It’s been generally known for a month or more that Paso Robles, CA craft beer titan was discontinuing their black IPA Wookey Jack, but more news arrived directly from the brewery in a press release this afternoon: Firestone Walker is also discontinuing two other popular beers. Opal (a saison) and Double Jack, the brewery’s very popular, classic DIPA, are apparently next on the chopping block. The beers are being discontinued as the brewery phases out its “Proprietor’s Reserve” series in favor of a new series that hasn’t yet been announced. The full press release Paste received is reproduced below.
Paso Robles, CA—Is it truly a farewell to Wookey Jack, Double Jack and Opal as Firestone Walker Brewing Company steels itself to stop brewing these beloved beers? The answer is complicated, but yes, Firestone Walker’s Proprietor’s Reserve line is winding down, and the three beers referenced above will accordingly dwindle from distribution by the end of the year.
“It’s a bittersweet occasion,” said David Walker. “Each of these beers was forward-thinking and representative of some of our best brewing efforts, but they are now stepping aside to make room for the next generation.”
Added Adam Firestone, “This was a hard decision made for the sake of innovation. These beers were born of that ideal, and now they are yielding to it.”
Wookey Jack (Black Rye IPA), Double Jack (Imperial IPA) and Opal (Dry-Hopped Saison) have collectively represented the Proprietor’s Reserve Series tier for several years. This tier was dedicated to smaller-batch standout beers, and as such was aligned between Firestone Walker’s widespread Lion & Bear offerings and the limited Vintage Reserve tier of barrel-aged beers.
“The suspension of the Proprietor’s Reserve tier will create a void that the brewers here are extremely excited to fill,” said Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “It opens up a brand new canvas. That’s all I can say for now on that.” He added, “Wookey isn’t dead yet, and neither are the others. They may make curtain calls as special limited releases, or get reimagined into something more fantastical, or both. Our Propagator pilot brewhouse in Venice should be on line soon, and it will not only provide a platform for new R&D beers, but also for bringing back small batches of these Proprietor’s Reserve beers periodically for on-premise enjoyment.”
Our immediate reaction at Paste is one of sadness but understanding, as the brewery must stay relevant with changing tastes as it continues growing into one of the nation’s biggest (and still best) craft breweries. On some level, the loss of Wookey Jack doesn’t surprise us, as black IPA is a very tough category to sell, even when done well. The loss of Opal stings, but it may have had a harder time standing out among other saisons.
The loss of Double Jack, though? That one stings. Firestone Walker’s Double Jack was one of the best straight-up examples of West Coast IPA/DIPA that one could find on the shelf, and one of the best widely available DIPAs in the country. It consistently performed well in Paste’s blind tastings, and it will suck to not be seeing it on tap in the future. It seems somewhat odd that the brewery would eliminate it entirely, rather than move it to the year-round Lion & Bear series, but perhaps this move reflects the changing tastes in American IPA. As recently as 2015, though, Paste ranked it #5 out of 115 in a blind tasting of DIPAs.
At the same time, we’re obviously extremely excited to see what kind of series Firestone Walker chooses to replace the likes of Double Jack, Opal and Wookey Jack. Hopefully, more news on new beers out of FW will arrive soon.