4,500 beer lovers attended the event
PASO ROBLES — Thousands of beer lovers rushed through the gates of the Paso Robles Event Center at noon on Saturday, June 4, to participate in tasting an extensive range of beers at the ninth annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival (FWIBF).
The Firestone Walker Invitational, which took a break due to COVID in both 2020 and 2021, sold out in minutes, with many tickets already kept by ticket holders who bought for the canceled 2020 fest. This year’s festival brought in 4,500 guests, as well as breweries from all over the world.
“The cool thing was, actually, this one sold out in 2020, and we tried to give everyone their money back, and they wouldn’t take it. So, most of the people here, 90 percent of the people here, bought their tickets at the beginning of COVID and held onto them for two years. We canceled the event two years in a row,” said David Walker of the Firestone Walker Brewing Company.
This year’s Beer Festival boasted 63 of the world’s top breweries and beer-makers. Twenty-three came from the Central Coast and the rest of California, 28 traveled in from out of state, and 12 breweries traveled to Paso Robles from multiple foreign countries.
“It’s very much sort of an eclectic collection of the breweries that we love dearly, and they love coming here,” Walker added. “Paso’s sort of this artisanal, cultural place for food and wine and beer, and so it’s a great place to come.”
The FWIBF also hosted 27 restaurants and other food establishments to keep attendees well fed during their beer-drinking fun, which also included two beer and chocolate pairings and two Behind the Beer presentations.
There was also live music for festival-goers to enjoy, with local favorites Shawn Clark Family Band and Lil Smokies, all the way from Montana, playing sets on the Frontier Stage.
“There’s a ton of people behind the scenes that make this all happen,” stated Firestone Walker’s Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “The Paso Robles Pioneer Association, this would not happen without them. Tom Madden and that group were the ones who conceived of the notion of having an event here and spent some time trying to convince me on how this could happen.”
The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival benefits Paso Robles Pioneer Day, which is a nonprofit that has been around since 1931.
At the end of the festival, the crowd gathered in front of the Frontier Stage to see who would win the People’s Choice Awards. Beer lovers in attendance could vote for their favorite restaurant and brewery throughout the day.
The People’s Choice Award winners, with a tie, for favorite restaurant, went to Roots on Railroad and Fish Gaucho, both from Paso Robles. Fish Gaucho was a returning champion.
And the People’s Choice for Top Brewery went to Garage Project out of Wellington, New Zealand.
“Give me a round of applause for all these brewers. We had, honestly, it’s impossible to choose the best brewers of the world,” said Brynildson during the awards ceremony. “There’s so much good beer in the world today. But I can say that we had 60 plus of some of the best brewers in the world and some of the best people in the world.”
The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival will be back next year. Keep an eye on their social media for 2023 festival dates.