What's the Hops?


The Tour

Take a virtual tour through Firestone Walker Brewery as Microbiologist Charles Wilkins walks you through the art of beer making. He explains the entire process, his every day duties and Firestone's mission to make "even better beer."

Founded in 1996 by Adam Firestone (the Bear) and David Walker (the Lion), Firestone Walker Brewing Company started out as a snall brewery looking to craft 'even better beer.' As the company has grown, so has its market, but the mission remains the same. Charles Wilkins, a Microbiologist for the company, individually tests every batch made at the Paso Robles Brewing Company in search for that perfect beer. 'Beer is so much more than just a drink or alcohol. There's so many processes a single grain goes through to get the right tastes and flavors of each beer and there're so many things we (Firestone) do that's unique to other breweries that makes our beer better,' says Wilkins. Firestone Walker mills all its own grain and makes its own water to further perfect their quality beer and brewing process. They create their own water using reverse osmosis, taking out all oxygen and minerals, leaving the purest of drinking water. Firestone uses leftover grain to make their famous pizza dough and treats the leftover water post brew to give back to the Paso Robles community. Standard and specialty grains get dispensed into tanks from the large grain mills above the factory. These tanks combine beer grains and specialty grains to add flavor to the beer. These grains get heated up causing the sugars and enzyme-amalays to be extracted out. 'Enzyme-amalays are present in all grains. They break down starches to simple sugars like glucose that yeast can use to make alcohol. It's a super crucial process and without it you'd have no flavors and no alcohol- basically no beer,' says Wilkins. The whirlpool separates the leftover grains, sugars and necessary enzyme-amalays from the extraction process and mixes the latter two with malts, hops and other flavor enhancers. 'This is where you separate the aromas from the tastes - the hops is what's adding that bitterness to beer that some people hate,' Wilkins says. 'From the whirlpool, the newly crafted beer goes into fermentation tanks or barrels. Firestone is especially known for their barrel aged beers. Our DBA spends about 20% of its time in an oak barrel and 80% of its time in a fermentation tank,' Wilkin says. Firestone is know for its complete barrel aged beers that can spend up to 3 years fermenting in an oak barrel, however, these (pictured) are spending just enough time in barrels to gather a rich oak flavor. Before the beer gets bottled and distributed, it gets sampled and tested in the Microbiology Lab where Wilkins works. 'This is a beer spectometer, it measures the color and sugars in the beer samples,' Lisa Morgan, a lab technician, says. 'It's one of the 100 tests beers get from start to finish. So say a blonde is in testing, it's only in fermentation process for 6-10 days, and gets all 100 tests during that short week.' 'Inside our lab we keep media and samples and everyday we have a list of beers we need to pull from the tanks. Our job is to take the samples, bring them up here, put them on a plate, and check for everything that could possibly grow,' Wilkins says. Once the beer is adequately tested, it moves on to the packaging stage where itis bottled, kegged, boxed and sent off by converyer belt to a refrigerated warehouse until time of sell. 'We do about 1,000 kegs a night, 30,000 bottled cases a week, and 10,000 canned cases a week. Its about 8,000 cases of beer packaged a day,' says Brian Huelskamp a Brewery Store representative. Firestone Walker Brewery won big at the 2015 American Beer Festival thanks to their diligent beer making process. 'We won a ton of medals - gold for Pivo, DBA, Midsized Brewery and Brewmaster of the Year, and Farrel 1 placed silver - I'm just reading off our emails, man, it's awesome,' says Huelskamp.


Drunk History

Drunk History is the liquored up version of how Firestone Walker Brewery came to be. Charles Wilkins enjoys a few brews while sharing a story filled with (what we think are) facts, laughs and more than a few burps.


Do It Yourself: Home Brewing

Roommates and bestfriends, Ryan Geller, 3rd year Child Development major, and Joaquin Lozano, 3rd year Agri-Business major, walk you step by step through the process of home brewing. Their passion for beer making at home comes from "total boredom and the love for beer," says Geller. "We tried it one summer, had a lot of fun, made a huge mess, and successfully didn't kill eachother in the process," Lozano says. Follow their journey start to finish, with a little help from expert beer microbiologist, Charles Wilkins, along the way.


The Move

Firestone Walker Brewery plans to expand its Paso Robles, Ca campups due to an increase in production and popularity in the past few years. Here are the steps that lead to the six million dollar expansion plan.

Firestone Walker Brewery plans to expand it's Paso Robles, Ca campus due to increase in production and popularity over the past few years.


The Buzz

Check out the current buzz surrounding the Craft Beer industry - from its recent rise in popularity, to its expected growth in the next ten years, and everything inbetween. Learn how your favorite microbreweries came to be and how you've had an impact in their success.


"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." - Benjamin Franklin