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Jim Crooks, Master Blender

Jim Crooks is the Master Blender for Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks. He was kind enough to share some of his background and answer a few questions.

Graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Food Science degree in ’97 , Jim Crooks always had a fascination for bread yeast. He became well educated on the possibilities of what yeast could accomplish in bread, leading him to apply his knowledge to his interest in home brewing. Jim began his career at SLO Brewing Co. in 1999 and was hired by Firestone Walker Brewing Company in 2001 as Quality Control Manager. Over the course of 13 years Jim managed the quality division as annual production grew from 12,000bbls to over 100,000bbls a year. In 2007 Jim began working on a side project creating Belgian inspired wild beers and Lambics. The project, now called Barrelworks, was fully realized in 2012 when operations were moved to a new location in Buellton, CA. Barrelworks is now home to over 1000 wine barrels filled with beer in all different stages of maturation. Jim holds the title of Masterblender, and is responsible for all production and creative aspects for Barrelworks.

What’s special about your brewery?

It’s 100% wild beer. We don’t use any Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We focus on barrel aging.

What’s your least favorite part of the brew day?

Turning out the lights and going home.

What is your favorite part of the brew day?

Sampling 2 and 3 year old barrels and finding out that the time given to patience has paid off.

What was the biggest mess you’ve made making a beer?

My first time trying to get the raspberries out of our 550-gallon tote.

What’s the largest batch of beer you’ve poured down the drain?

Barrelworks hasn’t poured anything down the drain. We are in the business of salvaging out-of-code seasonal kegs from our markets and turning them into sour beer.

What’s your favorite beer festival?

Oktoberfest in Munich.

Have you shared, or are you willing to share, a homebrew clone recipe for any of your beers?

Willing to share.

What’s the strangest ingredient you’ve added to a beer?

Szechuan peppercorns.

What was your happiest moment as a brewer?

Realizing that hard work and experimentation using wild yeast finally paid off into the creation of Barrelworks.

What dumb joke are people always making about your job?

That our clothing and every piece of equipment we have is contaminated with beer-spoiling bacteria.

What beer should be served at your funeral?

Feral One.

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Framboise de Amorosa with itskeriii

itskeriii is drinking a 10th anniversary Framboise de Amorosa Barrel-aged Raspberry Sour

Lost AbbeyBrewery: The Lost Abbey

Style: Barrel-Aged Raspberry Sour

Packaging: 750 ml bottle

Release: Limited

Distribution: Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington

Framboise de Amorosa begins as Lost and Found ale and is sent into freshly emptied red wine barrels. The beer spends over a year in the wood during which time it is spiked with three additions of raspberries.


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Defenestration with herhops

herhops is drinking Defenestration

Brewery: Russian River Brewing

Style: Belgian-style Blonde Ale

Packaging: 12 oz bottles

Release: Seasonal

Distribution Area: Pub only

Important Info: Russian River is legendary for their IPAs, but their Belgian-style and barrel aged brews are just as amazing. Many of these beers have limited distribution, or are only available in their pub in Santa Rosa.

ABV: 7.25%

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Craftin California Shirt Giveaway

Beer Selfie is teaming up with Craftin California to give away two awesome shirts! Just mention two friends on the photo above for your chance to win.

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Beer Cap Map Giveaway

Beer Selfie is teaming up with Beer Cap Maps to give away one of these fantastic wooden USA beer cap maps and a standoff wall hanger! Just mention two friends on the photo above for your chance to win.

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Taza Drinkware and Opener

Taza sent us these lovely unbreakable glasses and bottle openers. You can’t tell the glasses are actually made of plastic until you pick one up. They’re BPA free, dishwasher safe, and shatterproof. The bottle openers remove caps from bottles without damaging the caps. That’s perfect for bottle cap crafts, or a Beer Cap Map.

Buy a set of 4 TaZa Unbreakable 16oz Wine glasses on Amazon
Buy a Brushed Aluminum TaZa Pop-the-Top Bottle Opener on Amazon
Buy a Black TaZa Pop-the-Top Bottle Opener on Amazon

Watch me unbox and try them out:

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American Pale Ale with sortofcandid

Tiffany (sortofcandid) is drinking American Pale Ale

fromthegroundBrewery: From The Ground Brewery

Style: American style pale ale

Packaging: 22oz bottles

Release: Year round

Distribution Area: New York

Important Info: From The Ground Brewery uses locally sourced ingredients, many of which they grow themselves on their farm, the Migliorelli Farm. The brewery is located on the farm’s 100 acre orchard, which grows apples, pears, peaches, plums and cherries. They are friends with many local farmers, some of whom grow their hops, or take their spent grain to feed livestock.

ABV: 5%

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Beer Mail with Tavour

There are loads of delicious beers on Beer Selfie, but many of them have limited distribution. That MadTree PsycHOPathy IPA is usually only available in Ohio and Kentucky. Tavour to the rescue!

Tavour is not a beer of the month club. They’re not a standard online retailer either. They have a unique model that works great with their product. You can create an account for free. Then you get a daily email detailing their latest craft beer release. The beer descriptions are detailed and usually include scores from sites like Beer Advocate and Rate Beer. They also note whether the beer is exclusive to Tavour. If you’re interested you reply to the email and let them know how many you want. You can also log into their site, or use their app, and select from a few recently released beers that are still available.

I reviewed Tavour and eight fantastic beers I got from them at You’ve Got Beer Mail With Tavour.

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