How To Tap a Firkin

Photo Courtesy of WTTW Chicago

A firkin, also known as a pin, is a small cask that was designed primarily to house liquids, butter, or fish. Its name is derived from the Middle Dutch word vierdekijn, meaning fourth. A firkin is about 1/4 the size of a regular barrel of beer, holding approximately 41 liters or 11 gallons.

A firkin is typically the receptacle for what’s known as Real Ale, or cask-conditioned ale. This is beer that has not been cold-filtered, pasteurized or carbonated by any sort of outside equipment. Rather, the beer is naturally carbonated by its resident yeast and the beer’s ingredients have not been processed in any way other than simple fermentation by the yeast.

If you’re about to tap your firkin, it means the party is about to begin! Here’s how to tap your firkin to gain access to the liquid goodness awaiting inside:

1) Place the firkin on the floor vertically. It is also possible to tap your firkin with it resting on a surface or in its holding rack horizontally. For best results, have a friend hold the firkin in place to make your tapping job easier.

2) With the spout removed, set your tap in the closed position.

3) Hold tap in the rubber bung hole, or keystone hole, with the cone end downwards (envision driving a tent stake into the ground).

4) Pound the tap through the keystone hole with a wooden or rubber mallet. Be sure that the seal is broken, but pound it in so it will be held firmly in place.

5) Place cask in its home for the evening. Use a cradle rack or wooden blocks to ensure it stays stationary and doesn’t try to roll away on you.

6) Knock the plastic spile, or peg, through the center of the top bung hole. You do not want to drive the spile all the way in – tap it in just enough to break the seal, giving yourself the ability to pull it out momentarily.

7) If ready to serve, re-apply your spout and turn to pour delicious beer. Close when glass has reached desired level of enjoyment.

8. Release the spile peg from the top bung hole while serving to allow air in.. Keep spile peg pressed in when not serving to keep unwanted air out.

Things to Keep In Mind With Your Firkin:

  • Store cask in a cool place
  • Whenever possible, do not move firkin once tapped
  • Have a cloth ready in case of any leakage during tapping
  • Bright beer (beer that’s ready to drink from firkin immediately upon tapping) typically lasts seven days unopened and three once tapped. Any beer with sediment will require knocking in the spile peg and letting rest for a minimum of 24 hours so beer can clear.




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