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 one-of-a-kind festival, cask ales rarely get this type of exposure, largely due to the portability of it. As a result, only cask ales from breweries on the west coast could survive the trip here. Aside from the drinks featured here, Firkfest operated largely like most other beer festivals. Admission to this festival cost $55, 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, cornhole, Jenga, and more. 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 since none of the breweries held any timed releases like some have in the past – all attendees could receive any beer right from the start.
Now in its third year, Firkfest has solidified itself as one of the staple Orange County beer festivals for craft beer fans to attend. Last year, the organizers also incorporated a chili cookoff into the event, allowing local businesses to enter their best rendition of chili to a contest, while also allowing attendees to sample the chili. This year, they appear to have ditched that idea, intending to focus solely on the brews at hand. As a persistent problem since their first year, 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 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. With nothing outstanding to complain about, I foresee Firkfest standing strong for many years.