Buellton, CA—In the beginning, there was Lil Opal, an illicit “brett’d saison” that spawned a rogue family of barrel-aged wild yeast beers. As the family grew large and unruly, Firestone Walker Brewing Company was ultimately compelled to build them a home called Barrelworks.
Now, Barrelworks comes full circle with the upcoming limited release of 2014 Lil Opal in 375ml bottles—the first time the beer has been captured in bottles since it was first created eight years ago.
The 2014 Lil Opal bottles will be released at the “Flight of The Opals” open house at Barrelworks on April 19 (see below for event details). The 2014 Lil Opal bottles will thereafter be available for a limited time at Barrelworks and the brewery in Paso Robles. Only 750 cases were produced.
Lil Opal was originally created when master blender, then quality control manager, Jim “Sour Jim” Crooks peeled away from his regular brewery duties and began aging wild yeast (a.k.a. sour) beers in Viognier barrels acquired from local wineries. He squirreled away four barrels of a one-off saison in a back warehouse and covered them with a tarp, where they sat for two years.
“Over time, the beer picked up all of these amazing oaky vanilla flavors, but it was still light and snappy.” Crooks said. “The brettanomyces yeast had preserved the beer, so it was still quite alive, with no oxidation. I was blown away.”
Thus Lil Opal was born, and Firestone Walker’s wild yeast beer program began to take off. Today, the program has grown to more than 700 barrels stacked to the ceiling of Barrelworks. Lil Opal is also the inspiration behind Opal, a stainless-brewed farmhouse saison that became a year-round release starting in March.
Said Barrelworks Director Jeffers Richardson, “Lil Opal, our second bottled offering of 2014, is a brett’d saison released in the spring to celebrate the vernal season. This vintage release was aged for 14 months in French and American oak barrels. The maturation time expresses Lil Opal’s oak signature; refines both the spicy and fruity yeast notes; and refreshes the palate with a soft, light acidity.”
2014 Lil Opal — Blended by Barrelworks Director Jeffers Richardson and Master Blender Jim Crooks
- Maturation: 14 months in French (75%) and American oak (25%) barrels
- ABV: 5.9%
- IBU: 11
- Color: 4.8 SRM
- pH: 3.9
- T.A.: 4.1 g/L
- Flora: Brettanomyces Lambicus, Lactobacillus Brevis
- Price: $13.99 / 375ml BottleÔÇ¿Availability: Only at Barrelworks and the Paso Robles brewery
ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Flight of The Opals on April 19 @ Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks
Come out to Barrelworks anytime between noon and 7 p.m. to enjoy a “Flight of The Opals,” which includes tastes of 2014 Lil Opal, 2013 Lil Opal and Sour Opal. No tickets necessary, just come on out. Limited purchases of 2014 Lil Opal will be available. Lil Opal will also be available for purchase at the Paso Robles brewery starting on April 21.
Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks is a story of beer, barrels and unintended consequences, of renegade brewers, and of a pet project turning into a wild beast: www.firestonebeer.com/barrelworks