First Firkin Friday at the Rhino


On Friday May 6, Missoulians will flock downtown for the monthly “First Friday” festivities, but for the Rhino bar (158 Ryman) it will mark their second “First Firkin Friday.” For the May event, the crew will be featuring a Cream Ale from Blackfoot River Brewing Co.

Participants can show up to the Rhino between 5 – 8 p.m., pay $5 and be treated to three carefully selected 7 oz. pours of beer, including a draw from the firkin of Cream Ale, as well as some common “First Friday” nibbles – cheese, crackers, meats. The two non-firkin beers sampled will complement the traditional malty creaminess of the Cream Ale.

So you might be asking, “What the heck is a firkin and what’s so freakin’ special about ‘First Firkin Friday’?” Well, since you asked this tongue-twister, a firkin is an old English unit of volume equivalent to nine imperial gallons, 72 pints, or roughly 10 U.S. gallons.

In terms of firkin beer, it means the beer has been cask-conditioned, not force-carbonated with carbon dioxide. Nor are they filtered or pasteurized.

This does two things: 1) generally produces a slightly less carbonated beer than that cold keg of whatever you order at your favorite bar and 2) it means the beer itself has a shorter shelf-life than traditional kegs. “

A regular keg beer can last up to 45 days,” says Rhino owner, Brad Martens. This means it’s suitable for long transport between brewery and bar. “A firkin of beer is really only good for up to six days.”

When beer is served from a firkin, it is hand-drawn and uses gentle air pressure to draw beer from the keg – again unlike regular kegs using gas-powered taps. And as oxygen is beer enemy No. 1, a firkin beer must be consumed in a matter of days, not weeks.

This means a short window of opportunity and the main reason you don’t find a firkin at every corner bar – it takes special equipment, special beer and a dedicated following of patrons.

“We actually tapped out our firkin last month, an entire 10 gallons of beer in one night,” continues Martens. “I just want people to have an opportunity to experience firkin beer.”

So get your firkin on at the Rhino from 5-8 p.m. And let me know, what’s the most limited beer you’ve ever tried and where did you sample it?


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Ryan Newhouse has lived in Missoula since 2002 and has tipped his glass in most of the town’s establishments. He is a full-time writer, husband and parent (in no particular order) and a part-time zymurgist. He makes a mean hard cider and pairs his cocktails with dishes from his blog, Cooked Animals: Recipes for Wild Game.