If you were lucky enough to attend this year’s Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest, by now the hangover must be cured, making today the perfect day to recap my favorite beer event of the year. This year was extra special because I was one of the official Firestone photographers documenting the controlled chaos and happenings within “Beer Mecca.” This year was pretty ideal – the weather, crowd, and beer selection were all nothing short of amazing. I saw old friends and made a few new ones. And, per the job description, I took photos. Lots and lots of photos. After letting them marinate for a while I’ve brought you my top 25 (and a few extras) to recount this beautiful day in beer-paradise.
1: Matt Brynildson opens up the fest
When FW Brewmaster Matt Brynildson holds his glass high with a big ole smile on his face, you take the damn picture. I love this shot because it not only gives you a sense of scale to how many people show up before the gates are officially flung open, but it also imparts what I’ve always loved about this fest; the accessibility of the brewers. Now if I only asked him what was in his glass… my guess is Easy Jack.
Gotta have one – and while I took several different shots (see one above) this is perhaps my favorite. Thanks to The Rare Barrel for the background canopy.
I stumbled upon Barrelworks Director Jeffers Richardson as he walked up to the Birrificio Italiano tent and met up with Italian Brewmaster Agostino Arioli. Together they took their first sip of the continent-spanning collaboration beer La Piccola, a dark wild saison. Two batches were brewed, one with peppercorns added and the other without. I loved the interaction between two brewers, with thousands of miles and cultural differences, this photo shows that good beer can be fussed over around the world and back again.
No no… not yet… we’ll get there.
With the noon hour at hand, a few thousand friends found themselves at the Paso Robles Fairgrounds ready to try some tasty beers.
Garage Project, a New Zealand brewery, really brought it this year with a few mind-blowing creations. This time brewer Pete Gillespie shared “2 Pot Flat White” with us, half imperial stout, half cream ale on nitro. Two beers brewed to intentionally be blended together. This was just awesome.
Decked out in the finest tiki garb, The Bruery had their work cut out for them with a continuous line that I never saw die down. Here’s Cambria Griffith keeping festive with a smile on her face.
Any photographer will tell you the absolute worst time of day to take photos is mid-day, when the sun is highest and the light sucks. Using what you got is critical though. I really enjoy this shot personally, sums up the fest for me just fine.
There was so much great food at this year’s fest, and unfortunately I didn’t get to try nearly as much of it as I wanted. I did, however, sneak a shot (and a taste) of these incredible pork belly tacos with pickled onion, carrots, and edible flowers. Could have had 10 of these.
10: Bloggers Gunna Blog
After tasting the newest offerings, beer bloggers simply can’t help but be the first to post about it on Twitter, or send out a jealousy-inducing Instagram. Here’s a few SoCal bloggers I know and love doing their thing.
We all get excited about the word “rare” in beer… we want to try something in limited quantities. This guy braced the line and gets his reward.
These guys wait for a vanilla bean version of Dark Lord by Three Floyds. Hope they got a taste (I maybe sneaked one too).
Beachwood BBQ Brewmaster Julian Shrago seemed to have a few ladies flock around him this fest while opening a super rare offering. This picture makes me smile.
Brewers aren’t the only ones pouring beer – this was a family affair. Here we find the Walker ladies, Ella and Polly, offering up some Firestone beer to the masses.
I didn’t catch this conversation, this pretty much says it all about Moonlight Brewing’s Brian Hunt… one of my favorite beer-personalities in Cali.
I like this photo because for me it sums it all up – jockey boxes, bottles on ice, warm weather, and good people.
Here we see “Sour Jim” Crooks, Master Blender, during a panel discussion on sour beers with a few other notable characters. The talks, called “Behind the Beer” were really well attended and offered up some fun info.
Craziness of the crowd takes over as Rare Barrel brewer Jay Goodwin waits behind the sceenes to pour his beer. The festival app alerted fest-goers as to when and where special releases would take place, and within 5 minutes long lines would form.
The tradition of the magnum sized bottles of rare beer being popped is one I’ve come to love over the years at this fest. Here we see Sour Jim Crooks, Jeffers Richardson, and David Walker popping bottles. What you can’t see here are the hundreds behind me with glasses waiting to be filled. Here’s some extra of the shoot.
Sugar Lips Mini Donuts took home the People’s Choice Restaurant for this year’s fest, with an emphatic display of gratitude I might add. It goes to show beer people aren’t super caloric sensitive when it comes to a day filled with drinking, but on the other hand damn were those some good donuts.
It’s tough to show scale when you have 3,000 people roaming the grounds, but as a photographer you want to make sure you cover your bases. Details, mid-range, wide. This for me shows off the beautiful day we were lucky enough to find ourselves in.
Beer + Good Music + Good Weather = Best Dance Moves. I’ve checked my math… I know these things.
I have to give a huge hand and big thanks to the staff of Firestone, they always do such a great job. Here we see Anders waiting for this fest to end, ready to pack up whatever kegs remain.
The post-festival dinner at the brewers camp is a collective sigh of relief. The day is over – we all lived through it – time for another beer. David Walker and Moonlight’s Brian Hunt reflect.
This was one of my last shots of the day, during dinner at the brewers camp. If craft beer is really here to stay (no question) then imparting wisdom like “daddy loves his sours” is a good place to start.
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Thanks everyone for checking out these shots! Here’s a bunch of extras from the Friday Brewers Dinner the night before, and one or two that didn’t make the cut in my top 25. Hope to see you there next year!