|Brewtopia photo, not mine, not the fest|
The 2011 edition of the Firkin Fest was, I'll have to admit, a bit of a disappointment. Let me be clear, it is still one of my favorite beer events, but this year instead of the great leap forward I expected, I think it went a step in the wrong direction. I think it is now established enough that we can start to nit pick a little in the hopes that it will improve in the future.
Firstly, the beer lineup was a disappointment and of the 21 beers listed about five were Rogue and its many affiliates (Eugene City, Issaquah, Green Dragon) and one (Bridgeport) didn't even show up.
Second, the paltry food options are a real problem, especially for an event that includes food in the purchase price. Vegetarian friends went off to the Lucky Lab for food and came back afterwards as there was no veggie option save for a small plate of cheese without bread or crackers.
Third, the beers that were there were again, for the most part, not brewed with cask ale in mind. It is time to get brewers to step up and brew some special beers for the event. At the very least they should share some basic info about the beer they are offering up - some neglected to mention the ABV or IBUs let along other brewing/tasting notes.
That said there were some real stand outs in this year's line up:
The Brewer's Union's Mild, Au Naturel, was fantastic. Amazingly flavorful for a mild and a little extra hopped, I had two.
Just like last year Deschutes had a regular beer that was transformed in the cask. Last year it was Twilight, this year it was Red Chair. Red Chair had notes of lemon that I had not tasted before and was, in my mind, the best of the lot.
Block 15s Ridgeback Red with dry hops in the firkin was wonderful. I am not a big fan of the red style - it is generally a little too sweet for my taste- but the hops provided the perfect balance.
Double Mountain's Little G ESB was just want you want: a special beer, done well, that is perfect for cask.
Hopworks also nailed it this year with their Bonfire, a perfect cask beer, subtle and quaffable and they avoided the isinglass fiasco of last year - no fish!
Track Town's Brown was a big hit as well with my crowd.
Unfortunately, there were also some disasters:
Rogues Farmstead pilot brewery sent some unfinished ESB that was all wort.
Fire Mountain's Oregon Pale Ale was infected and was inexcusably served anyway. I dumped it.
Migration sent a clean and pretty nice beer but apparently either decided not to or forgot to prime the firkin. It was completely flat.
I can't imagine why either of the first two beers were served, better no beer at all than bad beer.
Still it was a great time and I love the low-key, relaxed atmosphere. There was one other gripe from my crowd that I did not share. The idea that you had to buy 8 beer tickets and 2 meal tickets. Complaints about wee lassies drinking too much and large laddies not drinking enough were spoken, my I, the ever helpful economist, congratulated them on discovering a missing market and encouraged them to seize the opportunity by buying surplus tickets and selling them to thirsty linebackers. No one thought this was a good idea or that my contribution was in any way helpful. Save for Jeff, who after a tick, exclaimed 'arbitrage!' and was quite pleased that he nailed the lingo.