Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival 2016

On Saturday, the 5th annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival was held in Paso Robles, California. Although a relatively new festival, it has quickly become one of my favorite not-to-be-missed events of the season. The brewery describes it like this: “The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest is an epic yet intimate gathering of 50 leading brewers from around the nation and world, celebrating craft beer in our hometown Paso Robles.” What sets it apart is great organization, a well-curated selection of brewers (who are each asked to bring a sesssionable beer and something special), lots of food, music (and perhaps more importantly, lots of areas that are quieter should you prefer that), along with many, many small details, diversions and things to do. This was another great year, with plenty of wonderful sensations to eat and drink. Here is a photo essay of the day.

Our weekend started by picking up the teardrop camper we rented the night before.

Which we set up in the camp set aside for brewers and media at the Paso Robles Event Center, on the grounds of where the festival would take place the next day.


Two shots of the festival grounds before it began Saturday morning. The calm before the storm.


This year, a separate tent housed all of the breweries from outside the U.S.

For example, Pete Gillespie from New Zealand’s Garage Project Brewery, was pouring a very interesting beer, with a great presentation. Essentially a deconstructed Imperial Porter, Cherry Bomb, first they pour the cherry-based beer, and then on top of that is added chocolate foam from another tap that was drawn into a metal cop. It stayed fairly well separated until you drank it, then it began to mix together.

In fact, Garage Project had well-deserved long lines all day long.

Travis Smith and Mike Sardina, both from Societe Brewing of San Diego, with David Walker, co-founder of Firestone Walker.

Rodger Davis, from Faction Brewing, and Kyle Smith, from Kern River Brewing, behind their respective booths.

My wife Sarah with the great Jeremy Danner, from Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City.

It was a fairly hot day, 100+ degrees, but we were prepared. I wore my Amish hat, and both Ken Weaver, from All About Beer, and I both brought spray bottle fans. When we posed with them, I sprayed Ken just as this photo, taken by Jon Page, was snapped.

Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson with Logan Plant, from Beavertown Brewery in London.

As usual, the food was great, and even one of the vendors was serving frites, specifically truffle fries with parmesan, which I shared with Vinnie Cilurzo.

Jeremy Danner again, this time with Boulevard brewmaster Steven Pauwels.

With Chuck Silva (middle), former brewmaster for Green Flash Brewing, who’s working on his own place, Silva Brewing, which he’s hoping will be open by fall of this year.

Terence Sullivan, from Sierra Nevada Brewing, beating up a buddy from Chico at Firestone Walker’s photo booth. And this is our own series of photos from the photo booth.

The Russian River Brewing booth was also busy all day, which kept their staff busy.

At precisely 2:23 PM, Russian River Brewing opened three seven-year-old bottles of Supplication.

Then both Vinnie and Natalie each poured samples from each of their 6L bottles to people in the crowd, and continued pouring until they were empty.

At the end of the festival, the voting for people’s choice was announced, and this year was one by Side Project Brewing from St. Louis.

Me, Matt Brynildson, Logan Plant and another Firestone Walker brewer.

FredFest Coming May 15

If you’re not familiar with FredFest, it was created to mark the 80th birthday of legendary Portland beer writer Fred Eckhardt. That first festival took place in 2006 and the festival became an annual event put on by Hair of the Dog Brewing. Last year’s event celebrated Fred’s 89th birthday. Unfortunately, in August of last year, Fred passed away, which means this will be the first FredFest that he will be unable to attend. Hair of the Dog brewmaster and owner, Alan Sprints, wants to make this year a special one and make the festival a celebration of Fred’s life and his contributions to craft beer, especially in Portland. So it certainly sounds like this is the one to be at, and I’m planning on flying up for it, as well. It’s a short hop of a flight from the Bay Area, and there will be some great beers, and people, there.

Alan Springs and Fred Eckhardt during OBF Week at the Hair of the Dog Brewery in 2008.

If you want to join me and celebrate Fred’s life, tickets are available at the Events page at Hair of the Dog. The events itself is from 1:00 to 5:00 PM on Sunday, May 15 at the Hair of the Dog Brewery located at 61 SE Yamhill Street, in Portland. A ticket gets you “a commemorative glass, endless beer food buffet, and over 25 Beers from a special selection of Brewers.” Also, since “100% of FredFest ticket sales go to charity” — Hair of the Dog covers all expenses for the event — they “encourage you to pay more than the suggested ticket price,” to help support the charities, which are the Mittleman Jewish Community Center (where Fred was once an instructor) and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Fred and me after the OBF Parade in 2011.

