I am back from a long vacation, and following-up where I left off with my recap of the Firkfest event in Anaheim, CA. I have a guest writer who will be contributing to my post, so I will first mention my feelings and then introduce the guest author with their words! All photos are still by me 🙂
Firkfest was really fun, as per usual. I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without seeing someone I knew so it ended-up being a party of sorts, but with considerably good beer available each step. Some of my faves being from MacLeod and Good Beer and Bravery, all making very drinkable and flavorful cask beers. MacLeod shouldn’t be a surprise, as they are masters of the cask, and if you haven’t been to their Van Nuys tasting room you should give them a try. Besides the beers, the event was very well organized as I’ve come to expect from Greg Nagel. He’s not only a beer event organizer, but a frequent attendee of beer events, so I think he really knows how to put together a good beer event better than most. The crowd seemed happy, and for the most part there were no lines, and no complaints. It was another great year, and I look forward to the next one. I almost think they are outgrowing their location, so I wonder where they will move to instead?
Let me introduce Gilbert “Charlie” Perez, Certified Cicerone® from “Terms of Embeerment” for the next portion of the post. We’ve previously worked together on his post about Diacetyl where I provided pictures for him, and he’s much more technical than I am when it comes to beer. Without further ado:
A bit of a backstory on cask. There are some words that are usually used when we talk about casked beer. When we talk about real ale or cask, the words that are almost always used in tandem are: English, Pub, Ale, and Cask. The ales we most commonly associate with cask-conditioned beer are English Bitters and Milds. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), founded in 1971, is possibly the biggest contributor as to why these beer styles didn’t fade into history.
What is a cask? Well, for the sake of this post we will say it’s a keg that has a keystone that can be tapped for dispensing. The most common are Pins at 5.4 U.S Gallons and Firkins at 10.8 U.S Gallons. What is Real Ale? CAMRA defines as follows: “Real ale is a beer brewed from traditional ingredients (malted barley, hops water and yeast), matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.”
The world wars and taxation have heavy hand shaping the British beer scene and influencing what was pulled at the pubs. The ever-growing popularity of Pilsner kept creeping into the slots where Mild and Bitters once were. A group of loyal pub-goers took notice and started a campaign to bring back what they eventually coined as “Real Ale.” CAMRA was born and they pushed to revive the tradition of cask-conditioned beers that were basically on their last breath.
By the 1960’s and 1990’s, the pubs in England evolve to resembles what we recognize today with plenty of Real Ale pulled from the cellars directly from the casks. Pilsner still has a vast popularity, but Real Ale has firm footing.
Fast forward to Firkfest and we see rows of Pins and Firkins flowing unique, tasty, and esoteric beers. Although they may fall under the definition of “Real Ale,” most of these beers were so outside the box that you’d wonder… If someone purposely punched a hole in it to let creativity loose!… if there was even a box to begin with! Aside from a few beers encountered with Diacetyl, most beers were quite pleasant.
Some standouts for this author were Noble’s Wrong Side of the Road, McLeod’s Ordinary Bitter, Bottle Logic’s Square Root, and, Bravery’s Pink Lemonade.
Before we begin, an honorable mention goes out to Kum Town from Tustin Brewing Company. The beer was tasty (Tustin’s Old Town IPA with Kumquats), that’s no question. But that name… That’s a ballsy name. (Pun was totally intended). Award for best name: TBC’s Kum Town!
Noble’s Wrong side of the Road was impressive! A crisp, light, floral, and tasty ale. Light biscuity malt flavors but plenty of floral an earthy hop notes. Perhaps one of the best examples of an extremely fresh (and dry-hopped) bitter pulled from a cask in OC.
Speaking of bitters, another stylistically outstanding ale was McLeod’s Ordinary Bitter. Moderate mealtimes and woodsy hops in the undertone. A firm (but not harsh) bitterness floats atop of the malty caramel tones and foresty hops. Absolutely British! Well, for this author, that is. Without having taken a trip to England, this is the best example that showcases what a Bitter should resemble (according to style publications).
The uniqueness award goes to Bottle Logic. Their Square Root was a Brown Porter with root beer spices added. If root beer scares you, feet not. The spices were subtle and wet hiding behind the chocolate character pulsed out from the appropriately named EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse = Electromagnetic Porter… Science!). The finish resembled more Bottle Caps candy than soda, and that’s not a bad thing. If root beer was your thing, a hint of root beer was in the finish. If root beer was NOT your thing, the finish was cola-like. A nice take on a beer that has hints of said flavors, not a flavor bomb on top of what used to be an otherwise great beer. Nice work, guys!
Olfactory memory. That’s when memories are activated when you take in certain aromas stimulate your olfactory nerves. For this author, Bravery’s Pink Lemonade almost made him shed a tear. Aromas of “Agua de Jamaica,” lime, and fruit brought back memories of when his grandma would make some Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus water) and fresh lemonade during the summer. Back then, this author never really enjoyed Agua de Jamaica on its own. So, to not upset his grandma, the author would secretly splash some lemonade into the Agua so he could drink it. Bravery’s Pink Lemonade’s aroma was so similar to Jamaica-Lemonade the author almost heard his grandma’s voice behind him, yelling as he mixing the drinks for the first time. The author almost shed a tear…
Hell, this author isn’t fooling anyone, is he? Yes, he let out a few tears. So what!? That’s what beer is all about: the experience. And that’s the one experience this author won’t soon forget from Firkfest.
Source for Real Ale definition:
Thanks Charlie for your contribution! Cheers!