Firk Fest, the lovechild of Greg Nagel (OC Beer Blog) and Brad Kominek (Noble Ale Works) was this past Saturday in Anaheim.

A quick primer for those not in the know: “cask ale” (or “real ale”) is our favorite malted beverage allowed to naturally carbonate in a cask, or firkin. This is opposed to artificially carbonating beer through carbon dioxide injection. A common thing to do when preparing the beer to condition is adding unusual ingredients, though this is not required. The result is a unique-tasting, less carbonated – but not flat – beer that is served at cellar temperature, around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For more information, I recommend checking out the Campaign for Real Ale’s website. They live for this kind of stuff.

The festival had a lively atmosphere in a great park space perfect for a sunny weekend afternoon. I half-expected to be surrounded by bearded, bespectacled beer geeks, like myself, but was pleasantly surprised to find a wide array of folks (estimated at 500 attendees) excited for cask ales from over 30 SoCal breweries. Predominantly, breweries sent versions of their wares that were dry-hopped differently, with spices, coffee, etc. For better or worse, there were few “traditional” examples of “real ale.” But, knowing craft brewers and their penchant for always trying something new, I was not surprised.

The offerings from Monkish Brewing Co.

Every participant had something worth trying and I know I missed some. However, my stand outs were…

  1. LA Ale Works: “Karma Kølsch with Jasmine Green Tea.” They also brought some samples of their craft soda project – a Thai iced tea soda and another with maté and a handful of spices. Really cool stuff.
  2. Twisted Manzanita Ales: “Oh Nose! Brett IPA”
  3. Saint Archer Brewing Co: “Red Ale with Amarillo”
  4. Monkish Brewing Co: “Shaolin Kick with Sichuan peppercorn, Thai basil, and Sriracha.” I know for a fact I wouldn’t be able to finish a pint but this guy had some serious gumption. Of note, they just celebrated their 2nd anniversary.
  5. Golden Road Brewing Co: “Pale.” Simple and delicious, no frills required

For the first year, I thought it was pretty successful event. It wasn’t without flaws, for instance, the ground plan could have used some work. All the brewery tables were on one side of the park making the main walkway feel congested. I also wondered why pourers were mostly volunteers instead of reps or brewers. I would have appreciated being able to converse more often with somebody about what I was drinking. Did breweries just not want to send people? Was it an insurance or regulatory thing? How do I sign up to volunteer next year?

All things being equal, though, I had a good time, it was beautiful day, and I plan on returning.

Two of the gentlemen behind MacLeod Ale Brewing Co (Van Nuys, CA). On the left is brewmaster, Andy Black. On the right is their salesman, Jesse Cairnie. Really nice guys. I’m very much looking forward to their opening. Their MO: “[t]o replicate and celebrate the traditional brewing methods of the British Isles.” Bravo.

The gentlemen from L.A. Ale Works. Kip (on the right, facing the camera, in the mechanics shirt) just released his addition to the Beer Lovers book series focusing on Southern California.


View of the park

Giant Jenga