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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What the Firk?

If you're of two minds about something, what happens if the minds go to war? This, roughly, describes my feelings about the Firkin Fest this weekend. I strategically waited until others waded into the breach, and so let me refer to you Ezra and Ted, both of whom capture the sense of my dismay. Ted, for example:
While I enjoyed being involved in setting up for the Firkin Fest at the Green Dragon, I can't escape the sense that there is nobody there that is really enthusiastic about it. I'm open to the idea that my perceptions are misguided, but I felt that the organization of the event, the publicity, and the follow through in producing acceptable printed information for the punters was lacking.
Ted's right: cask ale has yet to find its base. I know of three people in the world who consider cask indispensable, and I infer from the way Deschutes handles it that there are more. Add the assorted hundreds I don't know about and you have ... hundreds. In a city where you can't swing a dead cat without knocking over an imperial IPA, hundreds is a rounding error. So we beggars showed up at the Firkin Fest thankful for its existence, and thankful for the handful of really outstanding beers: Hopworks, Double Mountain, Brewers Union, Block 15, and Deschutes all spring to mind. We don't complain. Anytime 20 casks of real ale are collected together, we gather in appreciation.

But the critiques are warranted. The event was a dissipated affair, as if Rogue couldn't really get that excited about it. The rigid structure, the strange food arrangement, the now-unnecessary two sessions (which arose when the tiny Victory Bar first hosted it), and the dwindling number of beers were all a little depressing. Which itself was depressing: how can you expect cask ale to catch fire if the only fest is weighted by a wet blanket?

Not that I'm complaining!

Update. Patrick, with whom I attended the fest, also has thoughts.
The 2011 edition of the Firkin Fest was, I'll have to admit, a bit of a disappointment. Let me be clear, it is still one of my favorite beer events, but this year instead of the great leap forward I expected, I think it went a step in the wrong direction.
That I failed to check Beeronomics before writing this post will earn me no end of (well-deserved) opprobrium, not least because this post is an inadvertent echo of his. Except that his deploys the word "arbitrage," which I regret never using enough. If you click through in sufficient numbers, he may forgive me.


  1. I didn't go for two reasons:

    1) Most importantly, we're poor, and it wasn't the cheapest event.

    2) Rogue and the Green Dragon couldn't seem to post any info about it online. I wanted to see a list of what would be there and I couldn't find it.

    I guess if I had money to burn on the event, I probably would have ended up at Baliey's for their mini-german beer fest.

  2. Had to look up arbitrage. Well chosen.

  3. I wanted to Firkin, but didn't feel like spending $30. Turned out to be a good choice. Went to Bailey's instead and had a great time--and spent just $18. Winning.

  4. Ted is totally on point with his comments. Rogue did a piss-poor job. They act like it's a burden. They would have been totally f-ed without Ted. I'm so tired of their crap.

    PS Sanjay = losing

  5. The main take home point for me is that the lack of a deceit firkin or cast fest is a hole in the Portland beer scene.

    A commenter on Erza's blog made the correct point. “The previous weekend I went to the Seattle Cask Fest held near the Space Needle- unlimited pours of 60+ casks for $35.” (That’s 60+ WA only casks!)
    Compared to Green Dragon’s 6 tasters of 22 casks for $30 + some snacks.

    This isn’t a stain on the Green Dragon. It is a problem that NOBODY ELSE in all of Beervana is stepping up to fill the gap and put on a quality Cask Festival re: Seattle’s.

    A second point is that so many of Washington's breweries produce casks or firkins. There are numerous cask handles here and there around Puget Sound and they almost always have a Washington beer pouring.
    Are there less breweries producing cask in Oregon or less cask handles or what? Or is it a simple as getting someone to coordinate a good festival and the Oregon breweries will produce?

    P.S. Ted of Brewers Union…it seems like you would want to visit the Seattle fest considering your beery product dispensing method.

  6. Rogue = Money Grubbing Beer Whores

  7. I think you get at least as many points for use of "opprobrium" (whatever the hell it means)

    It's interesting (although maybe not that surprising) that cask has not quite taken off in Beervana. I think it might boil down to regional preferences. In the Pacific NW where bold flavors and hoppy beers are the raison d'etre, I wouldn't expect cask to have as much appeal when compared to places like the Midwest or New England. The weekend-long NERAX cask festival in Boston and [the other] Firkin Fest here in St Paul which had 70+ casks make me hopeful that those places are finding their own niches.