Author Topic: Details on Tapping a Firkin  (Read 1026 times)

Offline tomsawyer

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Details on Tapping a Firkin
« on: December 18, 2013, 11:59:57 AM »
Our local distributor's craft beer specialist is bringing a couple of firkins to a local bar over the next two weeks, and I've been asked to do the honors of tapping them.  I proceeded to watch a few videos and sometimes they explode with foam and other times there is no spillage.  I guess my question is, how does one go about this?  I am wondering if placing the spile in the shive first won't prevent the blast of foam when hammering in the spigot?  I'm also wondering whether it isn't more fun to do it the other way and make a splash, literally?

The one this Saturday night is Tallgrass Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat, and on Dec. 28th we have Abita  Thomas Handy barrel-aged Winter ale.

And yes this is a bit of a brag.  This guy with the distributor is new and he's really twisting arms to get some new stuff in the local places.  I think its working too, exciting to see craft beer finally hit this little berg.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline dbeechum

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2013, 12:35:53 PM »
Technically, you're supposed to allow the casks to settle first and then vent them with a venting spile for a few hours and then you hammer in the tap.

Hammering in the tap immediately is asking for trouble.
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Offline singletrack brewer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2013, 12:39:55 PM »
It's best to spile the firkins prior to tapping to alleviate the pressure in the firkin preventing a foamy mess and wasted beer.  There are two methods I know of that are used.  One is to use a soft spile in the shive and replace it with the hard spile once it's done fobbing.  The other is to knock a hard spile in and let it rest for a few days to a week.  Obviously the soft spile method is faster.  Just remember to use a hard spile to pierce the shive before popping in the soft spile.  Hope this helps.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2013, 12:43:48 PM by singletrack brewer »
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2013, 12:50:01 PM »
He's going to set up the casks the night before so they'll settle for 24 hr.  I will ask him if he's going to hammer in the hard spile then or wait.  If he isn't doing that ahead of time I'll try to get there early and do it.

Thats got to be what people are doing wrong in all the crazy tapping videos on Youtube.  No spile at all, or just the hard spile.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline singletrack brewer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2013, 12:54:20 PM »
Cool, you can probably soft spile them once they are in place.  They will fob for a bit, just monitor them and keep wiping the spile off.  You don't have to wait for the fobbing to stop either, once it slows considerably you can proceed with the hard spile.  You'll know if you've done it correctly when you replace the soft spile, there will be a little puff when you remove it. 
Chris
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2013, 01:04:55 PM »
So I want to strike the shive once with the hard spile then tap in the soft spile and wait for it to stop fobbing, then switch to the hard spile to maintain just a bit of positive pressure?  I suppose I remove the hard spile when we tap and dispense?

Had to look up what fobbing meant, mostly got it from the context.  Also saw the term "fretting" used for beer, so I learned two new words today!
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2013, 01:52:24 PM »
I always put the hard spile in first and do the venting spile if the pressure gets too low or a vacuum starts in firkin and you can't pull/pour any more beer.

A weighted mallet works best. You should be able to do it with minimal foaming as long as the keg isn't too over carbonated. Put a towel over the tap before you pop it in to reduce spray. Be sure to carry an extra keystone with you in case you break it during tapping, which has happened to me.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2013, 04:12:07 PM »
Crazy Brits. Can't y'all speak proper English? And quit fobbing your soft spile or else you'll end up with a hard spile and go firkin blind!

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Offline singletrack brewer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2013, 05:12:32 AM »
Tom, here is a link that has a little more info for you in terms of spiling and serving:
http://www.classiccitybrew.com/caskale.html
Chris
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2013, 07:26:36 AM »
Thanks for the humor erock, firkins are fodder for a lot of jokes (or is that fobber?)  GREATLY appreciate the link single.  It answers my additional questions nicely.  We're setting the cask up today at 5PM and I told him we would pound in a spile at this time.  Now I know we'll need pliers too.  I have a cool wood mallet although I do think a deadblow hammer might be more efficient.

I found out last night that the firkin of Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat also has ancho, chipotle, jalapeno and chocolate in it.  Cool!  The low heat and hint of smoke should complement the sweetness of the vanilla and the beer.  Much more interesting in my mind than just adding vanilla to a porter/sweet stout or whatever Buffalo Sweat is.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline singletrack brewer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2013, 12:42:03 PM »
If your wood mallet has a good heft to it you could probably use that for tapping otherwise the deadblow would definitely work well. 
Chris
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Online dkfick

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2013, 12:48:18 PM »
I've used other mallets with my cask... There is just something fundamentally 'better' with using a nice wooden mallet when tapping a cask ;-)
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2013, 01:29:00 PM »
Exactly.

I was watching some firkin tapping videos on Youtube and one guy used a piece of 2x4, I thought wow thats poor planning.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2013, 07:02:35 AM »
Worked like a charm, beer was fantastic.  Had a dark chocolate flavor and some vanilla sweetness, plus a low lingering heat from the peppers.  The head was perfect, generous creamy tan and long-lasting.  The near-room temp let the malt shine.

When I tapped in the spile it didn't really fob at all so I was worried about the carbonation, but for no reason.


http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jO9I9QDJk4A&feature=c4-feed-u
« Last Edit: December 22, 2013, 07:09:22 AM by tomsawyer »
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline singletrack brewer

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Re: Details on Tapping a Firkin
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2013, 04:50:59 AM »
Glad everything went well and thanks for posting the video.
Chris
Brewer, Push Brewing Co