The annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival is certainly the best beer festival on the Central Coast and probably the best affair of its kind in California, which puts it high in the running for best on the planet. I’ve heard that it sells out in about 20 minutes each year.
The 2018 edition featured 58 breweries from around the globe (New Zealand, Italy, Germany, Indiana, Michigan, etc.) serving anywhere from two to 10 different beers. Some particularly coveted producers — such as Side Project, Garage Project, Three Floyds, Creature Comforts, and so forth — attract hour-long lines for a just a couple sips of beer.
Luckily for me and my companion Dr. Cracker — who has attended the fest with me for the past three years, and this time had to use his medical chops to assist with a massive car accident near Gonzalez on his way down 101 from the Bay Area — we get in an hour earlier due to my media status, which makes tasting so many beers before noon possible. This year, in a rare feat of diligent beer fest reporting, I managed to write down every one of the 31 beers I tasted. (I did not write down the food, although Eureka!’s 28 day-aged sliders were fantastic.)
That sounds like a lot, but I barely scratched the surface of what was on hand. Once the hordes are let in at noon, it’s fascinating to see which breweries are responsible for the longest lines, with people quite literally sprinting to queue up. This year, I’d say Side Project — a Missouri-based brewer I once wrote about for Beer Advocate — caused the biggest commotion.
Here is my list of beers in the order that I tried them. My favorites were the Birrificio del Ducato’s Settembre, Creature Comforts’ Tritonia with cucumber and lime, and Side Project’s Bleuet du Fermier Blend #3. I guess I concur with those waiting in that long line!
Russian River Brewing Company STS Pils: Crisp while malty
Creature Comforts Tritonia Gose with Cucumber and Lime: Super refreshing, very cucumber-y.
Garage Project Yuzu Rising Sun: Sour yet syrupy raspberry atop sour yuzu, very sweet and sour.
Societe Highliner Feral Raspberry Ale: Tart and sour.
Russian River Brewing Company Intinction Sour Pilsner: Intinction is apparently the Catholic word for dipping bread into wine.
Garage Project We Are Family: Hemp ale, very toasty.
Creature Comforts Tropicalia IPA: Hoppy, rich.
Funkwerks Opalescence: Collab with Firestone.
Three Floyds ChemTrail: Super rich stout with cinnamon and pink peppercorns.
Jackie O’s Hopfen Helles: On point with original German style.
Sante Adairius Collective We: Good wildness in this unfiltered lager.
Sante Adairius We Are You: Collab with three other breweries.
Mikkeller Raspberry Blush: With coffee flavoring, good stuff.
Mikkeller Oatmeal Stout: Incredibly balanced for a rich beer.
Creature Comforts Booger Hill: With honey from an Athens, Georgia farm named, yes, Booger Hill.
Birrificio del Ducato Settembre: With Malvasia Bianca grapes, one of best of fest. Sour but balanced by riper grapes.
Alvarado Street Yeast of Eden: Standard sour tartness, yeastiness.
Side Project Bleuet du Fermier Blend #3: Spelt-based beer with blueberries, fantastic.
Birrificio del Ducato Formula Moderna: Vermouth-flavored beer, intriguing but strong botanicals.
Creature Comforts x Firestone Walker Mother’s Milk: Lush, creamy, rich, comforting.
Jackie O’s Hockhocking: Related to a festival happening now in Ohio.
Jackie O’s Vision Is Lost Without Eyes to See It Through: Heavy stuff, like the name.
Faction Citraison: Hoppy and fresh.
Oberon Pooltime: Cherry wheat, good for 90 degree sunshine.
Bagby Loch Mess: Scotch ale, pretty heavy.
Mikkelller House Party: Quite hazy and tasty IPA.
Bruxton Trolltunga: Farmhouse IPA, apparently place is near a national forest by Manchester, England.
Hollister Brewing Company Low Winter Sun: Sour saison.
Oxbox Cavern: Farmhouse with cara cara oranges.
Mahrs Brau Helles: Yum yum maltiness while refreshing.
Jack’s Abbey Kriek Mythology: Cherry laced loveliness.