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Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival

The Road Back From the 5th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational

When we left Paso Robles on Sunday morning I was not really sure where we would stop throughout the day; I had planned on visiting a brewery that shall remain nameless, but due to their only having two brews available it was decided to skip them. Two beers after three years just did not do it for me. The backup destination was an easy choice since I had been thinking it since I got my tickets on Wednesday, BarrelHouse Brewing Company.

Tanya and I first visited BarrelHouse Brewing in February 2014 when they were just announcing their first anniversary was coming up. We were both impressed with what we tried; so much so that our beer stash from that trip consisted of several bottles from BarrelHouse.

A couple weeks ago I was covering the South Bay Beer & Wine Festival and ran into Mathew Jacobs, lead brewer for BarrelHouse, and Billy Thompson, their sales manager. I told them how much I enjoyed everything about our experience two plus years ago when Jacobs expressed that I really should return to see how much they have progressed. Judging by the Curly Wolf they were pouring at the event, I totally agreed. Continue reading

5th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Photos: FWIBF16

These photos are from the 5th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival (FWIBF16) which was held this past Saturday afternoon at the Paso Robles Event Center and featured about 50 breweries and 200 craft beers from around the world as well as foods from 33 local area restaurants.

The Firestone Invitational is one of, if not the best run craft beer events I have ever attended. I remember attending last year’s Invitational and being quite surprised to learn that it was only the fourth one as it was run so smoothly; from ensuring ticketed attendees were in the gates and ready to go by the time the event officially started, to making sure water was readily available no matter where you happened to be in the venue. If I did not know better, I would have guessed that they had to be doing it for 10 years instead of four.

Since this was my second opportunity to attend the Firestone Walker Invitational, I used my experience from last year to make this year’s event even more fun. Continue reading

The Road to the Firestone Invitational 2016

If you asked me a week ago if I would be attending the 5th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival (FWIBF16), I would have hung my head and responded that I would not be there. On Wednesday afternoon a good friend of mine put out an alert on Facebook announcing that he was not going to be able to make it, so he had two tickets available to the first person that contacted him; I was that guy.

We headed out late Friday morning with the intention of visiting as many new [to me] craft breweries as possible. After two hours, in which we covered a mere 70 miles, we stopped for a Starbucks break in Camarillo; it was at this point that I realized that I had left my camera at home! I have to admit, this was a pretty depressing revelation because I knew that traffic was getting worse and it would likely take me five or six hours to get back to Camarillo.

While Tanya was inside the store I recalled the previous evening when I saw Tanya pack her Canon T1i Rebel in case we stopped somewhere that she felt like photographing. I knew she would not have any extraneous equipment, like an external flash or the Sigma lens I like but it would be better than trying to cover the event using my Smartphone … maybe. Continue reading

The Craft Beer Guy 2015 Year in Review

HopSaint brewpub

HopSaint Brewing Company Now Soon!

Well, there are still a couple of days left in 2015 but I think it is safe to write my year-end review of 2015. To be honest, there has been so much activity in the craft beer world this past year that I would not be surprised to have something new pop up before Thursday night.(So, this is taking me a while to write, and yes, there have been updates since I started).

There were several beer buyouts that seemed to dominate most other craft beer sites, but the craft world in my immediate domain only seemed to increase. Yeah, Golden Road got bought, but I only went there for special events and I guess that means there will be fewer of them there in the future. In the meantime, the reach of this site seems to be increasing. In the beginning people pretty much pigeonholed this site as covering the South Bay craft beer scene only. This year I covered various local beer events from the Antelope Valley to Orange County. Attendees have come up asking if I am now covering the west side, or wherever we might be. I guess the answer is yes; and I will expand my area as long as it is requested.

2015 in the South Bay ended pretty much as it started, with the soft open of a new brewpub. In January Phantom Carriage officially opened, and at the end of December HopSaint Brewing Company opened their doors. While they are open daily, the official opening of HopSaint will be January 1, 2016 when they will start serving lunch at 11:30 AM. Continue reading

Photos from the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival

These photos are from Saturday at the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival (FWIBF15) which was held at the Paso Robles Event Center. The festival included craft beer of 53 breweries from all over the United States, Europe and beyond. This was my first opportunity to attend and I did not attend as any type of “official media” so my experience was probably similar to that of any other first time attendee; except I probably waited in line longer to get in. On Friday night I had heard stories of lines just to get in reaching down the street and around the block, so I walked over to the event center and was there before 9:00 AM. If you are taking notes, the event did not start until noon and there was nothing to be gained by being among the first 20 to be there. If you get there at noon you will be fine.

To be honest, I was not aware that this was only the fourth Invitational and it is definitely run like they have been doing it a lot longer. I had the opportunity to speak with individuals that had attended multiple times before and the one thing that became obvious is that Firestone Walker listened to the feedback they received after each event. For example, in the beginning, attendees had to buy food and water. As the event evolved it now has free food from 26 restaurants and multiple free water stations with enough filtered water to hydrate the 3,000 plus attendees. Now, I have to say, I am not really sure how many tickets were sold but between comments I heard, articles I read and a personal guess, I would guess between 3,000 and 4,000. The thing is, the location can hold a lot more than that and when you divide them between 80 booths there was not much in the way of lines. Naturally, there were some breweries like Three Floyds and Alchemist that had long lines all day; and when breweries like Beachwood or The Bruery had their special pours people started waiting; but most of the lines that I experienced moved rather quickly. Continue reading

Road to the Firestone Walker Invitational

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

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