Smiles. You usually don’t see smiles on people’s faces waiting in line. Especially if what they are waiting for doesn’t start for close to two hours, but Brew & Youeach year I walk by both the general admission and VIP lines at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival and that is what I see.
Those smiles only get bigger once fans pour into the Mid-State Fairgrounds and see all the beer that awaits them. Breweries from all across the country and from all across the globe make their way to Paso Robles and California’s Central Coast because FW not only takes care of beer fans, but the brewers and their staffs areas well.
Staffers pour Jeroboam and Methuselah bottle formats. Breweries with booths next to each other literally whip up a festival-only beer from one booth and beer foam on top from the next. (Garage Project and The Bruery). Hazy IPA flows from an Alvarado Street jet ski. Not only is there a People’s Choice Brewery (The Bruery), but also a People’s Choice for best food! Most festivals line up a bunch of food trucks and call it a day.
You can also learn from the brewers themselves. This year, one breakout session revolved around cocktail beers and another discussed the present and future of sour beers where you could sit in the shade and have tasters of world class beers brought to you.
Literally, the only downside is that there are too many beers to try. Each year I game-plan what I should try and each year it goes out the window as I find some new brewery that I become enamored with or meet a beer buddy and end up at a booth I hadn’t considered before. I would gladly pay to attend a day-after leftovers party. That would probably still be a better beer festival than most.
I am not here to slag off other festivals; this ringing endorsement just shows how far ahead of the field that Firestone Walker is currently.
The Non-IPA Beer of the Week is the Firestone Walker Invitational 2019 collaborative effort from guest brewery Cigar City and Firestone Walker. Los Leñadores is wooden to the core. By that I mean it is an “imperial brown ale aged in high rye bourbon barrels and infused with African and Brazilian hardwood spirals.” Thankfully the brewers did not let the beer sit too long on that combination of strong-flavored woods and the result is a balanced mix of rye spice and a swirl of great aroma.
In the last Brew & You, I gave three anniversary suggestions and to top it for L.A. Beer Week, I am going to give you a whopping 11 event ideas to match the hashtag #LABW11.
1. Kick-Off Festival
2. Hazy IPA Invitational at The Glendale Tap
3. Women-Brewed Beer Night at Sunset Beer
4. Hen House Brewing Tap Takeover at Craft Beer Cellar – Eagle Rock
5. Brewers Pinball at Walt’s Bar
6. Brewmo Pseudo-Sumo Showdown at Three Weavers
7. Sour Friends at Cellador Ales
8. MacLeod Ales 5th Anniversary
9. All Points of the Compass at Tony’s Darts Away
10. Beer Float Night at Transplants Brewing
11. Crown & Hops Tap Takeover at Free Play in DTLA
You can find all the information on dates, tickets and beers HERE.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.