The breweries expected to pour their beer at the fest include 10 Barrel, Avery, Barley Brown’s, Beachwood, Bear Republic, Berryessa, Big Island, Block 15, Breakside, Crooked Stave, Chuckanut, Commons, Ecliptic, Firestone Walker, Golden Valley, Hill Farmstead, Hair of the Dog, Holy Mountain, Jester King, Shelton Brothers (importers), Sixpoint, Stone Brewing, and Upright, with a few more to be announced as we get closer to the event.

The only remaining questions are how can I get there, and “What Would Fred Drink?” (WWFD?). Figure out the first, and we’ll help with the second. See you in Portland.


Spring Brews Festival This Weekend

One of the best Bay Area beer festivals is taking place this Saturday — tomorrow — in Concord. It’s usually a winter festival taking place in January, but because of the brouhaha with SF Beer Week moving because of the Super Bowl in San Francisco sucking up all the event spaces and hotel rooms (or tripling their prices) they decided to move out of the way, and wait until spring. So this year, the Brewing Network is putting on their annual festival, temporarily renamed the Spring Brews Festival. It will take place on Saturday, April 2nd, 2016, from Noon to 4 pm at Todos Santos Plaza.

Here’s more info from the Eventbtrite page where you can also buy tickets:

The Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival returns to in Concord to celebrate its seventh year as one of the best craft beer festivals in the Bay Area. And while we are a little late this year due to schedule conflicts and the threat of inclement weather, we’re bringing the same great lineup of amazing beer and another awesome day for beer lovers in Concord!

Tickets are now on sale and are $40 pre-sale or $50 at the gate and include unlimited pours and a commemorative glass. Designated Drivers are just $5, however this is a 21 and over only event so all attendees must be of legal drinking age.

The event is conveniently located just two blocks away from the Concord BART station so mark your calendars for a craft beer infused day for a wonderful cause.

We are very proud that this year’s event is a benefit for the TSBA Arts Foundation, which helps fund the summer music program in Todos Santos Park, as well as youth music programs around Concord.

Unlimited Tasting From Over 50 Craft Breweries

Live Music From Purple Haze Jimi Hendrix Tribute Band

The brewery list is still being built so stay tuned, but below is a look at who will be there as of now to give you a good idea of how many wonderful breweries attend:

21st Amendment Brewery – San Leandro
Drake’s Brewing Co.
White Labs
Ale Industries
Almanac Beer Co
Altamont Beer Works
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
Beechwood Bbq & Brewing
Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Berryessa Brewing co
Black Diamond Brewery
Cali Craft Brewing Co.
Cider Brothers
Cleophus Quealy Beer Company
Coronado Brewing Company
Deschutes Brewery & Public House
Dust Bowl Brewing Company
Eagle Rock Brewery
Eight Bridges Brewing
E.J. Phair Brewing Company
Epidemic Ales
Faction Brewing
Fieldwork Brewing Company
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Flat Tail Brewing
Gillman Brewing Company
Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
Heretic Brewing Company
Hermitage Brewing Company
Highwater Brewing Company
Iron Springs Pub & Brewery
Kinetic Brewing Company
Lagunitas Brewing Co
Libertine Brewing Company
Linden Street Brewery
Lost Coast Brewery
Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery
Marin Brewing Company
Moonlight Brewing Company
Moylan’s Brewing Company
Mraz Brewing Company
Nectar Creek
New Belgium Brewing
North Coast Brewing Company
Pizza Port Brewing Co.
The Rare Barrel
Russian River Brewing Company
Sierra Nevada
Societe Brewing Company
Sonoma Springs Brewing Company
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Sudwerk Brewing Co.
Three Weavers Brewing Company
Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse
Working Man Brewing Company

For more information on the event please visit:

Rain or shine, we’ve got you covered. And with the Concord BART station just two blocks away, this afternoon event will be sure to satisfy locals wanting to enjoy some beers for a great cause. SORRY, NO DOGS OR CHLDREN WITHIN FESTIVAL GATES. NO SMOKING IN TODOS SANTOS PARK OR DOWNTOWN CONCORD (INCLUDING E-CIGARETTES).


Breastfest Returns To Marin This Saturday

This Saturday, the Breastfest moves back to Marin, and will be held this year at the Fairground Island at the Marin Civic center in San Rafael. The fest starts at Noon tomorrow, and tickets are $55 in advance and $65 at the door. Either way, it’s supporting a great cause. Over 60 breweries and 10 wineries coming together in hopes of raising money for a cancer clinic offering alternative treatments for low-income women with cancer. The new location is awesome When I first moved to Marin, we lived near the Civic Center and spent a lot of time there. It’s a great spot for a festival.

