Craft beer fans flock to Firestone Walker Invitational beer fest
By DuPree Dial and Skye Ravy
Crowds brave the heat to sample sought-after brews
–The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival returned to the Paso Robles Events Center on Saturday. The event, drawing more than 50 international breweries and more than 1,500 out-of-county guests to the region, sold out in February in less than a minute.
The well put together event took care of attendees in the 98-degree heat by placing water dispensaries, swamp fans, umbrella stands and misting canopies all over the fairgrounds. Attendee Noah Sugarman from S.F. said it’s his first time to the festival, and he plans on coming again. He said that the heat was “no big deal,” since he was able to try brews he has been wanting to try for a long time. He, along with others in line were very familiar with the majority of the breweries present at the event. His friend, Tanner Bernard from Morro Bay, said he comes each year, “The greatest thing about coming to the festival is you get to try a brewery that you like, whether its from your home town or elsewhere, without having to stand in line for hours at the actual breweries,” he said. ”If you went to Side Project, this brewery from St Louis, MO., you’d be waiting in line for five hours to try a bottle of beer. A lot of people have been waiting a long time for these great brews and here they are in one place.”
Craft beer is a growing sub culture in California and beyond. A term used for diehard brew seekers at the festival was, “Beer nerds.” The subculture has spawned the creation of apps like Ratebeer, where you can do score lookup, online/offline rating, ticking, read forums and messages, beer events and more.
Firestone Walker invited the media to a private tour of the brewery led by David Walker on the day before the event. The brewery is currently undergoing an expansion that will greatly increase their capacity. The plan calls for an extension of the existing brewhouse along the western front of the brewery, which will include state-of-the-art brewing technologies as well as new energy and water recovery systems. The Firestone Walker team is excited to expand, and say they are happy to scramble a bit to meet their ever-growing demand.