#FWIBF Not Forgotten

Last Friday I just could not shake the feeling that something was off. It wasn’t anything to do with the my little cocoon or the batshit crazy and sad week this country went through.

It was the first time that I really felt the absence of the beer community.

I don’t normally gain energy from being around people. Harsh truth be told, I could live without 45% of this country who think (refuse to have thoughts) in a certain way. And yet, the crowds of people who make the trip to Paso Robles are both fun and fascinating.

The two or three days that I spend at Firestone Walker HQ is like floating on air. I take the tour most years to see how things have changed (always drastically), I find beer to bring back home from their shop, I visit a distillery or winery, enjoy BBQ the night before the fest, get some Negranti Ice Cream and Twisted and Glazed Donuts. My internal battery is charged.

The festival itself, as I have written in the past, is perversely hard to write about. It is so smoothly operated that the only lead some years is how hot it is. You basically just have to write about the beer that you personally drank because there is so much that it is hard to wrap your word arms around it.

I would write up excited posts before driving up the 5 and exhausted post some after driving back down the 101. I don’t know if 2021 will be changed or disrupted by the events of this year but next year, I will return. I need to.

That boost was really missed this year.

Feb. 11 and May 30

Tickets on sale: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 at 9am PST

Main event: Saturday, May 30, 2020 | 12pm-5pm (beer stops at 4pm) in lovely Paso Robles, CA

Play nice on ticket day please! Additional details can be found right HERE.

Bourbon Re:Found

Usually, I am a gin guy or in a Rye Whiskey mood but when you see that Re:Find has already sold out their first two batches of bourbon, it makes you think they may have something there. Personally, I would like to get a set of 1/2 size bottles of the Rye and the Bourbon as a set.

Paso Robles Beer Review # 2 – Los Leñadores from Firestone Walker and Cigar City

The Woodcutter pours a dark black color. Almost a spiced apple aroma behind a pina colada.  Initial taste is toasted coconut. Does not taste 11%+ ABV at first, then it begins to warm the cheeks.  Almost more rum in direction than rye whiskey. Maybe the two woods combine to give off the coconut.  Little bit of spice at the back end but that is quickly gone.  A fine collaboration for FWIBF.

For you next Paso Robles trip

You always strike up mini-conversations at the FWIBF and this year was no different. I ran into a couple starting a new brewery in Fresno that I will keep an eye on but by this time next year, Paso Robles may have a new biergarten near downtown.

On the corner of 13th and Railroad will be the beer service structure, featuring 24 to 30 taps from local brewers as well as national brands. Food will be served as well as games like horseshoes. This was thought to be ready late last year but the opening date has been pushed.

There is also a brewery on Ramada Drive, no, not that one but further towards Templeton is another brewery/bar with the name KiloKilo. I found very little information about it but maybe next year, I will take a quick peek since I will be in that area anyway.

Firestone Walker Invitational – Full Recap

It is easy to write an Invitational recap. Talk about the heat. Talk about your favorite beers. Talk about the lines. Talk about how well this event is run and voila, word count is hit.

I will instead focus on a different tack…

Each FWIBF is safe, structured and similar.  That may seem like faint praise but it is not.  I know that everything will run smoothly.  They will be ready with information weeks before the event, they will follow up, badges will be handed out, the BBQ will start on time and the festival, well, the festival will have too much.  I would like to spend three days going through the beers.

What is great is that there are the in-between times where you can explore Paso Robles and you had best explore it because for a smaller, out of the way town, there is a lot of beverages to check out and food to eat.  I have my own schedule of visiting Silva Brewing, Twisted and Glazed Donuts and Tin City but you can do the new Field of Light exhibit now or hit up Templeton and their quaint Main Street.  Or head to the other side of the 101 and all the wineries there.  Firestone also has a morning after wine brunch to ease you back into Sunday and to be able to talk about the beers from the day before.

