My experience with Firestone Walker’s Anniversary Ales began with their 14th Anniversary Ale, a blend that was primarily stout focused. Then came their 15th Anniversary Ale, which was more barleywine focused (based) and while I enjoyed it, it left me a bit underwhelmed. That however did not dissuade me from continuing to seek out more of Firestone Walker’s amazing barrel aged beers. Though I did hope that their 16 Anniversary release mark a return to a stout focused blend. Happily that is what happened and I bought as much of it as I could (between my older brother and I we were able able to get 5 bottles).
BREWERY’S DESCRIPTION: Click here
After pouring this epic beer into my The Bruery snifter I took a moment to admire its dark brown color and the red hues along its edges. Although there wasn’t much head the beer left behind lots of alcohol legs and some dots of lacing as I drank it. Moving onto the beer’s complex aroma I picked up on inviting aromas of oak, bourbon, vanilla, dark fruit, brandy sweetness, caramel, a touch of tequila, graham cracker sweetness, toffee, and some alcohol heat / fusel notes. Yes that’s a long list, but its beers like this one that make you want to keep smelling them to pick out as many unique flavors as possible.
Before describing the flavors I experienced in 16 Anniversary Ale I should note that at times it was hard to decipher the flavor profile because of its complexity and constant development (changing). I did sip on it for over an hour and wow was it a great craft beer experience. In my initial sips I picked up on flavors of bourbon, dark chocolate, and oak upfront. Those were followed up by dark cherry and other dark fruits from the brandy barrel beers, nutty toffee, and graham cracker at mid-palate. The beer’s finish was similar many bourbon barrel aged stouts with vanilla, toasted coconut, and dark chocolate flavors lingering on my palate. Some earthy hops weaved their way throughout the flavor profile and in my opinion prevented the beer from being too sweet.
As I drank more I picked up some roasty notes from Bravo (imperial brown ale) and the stouts used in the blend. Also, strong brandy and bourbon flavors blend battled it out in the finish, which became sweeter and had a bit less vanilla than in my initial sips. Some oak tannin was present at both mid-palate and in the finish. Lastly, in the end the toasted coconut and vanilla were the strongest flavors in the beer’s semi-dry finish.
In terms of mouthfeel and drinkability Firestone Walker 16th Anniversary Ale was medium bodied and drank pretty smooth for 13% abv. In my opinion this beer will age quite well. Its the slight estery and fusel notes, alcohol heat in the finish, and oak tannins will mellow; and the blend of flavors will develop a bit more. Overall, a very successful beer and one I highly recommend. Rating: 8.5/10 – not a favorite beer in terms of dark barrel aged beers, but quite close.