As mentioned in the previous post, last weekend was an insanely busy beer weekend in Colorado Springs. I’ve got lots of photos from the 7th Annual Firkin Rendezvous, which took place at Bristol Brewing Co. and helped raised funds for the Colorado Brewer’s Guild. Give or take, the event boasted 23 firkins and a couple beers that were served with gas. If you don’t know, Firkin is a word that describes a very specific size of barrel that holds cask beer. Cask beer is different than kegged beer in that the beer ferments in the same vessel that it is served out of. The beer, instead of being carbonated with gas, carbonates naturally and is either pumped out of the firkin or is poured out via gravity. So cask beers tend to be less carbonated than the fizzy kegged beers most of us are used to, they are generally served at a slightly less cool temperature and many of the flavors that tend to “pop” with strong hops and carbonation will be rounder, smoother, and in my opinion, slightly more discernable. I enjoy myself a good cask beer every now and then and it’s too bad more breweries aren’t putting in the effort to develop their technical know-how to make a proper cask. I’ve been looking forward to the festival for some time now and I must say it was quite a bit of fun.
So have a look through the images below. I’m also posting a few tasting notes, including my favorites and least favorite beers at the event.
John Schneider of Black Fox Brewing getting ready to tap the Black Fox firkin. This procedure is a lot of fun to watch. Usually the brewer will take a big mallet and drive the pour spout into the firkin quickly.
There he goes! Occasionally there will be a large amount of pressure from the yeast in the firkin and when you drive the tap into the vessel the top airlock will pop off and beer will gush out. (Un)fortunately this didn’t happen that day.
|Beautiful looking mallet|
|Jim Stinson and Kjell Wygant of Rockyard Brewing getting ready to tap their Firkin.
After the tapping, the crowds began pouring in. Somewhere between 200-300 people showed up – enough to make the event feel lively and booming yet not overwhelming. The event took place in the back loading area at Bristol. People were able to take their beer and food and eat in between the fermenters and serving vessels in the brewery.
|23 or so firkins lined up and ready to pour! *|
This is Laura Long, the Bristol Beerocrat. I’ve lived in this town for 6 months and I’ve been in touch with Laura the whole time and we had never met until the Firkin Rendezvous. Laura keeps me updated on all things Bristol and has been a tremendous help in getting this blog some attention. Thank you Laura! It was nice to finally meet you.
The crowds gathered between brewing vessels where they drank beer, ate cheese, and enjoyed some fine food from a number of places around town. I was especially happy to be able to spend a little time in the brewery, see the Bristol equipment, and make myself at home there. Bristol has a 17 barrel brewing operation. That means they get about 35 kegs per batch of beer they make. Currently in the works though is a plan to open another brewing operation right down the street and upgrade to a 34 barrel operation for their higher production beers. They will still keep much of the equipment you see here for smaller batches and more experimentation.
David Lin of Dry Dock Brewing hanging out with Zenia Brink of the Beer Drinker’s Guide to Colorado.* We were talking about beer in corner/grocery stores as this seemed like the most important topic of the weekend. It came up probably five times in conversations. I had also spoken to Mike Bristol about craft beer being in grocery stores because he read my post where I stated that I think it’s a good idea. He disagreed with me and gave me a number of reasons why. We will hopefully see a guest post from him soon on the topic. Anyway!…The beers the beers! You want to read about the beers and what I thought about them? I’ll post my thoughts at the bottom of this page…but first a few more photos of people drinking and talking beer…
This was a great site! People drinking beer and using the Bristol brewing equipment as a bar top.
Aaron Bush is drinking a Rockyard Two in the Bush Porter. He developed the base recipe and coffee was added to it, giving it a really nice mocha taste. The coffee was stronger than I’m used to in coffee beers but it was still delicious. I love both beer and coffee.
Alan Stiles of Phantom Canyon Brewing and Jason Buehler of Shamrock Brewing.* Alan’s beer was my favorite beer of the night. In fact, I’ve been heading to Phantom more and more recently because I discovered that not only does Alan make a number of older styles that taste fantastic, his cask beers are some of the best I’ve had. Always on cask at Phantom Canyon is the Peated Porter and the IPA.
