Firkfest, the annual festival that pays tribute to cask-conditioned ale, returned to Farmer’s Park (Anaheim Packing District) on June 29. Traditional cask-conditioned beer begins the brewing process like most beer. The difference typically takes place after primary fermentation. Instead of finishing in a tank and then being carbonated during or just prior to packaging, the beer is placed in a cask (or firkin). The cask is then primed with a proportion of actively fermenting beer (wort) or malt or sugar to aid with promoting an additional fermentation that naturally carbonates the firkin. The cask is then tapped for direct serving or pulling through a beer engine.
Theme-wise, founders Greg & Erin Nagel and team changed it up this year. After a couple of Tiki-themed years, 2019’s morphed into Firkfest: Craft Beer and Nacho Fest!
In addition to Southern California breweries, Firkfest also features local restaurants. This year’s lineup included Chefs Daniel Castillo of Heritage Barbecue, Shachi Mehra from Adya and Peter Lai of the Iron Press. Each crafted unique versions of nachos which expressed their culinary points-of-view to accompany the varied and imaginative brewery
These formulations included quite a few theme-inspired brews. Gunwhale Ales head brewer Kevin Hammons and his wife Christen were pouring a Bahama Mama-inspired version of Yokels Only: Gunwhale’s wood-fermented farmhouse-style IPA that included pineapple, coconut, coffee and lime.
Riip Beer Co’s Ian McCall fashioned Horchata De La Nube. It was a hazy DIPA that incorporated vanilla, cinnamon, sugar and rice milk. His second cask was Danky O’Dankerson, an Irish stout-malt based West Coast IPA that utilized stout malt from Malting Company of Ireland. It had been cask conditioned on Mosaic hop flowers.
Juice & Peppers were common ingredients. One of the Barley Forge casks contained its Non Nom Mango Hefe infused with habanero. Stereo Brewing’s cask was its latest Forever Changes DHIPA (hazy double IPA) with jalapeno and lime zest. Los Angeles Ale Works dispensed a DIPA with guava and citrus and Palmera Pils with lime juice and sea salt.
Two casks from Anaheim’s Unsung Brewing contained two versions of its Lumino Mexican-style lager: one with dragonfruit and the other with lime.
More-traditional UK-inspired casks were, of course, featured by Torrance’s Yorkshire Square and Van Nuys’ MacLeod Ale. Yorkshire Square’s Andy Black dispensed Hype-Beast, an English-style bitter. His second beer was Twenty Second Sea, an American Barleywine he brewed with award-winning homebrewer Mike Neice.
MacLeod’s sported The King’s Taxes, a 4.3% ABV Scottish-style 60 Schilling ale pulled on beer engine and Jock’s Favorite, a 3.5% ABV pub ale conditioned on rum-soaked oak chips.
Always a fun event, Firkfest limits attendance to a comfortable and enjoyable level.
Island Brewing 18th
Carpenteria’s Island Brewing Company celebrated 18 years in business on Saturday, July 20th. Congrats to founder Paul Wright and family, and the Island Brewing team! This marked achievement was accompanied by a hearty18th Anniversary Ale, brewed for the occasion by Ryan Morrill’s brewing team. The beer began as a version of Island’s popular Double Red Optimist Ale, which was then finished in American Oak Bourbon Barrels for five months, resulting in a complex flavor-packed profile that included figs, raisins, stone fruit and an oaked maltiness. Island’s parking lot was used to expand the party area that included a stage where SolTree and Mestizo LA performed. Game Over Catering provided the day’s Mexican fare.
Beachwood LB 8th
Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach was also celebrating an anniversary on July 20th, its 8th, with numerous beers and a special menu that included spit-roasted whole hog, grilled tri-tip and New Orleans-inspired food specials: smoked chicken po’ boy, shrimp & grits, Creole tater tots, pork belly, muffuletta, grilled oysters Marie Laveau and pickled voodoo eggs. There were also Nashville hot wings and pulled jackfruit sandwiches.
A full 30 coveted Beachwood brews were available on the regular draft beer board. This was supplemented with 4 vintages (2014 through 2017) of Sadie Dark Ale aged in bourbon barrels. Three special Anniversary casks included a vanilla fudge s’mores Imperial chocolate vanilla stout, Double Gator Double IPA (cask-conditioned with Mosaic hops) and a strawberry margarita smoothie-style beer. Add to those Slambic-Lambic Slushie and two hard fruit seltzers.
Needless to say the place was packed with folks enjoying the eats and drinks, and celebrating with owner/partners Gabe and Lena Gordon, Julian Shrago and wife Fauna and the Beachwood team.
A few blocks away from Beachwood, Rock Bottom LB was introducing its new head brewer. Derek Bougie (Newport Beach Brewing, Brewcaipa, Angry Horse) had been brewing here for a couple of months and already had about 10 house-brewed beers on tap. He is ably assisted by Jason Nicholls, who has been assistant brewer at the Long Beach location for about one year.
Lighter side ales included a blonde, a California common and American wheat. IPAs included session, American-style, hazy and Imperial. The beers I tried during my visit were markedly clean, flavor-forward and refreshing. Derek’s Slayson, a Belgian-style saison fermented with fresh cucumber juice, possessed just enough cucumber essence to provide an additional component to an already satisfying saison experience.