Notes From the Tasting Room, Vol. 160

Notes From the Tasting Room, Vol. 160

Everybody’s Firkin For the Weekend


If it’s a Friday, it’s most likely Freakin’ Firkin Friday at Captain Lawrence. Which of course begs the question—what the eff is a firkin? A firkin, after all, plays a unique role in brewery culture. So we asked around on Freakin’ Firkin Friday: What’s a freakin’ firkin, and how about some of these other oddly named things around the brewery?

Michael Scott of Ossining and Juan Romero of White Plains work together as field service engineers (no, Michael is not branch manager at Dunder Mifflin), and hit Captain Lawrence most Fridays after work. “It’s really relaxing, and it’s close by our office,” says Juan, who says he’ll also pop in after dropping the kids of at the nearby kiddie inflatable paradise Bounce U.

Juan sips the grapefruit session IPA Citrus Queen. “There’s a kick at the end, some real flavor at the finish,” he says. “And it tastes like real grapefruit, not syrup.”


Michael enjoys the Effortless IPA, another unique take on session brews. “It doesn’t have to be 9% alcohol for me,” he says.

So if they’re here most Fridays, what’s the firkin in Freakin’ Firkin Friday?

Shrugs all around. I toss out another brewery word I picked up just days ago: Foudre.

“Like fondue?” asks Juan.

Good guess, but no. It’s the giant oak casks used for aging beers.


OK, how about a brewster? “A few miles that way,” says Michael, nodding in the direction of the Putnam County town.

He’s not technically wrong.

The week’s work behind him, Juan isn’t having the brewing terms test. “The best part of beer,” he says, “is just drinking it.”


Elsewhere on the patio, the sisters D’Agostino, Katie and Emily of Chappaqua are sharing a final couple beers before departing for opposite ends of the continent, Katie to Los Angeles and Emily to Newfoundland. A friend suggested a visit to Captain Lawrence. “I had no idea it was here,” says Katie. “I don’t come to Elmsford very often.”

They’re sipping the Captain’s Kolsch, a clean and crisp ale well suited for summer. “I’m trying to enjoy summer to the last moment,” says Emily.

So, ladies, what’s a firkin? Silence. “I can’t even think of anything it might be,” says Katie.

The sisters’ weekend plans? They answer in unison, like only sisters can: “Packing.”

Across the outdoor space, Marcus Kelly of New York City enjoys a few samples over a barrel with Frank Kuhnert of Cortland Manor. “Summer is beer time,” says Frank, enjoying the small-batch Monty Hall’s Problem, an offbeat India Pale Kolsch hopped with German and American hops. “I usually like lighter beer,” he says. “This one is the best of both worlds.”

They are asked about the firkin. A fruit? Good guess.

“I know what firking is,” says Marcus with a vaguely lascivious look.

“Something to do with trees?” guesses Frank.

As Monty Hall himself might say, no deal.

Knowledge of the mysterious firkin—A marine iguana? The plastic casing on your shoelace?—eludes us on the patio, so we venture inside. John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” plays on the house system. A trio of men relaxes in the fenced-in pen facing the brewing operation. Danny May, his son Jeff and his brother Mickey are Jehovah’s Witnesses from near Des Moines, in the region for two weeks as volunteers to help build the order’s new headquarters a bit north in Warwick, New York.

Might our Jehovah’s Witness friends from the Midwest venture a guess as to the elusive firkin?

“It’s the little mini keg right there on the bar,” says Danny.

Winner!!! It is indeed a mini keg—a quarter barrel, just shy of 40 liters.


Turns out the guys got to the brewery early, chatted with beertender/brewster Elyse Deming (a female brewer is called a brewster; try Elyse’s Sisyphus’ Smile ale next time you’re in the tasting room), and sampled the Freakin’ Firkin special. It’s an imperial IPA with fresh hops from owner Scott Vaccaro’s mother’s garden, along with a bit of strawberry and kiwi. “It’s a really refreshing beer,” says Danny. “On a hot day like this, that’s a good drinking beer.”

The Iowa men have had a blast at the brewery; they mention the folks behind the bar tossing them a handful of beer tokens on the house. “You get that from a small town in Iowa,” says Danny. “You don’t get that in New York…Do you?”