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Firkin Fest brings small-batch brews back to Gettysburg

It's no secret the York-Adams craft beer scene is flourishing.

"It's growing for certain," said Stephen Buenzow, partner at Something Wicked Brewing Company in Hanover. "When we have our tasting room open, we see a lot of customers from all over - Philadelphia, Baltimore. They're coming in because there's more than one craft brewery to visit in the area. It's bringing in people and growing that industry."

So it only makes sense for one of the local hops hotbeds to host a festival where brewers can flex their skills and ale-lovers can delight in new and interesting flavors.

The 2nd annual Gettysburg Firkin Fest, slated for April 9 at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, will showcase one-off, small batch beers from 16 breweries and cideries throughout Pennsylvania and beyond. Billed as an "All-VIP" event, tickets are limited to 250 guests, who will have the pleasure of sampling at least 18 firkins, as well as other craft brews.

"It's a really good opportunity to try out some good beer and talk to the brewers and the people that make it," Buenzow said.

Presented by the Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation and BrewFest Partners, a Wisconsin-based group that produces beer festivals around the country, the event is an offshoot of Gettysburg Brew Fest, first held in 2014. BrewFest Partners founder Curt Foreman said the first Firkin Fest, held last August, sold out, and he's confident they will see the same turnout for 2016.

When Foreman came to Gettysburg about three years ago, the town's craft beer presence hadn't quite taken root yet.

A couple breweries had sprouted up. The scene was changing, and BrewFest Partners took note.

"We knew from our past experiences that it was just a matter of time," Foreman said. "We believed in the historic setting and the ambiance the town had that (a festival) would work."

At Firkin Fest, guests will travel from booth-to-booth inside the seminary's historic Valentine Hall, sampling firkins and other craft beverages. Some of the Pennsylvania breweries participating include Something Wicked Brewing Company, Battlefield Brew Works, Troeg's Brewing Company, Stoudt's Brewing Company and Roy Pitz Brewing Company.

A firkin itself is a small barrel, Foreman said, and the word originates from Old England. Firkin beers vary from standard beer in that they are naturally carbonated, Foreman said, inside of small wooden or metal casks. Their ABV, or alcohol by volume percentage, can range between 5.5 to 12 percent, he said.

"Firkin beers are really one-offs," Foreman said. "You can try to replicate it, but the way they are naturally produced, it's not the same beer every time you make it. It's cask-conditioned. It gives it more of an earthy, natural, robust flavor."

Tickets cost $79 and are limited to 250 guests. Designated driver tickets cost $25, and are limited to 30 guests. Attendees will receive a sampling glass and a complimentary tour of the Seminary Ridge Museum with their admission.

Firkin Fest serves as a fundraiser for the museum, which features an abundance of Civil War exhibits and educational programs.

"Every little bit helps and this really highlights the resources we have," said Dru Neil, marketing and communications director of the museum.

Entertainment will be provided by local musician Tom Jolin. Food is also included with admission, but "the rock star here is really the beer," Foreman said.

"Most of the breweries are bringing different beers than they brought last year," he said. "It's not a carbon copy of the year before."

If you can't make it to Gettysburg Firkin Fest, fear not - Gettysburg Brew Fest returns Aug. 20.

If you go

What: Gettysburg Firkin Fest

When: 6 to 9 p.m., April 9

Where: The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg

Tickets: $79; $25 for designated drivers 

For details, visit