Across the Paso Robles Event Center grounds, people could be overheard heaping praise on every aspect of the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival on June 1 — the beer, the food, the layout, the entertainment, the amenities, the volunteers, and the staff.
“This is the best beer festival, no best festival of any kind that I’ve ever been to.”
“I’ve never been to a festival that is so well organized.”
Those were just two of several remarks made throughout the eighth annual FWIBF and little doubt event planners were taking lots of notes.
The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival’s main event is Saturday afternoon at the Event Center. It featured 60 world-class breweries from across the United States all pouring a minimum of two beers, one of which considered “rare” — meaning something you will not find on their daily taproom menu.
Getting an invite is something each brewery looks forward to receiving.
“It’s a great honor. We have been really fortunate in that they have invited us to the fest every year,” said Clay Robinson, one of the co-founders of Sun King Brewing Company. “We come back every year and are grateful for the invite. It is one of the best festivals of the entire year. The list of breweries is truly world class.”
A majority of the breweries are from outside of California or do not have distribution in this far west, which gives people the chance to sample beers that they would have to travel hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles to drink.
“I don’t miss this festival,” said Aaron Bluestone of Santa Barbara, adding that he’s been coming for five years. “Everyone brings their A-game. It’s a good chance to try them all. It’s the easiest way to knock a lot off of my bucket beer list.”
Lines for some of the breweries, such as 3 Floyds Brewing Co. from Indiana, Birrificio Italiano from Italy, Garage Project from New Zealand, Monkish from Torrance, Omnipollo from Sweden, Side Project from Missouri and the Bruery from Placentia, remained long throughout the day, but manageable as tickets to FWIBF are limited.
Tickets for the invitational are only sold online and sell out in minutes.
The price of admission included music from the Coffis Brothers and the Dirty River Boys and food from restaurants throughout the Central Coast restaurants. Awards are handed out at the end of the festival.
Best Brewery went to the Bruery and Best Restaurant went to the Fish Gaucho of Paso Robles — both are people’s choice awards. This was the second win for the Bruery and the third win for Fish Gaucho.
The festival was also educational thanks to two Behind the Beer sessions one on the rise of cocktail beers and the future of sour beers.
While the main event concluded around 5 p.m., the brewers were treated like kings throughout the weekend. Friday includes a fun activity and dinner, followed by breakfast, the festival, afterparty, and concludes with brunch at a local winery on Sunday.
Another aspect of the FWIBF that may go unnoticed is that it is a major fundraiser for the annual Paso Robles Pioneer Day held each October in Downtown Paso Robles. Several of the antique tractors were on display at the Event Center on Saturday.
For more information on the FWIBF, visit online www.firestonebeer.com.