Firestone Walker Brewing Co. is putting the final touches on a two-year, $15 million expansion of its Paso Robles brewhouse and new visitor center that sets the stage for the 20-year-old brewery to grow incrementally over the next couple of decades.
“After maxing out our last major brewhouse investment within four years, we needed a new piece that will serve us for many more years to come,” co-founder Adam Firestone said in a news release. “We finally have some breathing room and a long-term foundation for brewing in Paso Robles.”
The expansion adds several new brewing vessels, transported from Germany, in a high-ceilinged space with massive windows fronting Highway 101 at 1400 Ramada Drive. Among them: a 200-barrel tank dedicated entirely to brewing 805, the blonde ale whose explosive growth over the last three years fueled Firestone’s need to expand.
“805 caused us to grow faster than we expected — it’s the reason behind all this,” said co-founder David Walker.
The additional capacity will allow Firestone — which joined forces with Belgian-based Duvel Moortgat in 2015 — to keep pace with demand for the foreseeable future but also pull back from the 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week brewing schedule of the past couple of years.
“We will now be able to throttle back the workload a bit and improve our quality of brewing life,” brewmaster Matt Brynildson said.
Where Firestone’s original pub once sat is a gleaming new visitor center, opening this weekend, that will serve as an educational tasting space and hub for new public tours set to start in the next couple of weeks.
The basic tour starts in the tasting lounge with a sample of Pale 31 and continues upstairs over a new catwalk into the brewhouse, where guests taste another beer while hearing about Firestone’s brewing process. Back at the tasting bar, guests can sample two additional beers before heading out with a logo snifter glass and copper bottle opener. Cost is $10, and children 12 and up are allowed if accompanied by an adult.
A more in-depth 21-and-over-only option includes a visit to the barrel room to learn about and sample Firestone’s barrel-aged beers. That tour costs $30 and features five tastes, including three barrel-aged beers and a bottle to take home as well as a glass and bottle opener.
The debut of the expansion and visitors center comes at the kick-off of this weekend’s Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest, a sought-after event that attracts more than 50 top craft brewers from around the country and world to the Paso Robles Events Center.
Each year’s fest celebrates the industry’s tradition of collaboration with a special release brewed by Firestone and one of the participating breweries. This year, Firestone teamed up with London’s Beavertown Brewery — a venture by Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and his son, brewer Logan Plant — on an India Pale Lager called “West Side Beavo.” The name is a play on Beavertown and Firestone’s hoppy “Pivo” lager.
The cross-continental mash-up combines hops from the Pacific Northwest and the United Kingdom in a lager that the two describe as “a beer that speaks to both breweries’ penchant for brewing hoppy beers with complexity and balance.”
“Jester is the newest flavor-forward hop from the U.K.,” Brynildson said. “It gives the beer a hint of lychee fruit with a familiar English earthy, herbal element. The American hops are more new-age in style, bringing a more tropical, citrusy character to the beer.”
Even the artwork for the can was a collaboration, depicting Firestone’s familiar lion and bear icons in Beavertown’s signature skeletonized style.
Following the fest, West Side Beavo will see a limited release on draft and in cans around Firestone’s U.S. markets as well as in the U.K.