– Phantom Canyon’s King Mixer – This was my favorite beer of the day. From what I understand it was a blend of mostly Barleywine with a Scottish Ale and an IPA. I tasted all sorts of dark fruit, cherries, a nice sweet malt, with a definite bitter backbone. The beer was complex, poured beautifully, and was everything I wanted that day. It was the first beer and last beer I tried so all other beers had to stand up to it.
– Ska Brewing’s Nefertiti’s Fuggly Nibs – An Imperial Porter that tasted very much like a Baltic Porter, smokey, even burnt roast with a creamy mouthfeel, chocolate, some hops in the nose and some bitterness. It was also a beautifully poured beer. When I drink cask, I want a beautiful pour.
– Boulder Beer Co’s Mojo Risin’ – This is the Double version of their normal Mojo IPA. Absolutely wonderful looking beer, a light amber with a thick head. Huge hop profile in the nose, flavor, and bitterness, but also balanced very nicely. This beer was dry hopped with 4oz of whole Amarillo hops.
– Carver Brewing’s Belgian IPA – Belgian yeast was the most forward flavor, light bitterness and malt balance. A very good looking beer, and very refreshing. A definite standout.
– Tommyknocker Brewing’s Hop Strike! Black Rye IPA – Lots of hop aroma and bitterness with a good roasted taste, also smooth milky (prob from it being on cask), and bitter-sweetness.
– Colorado Boy Brewery’s Pale Ale – A very light beer that reminded me of the Bitter Ales I drank in Britain. It was served with a pump. I wouldn’t be surprised if this beer sat at 4% and was probably the least alcoholic of the day.
– Big Beers in General – I was actually very surprised at how well these big beers (many were Imperials) held together on cask. When I think of cask I think of beers that are no more than 5% but many of what was offered was at least 7% (I’m guessing). I was a little nervous coming in but decided that even the heavier beers still look good and taste good, albeit rounder and somewhat supressed, without gas carbonation.
|Yes, this is a pretty good sized pour. Imagine drinking thirty of these!
That’s what I did, and I tried to take notes the whole time
Some Notable Mentions:
– Trinity Brewing’s Slap Yer Mammy Double IPA did really nicely on cask and was much fruitier and more citrusy (grapefruit notes) than I remember. Big malt balance.
– Glenwood Canyon’s Deep Lake Scottish Ale poured very nicely and had a rich caramel malt backbone
– Pagosa Brewing’s Powder Day IPA was good, with a super fresh hop aroma
– Black Fox Brewing’s Belgian Blonde aged on cherries and dry hopped was really fun to try and didn’t disappoint at all
– Rockyard Brewing’s Two in the Bush Porter was heavy on coffee and really tasty, even if it was a little thin
– Others – New Belgium, Bristol, Left Hand, Dry Dock, and Three Barrel’s Black Copter Stout I liked as well
|Each brewer signed the Firkin Rendezvous Poster *|
– Is This Cask? Some of the breweries did not do a good job at presenting a proper cask beer. The beer may not have been bad, but it may have been super thin, without any carbonation, and a couple even felt like they were just the regular versions poured into a firkin a day or two in advance. At a cask festival I want the cask beer to taste like cask. The breweries I list here need to work on their cask product for next year. While I may very very very much enjoy the normal repertoire from these breweries, during this Firkin Rendezvous these beers did not impress:
– Odell Brewing’s Red Ale Hopped with Chinook
– Three Barrel Brewing’s The Black Yak was a diacetyl bomb, super buttery
– Great Divide’s Rocky Real Ale wasn’t a bad tasting beer by any means but had no head and little natural carbonation. It did not taste full and present the way a cask beer should, it was quite thin.
– Durango Brewing’s Purgatory Ale – No real cask feel or taste, superthin
– Steamworks’ Belgian Chocolate and Strawberry – A lot of people liked this one. Berries present in the nose and in the flavor but again the beer is really thin and no solid backbone to it.
There was a lot of really good beer at this festival and even though a handful of breweries didn’t put out the best cask product, the good far outweighed the bad. If you missed this festival I feel bad for you. I had a great time, ate some good food, got to talk to many different brewers about their beer, and had a lot of fantastic beer. I wish the festival was bigger because I think it deserves to be. I would love to see it as a multiple day festival but I could see this being a problem with the space and trying to preserve the cask beers properly in another setting. I will certainly be back next year and I wish I didn’t’ have to wait so long for it.
– – –
* All images by Dan Flanders except images marked with *