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The Beer Circle » American Strong Ale, Barleywine, Beer, Bourbon, Brandy, Firestone Walker, Imperial Stout, Wine » Firestone Walker 15th Anniversary Ale

Firestone Walker 15th Anniversary Ale

Earlier this month, I reviewed Firestone Walker’s 14th Anniversary Ale, which featured a big proportion of stouts compared to their latest anniversary ale. The official blend ratio according to Firestone Walker is:

-76% Barley Wine style beers, 19% Stout and 5% Imperial IPA
-Beers included: Helldorado, DDBA, Sticky Monkey, Parabola, Velvet Merkin, Good Foot, Bravo, and Double Jack

Add in aging within bourbon, brandy, and wine barrels and this seems like a recipe for success.

Firestone Walker 15th Anniversary Ale
Pours a deep crimson which is completely opaque. A relatively hard pour yields only about a finger's worth of tan head with low retention. The lacing as well is pretty minimal with only a few rogue strands of foam hanging around.
The aroma brings a rather unusual twist considering the composition of the blend, and one of the first things I notice is a sweet honey and toffee. The barrels are present here as well, but unlike the 14th Anniversary, the oak and vanilla and more subdued. I'm not sure if it's because of the increased proportion of barleywines in this beer or different barrels, but I am getting a lot more brandy notes than bourbon in the form of pitted fruits. A hint of butterscotch as well which I hope is intentional rather than the early onset of an infection.
The flavors in Firestone 15 are all about the barleywines and barrels, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise given the blend is 76% barleywine. Caramel, toffee, and coconut hit the mouth first, before being balanced by a rich cocoa and vanilla flavor. The bourbon qualities do come across easier here than in the nose, but I am still predominately tasting brandy over bourbon. This bottle is still pretty fresh, but the addition of Double Jack IPA is almost completely absent; I can't really taste any citrus hops here. The best I can get is a slight hop bitterness in the finish, but even that is far down the ladder behind more robust flavors. It is certainly a bit hot overall, but the alcohol isn't as off-putting as one would assume and the complexity definitely offsets this.
Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with decent carbonation. Although not heavy on the mouth, the flavors linger for a long time on the palate, developing the profile as it settles to deliver layer upon layer of nuance.
Drinkability is moderately high. Surprisingly, I think I like this a little more than the 14th Anniversary, as it seems to incorporate a little bit more depth. The one thing I'd levy against it would be the amount of alcohol and bitterness, but it is still fresh at this point and can only improve.
Given that Firestone Walker doesn't make it to Pittsburgh, I had to trade for this which drives up the cost a little. Apparently this ranges anywhere from $15-25 and I wouldn't mind a few bottles in that range just to see what this turns into.
When looking at the variety of beers that Firestone Walker incorporated into their 14th and 15th Anniversary Ales, I was fully expecting to love the 14th more as imperial stouts are my favorite kind of beer, but I have to say that the 15th won out for me here. If it is this good now, I can only see this improving in the future.

Beer Stats
Style: American Strong Ale
Serving: Bottle
Size: 22oz
ABV: 12.50%
BA Score: 93
RB Score: 100

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Written by Greg Bruce

While studying at Penn State, Greg learned that beer could serve a much better purpose than a means to an end for a good party. Delicately brewed Belgians acted as a stark contrast to the almost watery beer that had been so popular and began the journey towards craft beer. From that launch point he always seems to land on something new. Greg approaches each beer, whether it is an aggressively-hopped West Coast IPA or an English bitter (and everything between), with a clear mind and open opinion, ready to analyze, compare, and ultimately, enjoy. While always fond of stouts (especially barrel-aged) and IPAs, Greg is slowly but surely drifting towards various soured beers. Find Greg Bruce on Google Plus

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