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What’s a frickin’ Firkin? Beer drinkers should know

on 27/02/14 at 12:26 pm


indexYou 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 Real Ale (i.e., 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 Real 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.