Reviewed: Firestone Walker 805
Official description: A light, refreshing blonde ale created for the laid back California lifestyle. Subtle malt sweetness is balanced by a touch of hops creating a versatile beer with a clean finish. 4.7% ABV
Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Firestone Walker 805 – 12oz bottle served in stemless snifter – 4.7% ABV
805 is an interesting beer just from a marketing perspective as it is deliberately distanced from the Firestone Walker name. Bell’s used to do this with Two Hearted Ale and Third Coast Old Ale while Stone still does it with Arrogant Bastard. Though official packaging on paper cartons and 6-pack holders has “805” in giant font and small font for “Firestone Walker,” the cans and bottles themselves no longer say Firestone anywhere on them. Replacing the brewery name is the slogan “Properly Chill.”
But even crazier is that the style of beer you are purchasing is nowhere to be found. “Ale” is all that’s given on the label probably to comply with state law. This is, again, identical to Two Hearted Ale in the past and current branding for Arrogant Bastard. The beer is the brand name and nothing else is needed. Theoretically, a friend grabbing this beer out of a cooler would have no idea who makes it or what it may even taste like, which is probably the whole idea: distancing itself from a fancy craft brewery where such things matter. If you browse Firestone’s main website, you’ll find that 805 is missing from the core lineup of beers. Instead, 805 has its own website where you can find hardly anything about the beer but plenty of videos that seem to be selling a lifestyle that goes along with the beer.
I’m sampling 805 from a 12oz bottle with an easy to read packaging date of 2/14/19 found in the bottom left corner of the front label. Into my glass, 805 is darker than expected sporting this crystal clear, deep golden color with voluminous, buttermilk-colored foam that sticks around for more than two minutes. The nose is intensely malty with Hawaiian rolls and something slightly buttery and sweet like a blueberry muffin. As it warms up, taffy and candy corn come through as well.
After a few sips, 805 continues its malt-forward theme. It’s rich and delicious with flavors of honey dinner rolls and buttery muffin. And I don’t mean diacetyl, an off-flavor that is described as buttery like movie theater popcorn or margarine. I mean 805 has an oily, coating mouthfeel that combined with its sweet maltiness gives it that effect. The mouthfeel is truly exquisite, especially given its low ABV. 805 comes across as silky and impressively clean, which gives it more of a lager quality. Bitterness is background only and comes across as nearly nonexistent.
805 doesn’t have an official beer style on the packaging, though the description describes it as a “light, refreshing blonde ale.” In reality, 805 matches up very well with a German Helles lager in profile. It’s cleaner, smoother, and way denser than other American blonde ales out there, which tend to be bland and unforgettable. And that “subtle malt sweetness” is a gross understatement. 805 is like a glass of liquified bread.
With California beer now permanently associated with bitter IPAs, it’s a smart move for Firestone to market this malty, German Helles-like blonde as its own entity. 805 is well within the comfort zone of any casual beer lover. But for those like me that crave German-style beers, 805 is an unexpected masterpiece. My vessel of choice would be a 1-liter dimpled mug.
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