Behind the Curtains of the Mini Real Ale Fest

Update April 26, 2013

All our firkins have been identified and we are set to go!  The last three to unveil themselves are pretty exciting.  First, Four Strings Brewing Company here in town let us know that they are bringing their White IPA, dry hopped with Falconer’s Flight and Citra.  This should be a nice floral, citrusy experience, especially as a firkin.

Then Eric Bean let us know that Columbus Brewing Company is releasing a firkin of their barrel-aged, coffee infused Steel Dawn.  Since this one is caffeinated, perhaps this one should be your first at the Fest, so you can keep your energy up to get through the rest of them.

Finally, we scored a special treat.  You know that there have been a bunch of new craft breweries planned and opened here in the Columbus metro area.  One of those, Actual Brewing Company, has not yet started their production runs.  They have been brewing many pilot studies, though.  One of them will be at the Fest.  It’s called Fat Julian, and it’s a Russian Imperial Stout.  This one’s been aging in a French red wine barrel.  I had a sample, and it’s good.  Real good.  I can’t wait to see what conditioning does to it.

We’ll all find out together on Saturday, May 4.


Note that all tribute art is now downloaded below.  To see the entire lineup, go here.  Click on any of the beers to find out more about them.  Since Actual isn’t in production yet, there’s no description of their beer; instead, we give you a short video of Fred Lee, owner and Brewmaster.  To purchase tickets. click here.


Our tenth annual Mini Real Ale Fest X is May 4 this year.  It’s a lot of fun that day, but it’s also a lot of work for us.  It’s really a labor of love, because if we counted the hours it takes to put on this event, it would probably never happen.

We start at the beginning of the year by contacting craft breweries that have participated in the past (and that have sent beers previously that we really dug.)  Then we consider new players in the arena and contact them.  This starts the lo-o-o-ong process of lining up the field.

You probably guessed that craft brewers are really busy.  That pint in front of you when you order your favorite represents a lot of work by a lot of people.  As you can imagine, none of us have unlimited resources, so when we ask a brewer to participate, we realize that we’re asking him (or her) to put forth extra effort to accommodate us.  Most brewers don’t do real ale routinely, but they know it’s cool, so they think out something that would be memorable.

Case in point is Founders Brewing Company sending us their Founders Porter this year, but with chocolate and Thai chili peppers added for that extra dimension you won’t get every day.  We never dictate what beer gets shipped to us.  We allow the creativity of the participants to take center stage.  For that, we’re thankful that they take the extra effort for our festival.

As a result, we sometimes don’t know what’s being sent until days before the fest.  We try to keep you informed by updating as soon as we get information.  We know you’d love to know the entire lineup before you commit to a ticket (and we wouldn’t mind knowing early either!) but that’s the nature of the beast.

Then there’s the issue that some of the breweries don’t even own a firkin.  In those cases, we ship them one of our empties (at our cost!) then pay for the full firkin when it arrives.  It’s not cheap to secure these awesome real ales.

On a parallel track, we set up the on line ticket sales process, print tickets, design the pint glass and program.  One last labor of love that we do is create the graphics so you know what beer is where at the fest.  We call these graphics “tribute art.”

When we first started doing the Mini, we’d ask the breweries for graphics that would support the beer they’re sending us.  Company logo, and artwork that’s already prepared, etc.  What we found was that it was harder to get this information than finding out what beer we’d get.  In many cases, artwork didn’t exist, because we were getting a “one-off” beer crafted just for our event.

“Tribute art” is created for each beer at the fest.  Like the beers, these posters are also “one-off,” to be used that day for three hours, probably never to be seen again.  When we find out what’s going to be in a firkin, and the brewery tells us the name, we get to work.

Usually whimsical, we design a poster that we hope will match the beer.  The more unusual the beer name, the more likely the poster will be unusual too.

As of this writing, we know about 14 firkins that will be here on May 4.  The artwork is complete for those beers, and we’re previewing them for you below.  We sincerely thank you for your support of the Mini Real Ale Fest at Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub.  If you didn’t appreciate our efforts, it wouldn’t be worth it for us to do it.  But we love putting on

the show for you and we love you.

Oh yeah, one more thing… we also managed to come up with something new for the Fest:  Cherry Zoltar, an Imperial Porter that’s been bourbon barrel-conditioned on Michigan cherries.







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199 Responses to Behind the Curtains of the Mini Real Ale Fest

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    Now that’s the kind of running alircte I can get my teeth into. For me, something light, but with a lot of character does the trick a nice IPA or something hoppy. Badger’s Hopping Hare was my post North Tyneside 10k tipple.Not sure you can beat a good from-the-hops home brew mind for running related brews, you can’t beat a good batch of Green Bullet hops for a light and tasty brew.

  2. Kerner says:

    Graham he was fun to talk to, but (at 65) made us feel as if we were lacking in enregy and enthusiasm. Force of nature is the phrase that springs to mind.Leigh DB’s theory is that, having learned to brew as a trainee at Courage, and then worked in pub and club management for several years, he had the perfect combination of skills.Phil the quality thing is fairly easily explained: he visited every pub during peak service at least once a fortnight and drank the beer, watched the staff in action, assessed the atmosphere. Slightly mad behaviour meant he hardly saw his family but highly effective.BT the Brewdog parallels are pretty clear, we think. He even got very close to doing an Equity for Punks’ Gary not sure about post-David Bruce, but up to 1988, most of them were full mash breweries. The first did use extract but, having seen the space where the brewery was housed, it’s easy to see why: basically a cupboard.Curmudgeon and Neil thanks for those example of newer brewpubs.StonoJr he didn’t mention Convivial but it’s on the potted brewing bio’ he gave us. We did talk mostly about Firkin, but he’s been involved in setting up/running so many ventures, it’d fill a book in its own right.

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