For the third year in a row, we’re bringing California to Cask Days and for 2016 we’re bringing back some heavy hitters. While last year we tried to contain our California feature to the Los Angeles area, this time we’re expanding our line-up to include breweries from all over the state, bringing some of the biggest craft breweries side by side with some of the smallest.
Sierra Nevada Returns
Two years ago, Sierra Nevada was in the early stages of entering the Ontario beer market and their team saw Cask Days as a great opportunity to preview their classic craft ales to the Toronto beer crowd. Sierra Nevada actually sent so many firkins that we were able to hold a few back to be poured at Bar Volo simultaneously alongside the festival. It was at Volo 2 years ago that I totally (re)fell in love with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on cask. At this point – especially living in California – Pale Ale is easy to take for granted, but on cask this ubiquitous beer opens up beautifully; the lighter carbonation transforms it into something new, with that classic herbal grapefruit bite of the whole-cone cascade hops softening at the edges to make it even more of an all-day drinker.
This year, Sierra Nevada is bringing their classic Pale Ale plus firkins of Torpedo, Northern Hemisphere Harvest and their Narwhal Imperial Stout.
City Of Angels Remains Well Represented
My original goal by contributing to Cask Days was to bring the Los Angeles and Toronto beer communities together, so it’s no surprise that Los Angeles makes up the bulk of our selection this year.
We’re sending a number of award-winning brews too, including Smog City’s Sabre-Toothed Squirrel, a hoppy amber that picked up a bronze at GABF just last week and a silver at this year’s World Beer Cup. We’ve also got a fresh cask of Melrose Imperiale from the World Beer Cup’s reigning Best Large Brewpub in the United States. This is an imperialized version of one of Beachwood’s flagship IPA’s; expect this one to be dry, bitter and bursting with Simcoe & Amarillo hops.
LA’s house of hops, El Segundo Brewing Co., just won a surprise gold for their Mexican Amber lager at GABF but if you’ve been at Cask Days for the last two years, you’ll know they specialize in big tropical-forward IPAs, and this year they are bringing two versions of their Nelson Sauvin-focused White IPA. You’ll be able to try it clean and classic, or treated with an addition of apricot.
I’m very excited this year to introduce King Harbor Brewing Company to Cask Days. Located in Redondo Beach California, King Harbor has impressed me the last couple years at our local cask beer festival – Anaheim’s Firkfest – so I had to make sure I included them in our selection this year. They sent along their Swirly Brown Ale, a coffee brown infused with cocoa and vanilla which – you guessed it – mimics a swirly ice cream cone without being overly sweet and cloying.
Of course, if more traditional ales are your preference, we’ve got a historic IPA from Macleod Ales out of Van Nuys. They are sending a historic IPA based on a recipe from 1918, and a classic traditional Porter that will no doubt satisfy the real ale purists.
For those that throw tradition to the wind, check out Ladyface Ale Companie’s high-ABV barrel-aged beers -they are sure to turn some heads despite not being common styles used for cask conditioning. Their Weizenbock with Rum Soaked Oak Chips & Nutmeg sounds like the perfect drink for a brisk October night.
We’ve also got a couple of hoppy offerings from Golden Road Brewing, who made the news last year when they were acquired by the largest brewing company in the entire world. Judge is you wish, but first you should note that Golden Road’s brewmaster Victor Novak is one of the most accomplished Brewers in Southern California, winning 16 GABF medals while at TAPS Fish House in Orange County.
Sour Ciders & Reverend Nat’s:
Last year we partnered with 101 Cider House for the first time and this year we’re bringing them back with more wild fermented, pro-biotic cider creations. Two of the three ciders they are sending are variations on their ‘Black Dog’ cider which contains activated charcoal and is what I understand to be the world’s first black-coloured cider. If you are a fan of acidity & funk, I would head directly to the cider booth for these LA-made beauties – they didn’t last long in 2015.
And while they aren’t from California, I have to mention how happy I am to have Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider pouring at the fest this year. When the guys from Volo informed me that Oregon was going to be the featured state I immediately reached out to Nat West, the founder of Reverend Nat’s and the mad scientist behind one of the fastest growing cideries on the west coast. Nat’s sending some of his more traditional creations – a single varietal cider featuring Newtown Pippins, and Lorrie’s Gold: an English-style cider made exclusively from English & French bittersweet apples.
San Diego: Both Old and Brand New
With Stone staking its place in the Ontario beer market, we knew we had to include them in our Calfornia section again this year. Whenever a cask of Stone is tapped, someone is always quick to criticize them for throwing all sorts of adjuncts into their firkins, but my friends at Stone are even faster to point out that they continually win awards at the Great British Beer Festival for their heavily altered cask beers, and it’s something they are exceptionally proud of. The thing about Stone is that they pump out new casks every week at their brewery locations, so they’ve dialed in flavors that actually work and their conditioning is always on point.
Along with Stone we’ve got Modern Times and Pizza Port returning to the festival, but I’m particularly proud that we managed to snag a couple casks from the newly opened Mikkeller San Diego. A collaboration between Mikkeller and Alesmith, this is the Danish brand’s first brick and mortar brewery and its exciting to get fresh local beers from Mikkeller for the first time ever. This will undoubtedly be the freshest Mikkeller beer you have ever tasted on Canadian soil, so definitely do not miss out on their double IPA & Berliner Weisse.
If you haven’t got your tickets to Cask Days yet, don’t wait; they are going fast. Get yours here: http://festival.caskdays.com/