Walker Brewing Co.
Los Olivos, California
away in the lush vineyards of Los Olivos, California, is the Firestone Walker
Brewing Company. Adam Firestone, the president of the Firestone Vineyard, and
his brother-in-law, David Walker, teamed up to bring a literal "pipe-dream"
into reality. Faced with a serious grape shortage, that
occurred on California's South Central Coast in 1995, Firestone and Walker put
an idea into action, expanding the successful and well-known winery to include
an age-old beer brewing process.
Adam Firestone says that his father was the first to experiment with brewing a high-quality non-alcoholic beer in 1987 amid a rise in popularity of that product. The elder Firestone purchased equipment and adapted winemaking vessels for beer fermentation and conditioning, but ultimately determined that sales of non-alcoholic beer did not justify continuing the operation, so it was abandoned in 1990. All efforts at the Firestone Vineyard returned to a concentration on providing quality wines to meet the demand of their discerning customers. It was not until the drastically small crop of grapes in 1995 that the thought of brewing beer once again moved into the spotlight.
At first, Firestone and Walker tried using some empty Chardonnay barrels for fermentation. The wine makers soon discovered that too much oxidation and contamination would require a fresh approach to create the brew they desired. They then hired brewmaster Jeffers Richardson, who suggested that they try using an old British brewing method called the Burton Union system, which is rarely used today. Connecting a series of new, cleaner American oak barrels in a closed system, Firestone and Walker were able to adapt the process to create the Firestone Union.
The 60gallon barrel typically used in winemaking proved to be unexpectedly advantageous, as the smaller volume-to-surface area helped maintain a constant temperature. Historically, brewers using the union systems complained that differing ambient temperatures produced inconsistent flavors.
Firestone Walker begins fermentation in a large primary fermenter, which, at peak yeast growth, transfers a percentage to the Firestone Union where fermentation and cleansing occur. All of the beer is then blended in the conditioning tank. There, the flavors from the oak barrel fermentation marry with the beer from the primary fermenter . Additional fining and oak-aging help clarify and stabilize each brew. This unique "double barrel" process produces Firestone Walker's truly satisfying Double Barrel and Windsor Pale ales.
Double Barrel Ale
The Double Barrel Ale is a double vessel fermented British style Amber Ale. It is medium-bodied with moderate bitterness, nice balanced malt, and a crisp, carbonated palate. You will notice aromas of grain in the nose and taste them in the palate. Look for a hoppy bite in the finish.
Original Gravity (Degrees Plato) 13
Final Gravity (Degrees Plato) 3.2
Alcohol (% by Volume) 5.0
Bitterness Units (IBU) 34
Malts Used 2-Row Malted Barley, Floor Malted Maris Otter, Caramel,
Dark Caramel, Munich
Hops Used East Kent Golding, Styrian Golding, Magnum
Windsor Pale Ale
The Windsor Pale Ale is brewed using the same oak barrel fermentation system as the Double Barrel Ale. It is bright gold in color with a medium body and mild bitterness. The malt is beautifully balanced throughout and finishes with light toffee notes, a hint of nuts, and a clean brisk bitterness. In the nose you find aromas of orange, vanilla, and a soft smokiness from the oak.
Original Gravity (Degrees Plato) 12
Final Gravity (Degrees Plato) 3.0
Alcohol (% by Volume) 4.6
Bitterness Units (IBU) 30
Malts Used 2-Row Malted Barley, Floor Malted Maris Otter, Caramel, Caramalt
Hops Used Horizon, Challenger, Liberty
Express Brewing Co.
state normally known for Bob Dole, farms and its role in the Wizard of Oz, Kansas
may soon be famous for its beer as well. Pony Express Brewing Company, founded
by Joe Effertz, Jr., opened for operation in May of 1995 in Olathe, Kansas.
Originally a farmer with a degree in agriculture from the University of Missouri,
Effertz decided that he had had enough of working on the company farm and wanted
to try something new.
After opening a retail liquor store, Effertz noticed a rise in popularity of micro-brewed beers. He studied craft brewing techniques and, staying within the spirit of the ingenious farmer, came up with a plan to launch his own microbrewery. He still uses the wheat grown on his family's farm in his beers and sells the by-product grains to cattle farmers to use as feed.
1994, Effertz met Ed Nelson and the two joined forces to open up two restaurants
and a brewery in the Overland Park area of Kansas. They purchased the Olathe
building for the brewery and began working on what would become the highly successful
Pony Express brand. Effertz got the name for the brewery when he was on his
way to the hospital in the back of an ambulance and someone said, "Drive fast
like the Pony Express." He now adorns the walls of the brewery with photos of
old Pony Express riders whom he sees as risk-takers. The packaging features
a horse and rider - always in the same position, with a different scene behind
them, which changes to portray all the different weather conditions and environments
that the original riders rode through to deliver the mail. The brewery started
off with draft accounts, but within six months they realized that they were
going to have to get into packaging the beer.
Looking around North America for brewing equipment, Effertz and Nelson couldn't find anything they thought was quality equipment. They then decided to utilize their connections in Germany and made two trips there - the first time just to scout out equipment and to put down deposits, and the second time they came back with, literally, a suitcase full of tools and the equivalent of four truckloads full of equipment. Once the equipment was purchased, it was time to find a brewmaster. After searching, Effertz and Nelson hired brewmaster Stacey Payne, a U.C. Davis alumnus that graduated at the top of his class. Payne had a lot of brewing experience from working at the Boulevard Brewing Company and was a perfect fit for the brewery. Together the team developed a wide variety of beers that reflect the spirit of the American farmlands.
Pony Express Honey Blond Ale has a hint of fresh coriander and honey with
underlying citrus notes. This beer goes well with just about any meal and just like
a fine Chardonnay, it flourishes well on its own.
Original Gravity (Degrees Plato) 12.8
Final Gravity (Degrees Plato) 3.2
Alcohol (% by Volume) 5.04
Bitterness Units (IBU) 20
Malts Used Pale, Vienna, Caramel, Malted Wheat
Hops Used Cascade, Hallertau
Pony Express Wheat
The Pony Express Unfiltered Wheat is brewed using Soft Red Winter Wheat from the Effertz family farm. Clean and refreshing with the faint aroma of freshly-baked bread, it is moderately light bodied with mild bitterness.
Original Gravity (Degrees Plato) 12.2
Final Gravity (Degrees Plato) 2.4
Alcohol (% by Volume) 5.15
Bitterness Units (IBU) 18
Malts Used Pale, Malted Wheat, Vienna, Munich, Caramel
Hops Used Hallertau, Willamette