story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 3/28/19
This part of the Firestone-Walker story comes full circle inside a pretty pink can that bears the name, Rosalie.
Wine is in the Firestone family’s rear view mirror these days. Brooks Firestone launched winegrowing on the family’s Santa Ynez Valley ranch in the 1980s, a project that flourished under the generation that followed until the brand was sold to magnate Bill Foley in 2007.
By then, Brooks’ oldest son, Adam, was 10 years into his side business, making beer. He’d launched his brewery as a joint venture with his brother-in-law, David Walker, making beers right in the vineyard and fermenting the early brews right inside wine barrels. Today, with brewmaster Matt Brynildson at the helm, Firestone Walker Brewery is the success story that keeps in going.
Its latest project, a beer rosé dubbed Rosalie, is a wonderful marriage between the company’s wine-inspired past and beer-fueled future. It springs, actually, from something called the Terroir Project, a two-year-old venture to explore beer-wine hybrids. Rosalie – delightfully pink in hue, with a flirtatious fizz and a wonderfully unique flavor profile, all housed inside a slender aluminum can sealed with a pull tab – breaks ground in the way it integrates wine grapes into beer making.
For the wine part: chardonnay, viognier, sauvignon blanc, riesling and muscat grapes were sourced from popular Castoro Winery in Paso Robles, the Central California town that's home base for Firestone Walker’s operations. The grape juices were delivered to the brewery for cold storage.
For the beer part: hops and a light pilsner malt were procured to produce wort, the liquid extracted during the brewing process. A souring technique was used to elevate acidity.
Wine part and beer part are blended, and co-fermentation begins.
There’s a remarkable extra ingredients in all of this: hibiscus flowers. “This is similar to how we might typically add hops to the whirlpool, except in this case we are using hibiscus,” says Brynildson. “This gives is a classic rosé coloration with a suggestion of rose petals in the aromas. The hibiscus also contributes a touch of natural citric acid that enlivens the palate.”
Rosalie in, in fact, a delightful hybrid sipper that will delight wine fans and beer buffs alike. It’s wine upfront, with that familiar bounce on the palate and flavors of berries. And it’s beer on the back end, with a subtle hops essence and a refreshing effervescence. It’s pretty pink in the glass, too, and at five percent alcohol per volume, prime for a second pour.
So it seems David Walker is right: “Our roots are deep in the wine culture,” he says. “If any brewer can actually take wine and beer and bring them together, it’s us.”
Rosalie is hitting the marketplace right now in six packs, with draft to follow next month. Find out more at firestonebeer.com.