Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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Wild Ale
Ranked #215
Ranked #2,586
4.28 | pDev: 7.71%
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States
Notes: Firestone Walker was born in the vineyards of Santa Ynez Valley in 1996 and Barrelworks carries on the tradition of working with and learning from our cousins in the wine sector. For this collaboration, we tapped into Sherman Thacher of Thacher Winery, capitalizing on his love for and experience in the beer and wine industry. Dark secret: Sherman was a brewer before a winemaker. For ZinSkin, we used his 2015 freshly pressed zinfandel grape skins and fermented them with one of our wild beer creations in 100% American oak barrels. The result is delicious: toasty oak, vanilla, coconut, cinnamon and leather tussle with field herbs of sage, lavender and mint. Vinous notes as well as cherry, brambles and watermelon flavors are supported by an earthy, funky, yeasty nose. Velvety tannins accompany a wonderful acidity and carbonation. Santé!

Barrel // Ratio // Maturation time:
American Oak // 100% // 10-16 months
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Reviews: 10 | Ratings: 75 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of rodbeermunch
rodbeermunch from Nevada

4.27/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Had this in August 2019 at the source. Was the 2018 version on draft.

Poured kind of an amber color with minimal head 1/4". Appearance was the weakest part of this beer's game. Aroma was good, albeit not as complex as the taste. Usual descriptors of oak, white grape, much milder vanilla and melon are in the nose.

Taste was a bit shocking. When I read the commercial tug job about cinnamon I just kind of chuckled, but they were right, it was there in a mild way, in addition to the aforementioned aroma items. The acidity was pleasant. The sourness was probably a 4 on the 10 pt scale and knocks some lemon like notes around. Hid the alcohol very well. Nice hay and grain notes to it as well. Do I detect some brett? Way to round this one out, there is a lot going on, and is one of the best examples of a beer and wine hybrid out there.

Ultimately, this is the rare recommendation where I would say if you get a chance to buy this beer that is more than $1/oz in the bottle, you should check it out. Perhaps if these got more ubiquitous like barrel aged stouts, I would say shop around, but I don't think I've had too many world class hybrids outside of California.

Apr 01, 2020
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Stevedore from Oregon

4.16/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

375ml bottle, batch 001. Dark purple body, half finger white head, short retention and no lacing. Smell is moderately tannic grape, a fair amount of lactic acid, bit of oak and lemon. Slight grainy sweetness as well on the palate. Slight earth, dry funk to go along with the grape. The grape is present, but a bit on the sweeter side. Mouthfeel is lighter medium bodied, lighter carbonation, goes down easily, mild-moderate lactic acidity on the backend. Not my favourite; I think the Bones are my preferred line from Barrelworks.

Jun 20, 2018
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Ciocanelu from Romania

4.1/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Sample at Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen 2018, Red Session. Clear pinkish orange color. Aroma has sweet floral and pollen notes and also some wood. Taste is sour and acidic with fruit skin bitterness and light lactic notes.

Jun 18, 2018
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superspak from Michigan

4.07/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

375 ml bottle into tulip glass; batch No. 001, bottled on 8/6/2015. Pours fairly crystal clear pinkish golden/orange color with a 1-2 finger dense white head with poor retention, that reduces to nothing pretty quickly. No lacing on the glass, and some light streaming carbonation. Good appearance. Aromas of tart lemon, lime, peach, pear, green apple, red grape, white wine, fruit skin, vanilla, oak, wheat, cracker, hay, straw, and grass; with lighter notes of leather, musty funk, pepper, white wine vinegar, and yeast/oak earthiness. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of fruity/funky/acidic yeast, red grapes, oak barrel, and light-moderate pale malt notes; with good strength. Taste of big tart lemon, lime, peach, pear, green apple, red grape, white wine, fruit skin, vanilla, oak, wheat, cracker, hay, straw, and grass; with lighter notes of leather, musty funk, pepper, white wine vinegar, and yeast/oak earthiness. Moderate fruity/lactic tart/sourness and light yeast/oak spiciness on the finish. Lingering notes of tart lemon, lime, peach, pear, green apple, red grape, white wine, fruit skin, vanilla, oak, wheat, cracker, hay, straw, grass, light funk/vinegar/pepper, and yeast/oak earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Great complexity, robustness, and balance of fruity/funky/acidic yeast, red grapes, oak barrel, and light-moderate pale malt flavors; with a great malt/tart/sourness balance, and minimal puckering flavors after the finish. Moderate dryness from tart/sourness, increasing through the glass. Medium carbonation and body; with a very smooth, moderately grainy/acidic, fairly crisp, and lightly tannic balanced mouthfeel that is great. Zero warming alcohol for 7.4%. Overall this is an excellent fruited sour/wild ale. All around great complexity, robustness, and balance of fruity/funky/acidic yeast, red grapes, oak barrel, and light-moderate pale malt flavors; very smooth, crisp, and easy to drink with the balanced sour/lactic finish. Great well rounded Brett/Lacto complexity; nice grape and oak barrel presence; with a solid malt backbone. A very enjoyable offering.

