Sunday, March 22, 2009

Second Annual Firkin Fest

Mr. P.C. and I were lucky enough to score some tickets to this year's Firkin Fest at the Green Dragon. I haven't been to this pub in quite a while, so it was a great afternoon for a visit and to be among some good beer-drinking folk.

A firkin is first and foremost a unit of volume in England. More commonly in the States, it is recognized as a beer carrying vessel - it looks kinda like a small keg with rounded edges, a bung on top and an opening on the bottom of the facing side for release of the ale. They are pretty cool little kegs and render a flavor quite different from your ordinary half barrel keg. Instead of using carbon dioxide to push the beer out of the keg, the draftsman pulls down on what looks like a miniature bowling pin attached to a metal/wooden box to pour the beer. It really is a cool floor show, and the resulting beer in your glass is creamy and satisfying. If you ever make your way into a English style pub, look for "Cask Conditioned" beer or "Hand Pulled Beer": this is what Real Ale is all about!

So, back to the festival....
The minute I walked in the door, I was greeted by a wide smile and a big beard from one of the volunteers. Little did I know that I'd be coming back to meet this man a few more times during the afternoon! My buddy and I walked around, commiserated with some folks we know in the beer industry, sampled cheeses and sausage, people watched and commented heavily upon the ales that were on display. All the heavy hittin' breweries were well represented: BridgePort, Deschutes, Full Sail, Hopworks, Laurelwood, Lompoc, Lucky Lab, Ninkasi, Pelican, Roots, Rock Bottom and Rogue.

The dominant beer style at the event was anything hoppy. Out of the 15 beers that were on display, more than half of them were excessively bitter. My wife would've loved them, but they proved too much for my bruised palate. Not that I mind an IPA or a well hopped beer, but I feel that many of the hop bombs on tap were overdone and out of balance. Seeking some relief, I was pleased to learn about a gentleman serving Real Cask Ale over in the corner - and that he was the brewer HIMSELF. Well, this peaked our curiosity and soon enough I was face to face with the first person I saw when I walked in the door.

Brewers Union Local 180 is located in Oakridge, a little ways southeast of Eugene, Oregon. Ted is the brewer and was happy to talk about his beers and give me and my homebrewing compadre some encouragement. I do believe that he was the only brewer in the building pouring his OWN beer - what a statement! He showed his quality of craftsmanship by bringing his own equipment, his own beer, and his own personality to the Firkin Fest. After some friendly beer nerd conversation with Ted, I began to notice that when people stopped to get a sample from him, they'd stick around for a bit and talk. Unlike the other firkin stations, the Brewers Union table was pleasantly warm, wonderfully candid and refreshing: much like the beer.

I did enjoy some of the other beers at the event, but none of them quite compared to the quaff ability of the North Fork Ordinary Bitter and That Dark Beer Molasses Stout. Both under 5% alcohol and low on the bitterness scale - beautiful! Isn't that what Real Ale should be? I think so.

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