At Year Five, Firkfest Blurs the Lines Between Beer and Cocktails

Firkfest 2018 Featured Beer Cocktails among 55 Casks of tropical beers. Photo used with permission: OC Family Photo
Good Beer’s Pineapple IPA cocktail at Firkfest – photo used with permission Cherie Williams

On the 200-foot boardwalk at Anaheim’s Farmers Park, 50 or so beers brought to Firkfest play tribute to classic tiki cocktails. One of them, made by Brandon Fender of Santa Ana’s Good Beer Company isn’t your normal beerfest pour. After adding a fresh firkin pour of pineapple- and honey-infused IPA, he starts building a drink: three droppers of grenadine,  a fresh lime wedge garnish, a cocktail umbrella, and a straw to finish. This isn’t your average beer festival.

A few moments later, a friend hands me a dark-fizzy drink and says, “dude,” in a true SoCal speechless moment. I take a sip, and say, “DUDE!” back. The drink is a beer cocktail, with actual rum, created by The Blind Pig’s Ryan Autry who worked with local Unsung Brewery on the drink. “We’re doing a riff on a coffee-colada with the coffee and toasty biscuit notes from Unsung’s Propellerhead Coffee Amber, then I add coconut, pineapple, lime, and Angostura bitters,” says Autry. “I went with Propellerhead because I’ve thrown coffee flavors into a few of my tiki cocktails over the years and love how they mix so well with tropical fruit flavors.” 

The Orange County Bartenders Cabinet tent at Firkfest. Photo used with permission by John Holzer

Every hour of this tiki beer festival, a new beer cocktail is released from the OC Bartenders Cabinet, a local group aimed at bartender and public education.

Vaca’s David Saenz teamed up with Chapman Crafted Beer using the brewery’s dry stout. “Going through their lineup I saw a few directions to take,” says Saenz“after talking with David Hall and head brewer Brian Thorson, we thought going dark would be a nice option, bringing focus on the beer’s coffee notes and giving it a tiki twist. Using falernum, bitters, and fresh citrus, we have a tasty take on some of tiki’s most classic flavor profiles.” 

Jason Schiffer of 320 Main hands out his Mai Tai-inspired beer cocktail – photo OC Family Photo

320 Main’s Jason Schiffer worked with his Seal Beach neighbor, Beachwood, for his cocktail, making a mai tai-inspired drink. “Beachwood has been our welcoming neighbor ever since we opened in Seal Beach,” says Schiffer. “I sat down with Ryan Fields (head blender at Beachwood Blendery) and tasted through their lineup…Why We’re Here (Black Lime) and Careful With That Aprium Eugene just screamed mai tai to me. The drink is simple: rum, lime, Orgeat (almond syrup), Curacao, and sugar. To build it, we’re using Cana Brava 7 year, Campari, lime, Orgeat, and topping with both beers.” 

The Tiki Gods approved of the event!

Playground’s Brock Woosley and Jarred Dooley also got in on the action, not only creating a cocktail, but collaborating on a cask with Noble Ale Works. “It’s actually a riff on a coffee beverage from Hopper and Burr and a play on a cocktail that we’ve made at Playground,” says Dooley. Brock’s cocktail used Gunwhale Ale’s War Bonnet Saison with raspberry and hibiscus, then mixed with Cana Brava Rum, cinnamon, and lime bitters.

Be sure to follow the Orange County Bartenders Cabinet for future events they take part in…your taste buds will thank you! 


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