Firestone Walker – Solace

IT’S EASY TO TWICE overlook Firestone Walker’s Solace: firstly, in the ever-widening field of unfiltered wheat ale summer seasonals (wherein it is a surprisingly small player for such a notable brand), and secondly in Firestone Walker’s own lineup, in which several Jacks and the mighty Parabola dominate conversations about the Paso Robles brewery. Frankly, in either context Solace never had a chance.

Solace is overall still a tasty beer, though, pouring an attractive sunny yellow, showing reasonably strong carbonation and with a respectable lacy head. Bitterness is low in the medium-light mouthfeel. The flavor skips neatly from one malt to another without stagnating, allowing for a light and breezy kind of drinking that still retains some cycle of interest. Wheat leads the way, supported by cereal flakes and a very few gentle brushes of tropical fruit. Seven malts (count ‘em, seven) is a little excessive, though, and by strengthening a select couple perhaps Solace might have had a stronger signature.

Solace’s other shortcoming is the finish, as is so often the case with this style: after starting pleasantly and delivering a little pepper texture (not flavor) on the roof of the mouth, it tapers abruptly towards the end with neither cloves, spice ,nor any particularly crisp carbonation or phenolic character to balance the late-coming yeast. Hops are restrained to 13 IBU, suitable to the style, but their absence also reveals how incomplete Solace feels after its promising beginning. Perhaps it is also that the beer was too far past its prime to make a strong impression, but that benefit can suspend only so much doubt.

Served: 12 oz bottled 4/30/13

Rating: 84

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