February is usually a great month for beer in Colorado. The Mountain Sun Pub (along with dozens of other breweries) turns the taps over to dark beers for Stout Month, Pliny the Younger triple IPA makes its annual brief visit from California, and Bristol Brewing hosts the Firkin Rendezvous in Colorado Springs.
This time around, however, Stout Month at Mountain Sun is canceled and Russian River isn't sending out any kegs of Pliny the Younger. As for the Firkin Rendezvous, it's being salvaged in a new form for 2021.
Rather than gathering for the festival, which usually brings together more than 100 different brands, this year numerous breweries will simply tap their own firkins on one or more days throughout the month. Renamed Firkin February for the time being, the tappings will once again raise money for the Colorado Brewers Guild.
Station 26, Strange Craft, Joyride, Epic, Jagged Mountain, 4 Noses, Wibby, Broken Compass, Horse & Dragon and Elevation have already announced firkin tappings and dates, and many more are expected to follow.
The Guild, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for Colorado craft breweries, had a rough 2020 after it had to cancel all of its signature festivals and events and lay off two of its three staff members — and 2021 could be just as bad depending on the trajectory of the pandemic, says executive director Shawnee Adelson.
"Just like breweries, we had to make changes to how we operate and adapt," she continues. Because of this and "the support of the beer community, we were able to ensure that the CBG is still here to promote, protect and propel Colorado's craft breweries — although we are not out of the woods and 2021 might be just as difficult for us. We don't anticipate being able to hold traditional beer festivals for at least the first half of the year."
That includes Collaboration Fest and the Colorado Brewers Rendezvous, though Adelson says the Guild is exploring options for potentially hosting those events later in the year if it is safe to do so.
This is why fundraisers, even smaller ones like Firkin February, are important. The Guild will hold a members-only golf tournament later this year and will also release a new passport program.
What are firkins? A firkin is actually a unit of volume roughly equivalent to eleven gallons of beer. But the word is also used to describe the diminutive wooden or metal casks that hold the beer. As Bristol explains on its website, "The cask conditioning of ales is a traditional British style of brewing that originated centuries ago, when publicans lived above their pubs and made a life’s work out of tending their beers."
The beer is fermented and naturally carbonated inside the casks, then poured either using gravity or a hand pump; it is usually not as effervescent as standard beer and is generally served at cellar temperature (somewhere between room and refrigerator temperature).
In the United States, brewers have also been using firkins to cask-condition special one-of-a-kind beers with other ingredients, such as chiles, chocolate, fruit, tea and even candy. To see the dates of scheduled and future firkin tappings, go to the Guild's website or see Westword's weekly Beer Calendar.
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