First Firkin Fest at the Happy Gnome, St. Paul, MN March 16, 2008
I should not have gone to this festival. I was pretty sick, but a two-hour nap and some medicine made me feel slightly better. The real reason I went, though, is that it was a friggin festival of cask ales! I mean....... And it was only 2.4 miles from my house, close enough for me to bust out the bike for the first time this year. Notice the snow bank in the foreground.
Todd Haug (left, with hat) pouring some Surly beer.
It was a $5 cover, and then $20 more got you 16 tickets (16 4-oz samples, so about 4 pints). Thing is, most pourers weren't always collecting tickets. I voluntarily gave a ticket most of the time but sometimes forgot. Because of this I had some extras that I used for a smoked, pulled-pork sandwich. :)
$20 bought you 15 blue tickets, and 1 Willy-Wonka-esque red ticket. The red ticket got you a 4 oz sample of 3-week-old Surly Darkness. I asked Omar if it was really 3 weeks old and he said "cask beer needs to be fresh," so yeah, it was. It was good but very different from more aged Darkness. I wrote a bit more about it in the tasting notes. Without knowing if it would break some cask ale rule of etiquette, I wonder if they couldn't take aged, uncarbonated Darkness, put some in a cask, prime it with sugar, and let it carbonate and then serve it.
Not sure where the Premium Light came from... Here is a video of some pours at the fest. Tea-bagged Furious, Oude Beersel Oude Gueze (not on cask, but really yummy), and Bells Expedition Stout (you can hear a glass hit the floor during this one).
These were both wonderful, Bells Expedition and Java Stouts. Wow. These two (and others) made it worth going.
You can see most of the row. Originally they were talking about 50 beers but there were "only" about 19. It actually was nice in a way. At most beer festivals there is no way you can try everything, and you feel rushed to get to as many of the ones you want to try as possible. With 19 beers you could work through all of them at a leisurely pace.
The Happy Gnome had a big tent put up mostly for St. Patrick's Day, but it was nice to use it for this festival too.
Looking the other way down the line. Summit's casks were some of the most highly praised of the day, especially Winter Ale and IPA. In fact, they took the top 2 honors by the judging panel (Kurt Stock, Steve Fletty, Kris England, Thomas Eibner, etc), with Bells Expedition taking 3rd.
Eric was there.
And so was I. Barely. (Bells Two Hearted [in pic] is very nice on cask) I didn't drink all of each of my samples, and I couldn't taste them as well as I would have liked, but I am glad that I don't have the regret of not going. I knew for certain I would kick myself if I did not go, if there was any way I was well enough to make it.
Just one sheet of beers this time, unlike Autumn Brew Review, Winterfest, and others. See here for my tasting notes.
I hope they do this festival again because it is not often to find that many excellent beers on cask in one place.