Pale Ale Festival 2014
Last weekend downtown Odense was packed with hop lovers for local beer bar, Christian Firtal's, annual Pale Ale Festival. If you haven't heard of it before, Christian Firtal is one of Odense's best know beer bars. One long weekend every year they pack away the well rounded selection of craft beers they always have on tap, and load every faucet up with bitter delights. This is not limited only too IPAs and Pale Ales, but takes in styles such as saison, Belgian ales, and the oxymoron of the black IPA (a favorite of mine to try).
This year the festival tried to get other local bars involved. Irish Pub, Sir Club and the cities other well known beer establishment Carlsens Kvarter all donated at least one tap to the theme of the festival. A special beer, Festival Pale Ale, was brewed specifically to commemorate the festival, by new local brewer Munkebo Mikrobryg. Festival Pale Ale was brewed to be an entry level pale ale for those used to the more fizzy yellow spectrum of beer. This was put on at some of the other bars and restaurants to tie them into the festival. A smart move to brew a low IBU lager-ish pale ale as a gateway into the rest of the festival. While not a beer for me, it served to show that the festival was thinking about the non-hop heads looking to enjoy the energy of the festival without the bitter aftertaste.
Speaking of Munkebo Mikrobryg, they brewed four specialty pale ales (or more accurately 3 pale ales and a dark hoppy lager) to be released one each day of the festival. By getting a new brewery, known for their experiments, to make something for each day they created a cool buzz and a local feeling. I unfortunately missed out on 3 of the four experiments. Seemed I was always there too early or too late. I can always hope they will get a production run though.
An empty storefront next to Chirstian Firtal was taken over and set up as a special bar. The six or so taps in this mini Firtal's were dedicated to pouring pints (and pints only) of the festivals most sessionable beers only. Anything under 6% alcohol was fair game in here, and included a few beers not available (to my knowledge) on the main board for tasting. The beers served here were also local leaning, with half the board or more being produced on the Island of Fyn by breweries such as Ugly Duck, Munkebo, and Midtfyns. My only problem here being that if you wanted to try any of these beers, to my knowledge, you had to buy a whole pint. This was especially annoying when the world premiere rye pale, Beeromancer, from Djævlebryg, was on the pint board. We solved this by messily pouring a pint out into three tasters.
Another innovation for this year came in the form of a total tap switch at 6 P.M. each night. This was great for people like me who were cherry picking interesting beers off the board. After six there was a whole new board of beer to choose from, which kept it interesting. I was present inside the bar for one such switch. I was told they were getting better and better each night and were trying a personal best of 5 minutes to change every single tap and re-write the board. It certainly was something interesting to see.
Of course that would bring us to the actual selection of beers. This years focus was put mostly on lower alcohol beers, as opposed to other years when double IPAs and other high alcohol hop-bombs would dominate. I thought this was a great idea! Lets be honest, how many double IPAs can you drink in a row before you start to get pallet shock? Not only did this focus on sessionability allow for more beers to be tasted and enjoyed, but also showed off a new trend in low ABV of beers that I think will soon be all rage in the Danish beer scene.
Lots of different breweries were represented, with a pleasing lean towards Danish craft breweries. I was especially pleased to see a collection of beers from Flying Couch, which I had been very interested in trying. Other beers that stood out to me were Peter, Pale and Mary from Mikkeller, and of course an absolute personal favorite from home All Day IPA from Founders. I did have a least favorite beer as well. I am not going to name names, but it started with a number and ended with a 9. So other then a few bad apples I liked most of the beers and was overall impressed with the selection the organizers were able to put together.
The weather this year was beyond fantastic for the whole long weekend. I am sure this contributed to the massive number of people that attended each day. I was told a record amount of beer was sold, which I believe since lines often stretched out the door. It's good that the festival is trying to expand, as it already completely takes up the area of Firtals in Vintapperstræde. In the future the hope is to make Odense the center of the hoppy universe for one day a year. After seeing the growth from last year to this year, and talking with the organisers about their big plans, I think it's safe to say there is a good chance one day all of Odense's streets could run rich with green gold.