We almost didn’t make it to Firestone Walker – we’d spent the morning at the fabulous Hearst Castle, built by billionaire newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, then popped to the nearby beach to marvel at the elephant seals lazing in the sun (spoiler, they’re huge!). Our kids were a bit grumpy and we almost pushed straight on to San Jose but a mistake with the sat nav put us in the path of the Firestone Walker Taproom and Restaurant in Paso Robles so we popped in for lunch. And fortune really smiled on us.

I was really really surprised by their beer menu; in the UK I don’t think we see anywhere near the range that FW brew – in fact our lovely waitress said that most of their aged beers don’t make it out of California. Even though it was only lunchtime I couldn’t say no to a flight, all the beers looked so tempting. I’d move there just to drink them again!!

  • 2017 Velvet Merkin: BA oatmeal stout, absolutely solid, very smooth and very drinkable
  • 2018 Mother’s Milk: rye whisky BA imperial milk porter, a collab with Creature Comforts. So gorgeous I bought a bottle to take away, and I cry a little every time I think I may never meet it again
  • 2018 Stickee Monkee: bourbon BA Belgian Quad, perhaps the best we’ve ever had. Again, another bottle bought.
  • UnderCurrants: wild ale with blackcurrants, the most glorious purple colour with a massive flavour.

Lovely waitress asked what I thought of the flight and I waxed lyrical; she returned with two more for me to try! Because I’d had her second favourite wild ale, she brought me her top choice, and because we’d had all but one of their barrel aged beers she brought me the barley wine so I could complete the set!

  • SLOambic: wild ale with blackberries, more gentle than the blackcurrant’s smack round the chops, but still delicious
  • 2018 Sucuba: English Barleywine, smooth and oaky this was a proper slow sipper.

Sat in the garden, we had a lovely lunch here too with great food. Nipping inside we were astonished to see the tap house is gigantic, very cool and buzzing even though it was only 3pm (it was a Friday though!). I would heartily recommend a stop off here even if you’re just buying beers to take with you. These were unmissable, thank goodness for a sat nav error!