Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Firkin Fest makes for a fine afternoon

Image credits: All images/logos the property of their respective owners.

After what's seemed like an endless string of rainy days, the skies cleared this past Saturday, just in time for the inaugural North Texas Firkin Fest. Put on by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the event was held at Fanatics Pavilion on the picnic grounds just south of Globe Life Park in Arlington.

Fifteen breweries poured thirty different beers, most (but not all) of which were cask-conditioned rarities that may or may not see the light of day again. Among the varied tastes were a multitude of dry-hopped delicacies, as well as beers featuring all manner of herb, spice and fruit infusions. Personal favorites included Danko Colada from Cedar Creek, Capt'n Fantastic from Deep Ellum and Ethiopian Rapture from Rabbit Hole, as well as the two sour concoctions from the Collective Brewing Project (American Sour Red, Petite Golden Sour with Blueberries).

A standard ticket went for $35, but in my view if you were planning to attend, VIP was the way to go. The jump from $35 to $70 included a t-shirt, 32-ounce growler and early entry to the event. The latter being especially valuable since servers didn't start collecting drink tickets until after the gates opened for general admission. In other words, samples were unlimited for the first full hour.

Regarding the venue, in light of recent rainfall totals, the pavilion was an ideal spot to set up given its concrete foundation. Walking in, I couldn't help remembering an instance at another local festival a few years back, where the rain-soaked ground gave way and sent a table of firkins crashing to the ground. Beyond that, though, the space was covered (shade), there were actual restrooms (i.e. no porta-potties) and there was even a picnic table or two should you wish to sit for a spell out away from the crowd.

Considering any negatives, at least for me complaints were few. Casks were kept cool with bags of ice, which was fine considering the mild temperature, but something that could have been an issue on a warmer day. Beer and restroom lines were short thanks to the limited ticket sales, and there was more than enough parking to go around. In fact, while the website claimed there would be a $5 charge for parking, the attendant didn't ask me for single cent, simply pointing me in the right direction and sending me on my way.

As for whether I would attend another Firkin Fest, the simple answer is yes. It was an enjoyable small-scale gathering which featured a variety of unique tastes in a setting designed to celebrate Texas beer. Sure we'd like to see more breweries and more beer, but that's something we say in association with most any first-time festival. Assuming the event will continue, it's assumed growth will come in time, and when it does perhaps more North Texas breweries will participate. Either way, I for one hope there are more Firkin Fests in our future.

Beer and brewery breakdown:

     Brewery Attendance
     North Texas - 12
     Austin/Blanco - 2
     Houston - 1

        Top Firkin Flavors
Dry-hopped - 9
Fruit infusions - 7
Coffee - 3

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