An Evening at Blue Star with David Walker of Firestone Walker

David Walker (left) was available to answer any questions and sign a couple bottles.

The Blue Star hosted a six course beer dinner featuring the beers of Firestone Walker on July 25th.  There was more than the usual energy in the room because Firestone Walker's co-owner David Walker attended this very unique and special event accompanied by Colorado Firestone Walker rep, Elizabeth Kagan. British expatriot, David Walker kicked off the dinner with a brief overview of his brewery. He said some very nice things about the Colorado Springs beer scene and compared our community to the community surrounding Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, California. Walker then proceeded to talk about his beer.

We will present each course from two perspectives of the night. The beer portion is written by Isaac Grindeland, a regular FOTB writer, while the food portion is written by Erika Mullett, a food expert and writer who currently works at Blue Star. This is Erika's first post with us and hopefully not the last!

Course 1

: Course 1 featured Solace, a seasonal summertime fusion wheat beer. David described the beer as a Belgo-Bavarian hybrid. It was designed as a session beer but was originally around 6.5% ABV.  They decided that was a bit too high so this year it is down to 4.8% ABV.  Solace was a very refreshing wheat beer with citrus fruit and clove notes. It had some nice light Belgian yeasty characters. Definitely a beer that could be consumed very quickly. These beers are available seasonally in six packs.

Food: The evening began with guests eagerly taking their seats at the white clothed family style tables, sitting perfectly across from the glowing open kitchen filled with chefs cooking the night away. Smells of savory and sweet filled the room letting us know we were in for a night of delight. The first beer was Solace, with flavors of orange peel, cloves, fresh bread and banana greeted my taste buds with the first sip. The Blue Star chefs paired a dish that was the epiphany of beautiful simplicity: "Pineapple emulsion, banana and avocado pico topped on freshly fried whole wheat tortilla." The sweet pineapple softened the beer while the whole wheat tortilla pulled out the fresh yeasty flavors. The buttery texture and mild nutty flavors that came from the banana and avocado pico just paired so comfortably with Solace.

Course 2

: Course 2 featured a duo of Double Barrel Ale (DBA) and Pale 31. Both of these beers fall within Firestone Walker's pale series. David Walker talked briefly about the history of Firestone Walker. It was started in 1996, and they thought all they would make was pale ales. There were about 10 years of struggle, but then their sales took off. Now they make over 125,000 barrels of beer with a new brewhouse opening next month. They also have a sour beer project in process. Yes! The two beers for this course both won gold medals at last years GABF.  DBA was crafted after hoppy ales made in England in the late 1700s. They treat their water with minerals to replicate the water used to make the first British pale ales in Burton-on-Trent, England. They also ferment the beer in 60 gallon oak medium toast barrels for extra character and complexity. This beer is a great example of a very smooth and balanced ESB with noticeable but not overwhelming hop bitterness. Pale 31 is an example of a California pale ale, the style that Walker thinks started the American beer revolution.  This beer, is what a pale ale should taste like, it's one of my favorites. It has a very light but noticeable malt backbone, amazing flavor and aroma of Pacific NW citrusy hops and a nice bitter, clean finish. Walker described it as having marmalade notes, and I have to agree with him.

Food: DBA was an elegant array of flavors mingling together reminding me of white rose, Earl Grey tea, and a touch of caramel with a playful hint of pine nuts and walnuts. Tasting the depth of the DBA makes it easier to understand how the Blue Star chefs came up with such a unique dish. "Tea-smoked duck breast, brown butter roasted pears, fresh herb and goat cheese vinaigrette along with chilled potatoes." The second beer served with this dish: Pale 31, full of flavors such as melon, citrus, pine, pear and lavender accents.The presentation of the dish was stunning; displaying color, movement and visually appealing shapes. The duck was smoked to a perfect medium temperature offering a background flavor of freshly steeped tea that brought to the surface the Earl Grey flavor hiding in the DBA. The brown butter roasted pears complemented the malty notes in the DBA and created a nutty essence. The pears, to me, were the invitation for the Pale 31 into the tasting. The sweet pear pulled out the lemon flavors in the DBA and enhanced the green apple/melon flavors in the Pale 31. The vinaigrette was made from local herbs which were harvested just hours before the dinner from the blue stars garden across the street from the restaurant. The vinaigrette made from local herbs and goat cheese added a cheerful uplifting aspect to these two beers.   

Course 3

: Course 3 featured Walker's Reserve, a Robust Porter, 50% of the beer that goes into the bottles is barrel aged, and it sits at 5.9% ABV. Walker thought the best way to enjoy this beer with food is at the beach with a dozen oysters. Walker's Reserve was a very smooth dark but medium light bodied beer with notes of toffee, caramel and chocolate. A very drinkable beer. This one is available in single 22oz bottles.