The Breastfest is a unique fundraiser in that it is organized 100% by volunteers and 100% of the proceeds goes directly to low-income women who are battling cancer right now. These women are our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends and they are truly grateful for your support. This cause is particularly personal to me, as I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was only 21 years old.

For its 15th year of fundraising, The Breastfest beer festival has a new location back in beautiful Marin County at the Marin Center on the Fairground Island. The fundraiser will feature endless eats and bottomless cups at no additional charge. Sip beers from 38 of the best California Breweries while listening to live music and supporting a great charitable cause.

All the Proceeds from the popular event will benefit Oakland’s Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, an award-winning non-profit women’s health provider. A pillar of low-income medical care in the Bay Area, Charlotte Maxwell has supported and saved thousands of lives by providing complementary integrative treatments for low-income women with cancer for 25 years. To date, the Breast Fest is the largest fundraiser for the clinic, which does not receive public funds.

A free-of-charge clinic that specializes in complete care for those who need it most, the clinic’s innovative comprehensive care model supports women medically and financially during treatment, giving a safety net that allows for full recovery.

The festival has also partnered with Lyft to get you to and from the Breastest safely. Get affordable rides within minutes after downloading the mobile app.If you’re new to Lyft, sign up with the promo code BREASTFEST for a free first ride up to $20. Once you download the app, create an account and enter the code in the ‘Payment’ section.Drink responsively and designate a drive or arrange a lift with LYFT!


SF Beer Week Opening Gala 2015

Friday night, the 7th annual SF Beer Week kicked off. This year’s gala was held at Fort Mason, and although I had some trepidation about the site, it actually worked fairly well. The acoustics were as bad as ever, and I think the decision to forgo live music was a good one. That also allowed two additional breweries over last year. We would have preferred to allow everyone who wanted to pour that opportunity, but the new space was much more limited than the concourse had been so we were sadly unable to accommodate every brewery. The concourse is being torn down to be replaced by a mixed use space, so we couldn’t return there this year. It’s an unfortunate truth of San Francisco that their simply aren’t a lot of spaces available to suit the needs of the opening gala, at least not and keep the price of a ticket within the reach of the average beer lover. But Brian and the San Francisco Brewers Guild did a great job of making the space work. Below are a few photos I took at this year’s gala, and for a lot more check out Gamma Nine, who took the official photos for beer week.

The entrance at this year’s SF Beer Week opening Gala.

Outside it was still raining, as the time to let everyone in approached.

All of the glassware waiting for the arrival of everyone for the gala.

Then the doors opened, and people streamed in.

The hall filled up quickly, though it never really felt overcrowded.

Ted Viviatson, from Eel River, and Daniel Del Grande, from Bison Brewing.

J.J. from Petaluma Hills Brewing.

John Martin and Kelsey Williams, sporting a six-pack hat, both from Drake’s and Triple Rock.

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee also came to say a few words at the beginning of the gala. Before his remarks, we took him on a short tour of the hall, stopping by a couple of booths to sample a few beers. Here he’s sharing a laugh with SF Brewers Guild director Brian Stechschulte.

Brian, mayor Lee and me at the front of the Gala. (Photo by Mike Condie.)

Time-Lapse Views Of The Double IPA Fest

This is pretty cool. A friend of Bistro owner Vic Kralj, by the name of Graham Richards, is doing a documentary on the Bistro, and shot some time-lapse videos of the Double IPA Fest yesterday. Vic was kind enough to send me three of the short time-lapse films. The first shows the festival being set up hours before opening the doors to people so they can sample nearly 100 double and triple IPAs. The second shows people queuing in line to purchase a glass and sample tickets to the festival during one of the periods of time when it was raining fairly hard. Luckily, it only drizzled or was clear most of the day. The third shows the festival down at the other end of the block, toward the back of area of the street where the festival was held. Enjoy.

No. 1: Setup of the Fest in the morning.

No. 2: The festival opens while it’s started raining hard, but people .

No. 3: A little later in the morning, after the rain had subsided, and showing the back of the festival area.

The Next Session Goes To A Beer Festival

For our 96th Session, our host is Joan Villar-i-Martí, who writes Birraire, which is also his nickname. He’s asking us all to attend a beer festival, either in person or virtually, and take a position one way or the other, or even somewhere in between, on this question, which, if you haven’t guessed, is the topic. “Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?.”

