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Heavy Seas and Dogfish Head Brewery Tours, Makin a Firkin, and other nonsense

Over the weekend I had the incredible opportunity to visit some amazing craft breweries in Balitmore and Milton.  Dogfish Head, and Heavy Seas. In my opinion they make some of the best craft beer on the market, and this trip was really special and very informative, I got to dry hop a firkin at heavy seas, and learn about the whole firkin process, and its history as well as taste some special brew pub exclusives at Dogfish as well as tour their facility.

Heavy Seas was the Initial stop on my whirlwind tour of the East Coast.  A small but very capable brewing company, that appreciates the old world styles of making and aging beer, they are very concerned about small production, barrel aging and new firkin program.  They are very involved in CAMRA or the campaign for real ale.  As taken from their website

“CAMRA campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights. We are an independent, voluntary organisation with over 100,000 members and have been described as the most successful consumer group in Europe. CAMRA promotes good-quality real ale and pubs, as well as acting as the consumer’s champion in relation to the UK and European beer and drinks industry. We aim to:

  1. Protect and improve consumer rights
  2. Promote quality, choice and value for money
  3. Support the public house as a focus of community life
  4. Campaign for greater appreciation of traditional beers, ciders and perries as part of our national heritage and culture
  5. Seek improvements in all licensed premises and throughout the brewing industry

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, is an independent, voluntary, consumer organisation which campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights.

Membership is open to all individuals although corporate entities such as breweries and pubs are not members; we currently have over 120,000 individual members.CAMRA is governed by a voluntary unpaid national executive, elected by the membership. We have a branch structure which means that all members can join a local CAMRA branch and campaign and socialise locally. There are around 200 branches covering the UK and many of the branches run local beer festivals, publish local newsletters and run social events to pubs and breweries.Although we are a volunteer-led organisation there is also a small professional staff of twenty five responsible for central campaigning, research, membership services, publishing, marketing and administration.CAMRA is financed through membership subscriptions, sales of products such as books and sweatshirts, and from the proceeds of beer festivals. We are a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee and our accounts are lodged annually with Companies House.”

You can visit them at I suggest you do !!!
Upon arrival we were welcomed by the owner with seasonal brew pub exclusives, including the Heavy Seas Golden Ale, and Davy Jones Lager

The Gold Ale was one of my favorites !Nice, rich, complex and refreshingApprox 4.5% ABVDeep gold in color with floral and spicy hop aromas. Brewed with pale, carmel, and Munich malts balanced with Cascade, Centennial and Hersbrucker hops. Well rounded, fruity and complex. Pairs well with salads, mild cheeses and pulled pork BBQ.   2010 GABF Medal Winner  ~  2010 Gold Award, World Beer Cup

The Davy Jones Lager is a very interesting interpretation of a Lager. Spicy  Its an imperial Lager, and moreover techincally a Cream Ale….Where you at Genny!!!!

Approx. 7% ABV

Fermented using lager yeast at ‘ale’ temperatures then slowly lowered down to ‘lager’, taking the yeast from the top down to the depths of Davy Jones’ locker.

After those great brews We took the tour with a glass of Marzen in hand.  The Marzen was a traditional amber lager brewed with German spirit with toasty malt and a sweeter finish, with some horseradish cheese this was definitly a winner.

After the tour we had a great East Coast lunch, and were delightfully informed that we would be learning the history of the firkin, and then dry hopping and filling our own firkins !!!

So, What the Firk is a Firkin?

Firkin : definition:

firkin is an old English unit of volume. The name is derived from the Middle Dutch word vierdekijn, which means fourth, i.e. a quarter of a full-size barrel.

Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
— Robert Frost, “Directive”

For beer and ale a firkin is equal to nine imperial gallons, seventy-two pints, or a quarter of a barrel (40.91481 litres). Casks in this size (themselves called firkins) are the most common container for cask ale. A firkin is equal to half a kilderkin.

For wine the firkin had a larger size, namely a third of a tun. A tun being 210 gallons in the UK and 252 fluid gallons in the US, thus a wine firkin is about 318 l (318.226 or 317.975). It is also called tertian or, preferably, puncheon (in the US also shortened to pon).

Butter and soap used to be sold by the firkin, too. In these cases it was a measure of weight, instead of volume: e.g., 56 lb(25.4 kg) and 64 lb (29.0 kg) respectively.

The term firkin is currently used to refer to antique wooden buckets, usually with wood handle and lid, about 10 inches (250 mm) high and 10 inches in diameter (about 10l or 2-3 dry gallons in capacity), formerly used to store sugar and other items.

The firkin (a firkin of water) is the base unit of mass in the humorous FFF System.

Basically a Firkin is a 9 gallon keg used to age beer, and also cask condition it.  Cask condition meaning secondary fermentation takes place in the keg itself, and additionally it is desgined to pour and serve beer, without the use of additional Co2.  This is part of the “campaign for real ale”, as this is the most ancient and first way of making beer prior to modern kegs.

Here is what we used…

10.5 gallons Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPAB

3oz. Maryland Citra Hops

3oz. Maryland Pallisade Hops

2oz. Simcoe

a pinch of dried lemon, lime, and orange peel

2 stems of eucalyptus wood

a bushel of lemon basil

…. This Post will continue soon!!! check back for the conclusion!!!!!

Categories: Beer, Brew Pubs, Breweries, Home Brewing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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