Firestone Walker Brewing Update; Local Beers Named Best of 2013 by DRAFT Magazine

Seven California brews get honored on DRAFT’s “Top 25 Beers of the Year” list, and Firestone Walker’s Venice plans start coming together.

In case you haven’t been tuning in, our local craft beer scene is blowing up. DRAFT Magazine beer editor Christopher Staten just released his “Top 25 Beers of the Year: 2013” list, and out of those 25, a remarkable seven of them came from California breweries:

  • Beachwood Six, by Beachwood BBQ & Brewing (Long Beach, CA)
    Staten calls this beer “a wonderfully peculiar black saison,” noting that some of the malted barley used in the recipe—made to celebrate the Seal Beach location’s sixth anniversary last December—was smoked with the same wood the brewpub uses for its barbecue. “The beer brims with clove, black pepper, hay, roast, hints of jasmine and smooth, dark smoke.” While you’re highly unlikely to find anymore of this on shelves, the Long Beach Post reports that Beachwood Seven, a double IPA, will be released starting December 17.

  • Batch 1000 Bryeian, by The Bruery (Placentia, CA)
    Staten says that this beer was the “biggest, boldest IPA” his team tried this year. It was a black IPA with rye made by two Denver-based homebrewers who’d won a homebrewing competition and got to scale it up and brew it on the system at The Bruery.

  • Farmer’s Reserve No. 4, by Almanac Beer Co.  (San Francisco, CA)
    Says Staten: “Almanac found perfection when it paired Cara Cara oranges, Meyer lemons and Buddha’s Hand citrons with a white-wine-barrel-aged wild ale.”

  • Anchor California Lager, by Anchor Brewing Co. (San Francisco, CA)
    This recently bottled release is a “riff on an 1876 Boca Brewing recipe—the first lager brewed in California” that Staten proclaims to be his team’s “new favorite traditional-style lager, and a poignant commentary on what a real, full-flavored American pilsner should be.”

  • Velvet Merkin, by Firestone Walker Brewing Co.  (Paso Robles, CA)
    Velvet Merkin is the bourbon-barrel-aged version of Velvet Merlin—a seasonal oatmeal stout now on shelves— and it was previously available on draft only, but is now bottled as an annual special release. Says Staten: “Milky vanilla and espresso lace rich chocolate truffle tones; a flash of fruity, spicy bourbon caps off the finish.” Some Velvet Merkin may still be floating around at better bars and bottle shops, but the next release won’t be around until September 2014.

  • Weekday IPA, by Rough Draft Brewing Co. (San Diego, CA)
    Lower-alcohol IPAs—often called session IPAs—have become pretty popular in the past year, and Staten says this one “sets a new standard for how hoppy the style can be. […] It’s equally delicate and striking.”

  • Aleman/Two Brothers/Stone DayMan Coffee IPA, by Stone Brewing Co. (San Diego, CA)
    Coffee in an IPA? This beer was picked by Stone Brewing Co. CEO Greg Koch and several other judges at a Chicago homebrew competition to become Stone’s next collaboration beer. Staten calls this one a “beer that shouldn’t work but somehow does.” Of the flavor, he finds that the “nutty roasted coffee perfectly contrasts vivid grapefruit and tangerine, accenting dank hop bitterness for a neatly bookended, expertly orchestrated sip.”


Paso Robles-based Firestone Walker Brewing Co. is proceeding with the development of its Venice taproom/restaurant, holding an informal neighborhood meeting on Tuesday night to discuss its plans and address any concerns locals may have.

Co-proprietor Adam Firestone was on hand to share the company’s vision, show off proposed layouts and elevations, and he was very clear that Firestone Walker intends to have the facility—which will include a brewhouse, tasting room, family-friendly restaurant, retail operation, and event space—be a part of the community, with an emphasis on beer education. “There is a huge homebrewing community in L.A.,” Firestone explained, adding that their brewing would be done on a small pilot batch system. “We want to brew on a demonstration scale, so anyone who is interested can see exactly how it’s done.”

The brewery has applied for a conditional use permit that will allow them to operate any time between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., though Firestone assured attendees that they wouldn’t be opening that early. “We’ll be open for lunch and dinner service,” Firestone explained. “No breakfast,” he smiled, adding that the menu would be similar to the existing fare at its Buellton and Paso Robles taproom locations, but with a little local Venice flair added in.

Parking, noise levels, and traffic seemed to be the largest concerns raised by residents and local business owners, but each was noted and addressed by Firestone and the community liaisons present at the assembly. Firestone said that they were interested in exploring any and every way to minimize their impact on noise, traffic, and explained that there were 71 existing parking spaces, with the hope of being able to stack in more, in addition to 36 bicycle parking spots.

Next, Firestone Walker will present its plans to the Venice Neighborhood Planning Committee, followed by the Venice Neighborhood Council and the Los Angeles City Zoning Administrator. No official public hearings are slated yet, but there will be at least two in the coming months. The company is still hoping to have the taproom open by late 2014.