FWB147_22oz_v7 (FWB147_22oz_v7, 2011 NB Citizen)
It’s not every day when I get a beer that makes me go, “WOAH, hold the freaking phone and tell me more about this.” Occasionally it will happen, and I will later find out that it is either universally lauded as an amazing example of its style, or that it is a veritable Holy Grail from the Viking God of Beer (Fun fact: it’s Byggvir, who apparently is also the Viking God of Consonants). Firestone XV Anniversary Ale is one of the latter, and it was my great pleasure to sample it at my local beer cave.
This American Strong Ale is actually a blend of eight other Firestone brews.   Some are popular, some are limited release, and some you would be very hard pressed to find outside of their brewery tasting bar.

Six of them are aged in bourbon barrels, one of the things that put Firestone’s mark on the map. Some of these ingredients, like the Good Food barley wine, can be over 14 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), while some, like Velvet Merkin are closer to 9 percent ABV. The Firestone XV Anniversary Ale came out to a healthy 12.5 percent, but you wouldn’t know it from how insanely drinkable this brew is.

The price tag on this baby is nothing to scoff at though. Twenty dollars is quite a bit for a bomber, but if I’m going to drop an “Andy J-Bomb” on a 22-ounce bottle of anything, it will be this. It comes in a box with documentation and everything, detailing what exactly went into the thought process which generated this creation. Of course, the price becomes downright trifling if you are sharing this with one or two friends. Heck, you can probably stretch it out between four people and all will end up perfectly satisfied.

When a tasting buddy brought this bottle out from the “special spot” in his fridge, we had time to learn a bit about it as the ale warmed up to its optimal 55 degrees tasting temperature. If the fancy packaging and shining words of encouragement from the buyer weren’t enough, the near-perfect scores on all the main beer rating websites certainly riled my interest.

Apparently, this beer is pretty hard to find after being snatched up in the interest of both trying this magnificent concoction and stashing some away for a year to age. I would need a will of steel to deny the opportunity for it to  journey down my gullet.

The pour was nice and smooth, an almost black shade of brown, with a bit of a tan head. The nose was strong with vanilla and bourbon and just a little hint of those citrus hops that were in the Double Jack IPA. The hops coming out this early was a bit of a surprise because Double Jack only makes up five percent of the blend.

The taste was, and I do not mean to be hyperbolic, completely mind blowing. Three of the biggest contributors were barley wines; and it really does show. There is a very complex sweetness to it, part honey and part brown sugar. The oak aging certainly comes out, but in a subtle way. It doesn’t really tinge everything with woody flavors, but rather plays along with the malts to darken the flavors down and bring out their full characteristics.

It seemed like every time I would get another sip, it would end differently. The hops for one, chocolate for another, turbinado brown sugar, roasted malts, ginger, figs, and so on until I felt like I was truly getting acquainted with the blend. This anniversary beer does what so many blends try to do and creates something greater than the sum of its parts.

There is a reason why Firestone is such a big name for beer lovers, and this year they really pulled out all the stops in proving it. This is the kind of a beer that can really stick with you, to compare all other beers against. This blend was a real celebration of not only oak aging, but of how great a beer can be. I hope they are comfortable setting the bar as high as they did, because come next November, I will be looking out for Firestone XVI.

 

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