For years I have made no secret of the fact that I am a fan of Firestone Walker. From the early days of drinking DBA back in the late 1990s to the first time I had Abacus back in 2011 then to my first glass of Pivo a few years ago many of my formative craft beer moments came with the help of Firestone Walker. With Matt Brynildson at the helm, Firestone Walker has produced a vast portfolio of beers raging from hoppy west coast IPAs, food-friendly saisons and delicate sour beers but many of my favorite offerings from the central coast are the barrel-aged beers.
Barrel-aged stouts and barley wines are commonplace in today’s beer market but gone are the days I will try a new beer solely because it was put into a barrel for a few months. Over the years I have had more than my fair share of big barrel-aged beers that just hit you over the head with booze and oaky barrel but most lack the subtle nuances that can come with a well-made beer that is formulated with the intention of being put into a barrel. Being able to deliver a finished product that will allow the base beer to shine along with a layered barrel character is not an easy task but Firestone Walker seems to have the formula down.
Today’s review is a beer that is part of Firestone’s cocktail-inspired line which I have to admit I was a touch skeptical of at first. I have had many attempts at cocktail-inspired beers from local breweries here in Southern California and more times than not they seem to be a swing and a miss for me. But if there was ever going to be a cocktail inspired beer that I would be excited to open it would be Old Man Hatten from Firestone Walker. The brewery rarely steers me wrong and my go-to cocktail is hands down a Manhattan.
Old Man Hattan is a blend of five different Firestone Waker beers which include Parabola and Helldorado aged in orange, cherry and aromatic bitter barrels. The rest of the blend consists of Velvet Merkin, Bravo and Stickee Monkee which are all aged in Bourbon barrels. The beer clocks in at 9.6 percent ABV with 30 IBU and was available throughout its distribution footprint for the first time in 2019.
The beer pours a deep hickory brown with a finger of khaki-colored head that fades to a halo around the glass. The aroma is definitely reminiscent of a Manhattan with a strong note of aromatic bitters, cherries and oak. A deeper dive into the glass brings notes of orange peel, caramel and alcohol. It has a very interesting and complex nose but the oak and bitters are at the forefront.
As I take a sip of the beer the first thing that jumps out is again the bitters and cherries but it is quickly followed up by caramel, raisins, orange peel and a touch of roasted malts. Each component stands out but nothing is overpowering creating an interesting experience. The finish brings hints of rye whiskey and more of the woody barrel character. Minutes after I take a sip the rich finish still lingers with the burnt caramel and oak from the barrels leaving me wanting another sip. Overall, this is a very good beer with a lot of different things going on at once: very noticeable notes of each component of a rye Manhattan but combined with the classic Firestone Walker barrel character.