Binny’s in the area should have the product out by this weekend if not sooner.

Firestone Walker brewer Matt Brynildson is no stranger to the land of the deep dish.  He’s a former head brewer at Goose Island and a founding partner at Piece.  Speaking of young Chicago breweries, Metropolitan Brewery will celebrate its second anniversary with a party Friday at Jake Melnick’s, 41 E. Superior Street.

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