Better than Ever: The 2024 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest

Was it the best one yet? Many say it was. The annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest returned on June 1, and it was nothing short of epic, featuring 68 brewers from around the world, more than 20 local restaurants, educational beer panels, and a concert by The White Buffalo. Even the weather—with temps in the low 80s—was perfect.

Firestone Walker (Sponsored) Jun 11, 2024 - 5 min read

Better than Ever: The 2024 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest Primary Image

This year’s edition of the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest once again showed why the “FWIBF” has become renowned as one of the world’s most esteemed beer festivals, featuring an all-star cast of international breweries—all of whom have been personally invited by Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matt Brynildson.

“This is a day when we can all put down our sales and marketing pitches and simply commune and share our beers and stories with people who are truly interested in craft beer,” Brynildson says.

Embedded content:

Hail the Brewers

The gates officially opened at noon, with a few thousand beer fanatics streaming into the outdoor Paso Robles Event Center on California’s Central Coast. Colorful beer tents mingled with retro pioneer-era architecture to give the scene its own unique flavor. Live music elevated the vibes, while “Behind the Beer” panel sessions wowed the most avid beer geeks.

But if the main attraction of the Firestone Walker Beer Fest is the beers, a close second is the brewers themselves—all of whom personally show up to the event to rep and pour their beers. Where else can the craft-beer enthusiast connect with so many acclaimed brewers on a single patch of earth? It is the ultimate draw.

It’s also why Firestone Walker invests so much energy into making the brewers feel at home when they come, with numerous private gatherings including this year’s post-fest Luau Dinner in the always-raucous Hollingbery Brewer’s Camp.

This year, the international flavors included Balter Brewing, Birrificio Italiano, Yoho Brewing, Lervig Brewery, Mountain Culture, and Garage Project. Closer to home, Russian River, Alvarado Street, Cellarmaker, Topa Topa, There Does Not Exist, Humble Sea, Ghost Town, Beachwood, and others repped the California brewing scene. Brewers from across the country included notables such as Green Bench, pFriem, Side Project, Jester King, Cigar City, and 3 Floyds.

Firestone Walker was also out in full force, leading with this year’s fest collaboration beer—Trailing West, a limited pilsner brewed with Half Acre Beer Company. David Walker and Nick Firestone were on hand to pour a selection of exclusive beers, and the Firestone Walker’s Brewmaster’s Collective beer club was also out in force with tastes of the rarest barrel-aged beers.

A Weeklong Celebration

Since the inaugural fest in 2012, the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest has evolved, grown, and rounded into form, and it is always the place to discover “what’s next” in the world of craft beer. If you see a beer style or brewery trending at the fest, you can be assured that it’s the next big thing.

“What’s cool about these brewers is that they are all talking about what’s the next thing,” Walker remarked during the event. “Pay attention because you’re looking at what’s next. Our world is eclectic and constantly evolving, and it’s good to know where it’s going.”

Here’s what Brynildson observed this time: “We continued to see a lot of lager brewing—Czech-style, helles, and the like. This is the first year I recall non-alc beers being poured at the fest! Also, I saw a lot of blurring the lines of beer with more frozen beer cocktails and seltzer-beer mashups.”

In fact, the fest has become a weeklong celebration of beer culture on California’s Central Coast. This year, Firestone Walker staged pub crawls across San Luis Obispo County, as well as a brewery block party with live music, barbecue, and exclusive beers on Friday, capped off by a post-fest brunch with beer and food specials.

If you missed the 2024 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest and want to go to the next one, then be ready—it always sells out within minutes when tickets go on sale in February. Stay tuned with Firestone Walker via social, email, and web to stay on top of what’s next.