To this very day, last year’s preview of Firkfest is one of the highest viewed posts on this site. It was a bit surprising to me at the time. After all, its really just me choosing three casks from the list and telling my readers that they should drink that beer, but you guys clearly wanted that kind of info going into the festival. I’ve since used the same kind of post for my previews of Cask Days in Toronto and they worked equally well, so here we are again with me telling you what to drink.
This year is slightly different in that I have a beer at the festival (my collab with Macleod which you can read about here), but that would be unfair so I have decided not to include it in this list. However, its going to be delicious and there is only 5 gallons so don’t miss out on that one. So without further adieu, here’s my five beers you can’t miss at Firkfest 2015!
Noble Aleworks – English Pale Ale (Real Ale!)
On the latest episode of BeerPaperLA – On The Air, John Verive interviews Noble’s Evan Price about what’s exciting to him right now beer-wise and he straight up gushes about his love for British beer. Its exciting to hear the reigning LA IPA Fest champion confess his love for session-able balanced cask ale, and Noble Aleworks have been really showcasing that love over the last months. Noble released a string of English Pale Ales in the fall that were the same wort fermented with different english yeast strains and they were really exceptional beers across the board. This one is being brewed special just for Firkfest, and will likely be the first beer I track down upon entering the gates to Farmer’s Park.
Barley Forge – Valentines Day Chocolate Milk Stout (Real Ale)
While I still haven’t been down to their taproom, a friend brought me a 6-er of their Orange Curtain IPA and a growler of their lager and let me tell you – Costa Mesa’s Barley Forge is the real-fucking-deal. While they will be dragging their double IPA up to Anaheim for Firkfest, I’m much more interested in this milk stout conditioned with cherries, Ecuador Guantupí and Trinidad Gran Couva cacao nibs from Choxco chocolatiers. Malt forward beers just do really well on firkin, and the lactose in the milk stout should really enhance that creamy cask-conditioned body. Greg, the organizer of Firkfest, has been really great with transparency this year, ensuring that the crowd knows who is making real ale and who isn’t, and I when I saw that Barley Forge was bringing 100% real ale, I knew that they would be a brewery to beat.
The Good Beer Company – Hi-Tea Bravo (Real Ale)
I’ve got to be honest – I don’t know much about Santa Ana’s TGBC but when I looked at the list of cask list for the festival, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the ingredients in this cask. Hi-tea Bravo is a hoppy wheat beer conditioned with pineapple, apricot, peach, papaya, cranberry, hibiscus, passionfruit and pomegranate. That’s a crazy enough fruit punch as it is, but throw in the fact that its fermented with 100% brettanomyces AND is real ale, that’s a truly interesting beer. Wheat beers can be very hit or miss on cask as they tend to need a slightly higher carbonation to carry their sweetness, but this beer just straight up fascinates me, and I can’t wait to give it a try.
Bottle Logic Brewing – fNagel (Real Ale)
During the LA IPA Fest I ran into the guys from Bottle Logic and they guaranteed me that they had some crazy things planned for Firkfest which is a pretty big claim coming from the only brewery who was able to draw a line-up at last year’s fest. Bottle Logic is actually pretty well known for their stouts on cask – which they do incredible well – but my pick this year is their fNagel, an IPA hopped with el dorado, meridian, and huell melon and conditioned with honey dew, cantaloupe, and watermelon. Bottle Logic excel at experimental beers, managing to balance stylistic necessities with some really interesting flavors, and if they decided to name this one after Firkfest’s founder, they must be convinced that they are on to something.
Monkish – Selah w/ Lavender and Chamomile (Who cares?)
Selah was my beer of the year for 2014, as well as Beer Of Tomorrow‘s. Its simply incredible, and honestly I don’t care if its real ale or bright or if its not a style of beer that fits cask conditioning. I will drink this all day. Monkish is taunting me by bringing this to a cask festival, and I’m falling for it hook, line and sinker.
The full list of casks available at Firkfest can be found here.
I’m pumped for this years Firkfest. Not only are they serving a beer that I helped to brew, but the Four Brewers podcast will be recording that week’s episode live from the festival and I’m honored that they have asked me to be part of it. It all starts at 2pm and I’ll join the hosts along with Tomm Carroll, Andy Black (Macleod Ale) and Evan Price (Noble Aleworks) to talk cask ale at one of my favorite festivals in California. Don’t miss it.
Firkfest is Saturday March 21st, 2015 at Farmer’s Park in Anaheim. Tickets are available here and will likely sell out soon.