Firestone Walker Invitational is Back with a Bang
I have the greatest wife in the history of wives. We were married on June 4, 2000, yet here I am 22 years later to the day…dusty camera in one hand, crystal clean Firestone Walker Invitational glass in the other, wandering around the Paso Robles event center like a five-year-old lost on Halloween.
Should I start off with the current Duck Duck Gooze? Should I try all the Side Project beers? How about saying hi to my local Orange County breweries that were invited? There’s so much packed into this festival, I actually downloaded the app, got that pour of DDG, and made a plan for the day.
The last FWIBF I went to back in 2017 was notably different. Back then, IPAs were clear, lagers were seen as a simple palate cleanse, and the people lined up on 100-degree temps for anything rested in bourbon barrels. 2022 seems like Pilsner and lighter beers, in general, are the stars of the show. Of course, there are Ostensible Realities of Fanatical Unforgiveness-type imperial stouts to be had, but those seemed to be on until last call. Urban Roots 10° Pils? Kicked a couple of hours in.
St. Louis’ Side Project and New Zealand’s Garage Project have constant lines, which influences me to try some of the international brewers. Brouerij ‘T Ij out of Amsterdam crushed it with a refreshing Wit, and Germany’s Brauerei-Schönram showed American brewers what a German Pils is all about…ours are notably hoppier, dryer, and miss that kiss of malt sweetness on the finish.
No festival is complete without talking about the food, and this year’s FWIBF had notably more than nibbles. Roots on Railroad with a pilsner-friendly lobster roll is truly fresh and bursting with claw flavor on a toasted brioche bun. Pigwizard has something I never dreamed possible: candied chicharrones called “porkcorn” in several flavors. Thai chili glazed, and oh so crunchy good.
As my wife air-lifts me out after last call, I can’t help but think I’d marry her all over again. Here’s hoping I can get two tickets next time!
Greg Nagel has been covering the Orange County Beer Scene for the last decade @Ocbeerblog, Podcasts on the @FourBrewers and produces a yearly cask ale festival called @Firkfest.