Welcome to The Republic of Beer

“Beer runs deeper than blood…” – Firestone Walker Brewing.

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This past Saturday, beer geeks, sour freaks, and hop heads came together for a full day of liquid heaven at the 2016 Firestone Walker Invitational, held at the Paso Robles Event Center. The Disneyland of Beer Nirvana awaited us…as we entered the pearly gates of hedonism.

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Like any amusement park, some beers had longer waits – a la Rare Barrel, Russian River, Stone. But for me, this was about getting outside of my California bubble and taking a ride to perhaps Cooperstown, NY? Maybe London? New Zealand? Like Adventureland, guests were invited to embark on a taste journey into the bold, mysterious, romantic, and imaginative. And with temperatures at 100 degrees, a cold beer is just what the weatherman ordered…

There’s An App for That!

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All I can say is…thank the beer gods for the festival app and tasting journal. Not only could you add beers to your “wish list,” you could filter by type (sour/stout/pale ale etc) or by flavor (crisp, roast, smoke). Festivalgoers were also encouraged to vote for their favorite brewery and restaurant, awarded at the festival’s closing. Congrats to Side Project Brewing (MO) and FishGaucho restaurant in Paso Robles! While I may have been overeager in the 30+ beers on mine, I did proudly manage to rate and remember 16 absolutely stellar selections.

Cherries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Oh My!

So I’ll admit…I’m a sour freak. I love it tart, wild, fruity, sweet, and funky. The festival had all of that and more…a few top selections…

Friek, Odell Brewing (CO) – Utilizing ales fermented with wild yeast and cherries, the brewers also throw fresh raspberries into the mix prior to the final blending. This puckery sour offers up sweet and tart flavors that mingle on the tongue with a sparkling dry finish.

Bourbon Barrel Aged 3 Philosophers, Brewery Ommegang (NY) – 11.5%? This malty Belgian STRONG ale pours a deep burgundy hue, with flavors of caramel, raisin, dried fruit, molasses, and vanilla with a lingering aroma of cherry.

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Barrel Aged Sour Power, Beavertown Brewery (U.K.) – This barrel aged farmhouse red with redcurrants and sour cherries was a crowd pleaser, thanks in part to the brewery’s hop idol, Logan Plant (son of Robert Plant). This beer definitely stole the spotlight in the international arena.

Special Collaborations

Parabajava, Firestone Walker (CA) + Intelligentsia Coffee – I like my coffee with a side of beer…or beer with a side of coffee? This year Intelligentsia Coffee lent its buzz to Firestone Walker‘s Russian Imperial barrel aged stout, Parabola. Utilizing their “El Diablo” expresso blend, the coffee lends expresso, roasty caramel, toffee, baker’s chocolate, and molasses to the already rich character.

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STiVO, Firestone Walker (CA) + Russian River (CA)- This year’s FWIBF collaboration beer is the ultimate pilsner, a “craft pilsner lovechild.” A testament to personal friendship as well as professional collaboration, the beer effortlessly blends STS and Pivo into a super drinkable beer in the classic keller style, naturally carbonated and slightly hazy.

Transatlantique Kriek 2016, New Belgium Brewing (CO) + Oud Beersel – This beer began in the 130 year old Belgian lambic brewery of Oud Beersel, aged in wood and then blended with tart cherries. After making its way back to the States, it was blended with some of their sour Felix. Very tart, very funky…

Behind the Beer: Crafting the Future Panel Q&A

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The frothy chat included brewmasters from Firestone Walker (Matt Brynildson), Founders (Adam Schmitt), and Cigar City (Wayne Wambles) about crafting the future, with their recent acquisitions. Each brewery sampled beer to a thirsty audience, while discussing their definitions of “craft” and the pros and cons to mergers…the obvious elephant in the room in this ever growing industry. As MC Justin Crossley of Beer Network put best, we are all united as drunks. Amen.

Cigar City (FL), Helsingborg Bomb – Blood orange Berliner Weisse with ruby red grapefruit and sweet orange peel, dry hopped with Citra. SO refreshing on a 100+ degree day.

Founders (MI), Mosaic Promise – A showcase of two unique ingredients. Mosaic Hops and Golden Promise Malt – clean, rich, and golden!

Firestone Walker (CA), Pivo Pils – A twist on the traditonal Pils, the beer is dry hopped with German Saphir to a touch of bergamot zest and lemongrass. Refreshing, light-bodies, and hop-driven.

Down With The Funk (and Funkwerks)

Funkwerks. I love you. My top pick with no further adieu…

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Nelson Sauvin, Funkwerks (CO) – I absolutely love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (tart, grassy, bright). Imagine this bottled into beer, with aromas of gooseberries, honeydew melon, and a hint of spiciness. Named after the unique New Zealand hop, this floral Saison took me right back to the wineries in New Zealand.

And with any good beer fest, there is your share of musical accompaniment. Introducing The Stone Foxes, a San Francisco rock band that is one part rock fundamentals and two parts uniquely their own. Engaged, alive, and totally moving, the band has supported acts like The Black Keys, Cage the Elephant and ZZ Top. Big things to come. Thanks for the closing time dance party…and your welcome in advance for my notorious dance moves.

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Closing Time

“I LOVE BEER…that’s my favorite!”

As with all good things, the kegs must come to an end. As the music wound down and we were told to leave the Happiest Place on Earth, I realized we are all part of the same tribe..all united in the Republic of Beer.

So remember, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. See you in 2017!

Taste. Trek. Travel.

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