Food: The English style porter lead the way to the third course: "Open-faced bison meatloaf, potato bread, bourbon cheddar, pickled shitake topped with crispy onion," comfort food. Food that warms the heart while tickling the palate. The bison meatloaf was beautifully displayed on the potato bread topped with a house-made sweet ketchup sauce surrounded by pickled shitakes and finished with crunchy onion ringlets. The bold, smoky bacon flavors expanding out of the meatloaf played with the smooth, earthy coffee notes found in the porter. Around the meatloaf laid house pickled shitakes with a velvet, meaty texture. Finally, topping the dish were onion slices fried then slowly dried to a perfectly crispy onion ringlet. Elegance!

Course 4

: Course 4 featured another duo of Double Jack and Wookey Jack. Double Jack is an imperial IPA and it is one of my all time favorite imperial IPAs.. It is crafted by using the first runnings of Union Jack, their regular IPA. The first runnings have the largest percentage of potential sugars for alcohol conversion which is why Double Jack weighs in at 9.5%.  It has a medium-light but solid malt backbone with an explosion of citrus hops that bring notes of tangerine, grapefruit, and oranges. Wookie Jack is an unfiltered black rye IPA. It is very similar to Double Jack in it's hop profile and uses a special new and popular hop called Citra that gives it large citrus notes. The difference though is that Wookie Jack uses dark malts and rye to create a spicy and roasty malt backbone. The appearance is also different with its dark brown opaque black, beautiful color.  These beers are available in single 22oz. bottles.

Food: Double Jack and Wookey Jack rung in the IPAs which were paired with the fourth course: "Pretzel crusted pork cutlet, Black Forest grain salad, apricot soubise and watercress." This dish came out of the kitchen displaying vibrant colors of green and orange. The bright, impressive watercress salad added a complimentary bitter note with a humble peppery touch. Flavors that danced across the taste buds following the lead of citrus and hops. Hard pretzel coated Heritage Berkshire pork cutlet added a salty, sweetness with a crunchy bite. Black forest grain salad prepared with quinoa offered subtle nutty and earthy notes. The smokey, succulent ham and quinoa salad elaborated on the dark malt and roasted flavors in the Wookey Jack. Eye-catching and spotlight stealing orange drizzle was made from local apricots, a touch of caraway and a splash of union jack; adding fruitiness and light array of bitter. 

Course 5

: Course 5 brought with it the highlight of the night for me, Double DBA. This is a brand new beer to the Firestone Walker lineup, containing the same ingredients as DBA, but just a lot more of it! It tops in at 12% ABV and is aged in barrels for one year. This sipping beer was very complex. Rich malt notes of toffee, caramel, and dark fruit along with some vanilla and oak, riminiscent of a Barley Wine. Simply amazing. This beer is available in a single 22 oz. bottle in limited quantities.

Food: As if the DBA wasn't enough! Here Firestone went above and beyond creating a beer that would be setting the table for the fifth course: The Double DBA. Served along side with a traditional English savory turnover. "Moody blue lamb confit pasty, cherry compote and citrus gremolata." Filling the pasty was a smokey blue cheese, simple and timid flavors of game for the savory juicy lamb. The pasty was very buttery and flaky, complimenting the oak and caramel flavors in the Double DBA. Completing this dish was the cherry compote full of smokey bacon and a pinch of spice. The compote really brought the dark fruit notes to the surface and expanded on the vanilla and caramel essence in the beer.

Course 6

The finale of the night consisted of the famous Parabola in a small coffee cup with whipped milk floated on top.  Parabola is a very delicious complex Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout. They use 5000lbs of malt when making this beer in comparison to 1500lbs used to make DBA. Each batch of this beer is aged in 246 bourbon barrels. The bottled beer is a blend of 9 month old and 6 year old Parabola. It's wonderful, with amazing bourbon and roasted malt aroma that blend into flavors of rich dark chocolate, oak, vanilla, roast, and more chocolate. The whipped milk gave it a nice smooth character. Definitely a great night cap to the dinner. The beer is available in a single 22 oz. bottle in limited quantities.

Food: The finale to this fabulous dinner, ending on a surprising note to guests and even David Walker himself; an idea that would change the way many of us view beer. The Parabola has rich coffee flavors with a hint chocolate and vanilla and was served in the style of a "Macchiato." Macchiato, which translates to marked or stained. In this course the Parabola was stained by steamed milk. This contributed greatly to the rebirth of the Parabola Macchiato.

Too soon the dinner was over, but guests were left with pleasant memories that will last and be savored for a long time.

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BeerEric Steen