Jun 17, 2017
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breadwinner from California

5/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Right up there with SLOAmbic and Agrestic, this is just magestic stuff, such a beautiful interplay of aromas and flavors. This is American oak only, which highlights the contribution of the Zinfandel grapes, an almost creamy vanilla and light spice, something perhaps like leather too, a touch of coconut, and a very light vinousness. That vanilla/spice/leather works with the oak so incredibly well, the tartness at just pitch perfect levels, such complimentary funkiness without going all cheesy/vomit-like (as too many AWAs are wont to do). If this is a beer-wine hybrid-ish sort of thing, it really accentuates the oak and secondary flavors, never getting "grapey" or jammy. For my palate, that's a great thing, as this just feels so elegant, so well constructed. An incredible beer from a brewery/location putting out the best wild beer in the US, IMO.

Jun 07, 2017
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frasergrove from California

4.26/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Light peach/orange body, very thin head. Aroma is very unique...toast, Wine staves, oak...essentially a wine barrel tasting room! Medium bitterness which has a bit of sweetness, smooth and crisp, quite enjoyable. An excellent and interesting beer.

Jan 02, 2016
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Wowcoolman from California

3.43/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Weird Bretty character. Smelled like old dirty farmer's overalls. Brett overpowered the grapey wine character. Pretty light pink color. Did not like- drainpour

Nov 26, 2015
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wethorseblanket from California

4.43/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the FW Barrelhouse.

A: Pours a spectral red with pinkish highlights under a thin (1/4-inch) white head which fades quickly to the rim and leaves a few spots of lace.

N: Vinous (zinfandel - yeah), soft rustic oak.

T: Red grape skin, juice and faint must combine well with oak barrels.

M: Light body and carbonation. Finishes fruity, oaky and some trace lemon zest.

O: Based on Bretta Wiesse, this hybrid of wine and beer is a complete winner. Please bottle this.

Jul 14, 2014
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UCLABrewN84 from California

3.94/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Firestone Walker Barrelworks in Buellton, CA.

Pours a clear light red with a foamy bone head that fades to nothing. Small dots of lace slowly drip into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is sour with malt, fruit, wine, and wood aromas. Taste is much the same with sour malt, fruit, and wood flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of acidity on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp and dry mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that is tasty and has a nice balance between beer and wine aspects.

Jun 03, 2014
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deford from California

4.32/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

On tap at Firestone Walker Barrelworks in Buellton.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful red/pink, almost like a pink champagne but just a bit darker. Bubbly with minimal head leaving just a slight ring of bubbles around the glass.

Smell: You definitely get a wine aroma from the grape skins although it has with it a very slight earthy oak, really interesting.

Taste: Wine or beer? First comes the Zinfandel grape skins....definitely wine. Then comes an oaky, earthiness reminiscent of an oak aged Berliner Weisse...definetly beer.

Mouthfeel: A good medium to high carbonation.

Overall: I really enjoyed this Hybrid Beer/Wine. It was pleasantly refreshing without being too sweet or bitter...perfectly balanced.

Jun 02, 2014
Zinskin from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 94 out of 100 with 75 ratings