Laura’s Little Corner at Hops & Vine
by Laura Yale
As days grow slightly longer and a new decade has begun, I welcome you, my dear readers, to my little corner at Hops and Vine. On this latest adventure along our Northeastern Pennsylvania ale and wine trail, we have a couple of winter months upon us which means a lot of hard work in the fields for both industries is now paying off behind the scenes. Both brew masters and winemakers are very busy concocting libations to tantalize our tastes in 2020 in order to keep up with supply and demand. And lucky for us all, they are off to a phenomenal start!
Like winter turns to spring and the trees and flowers begin to bud, the local beer and wine industry just blossoms this time of year by branching out of the norm and showcasing their creativity. Our brewers are taking their craft to the next level by using a variety of different methods to develop multiple varieties of stouts, the finest of English-style brown ales, chocolate lagers, and many infused beer combinations while our vintners are introducing us to some amazing award winning reds, elderberry wines, and other berry wines which are perfect for this time of year – especially with the coming of both Valentine’s and St Patrick’s Day.
Some of these creations are seasonal, some are developed for fun, some for customer feedback but all of them are about truly pleasing the ever-changing palate of the consumer. I am in awe of what is currently being produced right in our own backyard and just like our local purveyors I am growing with knowledge by visiting with them along my way.
The most interesting lesson among my travels comes from my friends in the beer industry and how just attending a few regional brewery events called “Firkin Fridays” opened me to a whole new vocabulary of craft brewing terminology. It had me asking all kinds of questions such as, “What is a firkin, how is it used, and what is its significance?” Those few simple inquiries developed into full conversations and a combination of terms that are linked primarily to the beer vessel itself and how the brew is processed. So what exactly is a firkin, you ask? Join me as I delve into a wee bit of beer history and what I have learned.
A firkin is actually a type of smaller beer cask based on the Middle Dutch word vierdekijn meaning “fourth” that dates back to the mid-15th century as an ale vessel. The beer produced in firkins differs from the traditional beer we are used to in kegs as it is made without carbon dioxide and is not pressurized so it has no fizzy taste or help to move it through the tap lines. Firkin’s brewing contents are unpasteurized and conditioned in the firkin by the brew master’s addition of live yeast and a layering of flavors to the cask which all ferment in the closed vessel at around 55 degrees. Once the process is complete, a tap much like a faucet is driven into the side of firkin and the beer is expelled by the use of gravity alone and served room temperature for no more than 48 hours. These small batches are rich not only in flavor but in history. Isn’t it so amazing the same methods of crafting beer from centuries ago are being done locally?
This journey has been so refreshing! Between all the information I have gathered and have been studying and the lasting memories made, it was an absolute pleasure! I know it will be for you all too! So please join me and carve your own path down our local wine and ale trail with your family and friends. With the extraordinary flavors popping up everywhere, you can surely tell Spring is definitely in the air!
Hope to see you all next time at Laura’s Little Corner at Hops and Vine! Until we meet again, Cheers!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Laura Yale and her husband, Dan, are the long-time owners of The Fireplace Restaurant, 6157 US-6, Tunkhannock, PA 18657. The restaurant proudly features a variety of local wines & beers, the artwork of local artists throughout, and locally-sourced foods as much as possible. The Fireplace Restaurant is open 11am-10pm daily, until 11pm Fridays and Saturdays.