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A Drink From The Porron

On kegs and the virtues of quixotic cussedness

This month’s newsletter is inspired by a story told by André Tamers on June 12, 2016 during Txakolifest in Durham, NC. De Maison Spirits Medium and Keg Guru Michael Peter has taken extensive liberties in transcribing his memory of that story.

It was spring of 2007 when I found myself with a small and slightly unhinged entourage, wheeling a keg of Xarmant Txakolina to the bars and restaurants of downtown Charleston. These few were the last standing amongst a group of about twenty who gathered behind the alley at Rue de Jean on a cold and rainy afternoon. We were there to celebrate the release of the new vintage of Txakoli. We called our party TXAKBLOK.

Throughout the villages of Basque Spain, these outdoor block parties to celebrate the release of a new vintage are called Txakoli Eguna. That day in Charleston, the Txakoli Eguna movement was born in the United States and quickly spread to Durham, then New York, then Chicago, then Portland. It took about five years to get the keg that started it all filled and on a container. It would be another five years until we began importing kegs in any significant quantity.

Leading up to TXAKBLOK, my difficulties began with trying to purchase kegs in first place. The world’s second largest producer of kegs is located in Spain, but we could not come close to meeting their minimum order requirements. After pleading with the manager of the company, they finally relented and sold me ten kegs to get the project off the ground. From there, simply getting the kegs filled became another issue. Though the Consejo Regulador for Arabako Txakolina initially got me into contact with the keg manufacturer in the first place, it turned out that DO regulations prohibited filling a container larger than 750ml for export. I had to sign a document stating that these ten kegs would be filled as a one-time exception to this rule. We overcame these challenges though the largest setback was still to come.

After the unqualified success of TXAKBLOK, the issue that created the longest delay was the extremely high cost of shipping empty kegs back overseas to be refilled. There were disposable kegs manufactured in Europe, but they were plagued by strange shapes, exotic couplers, and a glorified bag-in-box design that failed to meet my standards of quality. After nearly a decade of quixotic cussedness, I abandoned the project and relented to the powers that be.

One day, everything changed during a visit to Asturias. Isabel Trabanco showed me a new keg they had just brought to the sidreria that was made out of recyclable plastic and used standard American couplers. I had finally found our keg!

Today, we have cider, vermouth, and even wine in kegs, including the Xarmant that started it all. This summer bring a keg to your block party, enjoy a glass on tap at your local restaurant, or go to one of the many Txakoli Eguna that have sprung up around the country.