With Ratatat and Haiku Salut charming the critical elite of the indie world, and the Grateful Dead banging out its best shows since the 80s, perhaps our odd obsession with “singing” is beginning to wane. Hence it’s worth mulling over how vocal music became dominant in the first place. One reason is technological. The earliest recording devices were muddled by drums and instruments, but not voices. So the earliest recordings were of songs. By the time more stable devices were invented, recorded vocal music had an immense following, and now we have Drake.
A similar case could be made for the popularity of yellow beer. Pilsner Urquell, the delicious wellspring for so much swill, was invented just as the Industrial Revolution crescendoed. Sex in a rowboat, or American Beer, benefited greatly from being born at the right time. As the gush of saffron suds flowed forward, anything that didn’t increase the speed and scale of production was unceremoniously sacrificed. Old technologies were deleted like drunken DMs. Beer delivery systems like firkins were sent to the museum to gather dust like a bust of Henry V, and there they remained until the craft beer revolution rallied the troops into the breach once more.
What’s a firkin? A firkin is a beer on the move. In a firkin barrel, the yeast is alive so the beer evolves. A firkin beer grows until the final drip has been spigoted out. A firkin beer is like the red storm of Jupiter, like the ball on Orion’s Belt, like Will Smith’s ego, like some infinitely complex jewel. The inside of a firkin barrel is a universe in itself, and the beer drinker’s tongue is like Osmosis Jones, poking its way into every speck and cranny.
As Nicholas Curtis of O’Connor Brewing tells me, “Firkins are a great way to bring about the rustic charm of craft beer. Traditionally, firkins were used as a way of pouring beer before there were tap systems. These earliest forms of beer were normally lightly carbed and slightly cool.” Along with Smartmouth, St. George, Back Bay, and Alewerks, O’Connor will pin a firkin at the Downtown Hampton Block Party on Saturday, August 29. They’ll be pouring “Red Nun, which is a true to style Irish Red Ale named after the buoys that help guide ships back to port. Red Nun utilizes a blend of crystal and chocolate malts for a sturdy, malty backbone that is well balanced, easy drinking, and all around beautiful.”
The reason Bud Light is so popular is it tastes the same in every place at once. Each day you can trace the clone army of watery faux-pilsners popping up and down the coasts as the Earth turns and each successive time zone heads to the pub. This coming Saturday you’ll be able to have two versions of the same beer poured from the same barrel. You’ll be able to sample beers that taste like themselves and no others, and beers with layers of mystery to investigate. Porter Hardy of Smartmouth tells me they’ll be sending a pin of Cowcatcher Milk Stout with mint and cocoa, and the fine folks at St. George say they’ll be sending their Golden Ale with citrus and lemon peel and two kinds of hops: cascade and centennial. Back Bay will be sending their Amber Ale with toasted french oak chips.
The Fixx, best known for 1983’s “One Thing Leads to Another,” will continue an excellent season of music, programed by Jason Bruner. Opening bands the Dharma Initiative and Dahus create the sort of electic bill that has been SOP as of late. This summer Queen’s Way has caught tunes from Fishbone, Tim Reynolds, Sons of Bill, Love Canon, POA, and the DJ Williams Projekt. Coming in September will be Ricky Skaggs. Blackwater BBQ will bring their no-sauce-necessary pork, and y'all can help Hampton Vice Mayor Linda Curtis, Kristi Michael from 96X, and myself judge which beer will be the best.
Infinite-refill tasting tickets to this weekend's first ever Firk Off are of a limited quantity and can be purchased by clicking here.