Deep yellow in color with a refreshing nose, malty body, and just a hint of hops, Firestone Walker’s latest release is a straightforward lager, and it goes down easy. That’s quite a departure from a brewery that, at least in recent years, has made more headlines for exploring the frontiers of brewing: pungent wild and sour ales, luscious barrel-aged beauties, and ales heavy with heady hops.
But in fact, Firestone first released a lager in 2000, only to watch it die in the over-hopped IPA craze. Eighteen years later, the craft-brew customer is seeking all sorts of beers, and lager is starting to be back en vogue. And any honest brewmaster will admit that making a consistent lager — yes, including those like Budweiser we all like to hate on — is one of the harder challenges in the trade. “You’re working with this bright, transparent canvas that will reveal the smallest flaw,” said Brewmaster Matt Brynildson.
He updated the old recipe by moving toward more of a Munich Helles style, featuring both German pilsner and North American pale malts and noble German hops. It’s crisp and clean yet satisfyingly full, something those mass-produced lagers can’t quite claim — indeed, the brewery staff has taken to calling it a unicorn beer. It’s available in stark-white six-pack cans ($10) or on draft.