This year, my wife and I stayed in an airstream trailer outside of town that overlooked a vineyard and had a friendly pit bull named Ladybug along with chickens and rabbits and a beautiful night sky.  Next year, I might stay in a different part of town (if I go of course, let’s not get ahead of ourselves).  Who knows, I might go up next year even if I don’t go to the festival.  I might head north just to visit all the breweries that I can’t get to like Tent City or in SLO.

As far as the festival itself, it is all just nitpicking but I have come up with some quick greater than – less than notes from the 28+ samples that I tasted on the day.

Great Leap from China > Balter from Australia

Green Cheek booth display = Alvarado Street booth display

Side Project line > Garage Project line (due to The Bruery doing ½ of the beer presentation of one Garage Project beer)

Pils as Festival collab beer > barrel-aged collab

Not following my own set festival rules because I am easily distracted > following my own set festival rules

Oh, and my favorite brewery was Rare Barrel.  They have seriously dialed into my taste buds.  Sadly, I did not like the two Hair of the Dog beers that I sampled even though I was really pumped for them to be there.  I also missed Sante Adairus and Russian River which is very, very bad of me.

FWIBF19 – Best of the Awesome

You have to try really hard to find a bad beer at The Firestone Walker Invitational. You also have to try really hard to highlight those that truly stand out because, well it is degrees of awesome. You could also highlight all pils, Kolsch and Helles or all IPA’s and the list would slap.

But here are the beers that punched through the general level of awesome to make me scramble to my notes to learn more.

Rare Barrel Cyboogie Sour IPA – Not super sour and more tilted to just hazy IPA with Citra, El Dorado and Nelson Sauvin, this was both soft and bitter with just a touch of tart.

Crooked Stave Sour Rose – Canned Rose is a thing but the results are all over the brewing map. This Colorado Rose was super light, super watery but that water was Rosewater and it was perfumey beer greatness.

Burial Beer / Visual Amaro – This cocktail styled beer had smoky blueberries, quinine, raisins and licorice flavors per the brewer. How that mixture works together is a mystery but this was a lovely spicy dark ale.

Great Leap Honey MA Blonde – 1st beer of the day from this Chinese brewery and it was a great choice. Bright with a big pepper note but still easy to drink. One of the most complex blonde ales I have had.

Side Project A la Table – a super low (under 3% ABV) table beer made with buckwheat, oats, pilsner and two different types of white wheat that is then aged in American oak barrels for six months.

Firestone Walker Invitational – Photos

Back home from the FWIBF19 and here are a few photos that I posted to the ‘gram or Facebook or are seeing the light only here.

Me at the photo shop.
Re:Find at the Friday night BBQ
Just a few of the Firestone beers one could find.
As usual, great food to pair with the beers like these tacos from Los Robles Cafe
Two of my favorite 2019 beers in this photo.
The Line-Up from Fonta Flora
The 2019 Collaboration with Cigar City

Firestone Walker Invitational – Day 2

Onto the good stuff, my 2nd day recap of the 2019 Invitational. There was a breeze in the air as I made my final approach into the festival. I always walk around the Mid-State Fairgrounds around the same time to gauge how many people line up a full two hours before they are allowed in. This year seemed lighter in General Admission line and larger in the one hour wait VIP line.

The booths had been changed up a bit. FW keeps people guessing so that muscle memory doesn’t move people to the same spots each year. I will touch on the favorites poured this year in another post but I want to talk about the two panels hosted by the Brewing Network. First was cocktail beers. If there is anything that will bust up the hard seltzer train it will be this area and though Boulevard Brewing brought an actual canned cocktail which I passed on because nothing could reach the heights of last nights Re:Find offerings, I found the Corpse Reviver #2 from Gigantic Brewing to be really good. Burial Beer brought a beer called Amaro from their Visual line and this digestif meets beer was great as well.

The sour panel held a couple surprises too. Crooked Stave had a twelve-ounce can of Sour Rose. Not super sour but boy did it smell and taste like Rosewater, and it was fantastic. Rare Barrel poured Cyboogie which was also canned and also fantastic though calling it sour IPA was a stretch. That panel ended with a table beer from Side Project whose line was long all day and has been since they first came to the festival.

More coverage and photos to follow.