Of all the breweries that distribute near, but not to Pennsylvania, Firestone Walker has long been at the top of my list of breweries I'd like to see enter my fine state. Of course, Deschutes would top that list, but as they have yet to cross the Mississippi River, that's not likely to happen anytime soon (but hey, we'd welcome you!). Firestone Walker has distributed nearby for a while, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Pennsylvania was finally added to their repertoire on April 11, just over a month ago.
On April 12th, just the second day of distribution in the state, I attended a low key launch event at Teresa's Next Door Bar in Wayne, PA, one of the better bars I frequent. Teresa's is sometimes referred to as "Suburban Monks", as it specializes in high quality Belgian and American beers, as well as phenomenal food menu. Because I work during the day, I wasn't able to arrive until 4:30 in the afternoon, missing David Walker's appearance, and arrived during a lull in the crowd.
|I liked the way they notated the beers. Circles on the paper with letters inside corresponding to the beers on the right|
Sadly, in my excitement, I forgot to document each beer as it was consumed, but the image above shows remnants of lacing on the glass of Double Jack, as well as a half full Walker's Reserve. In my haste, I also picked a bad sequence to drink these beers. I began with the Abacus, a 13% barley wine probably my favorite, but also the most flavorful, palate killing beer of the day. There's a boozy warmth to this beer, one that any drinker looking forward to the bourbon barrel aged treat will enjoy. It's not overpowering, but lets you know that it means business. The bourbon taste takes over up front with a caramel taste, and subsides to the dark fruit and sweet but mellow malt profile in the finish. A phenomenal beer that's great now, but will only improve with age.
Double Jack came next, 9.5% double IPA - Firestone Walker is two for two. Citrus hop based IPA loaded with hops and a full bodied beer. Despite that, I wouldn't consider it a hop bomb - incredibly balanced, but big.
Finally,the Walkers Reserve was just about everything you could ask for in a porter. A chocolate and coffee taste up front with a strong roasted malt finish. Not as carbonated as some porters I've had make it feel fuller in body, and finishing with some oak and vanilla notes.
After those three beers, I asked the bartender about the '14' - their 14th anniversary beer, a 12.5% strong ale. He said they only had bottles and they weren't for take out. I ordered a second Double Jack, as I wasn't about to drink a bottle of '14', as well as a sandwich called 'Meat Porn' an incredibly juicy aged Kobe Beef Burger.
Unfortunately, the bartender wasn't exactly clear to me when he told me they only had bottles of '14' - what I later found out was that they were SERVING it from the bottle, $7 for an 8oz pour. Of course, had I known that, I would have ordered it. I took a break with a water while I mulled it over. ...And ordered a '14', of course. I think a review on beeradvocate.com sums it up well "this is part quad, part stout and part barleywine.' Unfortunately, I don't have tasting notes on this beer, but let me tell you, if I fall into a chance to buy a bottle, I will not pass it up. '14' is a beer that smacks the drinker in the face, but in the most delightful way possible.
At this point, I had made a few friends sitting at the bar, what one is bound to do after a few hours of drinking alone at a neighborhood bar. So I deviated from Firestone Walker and went a different direction… By ordering a Pliny the Elder,which turned into two, and a long nap when I arrived home.
I'd like to thank Jeff for this piece. I look forward to more reviews in the future. Make sure to follow him on Twitter