What is a Firkin and what is Firkin Fridays at Tally’s?
This Friday we are having a Firkin Friday with Lucett Brewing Company featuring a special tapping of Pineapple infused firkin made with Ride Again Pale Ale. We will be doing special food features to tie-in the tropical firkin theme.
So, what the firkin is a firkin?
You may not be aware of this, but not all beer comes in bottles or kegs. Some beer is served up in a special container called a firkin. A firkin, which is derived from the Middle Dutch word vierdekijn (meaning fourth), is actually a small barrel of beer that is one-fourth the size of a regular barrel of beer. As opposed to a standard beer barrel, which contains 117.34 liters or roughly 30.96 gallons, a firkin full of cask ale will contain a volume of 40.91 liters or 10.79 gallons. These volume sizes are provided in U.S.-based gallons.
Besides its smaller size, what makes the firkin so special?
It is the fact that the firkin is typically dedicated to housing cask-conditioned ale, or beer that has not been cold-filtered, pasteurized and carbonated by outside equipment. The ale beer that is housed inside the firkin is naturally carbonated by its resident yeast and its ingredients have not been processed in any way outside of simple fermentation by the yeast. In essence, firkin-contained Ride Again Pale Ale is comparable to the ale beers that were produced hundreds of years ago, before industrialization subjected them to processes that removed and/or killed the yeast, stripping the beer of many of its inherent vitamins (especially the B vitamins), minerals, and perhaps most importantly, taste.
How is the Ride Again Pale Ale produced inside of the firkin?
When wort, which is the cooked mixture of water, barley and hops, has yeast added into it, fermentation of that wort into beer begins. This process is typically termed primary fermentation. After primary fermentation has run its course (i.e., the yeast are spent), the immature beer is transferred to another vessel for secondary fermentation. In this way, the yeast can get a fresh start on the immature beer and raise its alcohol percentage. Once secondary fermentation is complete, the beer is filtered and bottled or kegged. In some cases, however, secondary fermentation of the immature beer occurs inside of a firkin instead of a vessel like a steel tank. This immature beer then takes on the characteristics of the firkin, such as its wood flavor, for example. Once secondary fermentation is completed inside the firkin, the beer matures there and is not transferred out for filtration, pasteurization and bottling or kegging. Once the beer has matured inside of a firkin, the discovery process begins. Because secondary fermentation and maturation of the beer have both occurred inside of the firkin with no outside testing conducted, there is just no telling how the final product might look, feel, or taste. Also, individual yeast strains work differently depending on the firkin wood type, temperature, ingredients, length of fermentation, etc. Thus, when tapping a finished firkin for the first time, you just never know what you’re going to get.
So, that’s it. Stop in and try it, enjoy the lake views and make it a firkin awesome day trip to White Bear Lake.