Firestone Walker Invitational: A Craft Beer Bonanza
Holy beer bonanza batman! Firestone Walker most definitely set another milestone in their history of being pioneers of awesomeness in all that is craft beer this weekend!
This past Saturday Beers in Paradise was honored to be invited to the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest and spared no time getting ready for what we felt was the biggest beer festival of the year for the California craft beer community. “Why is that?” you might ask?! It’s all in the line up. Not to take anything away from our own pride and joys of local beer or all the breweries we love and enjoy, but when you get the chance to partake in the libations of breweries that are not only amazing, but also not available to us via distribution… well then, you begin to see why we stand strong behind this bold statement.
In the words of Matthew Brynildson, Firestone Walker’s Brewmaster: “The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest was born from a dream of creating a world class festival featuring not only the best brewers in the world, but brewers whom we feel are leaders in the craft beer revolution. The ground rules are simple. Bring a session beer and a special beer accompanied by the artisan who created it. Brewers, their beers, good music and folks who care.” Well Matt did exactly that!
He began by simply inviting a ton of old friends in the brewing community that he has met and/or worked with over the years. You might have even heard of a few of them, such as Three Floyds of Munster, Indiana; Founders of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Bells of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Southern Tier Brewing of Lakewood, New York; Odell Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado; and Yoho Brewing of Japan.
The event also featured 21 tasty restaurants on site serving samples of their food as well as live entertainment from Hayburner, One Time Spaceman, and Mother Hips. As press, we were able to enter the event to mingle and sample an hour earlier than the public. So one thing that we didn’t want to miss was chatting with some of the brewers. We did want to miss, was the thirsty mob that came barging in like a one sided wall of death at which we were only moderately successful…we needed refills!
David Walker – Cofounder of Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Mr. Stout: How did you go about approaching some of the breweries that rarely ever grace California with their beer or presence, such as Three Floyds?
David Walker: Well, first off they make great and interesting beer. Matt is from Goose Island, and that’s where he started his life as a brewer. There’s a whole sort of tribe of guys that came out of Goose Island and are in the brewing community in Chicago and the Floyds are part of that. It’s similar to the brewing community that branches out from San Diego.
Mr. Stout: What are you bringing to the taps today?
Julian Shrago: Thrill Seeker IPA and Hop Ninja double IPA for the Firestone Invitational Festival.
Mr. Stout: Sounds great. Tell me a little bit about these beers if you don’t mind.
Julian Shrago: Thrill Seeker is a west coast IPA, not a lot of malt, but very hop forward. It has a lot of Simco and Chinook… so lots of pine, lots of grapefruit, and citrus. Hop Ninja is one of our favorite beers to brew because we get to abuse hops. It’s a double IPA that is a little over 9%. One thing we do that a few other people do is we take a big sack full of hop flowers and shove that into the serving before we fill up our serving tank in the pub. So the beer is on dry hops the whole time (blasted), and so when you get that pint it comes off the hops just seconds before.
Mr. Stout: Welcome to the invitational. You guys are a great brewery and I’m not surprised that you guys are here. What are you guys bringing?
Jack Alger: We’re going to have our IPA because we’re proud of our gateway beer and we’re going to have a keg of Waldo as well.
Mr. Stout: Sounds great. Tell us a little bit about the Waldo.
Jack Alger: The Waldo is a beer that we do for April 20th every year. We do it with some friends of ours from San Rafael High School. They were part of a little gang called “The Waldos”. They used to hang out after school around meet in front of a statue of Louis Pasteur. At one point they said they had found this treasure map that gave them the location of this big weed forest. So they used to search around after school for this mythical forest that they thought existed but they kept the legend alive by always meeting on campus at 4:20. After they went to college they used to tell each other, “I hope you keep it 4:20″ and that’s how that phrase came to birth. So now every year we invite any of the original waldos that wanna come to our brewery and we lay out our hop varieties (our smelliest and dankest hop varieties) and they pick the hop recipe based on what smells closest to their memory of kind of like 70′s green. We call it “Waldo’s Special Ale” and we release it on 4:20 every year.
Mr. Stout: Hey Anthony, I wonder what you’re bringing tomorrow?
Anthony Raggio: Trummer Pils (laughing out loud).
Mr. Stout: Good stuff. I had a sample from one of the bottles and I’m sure it’ll be awesome off tap. Did you bring some kegs too?
Anthony Raggio: Yeah, we brought a few bottles but we will be serving draught tomorrow and it should be exquisite for the 90 degree heat that we’ll be expecting.
Mr. Stout: How about a quick background of Trummer Pils?
Anthony Raggio: Trummer Pils is a German style pilsner. We have a sister brewery in Austria that’s been open since 1601. We basically use the same malt and hops that they use but we import them to use it fresh for the US market. So instead of importing the beer across the ocean, this pilsner is brewed fresh in Berkley. It tastes exactly the same way it would in Austria, but you’re getting it 4 months sooner.
Mr. Stout: So one of the beers that stands out to me is “19″ which is an odd break down of 19 hop percentages. You’re always pushing the boundaries with these type of abstract beer recipes. What is it that you plan to work on in the near future to continue pushing the boundaries?
Mikkel: We did the single hop series, the 19, we did a yeast series a couple years ago. We’re going to do a new yeast series, and then we’re going to do a new oak series. We are going to kind of imitate wine. We’re going to age the same beer in oak from three different cooperatives and different toasts to show what the different oak such as American and French oaks, and the different toasts inside the oak do to the beer.
Mr. Stout: Are you going to do any blends from this series or are they going to be bottled separately solely to see how these different oaks and toasts effect the beer?
Mikkel: They are going to be bottled separately to showcase how the differences. In the fall, we are going to be working on some fresh hop beers. I can’t tell you exactly how we’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it a different way because the problem with fresh hops is that they are so compact that you don’t get too much flavor out of it but we figured out a way to get all of the flavor out of it and this will be showcased in the fall release of this beer.
We arrived the day before the event, and had a chance to visit the Taproom in Paso Robles during the brewers and media reception, followed by a tour of the enormous new Brewhouse led by David Walker and Matthew Brynildson. We were able to try some unique rarities off tap such as their “DBA” with brett and their “Lil Opal” saison aged for 3 years in chardonnay barrels! The day of the event we split up in 3 and did our best to take everything in. But of course, the highlight of the event was the Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Dark Lord from 3 Floyds and their very tasty Zombie Dust.
Everyone seemed happy with plate in one hand and commemorative FW Invitational snifter in the other. This event was extremely well thought out and put together. We’d like to thank all staff at Firestone Walker Brewing Co., especially Media Relations, Christopher Weir for inviting us and making sure we were all taken care of. We thank all of the brewers, media, restaurants and musicians that were in attendance making this a memorable weekend. If you would like to check out a full album of pictures from this event, please click here. However, we must warn you, it might make you regret now attending this awesome beer festival. The FWIBF will definitely be a must every year for Beers in Paradise. The next one already scheduled for June 1, 2013. Booking our rooms now!
Beers in Paradise