Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Holy Firkin Chit... It’s a Firkfest!!

Photo by Jessica Rice McNew from Beer and Baking

(Click here to check out last year’s collaboration with Jessica from Beer and Baking)

Held at the Packing House in Anaheim (my hometown!!), this was the 4th year Greg Nagel had coordinated Firkfest. I’ll be the first to admit, year one was filled with plot-holes and pitfalls. However, the very next year the event improved 100% and each year has been better than the last. This year was no exception. What is Firkfest? The best way to describe this event is bringing together the tradition of cask-conditioned Real Ale from the UK and the creativity of the craft beer industry (follow the link above for more information about Real Ale in England). This year, the addition of a “Tiki” theme added an extra layer of fun. Lots of sunshine, amazing beers, and hundreds of beer lovers in one place. If you have never been to this event, you are missing out!

Greetings fellow beer lovers!

Now it’s time for my completely meaningless and intangible awards for this year’s Firkfest. Although there were some flops to my taste, it was tough to choose some stand-outs among so many awesome casks. Here are my winners...

Best Beer Name Award: Dole Hole

For the second year in a row, the honor goes to Tustin Brewing Company and their Dole Hole. Stop chuckling, that's not what I meant! This is a take on their Old Town IPA made with Pineapple. Bitter and tropical, the beer also fit the theme of the festival. This was just one of the pineapple beers available at the event.

Most Unique Cask Award: Kalua Porker

Riip Beer Company's Kalua Porker. Holy chit! This was impressive. Porters are a great beer paring for unique preparations of pork. This cask creation by Head Brewer Trevor Walls (formally of Pizza Port) takes that concept one step further… put the damn pork in the beer! Sweetness of Kalua, roast and acrid porter, and finished with umami and savory pork flavors. It was actually quite tasty!

Most Stylistically Correct Award: The King's Taxes - 60 Shilling

Wow, this was a close one to call. I almost give this award to a new-comer Inland Wharf Brewing Company’s English Bitter dry-hopped with EGK (East Kent Goldings). It was a session beer with a wonderful woody hop presence. A beautiful mini-pint of ale. However, MacLeod Brewing Company always brings their A-Game to festivals with multiple pins on a mobile stillage. As expected, MacLeod’s did indeed have some tasty real ale and their 60 Shilling takes my crown for Most Stylistically Correct (as a general Scottish Ale, not necessarily a 60 Shilling/Scottish Light). Not only is it a rare style outside of the UK, but it was perfect for the day! Low ABV and refreshing, this malty, earthy yet dry brew kept me returning for another pour. Well done, MacLeod’s!

Runner up! A fine English Bitter.

Styles lesson bonus: I’ll keep this brief. A 60 Shilling ale, or Scottish Light according to the BJCP 2015 Guidelines, is the lightest of three nearly identical styles, each of which increases in strength and character as you move up the latter. These Scottish Ales are more commonly referred to as Scottish Light, Scottish Heavy, and Scottish Export. Think of these beers as the Scott’s response/equivalent to the Ordinary, Best, and Strong Bitters from their southern British neighbors. That’s not to say Scotland didn’t have a brewing tradition. In fact, their brewing traditions mirrored the English rather than copy. Historically, the Scottish Ales were created via what is called “Parti-gyle” brewing where a single mash would create several beers. This was achieved by the brewer running off the initial, carbohydrate-rich sweet liquid (wort) from the mash, and adding more water to the grains to extract more sugars. Repeat the process a few times, and you have a parti-gyle, although each sequential run off would have less fermentable carbohydrates. The third runoff of the parti-gyle would have the least amount of sugars and this wort is what would eventually become the Scottish Light, or 60 Shilling. Oh, and the Scotts were brewing pioneers. The almost essential practice of “sparging” (rinsing the grans during mash runoff) was invented by the Scotts.

Most Valiant Award...

I cannot end this review without mentioning Valiant. This was one of the last times (if not THE last time) we will see Valiant Brewing Company at a festival. Sadly, they will be closing their doors at the end of this month. It was great to see them there with a “cute” little beer cocktail, complete with a cherry on top. Rather than closing this article on a somber note, I’ll end it with awarding this year’s final award for this event to Valiant… to the entire brewery! You truly have been the most Valiant. Thank you for being a part of our beer lives!

Adding the cherry to Valiant's
Hop You Like a Hurricane

What else can I say about this event. Call it luck, call it planning, call it timing, call it serendipity; the beers were beautiful, the attendees were some of my best friends, and the weather was perfect for a tiki-themed cask ale festival. This is my second year reviewing this event. Greg, thank you for allowing me to spew my love for Firkfest. Keep up the great work, my friend!


Gilbert “Charlie” Perez, Certified Cicerone®

Photo by Jessica Rice McNew from Beer and Baking

For more official photos, check out Firkfest’s Official Facebook Page here.
Official Firkfest website here.
Additional photos by Beer and Baking here.
Official Beer and Baking page here.