The first Firkfest took place in Anaheim last weekend and it has all the makings of a must-do event on every SoCal craft beer calendar for years to come.
A sunny day and many tapped firkins (technically a size of barrel, but in this case a beer meant to be served fresh with special additions) greeted guests eager to try many some unique creations that took an original beer and spun it into practically a whole new beer. For example, if you are a fan of Knuckle Sandwich from Bootlegger’s Brewery, then how about a rum barrel version? If you are a fan of Sculpin from Ballast Point Brweing, then how about one with the exotic Wai Iti hop from New Zealand that gives off notes of lemon, lime and mandarin orange?
Greg Nagel of OC Beer Blog hosted the party, which went off very smoothly. Brewers from Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego were on hand to show off their creativity. Lines for these special beers were practically non-existent. So much so that when a line did form for Bottle Logic Brewing‘s Leche Mole on bourbon chips, it was the exception that proved the rule. There was plenty of open space in the new Packing House park to either stand or you could sit on the grass and enjoy a beer with Anaheim chiles or kumquats added to it. Food Trucks from the opening-later-this-year Packing House restaurants were available, as were soda and water, which helped as the sun came out from the clouds. This all made for a very relaxed vibe amidst the succulents and other trees and plants in the park.
The only changes that would materially improve this newcomer would be more restroom facilities (which was by far the biggest line) and more glass rinse stations (It can be hard to get either rum or peppers out of your glass for the next taster). And due to the nature of casks and their tendency to be a bit cranky when pouring, some pours were a little much, so some dump buckets would also have come in handy as well. But considering this was a freshman effort, it was a well run and planned event. I especially appreciated getting an e-mail the day before that laid out the rules and had parking instructions. And it was also nice to get a different type of glass as well. The mini-nonic pint is quite nice.
Beer-wise, my picks of the litter come from Monkish Brewing, with their Spa-Ish, a Belgian single with cucumber that was super light and refreshing and something that I hope Henry bottles next. Simcoe Showers from Noble Ale Works was a great hop bomb that was nicely mellowed by the cask dispense. Lastly the dry hopped lager from Brian Thorson at Haven Brewing was a nice change from the bigger bitter beers.
Until the next Firkin Firkfest fans of the cask will have to search out what is on cask at their favorite watering hole. You will see some pop up on the L.A. Beer Blast coming out later today, or you can also check Cask Ale LA for updates.
The Beer of the Week is a new seasonal offering from New Belgium Brewing. Spring Blonde will be the right beer to celebrate what passes for spring in SoCal. According to their website, you will sense a “nose of lemon peel, pepper, and fresh baked bread” with a light bitter finish to it. Perfect for a picnic. Now if it would come in a firkin.
Speaking of festivals, your Homework is to get your tickets for the Los Angeles Vegan Beer & Food Festival which is returning for its fifth edition on May 17. Brought to us by the triumvirate of Tony’s Darts Away, Quarry Girl and Nic Adler of The Roxy, this year’s lineup will feature more than 40 breweries, 30+ food vendors and local bands. Others can cover the plant-based food aspect and/or the music but as far as beer goes, you will obviously see Golden Road there but I am intrigued by the San Diego trio of Ballast Point, Automatic and Modern Times as well as more northern breweries like Sierra Nevada and Firestone Walker.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.