Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cask ale: it's the freshness, baby.

Here's a recent post from Stonch, a beer blogger and pub operator, in London, UK. He's writing about the marvelous freshness of a beer poured from a cask, rather than that from a keg or bottle.

Last week I mentioned The Museum Tavern, the pub by the British Museum that serves Theakston's Old Peculier all year round. Today I wandered over there in the afternoon with Lincoln, a member of my bar staff who's just finished touring with his band. He's a beer lover in the making, always keen to try something new.

We ordered two pints of the Old P and sat outside. It looked great in the glass: very dark brown with a red hue, wearing a mess of fatboy bubbles as a crown. Our first sips confirmed this was very fresh, yet still the sour and funky character came to the fore. Raisins and plums, doused in all manner of alcoholic goodness.

For those of you who've only tried the pasteurised, bottled version of this beer: you need to have it from the cask. It's an entirely different proposition. Characterful, punchy, delicious. [emphasis mine]

Contrast that description of FRESH beer —which is the point of cask ale: fresher than any draft or bottle— with this description of the casks to be served at Chesapeake Real Ale Fest:
"Real ale" is the term used to describe the traditional English method of lightly carbonating beer in smaller casks, and subsequently pulling the beer straight from the cask: no CO2 added. The resulting beverage is less carbonated and served warmer than the average pint, but some folks really seem to prefer that. This will be one for the beer geeks

Why must so many descriptions of cask ale be couched in negative —if gentle— terms?

Rather than the slightly disparaging "less carbonated" comment that's commonly appended to real ale descriptions, why not say "properly carbonated"? Should every description of a bottled or draft beer be modified with "over-carbonated"?

serving the firkin at Olney

Forget the carbonation (pleasant, not bloatingly gassy), forget the serving temperature (refreshingly cool, not warm). Here's what the fuss about cask ale is about. Beer from a cask, properly made and properly served, is the freshest a beer can be. Cask ale: it's the freshness, baby, THE FRESHNESS.

The rest of the article Beer Fest Fever: Oktoberfestivals Roundup can be read at the DCist. To the writer's defense, he does indeed offer props to the Fest:
This isn't really an Oktoberfest event at all, but it's a beer event and worth mentioning.

The roundup omits the Northern Virginia BrewFest, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, 27/28 September.
A listing of local brewpub Oktoberfest tappings here.

1 comment:

  1. All good points. I tend to use the slightly disparaging terms to challenge people: the overlap between DCist's audience and people who would normally attend the real ale fest is insignificant. If I can make our readers think about beer as something other than liters to be chugged, then that's my goal. As someone who sells cask ale day-in, day-out, I know that couching it in terms that the average drinker can understand is like walking a tightrope.


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