With about 50 breweries and at least 200 beers to choose from, the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest is a beer lover’s dream.
But where should you start your day’s beer journey? Which beers are worth the wait in line?
Here are five not-to-miss beers if you were lucky enough to score a ticket to Saturday’s FWIBF, which sold out in less than a minute back in February.
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You can’t go to the Firestone beer festival and not taste the festival’s commemorative brew. It’s that simple. The beer is a mashup of Firestone’s Pivo and Russian River’s STS, both pilsners made with two new hop varieties from Europe. Here’s what Firestone brewmaster Matt Brynildson had to say about the beer: “These hops are more similar than they are different, and they blend really well together. ... They don’t taste like fruity American hops, but they’re not like Old World Hallertau hops, either.”
You won’t see any local breweries besides Firestone with a booth, but Jurassic Gose gives you a chance to taste another SLO County brewery’s style. Libertine Brewing — which has locations in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo and is seeking to open a tasting room in Santa Maria — is known for its sours. So, of course, its collaboration beer with well-known Orange County-based The Bruery is a sour — and it’s a bit salty, thanks to some sea salt from the Pacific Ocean. Wait, there’s more: The beer features chenin blanc grapes from Field Recordings’ Jurassic Park vineyard near Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County. That’s a lot of California in one bottle of beer.
» Dark Lord, imperial stout (15%), 3 Floyds Brewing Co. (Munster, Indiana)
The line for 3 Floyds and its barrel-aged imperial stout Dark Lord (and its variants) is usually among the longest at the festival. But, if you’ve never had this sought-after beer, it’s worth the wait. Variants poured at the festival last year included Dark Lord aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla beans (called Marshmallow Handjee) as well as Dark Lord aged in brandy barrels with cocoa, coriander and cardamom (Earl of Biggleswade). Here’s hoping those make appearances again this year.
» Can I cheat? How about all the beers that Wicked Weed (Asheville, North Carolina) is set to pour.
Wicked Weed is a brewery with a lot of buzz that doesn’t have distribution in California. That means even a beer lover such as myself hasn’t had the chance to try more than a few of Wicked Weed’s brews. All of the beers the brewery is set to bring — Fille de Ferme (farmhouse), Napoleon Complex (pale ale), Golden Angel and Permeo (both sours) — are on my list.
» Raspberry Provincial, Belgian-style fruit ale (4.2%), Funkwerks (Fort Collins, Colorado)
Saturday in Paso Robles is going to be hot, and this tart beer with raspberries will taste super refreshing under those super sunny summerlike skies. In fact, part of the beer description says it goes well with cloud watching, so maybe some clouds will show up to cool us down and make this an even better pairing.
PSA: Don’t forget to drink water. Stay hydrated and enjoy the beer.
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The full festival pour list is available here, on the Firestone Walker website.
What beer are you most looking forward to at FWIBF? Comment here or tweet me @mindbodyvoice.