Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just Firkin Around

One of the joys of the New Old Lompoc is that I often have the chance to play around with different processes that my brethren at 5Q don't have the time for. Over the last few months I've become increasingly interested in cask conditioning and have filled a few firkins with varying degrees of success.( Some of you may have seen the beer shower that drenched me while tapping a firkin at our 15th Anniversary party in August)

Surprisingly there seems to be very little information out there on cask beer production. I ordered a copy of Patrick O'Neil's "Cellarmanship" but unfortunately it deals mostly with cask beer once it leaves the brewery. After talking with a bunch of different local brewers on the topic (as any brewer's spouse can tell you, we really do talk about beer all the time) I found that there are really two basic methods; racking still fermenting beer into the firkin or priming brite beer with some sugar source and additional yeast. To this point I've opted for the first option, attempting to capture the beer at its sweet spot. As you might suspect, this method, though more traditional, is by nature kind of hit and miss.

Why do I bring this up now? Twice a year the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, Northwest District, holds a 2 day conference that feature lectures, sensory panels, and overall discussion on a particular topic. Recent conferences have focused on topics as varied as barrel aging, water, the history and variety of porter and belgian yeasts. The upcoming fall conference next weekend in Seattle focuses entirely on cask beer. Brewers are encouraged to bring cask beer for a Friday night tasting and as a result we volunteered to bring a firkin. After much discussion between Head Brewer Dave Fleming and myself we decided to offer up 2 firkins, each using a different cask conditioning method.

Yesterday I filled the first of the two firkins with the base porter for our Holiday Cheer direct from the primary fermenter. My task for today, along with brewing another batch of C-Sons Greetings, is to fill and prime the second firkin. For this I'll be using LSD from one of our conditioning tanks and about 100 grams of corn sugar as the priming sugar. Both firkins will sit until Monday at around 60 degrees before being moved to our cellar where a slightly lower temperature will hopefully help with CO2 uptake. It should be an interesting (and delicious) experiment and with the knowledge I hope to gain from the experience, coupled with the content of next weekends conference should result in more regular firkin tappings at our various pubs with a much higher degree of success and consistency. I'll post some pictures following the conference and look for more posts in the future on our continuing cask beer adventures. Until next time, Cheers!


  1. Nice post, Zach! If you get a chance to talk with Ted Sobel at Brewers Union, he's super-opinionated about cask beer, and eager to advise people to get it set up exactly how he thinks it should be.

  2. Thanks for my first comment Bill. I've been to Brewers Union and talked with Ted briefly a few times. He's one of the presenters at the conference this weekend and I look forward to hearing more about what he has to say along with the other presenters. Cheers!