Balance and drinkability. If any two words formed a more summative description of the beer produced by the Firestone Walker Brewing Company, it's not clear what they would be. This sentiment extends not only to their award-winning line of year-round brews, but to seasonals and limited releases that many consider to be among the best beers in the world.
It might be surprising that such a description would apply to brews like Parabola and Sucaba, especially considering the stylistic implications and expected potency of a barrel-aged imperial stout and barleywine. Yet, neither falls into the trap of trying to offer too much of a good thing. Instead, each represents a seamless intermingling of prominent flavors coupled with an impossibly smooth body. They aren't heavy, overly sweet or bitter, and were it not for ABVs in the lower teens, one could imagine drinking these brews well into a good night.
What perhaps shouldn't be surprising is that the same things can be said for the most recent release from Firestone's Proprietors Reserve Series, Double DBA. Brewed for only the second time in the brewery's history, this beer arrived in our market for the first time last month. Although labeled as an Imperial Special Bitter on the packaging, Firestone refers to this beer as a barleywine on their website. Much like Sucaba, however, it doesn't drink anything like that moniker implies.
In the glass, aromas initially reveal a pleasant barrel character, with hints of liquor, charred oak and vanilla. Flavors follow suit until the beer comes up a bit in temperature, at which point an intensely rich toffee character develops. The coming together is distinctive, not unlike what one imagines a bourbon-soaked Werther's candy might taste like. A hint of warmth finishes things off, but is little more than a subtle reminder of the beer's strength.
Should you need further convincing of this beer's pedigree, consider that it is a version of Firestone's flagship Double Barrel Ale brewed to twice the strength, then barrel-aged. The underlying beer having taken home a gold medal from the Great American Beer Festival for Ordinary or Special Bitter two years running.
Bottles of this beer hit shelves in early September, generally selling out within hours of delivery. Kegs have appeared at festivals and at a few of the more craft beer-friendly establishments in town, and it's likely others have been tucked away for special events in the future. For now, though, you're next chance to try this beer comes later this week at the Holy Grail Pub in Plano. They'll tap a single keg of Double DBA as part of their regular Cellar Thursdays event, with the first pours happening at 6 p.m.
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