Thursday, May 21, 2015

Everything I Like About Craft Beer

Today I got this press release from Christoper Weir at Firestone Walker Brewing in Paso Robles. I'll reproduce most of the press release below. But first I thought I'd list three things about this release that convinced me that the way La Piccola was made represents everything I like about craft beer. And I haven't even tasted the beer yet!

  1. Collaboration
    When brewers and breweries put their heads together and decide to create something new and different, everyone benefits. 
  2. Experimentation
    Both Matt Brynildson and Agostino Arioli made their own version of the recipe they collaborated on, and Matt went one step further, eliminating one of the ingredients to create a third version of the beer.
  3. Craftsmanship
    Not only did the pair choose to use the saison yeast that made Firestone Walker's Opal Saison one of the highest quality, most consistently drinkable saisons out there; not only are they skilled enough to brew confidently with wild yeast; but they also employ other craftsmen whose specialty is barrel aging and fermentation.
Okay, here are the highlights from Firestone Walker's press release:
(l. to r.) Adam Firestone, David Walker, Matt Brynildson
(Photo courtesy of the Firestone Walker website)
  • Multiple versions of the same collaborative dark saison wild ale—called La Piccola—will be unveiled at the 2015 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest on May 30, capping off a year of cross-continental brewing hijinks between brewmasters Agostino Arioli of Birrificio Italiano and Matt Brynildson of Firestone Walker Brewing Company.
  • “Like many Italians, Agostino is a true gourmet, and he takes a chef’s approach to brewing,” Brynildson said. “He’s really into exotic spices and he wanted to play around with these Sichuan peppercorns, which are really weird and unique. We had to contact a spice hunter in Italy to get our hands on them.”
  • After Brynildson brewed his base version of La Piccola, he sent it down to barrelmeisters Jeffers Richardson and Jim Crooks at Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks wild ale facility, where they initiated secondary fermentation and maturation for 12 months in French oak barrels.
  • In the end, they decided to create one version with the peppercorns (La Piccola Pepe Di Sichuan) and one without (La Piccola Virtuosa). Meanwhile, Arioli is finishing up his own La Piccola made with the peppercorns. All three beers will be first presented at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest on May 30 in Paso Robles.
  • The base beer was brewed with the same Belgian yeast used to make Firestone Walker’s Opal saison, giving it classic fruit and spice notes. The debittered black malt provided dark color without assertive bitterness. The souring and barrel aging layered in just the right amount of earthy funk. And the peppercorn version presents its own distinctive qualities.

    “The Sichuan peppercorns are pretty intense,” Brynildson said. “If you pop one in your mouth, your face goes numb. In the beer, it adds black pepper and lemon zest notes, and it also gives this subtle tingle on the tongue.”