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
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
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