DBA (Double Barrel Ale)
Brewer: Firestone Walker Brewing
Style: British Pale Ale
Firestone Walker's brewmaster Matt Brynildson admits that he was thrown for a loop when he began working for the brewery and was informed that he would be fermenting part of its DBA, or Double Barrel Ale, in wood barrels. "I said, 'That's all marketing smoke-and-mirrors, right?' Nobody does that." The technique is adapted from an old British fermentation system that featured a series of interconnected wooden barrels known as a Burton Union system.
The Burton Union practice requires a prodigious effort to keep the system from harboring unwanted bacteria, and Firestone Walker regularly checks each barrel for unwanted visitors, chucking any that they find going south. For all the effort, the system doesn't impart much oak flavor, especially since they blend it with beer fermented in stainless steel. But it does lend a touch of British authenticity that's hard not to admire. DBA is, at heart, a British pale ale with a bready malt center and a touch of floral hopping that lends a rich complexity without stealing the spotlight.