Brew Review

Beer Review – Firestone Walker Fifteenth Anniversary Ale


On a recent trip to Kress Liquors, I picked up a bottle of Firestone Walker Fifteenth Anniversary Ale. The tag on the shelf indicated that the bottle is rated 98 out of 100 so I was looking forward to another great Firestone product. I had had the Double Jack and the Union Jack and thought that the Fifteenth would draw heavily from the great line-up of IPAs and stouts. I gave G-Lo a call (the picture is his) and we split the bottle on a “Thirsty Thursday”.

From the Firestone Walker site:

 As a finished beer, XV is alive with amazing complexity and yet it is quite possibly the most integrated and seamless blend yet.

Looking at a blend of 8 beers on paper at first looks chaotic and potentially disjointed; however, a closer look reveals and interesting theme: 76% Barley Wine style beers, 19% Stout and 5% Imperial IPA.  XV introduces our new blonde barley wine Helldorado with flavors of lavender honey liqueur. The well-established DDBA delivers its signature American toasted oak, English caramel toffee and light leather nuances.  2010 vintage Sticky Monkey folds in brown sugar, maple, cinnamon, ginger and ripe figs.  Parabola brings the familiar flavors of roasted dark coco, and chocolate covered cherries. Velvet Merkin carries silky milk chocolate, toasted coconut and creamy textures. Good Foot and Bravo add assertive barley wine warmth and lush barrel derived vanilla bean notes.  The game changer this year is the addition of Double Jack to the blend.  At just 5% its massive dry hop character brings citrus zest, tangerine and mango aromas making this a completely new beer.

The beer is unfiltered and unfined, so there will be a small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle.   XV is best enjoyed poured carefully into a half-filled brandy snifter or wine glass.  Allow it to warm to 55F to fully enjoy the pleasing and complex aromas.  As the beer sits and breathes in the glass, a richer, orange zested, chocolate dusted, vanilla custard character is reveled, so take your time.  If you wait to open your bottle later, store it in a cool dark place. I suspect that this beer will age well and change favorably for years to come. It was an absolute pleasure in the making and I truly hope you enjoy our Sixth oak-aged blend!  Our journey continues and it’s just as fun and exciting now as it was back in 1996.

I found the Fifteenth to have the following characteristics.

  • Appearance: Brown with a good amount of foam and nice lacing.
  • Aroma: Woody, the smell of the char of the barrel, with hints of bourbon. The scent is very similar to the Fuller’s Vintage Ale and has all the characteristics of a barely wine (sweet malt with grapes and raisins and a little vanilla).
  • Taste: Full bodied, sweet, winey with a velvety finish.
  • ABV: 12.5%

While this was a very well-crafted beer, I am not a big fan of barely wine. As this bottle is comprised of 3 different barley wines that make up 76% of the blend, I just couldn’t get past it. I found it to be too boozy, too funky and it had a somewhat off-putting aftertaste. Again, this is exactly what one might expect from a great barley wine, I just didn’t care for it. Had this bottle been more like the Thirteenth (39% Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout & 24% Imperial Brown Ale) or the Fourteenth (31% Double Strength English Pale Ale & 27% Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout), I would have been delighted. Of course, if I had read anything about the Fifteenth, I would have been forewarned and passed on this anniversary ale and waited for the Sixteenth. The experience can be best summed up by my better half who after giving it a nose commented “it smells like nothing I would want to drink”.

Fortunately, my purchase wasn’t a total loss, I was able to trade the other bottle that I had bought (I had expected to share this with the Wookie and the ROK as well) with Miracle Max (who stopped over for another visit with just “few” bottles – 16 bombers and nearly two six packs) for a Uinta Hop Notch IPA and a Thomas Creek Extreme IPA. I haven’t cracked either bottle yet but I think that both Max and I made out in the deal.

11 replies »

  1. Totally with you on this one. Couldn’t really get into it at all. I wish had more insightful comments, but I think I was just trying to forget the experience. I think the fact that we didn’t bother to finish it says it all. What we need to track down are the Sucuba and Parabola. The buzz is very positive about those two.

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