It’s alive: Firkfest returns as Firkenstein Craft Beer Festival
In 2013, Greg Nagel was at a local beer festival when he noticed a long line forming for a brewery serving cask beer. The founder of OCbeerblog.com and a well-known fixture in Orange County’s beer community wondered why more events didn’t feature the traditional brewing method.
“One of the breweries had a cask beer, and there was line of about of 50 people, just to get a taste of it,” said Nagel. “I thought maybe we should have an all-cask beer festival. I think there is a lot of magic that can happen with events that are niche and different from every other beer festival.”
Nagel launched his own beer festival, Firkfest, in 2014 featuring cask-conditioned beer or “real” ale offerings from local breweries.
“Cask beer is generally how beer is served in the U.K.,” he said. “When the beer is finished fermenting, it is transferred into a cask.”
Nagel said there are two kinds of casks, the 5.4-gallon pin and the firken, a 10-gallon vessel that is the inspiration for the festival‘s name.
“You have to hammer the tap into the vessel and also vent it, and sometimes they are served out of things called beer engines, which is just basically a pump, and it is a totally different kind of beer service,” said Nagel.
Cask-conditioned beer undergoes a secondary fermentation in the barrel, and since it isn’t filtered, live residual yeast and flavors are still present when the beer hits your glass.
“The thing with cask beers is it that it changes over time,” said Nagel. “It can get more nuanced, it develops different flavors or aromas, and it seems to change day to day if you are drinking from the same cask.”
In 2020, Frikfest was set to return for its seventh year, but the pandemic prevented the event. Now, for the first time since, the festival is returning as the Firkenstein Craft Beer Festival on Oct .7 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Anaheim’s Center Street Promenade.
This year’s festival combines Halloween and Oktoberfest, two of Nagel’s favorite reasons to celebrate. He also notes the event is no longer a cask-only festival, though every beer will be special.
“About half the brewers are bringing cask beers and the other half are bringing a mix, but every beer is made just for the event,” said Nagel. “So it is a one-time opportunity to get something from your favorite brewery that you have never had before and you will probably never have again.”
Firkfest has traditionally donated its proceeds to charity, and this year, Nagel said the event will benefit the Anaheim Fall Festival and Halloween Parade, which marks its 100th year this October.
“The Anaheim Fall Festival and Halloween Parade is all run by volunteers and neighbors and talented people in our city,” said Nagel. “This is my way of giving back to something my family and I enjoy every year.”
More than 30 participating breweries including Green Cheek, Bottle Logic Brewing and Riip Beer Co. will be on hand at Firkenstein, and beer lovers are encouraged to come in Halloween costumes. Food options will be provided by Tacos El Gringo, Windsor Brown and a chili pop-up called Chili Doug. Of course, it wouldn’t be Oktoberfest with a bratwurst or two.
“Hoffy is donating a 120 pounds of brats and frankfurters to us, and Villains Brewery is going be helping us smoke those and serve them hot at the event,” Nagel said.
Tickets are on sale now at firkfest.com.
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