A firkin is an old English unit of measurement meaning a quarter of a barrel. Gravity in this context means draft beer that is not dispensed under pressure with CO2, but just allowed to flow unforced out of the barrel. So put it together and you get lots of different small barrels of beer on draft that has been naturally carbonated with yeast…some aficionados considers this “real” ale. For our $20 we got four generous pours…which were enough to get us quite tipsy. Pro tip: if you are going to an event like this, let the big white guy go and get the pours…Gene’s glass would get filled almost full while mine would be filled up half way at most. Even if you don’t want to drink that much beer, this is still a good option because then you can pour out the substandard stuff and enjoy more of the real quality brews.
At an event like this, it’s all about the variety. Gene and I had eight tickets between the two of us, plus the two free pours he scored (none for me!) makes ten different beers we tasted in one boozy afternoon. Here are our tasting notes:
Triple Rock Ipax **1/2
Extra hopped-up West Coast IPAs are big this year at Firkin Fest. The Ipax is lacking in the kind of intensely aromatic top notes I look for in this style and is perhaps not as clean tasting as I would desire, but is otherwise quite drinkable.
Triple Rock Bug Juice ***1/2
Much greener and aromatic in its hoppiness than the Ipax, the Bug Juice, also by Triple Rock, is something I imagine I would enjoy on a warm summer’s day after some gardening. Very refreshing. Citrusy.
La Resistance by Drake’s Brewing **
Usually Drake’s fine brewed products get high marks from me, and their IPA is a firm go-to beer that’s available at the corner store. Alas, La Resistance was such a stinker I think we poured most of it into the bucket. They tried to make a Belgian-style beer…and failed. It’s thin, with a wavering, uncommitted acidity, as if they thought it might be a nice idea to make a gueuze or lambic, but lacked the conviction to go all the way.
Something Mild by Drake’s Brewing *1/2
Yet another black-eye for Drake. But this time it might not be their fault…it could be that I just don’t like mild beers. I was intrigued enough by the mention of New Zealand Motueka hops to try this, hoping it would be subtle and refreshing. Nope. Just insipid.
Old Brick Bitter by Dying Vines Brewing *
This definitely went down the slop bucket. Just bad. Very lacking in character and flavor. Reminiscent of cold, day-old tea. Wan. I feel like so many of the “English Bitters” style beers are wan and lacking in characters the way real English Bitters are actually not. I hope they don’t give this style a bad name.
Barrel-aged Old Glory by 21st Amendment Brewery *****
This…this was the star. A beer I’m determined to track down because it is both excellent and most unusual in style. The tasting notes say it is an Imperial Red aged in Maker’s Mark barrels. But even before I read that I was struck with the beautiful rounded oak notes that integrated seamlessly with the rest of the flavors in the beer, not lurking sullenly underneath or too grating against the tongue. I don’t know if this is just me being too suggestible, but I feel like the richness and soft vanilla-y oakiness of this is redolent of burbon. It fills your palate.
Erin Go Bragh by Oakland Brewing Company **
I remember from Breastfest that Oakland Brewing Company was a bit mediocre. And so their Irish dry stout proved to be. A bit watery.
Citrus Vendetta IPA by Speakeasy Brewing ****1/2
Oh yes. This is our second favorite of the day. We had so many super hoppy IPAs (West Coast style I guess they call it) that they all kind of blended together after a while. So for this one to stand out took some real quality. What I look for in an West Coast IPA is intense, clean, aromatic hoppiness without too much bitterness, like sniffing fresh hop cones (which I’ve done since I do homebrewing). It should be almost floral. The body of the beer should be medium-light, without maltiness, and nothing harsh on the tongue or palate. This…was it. The genius touch was the addition of the orange peel, which is subtle enough to be undetectable unless one is cued (to me anyhoo). But it just adds that something something. Will have to taste again to determine whether it’s a true 5 star.
East Bay IPA by Ale Industries Brewing ****
I was a little worried that this would be bad because the logo looked kind of wonky and hand drawn, generally indicative of a new or unestablished outfit. But I was pleasantly surprised. A very solid West-Coast IPA. Hopped up but not bitter.
Jupiter IPA by Jupiter Brewpub ***1/2
And yes…yet another West Coast IPA. It’s a style I like, and it’s executed well here. I put it a step down from the East Bay IPA and a step up from the Ipax and probably on par or just beneath the Bug juice.