If you’re still buzzing from the latest Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival, we get it. We are too. We thought we couldn’t top last year’s post-pandemic party, and we thought wrong. The tenth edition of the Invitational was the best thing we’ve cracked into in some time, and we’re already counting the days until the next one.
The Invitational has long garnered praise for being one of the country’s can’t-miss beer events, and this iteration was no different. We had thousands of joyous craft beer friends descend on Paso Robles, California for it all. Everyone was ecstatic to enjoy a beautiful weekend, and, of course, try some of the most delicious beers from all over the world. We asked our good friends at The Full Pint to cover the event, and they sent their best man out on the job: Dan Becker. You’re probably more familiar with Dan as Danny Full Pint, and he knocked it out of the park talking to brewers, attendees, and everyone else who showed up for the big day. You can catch his full recap in the video below, and you can read on to hear more about all things Invitational.
Unlike past years, we had a full slate of events lined up for the week leading into Invitational Saturday. It all kicked off on Thursday, when we have an official start part in Paso Robles City Park. Everyone arriving earlier in town, or any Paso locals just looking to have a good time, were welcome to stop by the free event. There was live music by Dante Marsh & The Vibe Setters, an 805 Beer exhibit, and a wide selection of Firestone Walker beers, including No Vacancy, a West Coast IPA Festival collaboration beer we brewed with our beer friends at Alvarado Street Brewery.
We wanted to keep the party going on Friday, of course. And what better way to do that than with a Brewery Block Party? Our Inaugural Brewery Block Party was an instant smash hit. We closed off the street between our brewhouse and Paso Robles Taproom to cars and opened it up to outdoor barbecue offerings, beer samplings, guest taps, special bottle pours, games, and as many excited visitors as possible. Like Thursday’s concert in the park, the block party was also free and we were so happy to see both locals and visitors show up with smiles on their faces and empty glasses at the ready.
And then the big event came on Saturday. This year, we once again welcomed an unbeatable lineup of more than 65 different breweries from just about everywhere across the blog for the occasion. It was truly an international affair. Breweries from Brazil, Australia, Argentina, England, and more made their presence known alongside some of the top brewers from California, Oregon, Florida, and almost every state in between.
Each year, our Brewmaster Matt Brynildson reaches out to old and new friends in the global brewing community and asks them to join us at the festival, hence the name “Invitational.” He’s the mind behind this event, and he has a common thread among all the invitees that is simple: bring world-class beer. And the brewers always bring their best while personally repping their beers and brands, making it a fest like no other.
The day started off rocking, like it always does. Attendees lined the gates early. Once they entered the grounds they were poured a cold, tall glass of No Vacancy by our very own Adam and Nick Firestone. No Vacancy is an ultra-refreshing, hyper-crushable West Coast IPA that we brewed in collaboration with Alvarado Street Brewery specifically for the Invitational. We’ve already said that, but it’s just such a nice-tasting beer it only feels right to mention it twice. It was the perfect thing to sip on to beat the early-afternoon heat, and just enjoy for everyone who likes to drink delicious beers. Once everyone gathered outside the gates it was time for Matt to ring the cowbell and open the festival grounds to the masses.
We poured over 3000 gallons of beer throughout the day. And the beers being sampled included everything from the highlighted and well-regarded to the esoteric and experimental. Attendees could come and go from as many booths as they wanted, and try tastes of whatever caught their eye. And while there wasn’t a bad beer in the bunch, lines suggested that Monkish, Russian River, Green Cheek, and New Zealand-based brewery Garage Project had more than just a cult following.
We also had around 30 local restaurants join the fold as well. Free samples of tacos, ceviche, and a whole lot more were there for the tasting. Vegetarian options were on offer too and festival-goers weren’t shy in grabbing some food while they were looking to cleanse their palate. Or, if they just wanted to enjoy a delicious bite to eat.
There were other offerings outside of regular beer and food tastings on tap as well. One particular highlight was the Brewmasters Collective Lounge. This members-only lounge offered an air-conditioned respite from the hot California sun, plus extra-comfortable seating and an on-sight masseuse. If you’re interested in having access next year, consider joining the Brewmaster’s Collective for the 2024 season. We also offered tastes of club-exclusive beers to the general event public. Pours included Vintage selections and special Collective collaborations, including beers we worked on with Private Press and Side Project breweries.
Festival-goers could also enjoy live music from the Mark Adams Band and The Brothers Comatose, who played on the main stage just next to the Firestone Walker booth. Speaking of our booth, anyone who stopped by had a chance to grab tasters of Pivo, UDBA, Hopnosis, and a series of rotating vintage and Barrelworks selections. Adam Firestone even came down to man the taps for a bit and give divvy out some pours with that extra bit of Bear love. Bottle after bottle opened with a satisfying pop and the hordes descended, empty glasses at the ready.
And while it was a veritable who’s who of brewing, there was only one brewery that walked away with the title of fan-favorite. Green Cheek took home the honor, winning the hearts, minds, and official People’s Choice Award with their impeccable selection of Pales Ales, IPAs, and more. They collaborated with us on our Festival Beer last year, Parrotphrase, so it felt great to hand them over the trophy. Benny’s Pizza Palace in San Luis Obispo took him the People’s Choice Award for best bites too with their killer pizza.
Thank you to everyone who came out this year to make this festival truly special. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing some of the best breweries come together and showcase their beers with passionate fans. It’s also great to know that 100% of the net proceeds went to the Paso Robles Pioneer Day Committee, which will also be donating $5k to the MJF Scholarship Fund and another $5k to a local charity: Central Coast Honor Flight. Altogether, it was an incredible day that went to a great cause. We were more than happy to help fill your glasses, and we can’t wait for the next one.
Make sure to mark your calendars for the week next year. Tickets or not, we’ll have plenty more on offer than just amazing beer.