Firestone Walker Announces 2018 XXII Anniversary Ale

One of the greatest barrel-aged beer projects in the world (in my opinion), Firestone Walker’s XXII Anniversary Ale is on the way for its 2018 vintage. This annual blend of various beers, barrels, vintages is designed by winemakers that Firestone Walker invites in to taste their barrels and decide a final blend.

More from a press release:

“Usually by late summer the stress of the impending harvest starts bearing down on our winemaker friends, and some of them can’t make it to our blending session,” said Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “Not this year—and the result was one hell of a blend created by one of our largest groups ever.”

He added, “Winemakers are practicing experts in the art of blending, which is why we have sought their involvement ever since making our first Anniversary Ale in 2006.”

The Anniversary Ale blending session has become an annual late-summer rite at the brewery, and the 2018 session took place on September 4 with 30 participants in attendance. The outcome is XXII, signifying the Firestone Walker’s 22nd year on California’s Central Coast.

XXII will be released to all Firestone Walker markets in single boxed 12-ounce bottles for a limited time starting next week. It will debut at all Firestone Walker locations this weekend, starting at the annual Anniversary Party in Paso Robles on November 3. Tickets to the party may be purchased at

Spicing It Up

XXII is a blend of four distinct beers aged in spirits barrels: Stickee Monkee (Central Coast quad, 44%), Parabola (Russian imperial oatmeal stout, 22%), Bravo (imperial brown ale, 22%) and Helldorado (blonde barleywine, 12%).

The primary twist this year is the inclusion of Helldorado aged in rum barrels and gin barrels.

“Even though it’s a small percentage of the final blend, the gin barrel Helldorado adds a lot to this beer,” Brynildson said. “It brings this interesting botanical quality with spicy notes that we’ve never had in our Anniversary blends before.”

A unique synergy also emerged in the final blend of XXII. “There’s this distinct marzipan-meets-cherry note that comes from just the right amount of Parabola blended with Stickee Monkee and Bravo,” Brynildson said. “We saw that in ‘10’, our very first Anniversary Ale. That’s the magic of blending—drawing out these flavors that have nothing to do with any individual component.”

To create this beer, the winemakers were divided into teams. Each team created their own preferred blend from numerous components, and then all of the blends were blind tasted by the group to determine the favorite—which became the basis for XXII.

This year, the winning team was helmed by Terry Hoage and Phil Lamontagne of TH Estate Wines; Sherman Thacher and Daniel Callan of Thacher Winery; and longtime brewery friend and master bread baker Arie Litman. This team walked away with the coveted “cardboard crowns” that are passed along each year.

XXII: The Final Blend

Stickee Monkee (12.9% ABV) Aged in Bourbon Barrels (44%)

Central Coastal Quad

OG=27P FG=6.5P IBU=45 Color=Deep Brown / Brewed with Belgian Candi Sugar and Mexican Brown Sugar


Parabola (13.7% ABV) Aged in Bourbon Barrels (22%)

Russian Imperial Stout                                                                 

OG=30P FG=8.5P IBU=80 Color=Black / Hopped with Columbus, East Kent Golding


Bravo (13.6% ABV) Aged in Bourbon Barrels (22%)

Imperial Brown Ale

OG=26.5P FG=3.0 IBU=35 Color=Deep Brown / Hopped with Bravo and Columbus


Rum Barrel Helldorado (14.5% ABV) Aged in Rum Barrels           (7%)

Blonde Barley Wine

OG=21P FG=5.5 IBU=32.5 Color=Deep Gold / Hopped with Styrian Golding


Gin Barrel Helldorado (11.4% ABV) Aged in Gin Barrels (5%)

Blonde Barley Wine

OG=21P FG=5.5 IBU=32.5 Color=Deep Gold / Hopped with Styrian Golding


Brewmaster’s Notes:

“This beer is all about the barrels.  Bourbon, rum and gin barrels combine forces to create incredible complexity. The stout percentage is restrained, allowing the wood to speak and be heard. I especially like the way the Gin barrels bring new spice notes that we have not seen before in an Anniversary blend. I will let you discover the rest. This beer is unfiltered and unfined, so there will be a small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. XXII is best poured carefully into a half-filled brandy snifter or wine glass. Allow it to warm to 55F to fully enjoy the pleasing and complex aromas. The true complexity of this blend is revealed as the beer sits and breathes in the glass, so take your time. If you wait to open your bottle later, store it in a cool dark place. Like our other Anniversary offerings, this beer will age well and change favorably for years to come. It was an absolute pleasure in the making. The journey continues.”

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: