Hand-pumps, casks, firkins, and real ale. If these terms sound foreign, then all the more reason to attend this weekend's 10th Annual Bay Area Firkin Fest at Triple Rock.
Around 20 Bay Area breweries will contribute 'real ale' -- brews poured from a cask or 'firkin'. This traditional method of beer service takes advantage of yeast added straight to the serving vessel, which creates a secondary fermentation without the need for forced CO2 carbonation. If you've seen bartenders at Toronado
yanking away at an antique-looking beer contraption, they were pulling a pint of cask beer.
The result of the cask-conditioning process is a lighter, less prickly carbonation. These brews are also served at room temperature or slightly cooler. While the relative lack of effervescence and warmer serving temp may catch you off guard, this style of beer service allows subtle flavors to come to the fore. The cask beer is associated with traditional beer styles such as English milds and bitters, but the technique is also ripe for experimentation. Upon filling a cask, it's easy for a brewer to add flavor and aroma boosting ingredients to the mix. Cask ales infused with fruits, spices and fresh hops are becoming increasingly common.
Expect to sample cask ales from both ends of the spectrum on Saturday. Regardless of your preferences, it's bound to be a firkin good time:
10th Annual Bay Area Firkin Festival
Where: Triple Rock Brewery, 1920 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 843-2739
When: Saturday, April 7, 11:30am
Cost: $20 for commemorative glass and four pours, $4 for additional pours
What: Cask brews from the likes of Drake's, Marin Brewing, Bear Republic and many more. Enjoy traditional cask styles such as Old Brick Bitter from Dying Vines as well as experimental offerings such as 21st Amendment's Old Glory imperial red ale aged in Maker's Mark barrels.
1920 Shattuck, Berkeley, CA