A Beer Bender

I do not know where you were last week but I was drinking beer. By great fortune I enjoyed the luxury of Firestone Walker’s 14th release party at Toronado and the barrel-aged festival at the Bistro. Between the two events hosted by two superlative supporters of Bay Area beer culture, it is fair to say that I had more than my fair share of a good time. And I was blown away. Firestone Walker has been delivering for a goodly amount of time… and delivering well. Frankly, Union Jack, as an IPA, out-classes many double-IPA on the market. It is almost false advertising. At last year’s release they represented well… and Black Xantus, under new auspices, stole the show. And my taste buds. And my arbitrary preference for double IPAs. Black Xantus, an imperial stout with a bourbon barrel edge, rode the crest of a trend I was readily falling victim to: an imperial stout perfected in a bourbon barrel. Stone’s imperial stout laid the ground. North Coast’s special edition Rasputin, with its bourbon heavy profile, became my refuge of choice… and then that eponymous humming-bird gifted me with an additional harbor. This year Firestone Walker did more than deliver a single, winged delight; Toronado delivered a full gauntlet of barrel-aged marvels with pleasures a-plenty. Xantus was there and it held its own, chocolate and coffee in extremes. Parabola made a rare showing and set a new standard with a sweet and lush profile… with a beautifully dark future, no doubt (if you can keep your bottle capped). Abacus, with its barley-wine sweetness muted into a dense vanilla-and-cream (thanks to the bourbon) took on a rare combination of dark wine and the best-bits-of-bourbon. And, yes, XIV delivered, rounding the experience out. And than some. My high expectations for the evening were far surpassed.

And then the Bistro set Saturday’s table. 61 barrel-aged beers are more than most mortals can partake of in one event (fortunately we are above the fray). My friends and I put a solid dent in the spread. And life was good. Stouts, sours, and even some IPAs bloomed through the process and leveled a late morning into an appreciably enjoyable afternoon. No favorites, just an undulating-few-hours of appreciation of masterful expressions of masters of beer. Can’t wait till next year (though February might bring a numbing reprieve).

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