805 is a blonde American ale from California’s Central Coast brewed by Firestone Walker Brewing. It was initially intended as a limited release only for the local market. Still, demand spread to the rest of California and eventually to the Southwestern states of Texas, Nevada, and Arizona, as well as Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Montana, and Idaho.
805 is a blonde American ale with a balanced, refreshing flavor inspired by the laid-back California lifestyle. It has a moderately sweet malt-focused flavor with slight hints of citrus bitterness and a dry finish.
Because of this beer’s limited distribution, many wonder what it tastes like. Wonder no more! This article will take you on a tour of the 805 drinking experience, including this beer’s appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, smell, and Firestone Walker’s unique brewing process and history.
The first factor in a beer, particularly a niche microbrew like 805, is its flavor. The first sip of 805 reveals, as you’d expect, a malt-focused bready flavor. It’s probably closest in flavor profile to a German sweet bread. It lacks the overtly biscuity flavor of some ales and doesn’t entirely veer into the yeast-heavy grain territory of some lagers.
Some lightly refreshing citrus notes neatly complement this sweetness. There’s some zesty lemon bitterness and a touch of orange sweetness, perhaps a nod to California’s Orange County. There’s even a bit of tangerine-like complexity to this beer’s citrus character, neatly balancing the classic bread notes.
It’s slightly hoppy as it nears the finish, but this is not a hop-forward beer overall. The beer has a pleasantly dry finish, ending quickly with no lingering bitterness, as can be a risk with some zesty citrussy beers.
Overall, this beer is subtly sweet. It’s quite a feat to brew a beer this light with such a well-balanced palate, as often lightly flavored beers can be dominated by breadiness. 805’s flavor is delightful, and one can easily imagine drinking several by the beach on a sunny day. This is a highly drinkable beer with enough character to keep each sip interesting.
It’s a step away from the classic light lager, with more character than most American beers, but it certainly won’t be confused for a hefty European ale.
This beer’s mouthfeel is very crisp, just like its flavor. It’s refreshing, with enough body to let you know you’re not drinking water, but not so much that it overwhelms the palate.
There’s a pleasant amount of fizzy tingle with the first sip and a subtle roundness. On the finish, this beer is very light and slick without cloying, readying you for the next sip.
As with this beer’s flavor, the mouthfeel encourages drinking several.
805 has a very sweet, clean aroma. There’s some floral citrus to it, with enough hops in the background to let you know you’ve got a beer in your hand, not a glass of soda.
On top of the citrus and hop notes, this beer has the classic Bavarian banana character. A touch of apple and pear beautifully complements this.
This beer’s aroma is very clean and crisp, with enough floral and botanical notes to keep it interesting. The smell correlates with the beer’s taste, offering an honest glimpse into the experience of your first sip.
Poured into a beer glass, 805 has a light golden color. Its head is creamy and off-white, with enough staying power to stick around for the first sip. The head is only about a finger wide, and this beer’s smaller bubbles give the head a pillowy, creamy appearance. Its golden color is clear and rich. You can readily picture this beer looking fantastic on a sunny day.
Overall, this beer looks pretty attractive in the glass, leaving minimal lacing as you get through your beer.
Why Does 805 Taste Like This?
Firestone Walker Brewing launched the 805 in 2012. It’s brewed using hops, malt, yeast, and water.
As an ale, Firestone Walker’s 805 is top-fermented.
The man behind Firestone Walker’s character-packed beers is brewmaster Matt Brynildson. Brynildson joined the company in 2001, applying his background in chemistry and love of hops to the brewing craft. Brynildson took up home brewing while studying chemistry and began his career as a hop chemist at Kalamazoo Spice Extraction Company.
Brewmaster Matt Brynildson’s expertise in beer hops is the primary factor in determining the overall balance and palate of the 805.
Firestone Walker Brewing Company uses a few techniques to set its beers apart from the competition. Their enduring love of aging beers in oak barrels is not the least among these. Firestone Walker uses oak barrels to age a wide variety of their beers, using American oak to impart a distinctive depth of flavor to their beers.
Firestone Walker credits Matt Brynildson with much of their beer’s success. Brynildson has been appropriately decorated for his brewing accomplishments, including being named “Champion Brewmaster” four times at the World Beer Cup and “Brewer of the Year” six times at the Great American Beer Festival, and receiving the Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing.
Firestone Walker Brewing History
Firestone Walker was founded in 1996 by Englishman David Walker and American Adam Firestone, great-grandson to Harvey Firestone of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. The brewery traces its origins to the Firestone family vineyard in Los Olivos, California, but moved to Paso Robles in 2001.
Most of Firestone Walkers’s beers, including 805, are brewed at the Paso Robles brewery, which features state-of-the-art German-built vessels and equipment. Firestone Walker’s move to Paso Robles in 2001, which included the acquisition of SLO Brewing and their facility, brought brewmaster Matt Brynildson into the company.
Firestone Walker is one of only a few breweries worldwide that still use the Burton Union brewing method. This is a recirculating fermentation system with a row of American oak barrels connected to a common trough by flexible pipes. This allows yeast foam to be expelled from the casks without losing too much head space in the cask.
Firestone Walker is a highly awarded brewery that has picked up many accolades, including a Paste Magazine award as “Best American Brewery of the Decade”.
What Do Other People Think?
Although 805’s rapid expansion suggests that this is a popular beer, it’s always worth checking out what other beer drinkers think. We looked across the internet to see how beer enthusiasts feel about this Californian ale.
805 received unanimously positive reviews across the board, with no reviewers offering an opinion below six out of ten. Particularly impressive is its five-star rating from Influenster, where every single one of the beer’s nine reviews awarded 805 full marks. Clearly, Firestone Walker understands their market, as American beer drinkers have taken very kindly to this light Californian ale.
Consider this glowing review from one Beeradvocate devotee:
“Not just inoffensive, but quite pleasant. Malt forward, but with balancing hops that maintain drinkability without providing much flavor on their own. Straw, white bready dough, honey, grass, and just a bit of pine.
Fairly crushable, which should be expected given the ABV, but it manages to come across as more full bodied than any session IPA – which has me wondering what brewers of blonde ales and lagers have figured out that seems to elude session IPA brewers.”Source
805 Brand Image
Firestone Walker’s 805 is named after California’s Central Coast area code. Accordingly, the laid-back Californian lifestyle is etched into the very DNA of this American blonde ale. Firestone Walker’s branding features enough Californian imagery to make the Red Hot Chili Peppers blush and continues to define the brewery throughout its nationwide expansion.
Firestone Walker has a strong brand image as an accessible, family-owned craft brewery. Their brand is built on eco-friendliness and innovation, catering to an ever-increasing market segment that prefers agile small businesses to the dominant American brewing giants.
Firestone Walker, for example, launched a 2.1-megawatt solar array on 9.7 acres of land next to their brewery in a massive carbon-offsetting endeavor. Similarly, they pursue waste elimination strategies, including kettle steam recovery and an onsite wastewater treatment plant to purify and recycle their water.
Firestone Walker’s creative, innovative brand image has helped them to compete, particularly in California, with the bigger brewers. Although Firestone Walker is no longer owned solely by the Firestone and Walker families, it is still a family-owned business.
It combined in 2015 with Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat Brewery, which became the majority stakeholder in Firestone Walker Brewing Company. This is also a family-owned business, allowing Firestone Walker to retain its brand and reputation as a craft brewery while expanding its scope of operations and distribution.
805 is perhaps Firestone Walker’s most popular beer, thanks mainly to its indelible association with their California-heavy branding.