Firkfest Launches Its Real Ale Fest with a Real Success

Posted: March 26, 2014 in Beer, Events, Food, Orange County
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With Spring now underway, the weather starts to warm up, and the daily daylight starts to extend, providing even greater incentive to get out there and explore the world. Events around town occur regularly, and most people understand the basics of most of these events, such as 5k runs, art shows, or beer fests. But what happens when a traditional event comes up with a spin? Enter Firkfest, a beer festival celebrating the wonders of cask ales. Traditional beer fests see breweries or home brewers bringing in their brews to sample to the large crowd of attendees over a short period of time. This past Saturday at Farmers Park in Anaheim, Firkfest did that same thing, except the participating breweries brought only casks to this party. A first fest of its kind, cask ales rarely get this type of exposure, largely due to the portability of it. As a result, only cask ales from breweries in California could survive the trip here.

Aside from the drinks featured here, Firkfest operated largely like most other beer festivals. Admission to this festival cost $50, and included unlimited beer tastings from all the participating breweries from noon to 3:45pm, plus free parking. Around this small area, other activities included live music and some recreational games, like bocce ball, beanbag toss, hula hoops, Jenga, and more. Towards the entrance, guests could purchase food from any of the four available food vendors: Adya, Wheat And Sons, The Kroft, and The Iron Press.

A grand total of 31 breweries attended to serve drinks to all the attendees: Valiant Brewing, Tustin Brewery, Twisted Manzanita Ales, Strand Brewing, Smog City Brewing, Saint Archer Brewing, Phantom Ales, Pizza Port, Noble Ale Works, Karl Strauss Brewing, Monkish Brewing, Los Angeles Ale Works, Figueroa Mountain Brewing, Bravery Brewing, Hangar 24 Brewery, Haven Brewing, Firestone Walker, Golden Road Brewing, Eagle Rock Brewery, El Segundo Brewing, Coachella Valley Brewing, Dale Bros Brewery, Cismontane Brewing, Bottle Logic Brewing, Bootlegger’s Brewery, The Bruery, Belching Beaver Brewery, Ballast Point Brewing, Beachwood Brewing, and Anaheim Brewery. Non-alcoholic drink providers included Portola Coffee Lab and Los Angeles Ale Works with their craft sodas.

For the majority of the beers, the alcohol percentage ranged from six to eight percent, with a few going above or below that. I managed to try something from every brewery, opting out of any spicy beers or sour ales. Only Bottle Logic hosted a timed release with their Leche Molé, garnering a huge line that surpassed the porta potty lines. Even Noble Ale Works did not time a release for Man’s Milk, a derivative of their popular Naughty Sauce – they had it available since the start. Aside from Leche Molé, no other brewery had a crowd of attendees waiting for beer.

For its first run, Firkfest largely concluded as a positive experience, but not sans a few criticisms. The staff clearly could have handled the entrance line a lot better. The front gate volunteers did not start checking tickets and handing out wristbands until 12pm on the dot, losing valuable time for the attendees way at the back of the line. To mitigate this issue, they could have ran two lines: one line to check in & receive a wristband, and another line for the express entrance with just showing the wristband. As for another issue, this fest only boasted five porta potties, which had a continuous line of attendees the entire time. As we all know, renting those things cost a fortune, so finding the balance of the right amount of them will keep attendees happy without having to overspend.

Other than those fixable issues, Firkfest did everything else right in the books. As a notable experience, the attendance remained below average for a beer fest. Some of the larger beer festivals have you standing shoulder to shoulder with other people, waiting in long lines for generic beer that may even include macro beers like Shock Top. Those “drunk fests” do not emphasize the quality of the beer – they focus on quantity and getting people as drunk as the next person. Firkfest got the quality beers for a fest with a manageable attendance, keeping things slightly more intimate and allowing greater interactions with the attendees and the representatives from the breweries. The organizers also resolved parking by allowing guests to park for free in a parking structure that normally would not allow so many people to park in for so long. The venue worked out great for the wide space, and the weather made it even better. Should Firkfest return next year, we hope they take things up to a new level, keep the attendance rate similar, and resolve the lines issues.

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