Sidetrack gathers a few of its finest friends for a classy Cask Festival

This looks like some serious firkin fun! (Image and photos all courtesy of Sidetrack Brewing)

Cask beer is dead. Long live cask beer.

If you still believe in the latter rather than the former, then we sure hope you snagged a ticket to this Saturday’s Alley Cask Festival at Sidetrack Brewing. As I sat down with co-owner Anne O’Neill and head brewer David Kimbell to talk all things cask, a text popped up to let us all know that the last tickets to this event had sold out.

So if you did not get a ticket, reading on will probably just make you sad. Then again, it might also inspire you to grab a ticket earlier next year.

“We’re planning on it being an annual (event),” Kimbell said.

Be brave and read on if you are without a ticket, or if you do have one, here is everything you need to know to best enjoy the festivities.

First off, I wanted to know just how long this event has been in planning.

“We’ve been talking about it for a couple years, and then COVID hit,” O’Neill said. “And, January came and we started talking about it again, we started getting the motion going.”

This will be the biggest on-site event at Sidetrack since prior to the arrival of the pandemic in March 2020.

“It’s hard, because we are limited on space,” O’Neill said. “It makes it a challenge to really do things here, but we decided if we wanted to do it bad enough, then we were going to figure out a way to do it.”

The casks will be set up under the shade structure, with either volunteer CNM students or brewery reps doing the pouring.

The event will kick off at noon and run until 4 p.m. The casks will be set up on the patio under the shade structure, and patrons will be able to move about outside and even go inside. The taproom will be closed to the public until 3 p.m., and then non-ticket holders can come and purchase pints from any casks that remain.

For ticket holders, you will receive a bag of tokens which will get you one sample from each brewery. A poker chip will be included and represent the ticket for the full pint of your favorite.

“We’re thinking of throwing some extra poker chips into some bags, and if someone gets the lucky draw they’ll get prizes,” O’Neill said.

Mighty Mike’s Meats will be on hand to keep everyone full of delicious barbecue, lest too many samples on an empty stomach go to anyone’s head.

Otherwise, it will just be a straightforward sampling event, with the twist being that all the beers will be served from casks.

“Unfortunately it’s kind of a dying thing, the cask,” Kimbell said. “Are we the only one in the state that has a beer engine? I think so. It’s a really cool method of serving beer.”

Sidetrack helped supply a few of the visiting breweries with casks, but most of the attendees had one stashed away. The guest breweries were free to bring any beer they wished in their firkins.

“You learn to appreciate the amount of flavors that pop,” Kimbell said. “The creamier, the smoother mouthfeel, there’s really nothing like it. It’s just a cool process to just naturally carbonate a beer rather than blast it with CO2, strip anything out of it, possibly. You don’t get as much of a carbonic bite that most of the beers on draft are going to give you. A cask-conditioned beer is much smoother, much creamier.”

The beer engine handles have long stood out on the Sidetrack bar top.

We asked for what will be in the 12 casks, and the following breweries responded. If the others let us know before Saturday, we will update this list.

  • Bathtub Row Brewing: Dark Matter Coffee Mild
  • Canteen Brewhouse: Exodus IPA
  • Ex Novo Brewing: TBA
  • Gravity Bound Brewing: TBA
  • La Cumbre Brewing: TBA
  • Marble Brewery: TBA
  • Palmer Brewery: Conspiracy Colsch dry-hopped with Tettnang
  • Ponderosa Brewing: Ripsaw Red dry-hopped with Altus
  • Second Street Brewery: Outlier Special Bitter with Ringwood yeast
  • Sidetrack Brewing: one of four stouts that they will choose just prior to the event
  • Steel Bender Brewyard: Cow Plow Brown
  • Turtle Mountain Brewing: Prickle Me Pink, a prickly pear sour with lactose and oats

“Casks are awesome, too, because it’s a great way to experiment to try things — dry hops, flavor additions, and if it sucks, you dump it,” Kimbell said.

We do love us some beer experimentation, and we love outdoor sampling festivals, and beer with barbecue, and just spending a Saturday afternoon with friends and tasty brews.

Thanks to Anne and Dave for the quick interview on a laid-back day (the wind aside, of course). May there be clear skies and only gentle breezes Saturday afternoon.

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

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