Delights in the Lion’s Den of Buellton

Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks Dinner Is an Inspired Ale Feast

David Walker speaks to the crowd at the recent Lion’s Den dinner, while Chef Rachel Ponce and Chef Bryan Aceves discuss the dishes created by Pair With Rachel. | Credit: Jessica Cheung

It’s a tribute to David Walker’s passion for his project that, as he talks you through the creation of Firestone Walker’s core beer Double-Barrel Ale (DBA), his story makes the beer taste better as you drink it. That’s only fitting, of course, as his rapturous ode to DBA kicked off a Barrelworks Lion’s Den Dinner on September 24 in Buellton. And as you might know, Walker is the Lion at FW, while his partner Adam Firestone is the Bear.

Being able to attend this dinner was one of the perks of membership for the Brewmaster’s Collective, now in its second year. Think beer club for the nerdiest lovers of dark, deep, and/or sour ales, which, given this dinner was sold out at 66 pleased people, is a quite large group. The people for whom Walker joked, “You got curious and left my DBA behind.”

Credit: Jessica Cheung

Leading us through the “curious” beers was Eric Ponce, FW’s barrel-aging production manager, setting us up for an evening of “the joys of wild yeasts and spontaneous fermentation.” That means a beer like Ferus Fruitaneous, which spellcheck might not like but everyone at the dinner did. Ponce’s take on a lambic, aged on raspberries and guava, it was certainly sour but brought back from the vinegary brink by those fruit notes. Plus, it paired well with a non-traditional rotolo, the thick pasta roll rich with lilies (both garlic and fried shallots) and just a hint of truffle.

As the courses (five) and beers (six) rolled out in the atmospheric, oak-scented barrel room, the long table of partiers grew chummy, even if one exchange, I promise, was about D&D, and went as follows: “Have you ever thought about being an ent? If you decided to branch out.”

Dungeony thoughts were particularly easy to consider when sipping an ale like No Ends Only Beginnings, as dark as many of the scenes on Game of Thrones. This Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels, a team effort with L.A.’s beloved Highland Park Brewery, hit with waves of coffee, chicory, and vanilla, and no doubt might frighten a fan of FW’s biggest seller, the easy-to-guzzle blond 805.

So, not an evening for the timid. Walker pointed out the singularity of the brews, claiming, “These beers are a dying breed.” That’s true partially because they are often one-offs, but also because while the Brewmaster’s Collective craves these nearly chewy beers, consumer trends show beer is losing market share to hard seltzers (white) clawing their way up the sales charts. Not to mention the top three selling beers in the U.S. for 2021 had light/lite in their names and the fourth brand was Corona (insert your favorite Corona-equals-water joke here). 

In the meantime, the adventurous and connoisseurs can rely on Barrelworks rolling out a thrilling porter like Imperial Walker’s Reserve, not just aged in bourbon barrels for oaky depth but also brewed with a portion of beechwood-smoked malt. It’s like getting to have the contentment of an after-dinner cigar without the unhealthy tobacco part. Plus, as the diners learned, it can pair well with an Earl Grey sugar cake dolloped with gin crème.

Support the Santa Barbara Independent through a long-term or a single contribution.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.