The discussion at hand is “Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?” I guess it is pretty much clear, but apart from exposing whether the answer is A, B or C (the latter being “it depends”) I expect participants to give us some insight into their local beer scene to better understand the importance or irrelevance of Festivals in each area. My guess is that it can be quite different depending on the popularity of beer in different countries and cultures.

The Great American Beer Festival in 2002.

So get thee to a beer festival, or search your memory banks for your festival experiences. To participate in February’s Session, just wax on and/or off about your take on the humble beer fest. Then on February 6, post your thoughts in the comments section to Birraire’s announcement.

At the Toronado Barleywine Festival in 2013.

Winter Brews Festival In Concord January 24

On Saturday, January 24, from Noon to 4 PM, the Brewing Network‘s 6th annual Winter Brews Festival will take place at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. The beer festival will feature over 50 breweries and proceeds will benefit the Coral Reef Alliance. Sandwiched in between the weekends of the final NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl — so you won’t miss a game — the annual event will showcase dozens of award-winning craft breweries, including local favorites, 21st Amendment, Drake’s, Heretic, and Lagunitas, as well as some great new breweries like Calicraft and The Rare Barrel.
Live music from Ralph Woodson and Purple Haze will set the mood for an afternoon of great beer and a worthy cause. Sponsors of the event include The Hop Grenade Taproom & Bottle Shop, the 21st Amendment, Drake’s Brewing Company, Hop Tech Homebrew and White Labs, and proceeds will benefit the local environmental non-profit, the Coral Reef Alliance.

Tickets are now on sale and are $40 pre-sale or $50 at the gate and include unlimited pours and a commemorative glass. Designated Drivers pay only $5, however this is a 21 and over only event. The event, which will, for the first time, take over the entire Todos Santos Plaza, is conveniently located just two blocks away from the Concord BART station, making it easy to get to and from the festival safely. For more information on the event, and to purchase tickets, please visit:


Winter Brews Festival In Concord January 25

The 5th annual Winter Brews Festival, produced by the Brewing Network, will be held this year on Saturday, January 25 from Noon to 4:00 p.m. It will be held again in Concord, at Todos Santos Plaza, just two blocks from the Concord BART station. This year’s festival looks to be their best ever, with over fifty breweries confirmed to attend, including a few that we don’t often see in the Bay Area, such as Societe Brewing from San Diego, Jester King, from Texas, and our own Faction Brewing showcasing their beer at one of the first fest’s they’ve attended. Come give Rodger Davis a hard time; you know you want to!


Tickets are currently on sale, and can be purchased online through Eventbrite. Here’s all the details from the press release:

The Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival returns to Todos Santos Plaza in Concord on Saturday January 25, 2014 from noon to 4pm to celebrate its fifth year as one of the best craft beer festivals in the Bay Area, and the only winter brews fest!

Nestled between the weekend of the NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl, this event will showcase dozens of craft beer samples from more than 30 world class breweries; most of which call the Bay Area home. Attendees will enjoy unlimited tastings from breweries such as 21st Amendment, Faction, Firestone Walker, Jester King, Heretic, Ninkasi, Sierra Nevada, Societe, and Stone.

This year, the Winter Brews Fest will be bigger than ever—with more food, more music, and more beer! There will even be non-beer options such as world class mead from Moonlight Meadery out of New Hampshire. Sponsors of the event include the 21st Amendment and White Labs, and proceeds will benefit the local environmental non-profit, the Coral Reef Alliance.

Tickets are now on sale and are $35 pre-sale or $45 at the gate and include unlimited pours and a commemorative glass for the first 1,500 tickets sold. Designated Drivers get in free, however this is a 21 and over only event.

The event is conveniently located just two blocks away from the Concord BART station so mark your calendars for a craft beer infused day for a wonderful cause.

If you haven’t been to this festival before, it’s one of the better Bay Area beer festivals. Here’s some photos from last year’s event to give you a flavor for it.


Food will also be available for purchase.


Did I mention there will be music? This year Forrest Day and Lucas Ohio & the Shamblers will be performing.


See you there!

How To Survive Oktoberfest

Today’s infographic is still another poster about Oktoberfest, which began four days ago in Munich, Germany. This one is called How To Survive Oktoberfest with Your Liver Intact and was created by Accredited Online Colleges. It features a brief history of Oktoberfest and some tips for navigating the festival.

Click here to see the infographic full size.