list of participants posted online; actually there was no program handed out at the festival, and no list of beers printed anywhere. How hard could that be? At the Lucky Lab Barleywine Festivals, they often update the program as the event proceeds, to correct mistakes or last-minute changes. A simple printout of each brewery/beer/style would have been helpful, instead of having to wander around scanning the casks to remember which ale you wanted to try next. A further firkin fest failure this year was the tasting glass. Last year's was a giant tulip-shaped imperial pint glass, which I'm pretty sure holds about 22 ounces. This year's was a wee little thing, holding perhaps 8 ounces.
Let's talk about beer. The format of the festival is a little frustrating to completist fiends like myself: you get eight 6-ounce tastes and that's it. Thanks to the kindness of strangers and friends I got to taste a couple things beyond my eight samples, but there were still a few worthy candidates that I just didn't get around to. Here are my favorites from the selection I tried:
- Deschutes Twilight: surprisingly full-bodied, flowery with a hint of citrus
- Green Dragon Bitter: lightly roasted caramel flavor, gentle hops
- Beer Valley Black Flag/Leafer Madness Blend: CDA-like hoppy/roasty flavors, non-bitter flowery hops
- Pelican IPA: nice flowery IPA
Even though I was a little disappointed by the Firkin Fest, I'll give it another try next year. Each year more breweries participate -- though this year 3 of the 17 were Rogue breweries. Another thing the Firkin Fest has going for it is a relaxed atmosphere: with limited attendance, and the tables cleared out of the Green Dragon bar area, there is plenty of elbow room and no wait for beer. Some changes I hope to see in next year's festival: 1. Allow people to buy additional beer and food tickets; 2. Hand out a program or list of beers at the door; 3. Bring back the big pint glasses instead of the throwaway 8-ouncers; 4. Set up the firkins the night before to give them more time to sit still before serving. [Update: turns out they were set up the night before this time, thanks to Ted from Brewers Union!]
Jeff Alworth also covered the fest at Beervana.