This past Friday morning I decided to start working my way north for the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival in Paso Robles. I left a little early as I was going to take the 101 and try to find a brewery that I had yet to visit. I had posted on the Craft Beer Guy Facebook page asking for suggestions and one of my followers and personal acquaintances, Charles Mumford, recommended a few, but the one that I knew would be open at the same time I was in the area was Rincon Brewery, a brewpub located in Carpinteria.
I arrived just before noon and their outside patio seemed packed with customers enjoying the warm sunshine. As I entered I noticed that they had about 10 of their own brews and several guest taps. It was a nice looking room with a surfer vibe, which should probably be expected considering the name Rincon and its proximity to the beach. To the left I noticed a large window that displayed the brewery on the other side. Since I was traveling solo this trip, I decided I would just get one flight and ordered their Bates Blond Belgian Style Blond, Indicator IPA, 17 @17 IPA and Rivermouth Stout. All four were solid beers and made me think they must have been open for years because things seem pretty dialed in, especially considering they were offering 10 varieties.
The beertender, who happened to be co-owner Alma Billgren, noticed I was taking photos and asked who I was shooting for. When I told her she suggested I meet their brewer, another co-owner, Shaun Crowley. He invited me back to the brewhouse and told me a little of their history and his own. Apparently they have only been open a little more than six months, which really surprised me. Crowley later informed me that he and Billgren had met while working at Island Brewing Company where he was the head brewer. While there, he took home medals at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival and got the desire to open his own place. Continue reading
Day two of our craft beer tour started where we left off, Paso Robles. We knew that Firestone Walker would be a definite stop as the visitor’s center and brewery store would provide brews that we could not obtain at the taproom the previous night. Not wanting to appear too eager, we decided to see what else was available in Paso Robles that was open and new to us. We had places we wanted to revisit, like BarrelHouse Brewing, but no one seemed to open before 2:00 and I did not have that kind of time to spend in Paso that day. Tanya found the Downtown Brewing Company brewpub on her phone, so we headed over there only to discover that they were currently in a transition as far as brewing is concerned. Apparently they were brewing off-site but are preparing to begin brewing there; but that will not happen for another three months. They appeared to have a nice tap list but the same could be said for pretty much any bar I noticed in the area. We said farewell and headed back over to Firestone Walker’s visitor’s center.
While the Paso Taproom Restaurant offers many great options; we really wanted to pick up a few bottles that were not available at the taproom, such as XVII Anniversary, Parabola and Lil Opal. We were also able to sample a couple beers that we did not have time to try the night before. I do not think you can tell just how massive the Firestone Walker operation is after dark. The taproom/restaurant and the visitor’s center is maybe half of the operation. When walking around the facility we discovered several more large buildings including their Keg Shed, a shop for equipment repairs and hidden around the back, their brewery store. The store sells things like hats, shirts and home brewing equipment; it also houses a large cold box that is like the Holy Grail of Firestone Walker. Beers you cannot find elsewhere will be found back here; I highly recommend checking it out. We grabbed a couple bottles of Bretta Rose to bring home. Continue reading