The craft beer takeover has begun

The Tour

Craft beer is a growing culture that connects people with the love of beer. With so many unique combinations and brewing techniques, the possibilities of beer flavor are virtually endless. I made a trip to Firestone Walker Brewing Co. to introduce a local brewery and elaborate on the brewing process.

Firestone Walker Brewing Co.was started in 1996 by Adam Firestone and David Walker.  Adam belongs to the same Firestone family that owned Firestone Tires and Firestone Winery.  Looking to expand, they purchased this factory in Paso Robles from SLO Brewing Co. in 2002 ( Tour Guide and Assistant Manager Mckenna Coelho sets out tasters of Pale 31, one of the first beers the company experimented with back in 1996.  They purchased a new brew system three years ago that cuts brewing time in half.  Brew time went from taking 4-6 hours to only 2 hours Inside the brewery, Firestone uses a method called the Union system for their Double Barrel Ale, which ferments the beer in oak barrels as opposed to stainless steel vessels.  They are only one of two breweries in the world who still use oak barrels for fermentation.  Coelho said “this is super rare today because it’s a very difficult program to utilize.  There’s no temperature control here, so that increases the risk of off flavors and contamination.” Once done fermenting, the beer is then filtered to rid the solids and injected with C02 for carbonation.  At the bottling department seen here, 280 12 oz. bottles are bottled per minute. Glassware is placed on the conveyer belt and cleaned out with ozonated water and purged with C02 to get oxygen out of the bottle.  Once filled, the beers are agitated by putting warm water on top, causing the beer to foam up and push out oxygen. Once the tour concluded, Firestone Manager and Brewmaster Michael Mooney recommended the Double Barrel Ale 100% Oak fermented beer.  This beer is only available at the brewery, and not for sale in stores.  The DBA sold in stores ferments the beer 80/20 stainless steel to oak barrels.  This beer, however, is fermented only in the oak barrels, giving it an oaky, vanilla flavor.  It’s characteristics like these that make Firestone Walker Brewing Co. such a successful and popular beer.

The Interview

With a focus on local craft beer, I met with Brendan Gough, head brewmaster at Central Coast Brewing here in San Luis Obispo, to get his take on the current state of craft beer. We also discussed the upcoming SLO Craft Beer Fest, which Central Coast Brewing has attended since its start five years ago.

The Squad

I was able to hang out with head brewmaster at Central Coast Brewing Brendan Gough and trainee Greg Berglur before regular hours to see how they operated. We discussed the rise in popularity of craft beer, and I was able to sample a beer fresh out of the fermenter.