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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fest Thinkin'

This past weekend I missed the second annual Firkin Fest. (Fortunately Bill did the hard work; he has a report here.) This weekend, Seattle is having a much larger version, but the structure is just the same--two sessions on a single day. Portland's version was held at a pub, had 20 beers, cost $30, and each session was three hours long; Seattle's is being held at the Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion, has 65 beers, costs $40, and each session is four hours long. Same event, just bigger.

I love cask beer. The chemistry of carbonation is brutal; trying a cask ale is to understand the true nature of the beer, unbruised by the violence of CO2 (Supporters of Native Oregon Beer) and their Seattle . That love is not adequate, however, to get me to the fest. The structure resists me--I need a weekend with two or three 12-hour sessions so I can work it into my schedule. Why not have a regular fest structure?

Not only would it make it easier to get to, it would make it a populist event; right now, the only people going are SNOBs brethren. Instead, we should be targeting drinkers who don't know cask ale from a hole in the wall. It's great to create a fest for those who love cask ale but have a hard time finding it. It would be better to have a fest so more people could be introduced to it and create a market.

So to anyone from the Firkin Fest who's listening, an appeal from a lowly blogger: find a sizable location and turn this into a weekend affair. Please.


While I'm on the subject of fests, here's a random thought that floated through my brain after last week's experience with Full Sail's cask Amber. Since we have such a grievous paucity of beer festivals in Oregon (293 at last count), I'd love to see one more--the small beer fest. No beer above, what 5%, 4.5%? Maybe have a people's choice for beers below 5% and below 4%. Invite breweries to brew up special beer for the occasion and challenge them to come up with riveting flavors. Call it the Extreme Small Beer Fest or something. Small: it's the new frontier for extreme.

Now, how do you put on a fest?


  1. Re: fest structure: I beg to differ. There are plenty of weekend-long big festivals aimed at the everyman/everywoman. I love those big festivals, warts and all. But it was nice to attend a short, not-crowded festival aimed at the Ubermensch/Uberfrau! Don't knock it 'til you try it.

    Re: session-beer fest: nice idea, I hope someone takes it up.

  2. Hmmm, you make a good point. I do hate over-crowded fests. But hey, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Now that I'm north of 40, I consider it my right and responsibility to begin developing a dyspeptic attitude about everything.

    Damn kids, get offa my beer fest!

  3. Jeff

    I'm with Bill on this one. To me, both the Holiday Ale Festival and the OBF have been ruined by excessive crowds (HAF made a comeback return to glory this year) which delay the patron's ability to drink beer. Hell, often the bigger festivals have lines of 30 minutes or longer to get in the damn festival, and then another line for the beers.

    Even the Portland International Beer Festival was overrun with people this year, and that one used to be too expensive for people to swarm.

    It is my hope that at least some of the other festivals adopt a similar approach as the FirkinFest.

    A brother in arms north of 40

  4. Just caught this blog tonight while trolling around the Internet in a rare moment of spare time. A session beer fest? Hmmmm. We're toying with the idea of having a 'brewers weekend' up here in Oakridge at the Brewers Union later this year. I brew all real ale, and love quaffable, flavorful, low gravity pints. Please send me suggestions.