If your reading this, you’re likely attending the best beer festival in the country, the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest. If you don’t have tickets to this festival, you’re not alone. Tickets sell out in ten minutes, making this the Comic Con of beer festivals. And for good reason.
Every detail of this festival has been perfected by Firestone Walker. Staff pre-I.D. the hundreds of attendees that arrive an hour before the festival, passing out wrist bands and good cheers. Once the doors officially open (45ish minutes before the start time) Firestone pours the fest’s signature collaboration beer. The 2019 beer, Los Leñadores, was brewed in collaboration with Cigar City. And if you’re attending the festival, you probably know this next part. Food.
Yes, in addition to unlimited pours of world class beers, Firestone Walker invites chefs from the Paso Robles area to provide attendees with unlimited tastings of their best snacks. The pre-festival staging area often includes chocolate truffles, popcorn, and cold brew coffee (as if you weren’t hyped enough). More food is waiting for you once you make the official breach into the fest.
We do have one aside. This is one of the few festivals where you may want to bring your own beer to your hotel. Why? Because the fest is preceded by bottle pours organized by beer enthusiasts at the community-famous Adelaide Inn. Don’t miss these awesome chance to meet other beer enthusiasts (and us).
Speaking of things not to miss, don’t miss these top ten beers on tap at the 2019 Firestone Walker Beer Invitational. If you miss them, don’t worry. There will be other whales to try. As always, you can check out the full guide here.
1. 3 Floyds – Marshmallow Handjee (Rating: 4.8 | Reviews: )
This beer is bested by only one other on BeerAdvocate’s Top 250 rated beers, and it’s our personal #1 beer of 2019. Marshmallow Handjee from 3 Floyds is a beer that stops you in your tracks. Handjee is a barrel-aged vanilla stout with a strong vanilla aroma and smooth mouthfeel. The beer’s only downside is its name, which prevents you from hyping the beer up to your coworkers and family.
2. WeldWerks – Coconut Medianoche (Rating: 4.7 | Reviews: )
Colorado’s WeldWerks does it again with another version of their famous Medianoche. This version exhibits notes of creamy toffee, sweet vanilla, dark brown sugar, candied dates, and coconut. This is an elite beer.
3. Side Project Coconut Vibes Batch 2 (Rating: 4.7 | Reviews: )
Side Project is one of the hottest breweries of 2019 and they’re likely to have one of the longest lines at the Firestone Walker Invitational. If you don’t have VIP tickets, we recommend walking to the front of the booth to check what they’re pouring. In prior years, Side Project pours beers on a flow basis, meaning they don’t have timed pours and you only know what they’re pouring when you get to the front of the line. The lines can reach 30+ minutes. So if they’re not pouring something you want (Coconut Vibes or Derivation), come back later.
4. Modern Times – Monsters’ Park: Espresso Macaroon Edition (Rating: 4.7 | Reviews: )
This 14.2 percent imperial Stout was aged in bourbon barrels and includes toasted coconut and Kenya Peaberry coffee. This is another one of those nut beers we can’t drink, so we’ll take everyone else’s word that this is an excellent beer.
5. Modern Times – ABV Monster Tones (2019) Edition (Rating: 4.6 | Reviews: )
This beer highlights the best of Modern Times’ barrel aged beers. It’s a 50/50 blend of Monsters’ Park (see above) and Modern Tones, both aged four 7 months in bourbon maple syrup barrels. This beer tastes of tiramisu, coffee, chocolate, and roasted marshmallows.
6. Side Project – Derivation (Rating: 4.6 | Reviews: )
Derivation is a series of barrel-aged imperial stouts brewed in a variety of barrels, then blended together. There are eight different versions of the beer, and it’s not clear which versions Side Project will bring. But four versions of Derivation can be found on Untappd’s top 10 list.
7. Half Acre – Double Barrel Benthic (Rating: 4.6 | Reviews: )
Only 30 cases of this beer were produced by Half Acre in 2018. Like all Benthics, this beer starts with big, brash, chocolate and cherry cola flavors. The double barrel version is aged 6 months in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, followed by 7 months in apple brandy barrels, and then infused with toasted coconut and cinnamon.
8. WeldWerks – Rye Vanilla Medianoche (Rating: 4.6 | Reviews: )
Two Medianoche’s on one list? You bet. This version was aged for 18 months in 10-year American oak barrels used to age rye whiskey. WeldWerks finished this one off with Madagascar and Ugandan Vanilla beans.
9. Revolution – VSOJ (Rating: 4.6 | Reviews:)
When we see Revolution beer at our local bottle shop, we buy it. So we’re happy to see their barley wine on-tap here. This beer was aged for two full years in hand-selected barrels, giving it a sweet, boozy, and complex character.
10. Firestone Walker – 2013 Parabola (Rating: 4.5 | Reviews: )
You shouldn’t be surprised to see a Firestone Walker beer topping their festival’s “best of” list. We are surprised (and excited) Firestone is pouring a 2013 special release at a 2019 festival. This Russian imperial oatmeal stout uses Pappy Van Winkle Barrels to age the beer for 12-15 months. If the beer has aged as well as it did in this guy’s closet, you’re in for a treat.