Sunday, March 22, 2009

Festing the Firkins

Yesterday's Firkin Fest at The Happy Gnome was quite impressive. They had something like 66 casks of beer, compared to around 20 last year. And the brewer turnout was great. They may have had more firkins than the real ale tent at the Great Taste of the Midwest. The set up and overall format worked well also. $1 a ticket basically got you one sample. Here's what I liked and didn't like about the event.

  • The two special tastings, Thornbridge Jaipur and Ola Dubh (Special Reserve 30) from Harviestoun, were more than worthy. I was especially impressed with the Ola Dubh. Hands-down my favorite beer of the afternoon. The Jaipur was great as well, but I kept finding myself comparing it to American IPAs, which does no justice to English ales and is shameful on my part.
  • Well, I already said I liked the fantastic selection. I was very happy that our local heros were present, including Brau Bros., Flat Earth, Lake Superior, Lift Bridge, Schells, Summit and Surly. But I was also delighted to be able to get Dark Horse, Avery, Rogue, etc. Colorado was very well represented, and rightfully so, with Boulder Beer Co., Breckenridge, Flying Dog, and New Belgium, in addition to Avery.
  • Sprecher had a Scotch Ale that was interesting. I didn't actually care for it, but the emotional response it illicited was interesting. The description Scott gave it was spot on, which is why this is a high point. He described it as the smell and taste of an ocean breeze mixed with seaweed. That fit it exactly.
  • Kris and I also had a chance to re-try our first ever sour beer. A couple of years ago, we had a sour from New Belgium that we both agreed tasted like stomach bile. Interesting, but we didn't enjoy it. New Belgium had their La Folie on cask yesterday and we both tried it again. Our palates have evolved a bit since our first tasting. It is still quite tart, but I kind of enjoyed it. Kris didn't like it. Of course, if it isn't Duchesse de Bourgogne, it's crap in her book.
Didn't Like
  • 1 oz pours just plain stink. I'm gonna pay $12 for a 12 oz. beer normally? In some cases, yes. Some cases. I know you're trying to make money and I won't begrudge you that. Heck, I support it. You wouldn't do the event if you couldn't make money. Makes sense. But c'mon, 1 oz pours!? Hell, and I'm not a tight-ass. I would've been willing to pay a bit more per ticket for a 2 oz. pour. 1 oz pours...sheesh. Didn't care much for $2 beer programs either.
  • Some beers just don't work well in Firkins. I was disappointed in a few beers I had. I love Rogue, but didn't care for their Charlie cask. There were a few others that I normally like but that I didn't think worked in a firkin. And, inexplicably, the gold medal winner from the judges went to Two Brothers. Two Brothers makes some damn good beer, but their winning selection was blaise in my opinion. There were far more worthy beers available. I think Lift Bridge's crowd-judged gold meal Farm Girl Kimono was well deserved.
  • Live music - meh. Live music is okay, but not when it is too fricken loud and about five feet away from you. We left after the live music began because you couldn't chat with anyone anymore.
  • Why weren't there brewpubs represented?
Overall - a nice event and a great way to kick off spring. Thanks Happy Gnome.


  1. I agree with you on the Rogue Charlie...nothing like in bottle or regular tap.

    As far as brewpubs go, I believe that these firkins were purchased by the Gnome, from the distributors, and that is not possible to do with our local brewpubs.
    I may be wrong, but I think I'm right. This explains why the Gnome's owner was carefully watching the pours.

    And I think they were doing 2 oz pours most of the time. Just checked. If you got 1 oz, that would be really low in the glass. Still, that's like an $8 pint.

  2. btw, that was me, accidentally posting while logged in under the blue nile google account.

  3. Nice write-up Mag, I thought the event was alot of fun, and really liked Kimono Girl as well.

  4. Thanks Aaron.

    Al, Kris was saying the issue had something to do with the brewpubs having to fill out certain paperwork that they were not aware of. No matter. It's not like they were lacking for casks.

  5. I believe the lack of showing from the local brewpubs has to do with our wonderful MN beer laws. Something with the use of tickets is construed as the attendee buying each sample from the respective brewery and as we all know, brewpubs can only sell their product on their own site. There might be some type of exemption paperwork but it appears not to have been well laid out as to how a brewer might go about applying for such exemption.