Last week we talked a little about cask beer, including the culture around the Firkin. And while we trodded through our dissertation with out too many double entendres, one thing we really wanted to do was to hit a festival and point out what makes for good ‘cask’ brew. Fortunately, there was one last Saturday in Williamsburg (funny how that works), and outside of a little medical emergency, we tried them all and here were some of the ones that were outstanding to us.
Event: DoG Street Pub Firkin Festival
Location: Williamsburg, VA (Part of the Winter Blues Jazz Festival)
Date: January 16th, 2016, 11:30-4pm
Included: 4oz tasting glass and tastings of around 20 firkin beers.
Food: Chef on site providing food options including Fried Andouille Sausage, Pretzel rolls with cheese sauce, and Chicken Po Boy Sandwiches.
Entertainment: 2 Jazz bands set up inside the tent.
Overall Impressions: As per usual, this was a very well run event. While Firkins aren’t the same draw as Big Bold Fests these days, the crowd was more than solid and just enough room to maneuver around in. Some breweries started to run out of beer towards the 2:30pm time frame, but that is not uncommon and a lesson to late comers. We mentioned about the art of tapping a firkin and how, done poorly, can lead to beer showers. We were treated to a super geyser later on in the day that hit a good 10 foot radius of people. Luckily, I was not close enough for the fallout, but far enough away to witness the magic. The bands were good, although a little loud. It was also a balmy 60 degrees and while the preparations were made for a colder day like last year’s event, it was short sleeve shirt weather inside the tent very quickly.
Best In Show
Chocolate Heir Apparent, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (Goochland, VA)
This was not fair. The base for this beer was a Mexican-Chili Spiced Imperial Stout that just won Silver at the Great American Beer Festival. While that is a big component of a firkin, it is also what is added. The chocolate was balanced and pronounced without being overpowering.
Earl Grey Brown Ale, Ardent Craft Ales (Richmond, VA)
Quickly not becoming a secret anymore in RVA, Ardent has been balancing traditional and experimental beers for a while. The English Brown Ale was smooth and malty, but the Earl Grey tea made it really pop. Plenty of that creamy tea flavor melded with the ale perfectly.
Cocoa Danzig Baltic Porter, Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, VA)
I don’t want to give the impression that ALL chocolate beers are great, but this one is a little different. The base beer is a Baltic Porter, which also imparts some great dark fruit notes. Now use a slightly dryer, dark cocoa, and it plays nice. It’s fun to go off kilter once and a while, but also knowing what works is more important.
Duet with Mangos, Alpine Beer Company (Alpine, CA)
I know this is a VA Beer Site, but I just can’t ignore this one. One of our groups favorite, Duet IPA is regarded as one of the top IPAs in California and thus the US. The mango was solid through out and danced around with the hops throughout.
Other Great Beers
Tripel w/ French Oak Chips and Lemon Peel, Starr Hill (Crozet, VA). Oak up front, citrus in the back.
Winter Scotch Ale w/ Bourbon oaked cubes, St. George Brewing Company (Hampton, VA). Very ‘oaked feel’ middle late with a great Scotch Ale.
Pocahoptas W/pineapple And Chilis, Center Of The Universe Brewing Company (Ashland, VA). Sevev Pot Chilis won this battle.
Bourbon Barrel Porter With Coconut, Alewerks Brewing Company (Williamsburg, VA). Lot of coconut need to push through this one.