The FWIBF featured 68 breweries from all over the world

PASO ROBLES—The sold-out Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival (FWIBF) returned to the Paso Robles Event Center for its 11th annual year on Saturday, June 1. But that wasn’t all: This year, the Firestone Walker team expanded its programming, which started on Tuesday, May 28, and went through Sunday, June 2.

May 28-30 was a San Luis Obispo Countywide pub crawl that started in San Luis Obispo and Pismo before heading north to Paso Robles and concluding at the final destination of Ancient Owl Beer Garden in Atascadero on the 30th. 

“You really do feel like you’re a little bit special when you get invited to be a part of this,” said Scotty Hargrave, the Brewmaster at Balter Brewing from Australia, at the event at Ancient Owl. “There’s a whole bunch of great brewers from all around the world. Obviously, a lot of friends here in the U.S. who are magnificent brewers, and there’s just so much good beer this weekend.” 

Hargrave has been coming out for the FWIBF since 2019 and also commented on the hospitality he’s been shown every time he and his beers make the long trek to the Central Coast.

“Events like this, I think, remind all of us about having fun and the joy that you get to share, the hospitality, the thrill that you have sharing your passion for the craft,” stated FWIBF first-timer Ben Edmunds, who is the Brewmaster at Breakside Brewery in Portland, Oregon.

On Friday, May 31, the community was invited to the Firestone Walker Brewery for a Block Party from 1:30 to 10 p.m. They blocked off the street, and the community was invited to taste a selection of beers that would be featured at the fest the next day. There was also a barbecue and live music from Clouship, Bearded Uke, and Soundhouse to go along with the tastings.

“When the whole notion of doing the Invitational Beer Festival was conceived, with Tom Madden from the Pioneer Association, I think what we had originally envisioned is that it’d be largely local folks that would be buying the tickets and attending the festival. But this thing took on just a complete life of its own, and we’ve got people flying in from all over the country,” said Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “In fact, I ran into folks from Brazil and Argentina who flew in for the event. I mean, this has really gotten the attention of the international beer world. As a result, we realized that oftentimes the thing sells out so quickly that a lot of local people may not even get a chance to get the tickets. Our hope is that we can share some of the magic before and after the fest, more so before with doing some of these events around town.”

The sold-out FWIBF was once again a huge hit with breweries from all over the world being invited to share their beer in the North County. The weather was perfect, the beer was flowing, and the food was divine as approximently 4,000 people filled the Paso Robles Event Center.

“It never feels crowded. The Mid-State Fairgrounds is just an incredible place. We’re so blessed to have that as a place to do these types of events. All the facilities are there. We’ve done this enough, and now we know the space,” added Brynildson.

Amazing music continued, and The White Buffalo and the local Mark Adams Band played at the festival. 

“It was kind of magical. Everything just fell into place, and so I was really proud of both our team and The Pioneer Association, with all their volunteers. It was just a great group effort. It worked really well,” continued Brynildson.

While participants were out tasting beer they were also casting votes for their favorite brewery and their favorites eatsof the festival. People’s Choice Award for Best Brewery went to Green Cheek Brewing Company from Orange for the second year in a row and People’s Choice Restaurant went to Etto Pastifico from Paso Robles.

“We’re just so proud to be able to do this in Paso Robles, and I really think it’s a jewel in our community’s crown,” Brynildson said of the FWIBF.

Like always the FWIBF benefited the nonprofit Paso Robles Pioneer Day. Dates for the 12th Annual FWIBF have not been announced yet, but the Firestone Walker team are excited to bring it back in 2025.

Featured Image: Brewmaster Matt Brynildson (center) poses with the crowd at the 11th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival. Photo provided by Firestone Walker.