The topic of this month's The Session: Beer Blogging Friday is Cask-Conditioned Ale. In addition to inviting beer bloggers to contribute, I reached out to non-blogging beer folk (and, yes, they are many).
The following is an essay from Stephen Marsh.
I am a third generation home brewer. I was hooked on beer design and culture from before I can even remember. Real Ale begins this tale
I recall as a little boy, my dad, the biochemist, buying beer kits from Boots Pharmacy on one of our regular trips to visit family in England. He would fill a green trash can in the back corner of our basement. I remember how clean and careful he was and the brew was pretty good: real ale-unfiltered, primed and bottled in champagne bottles
When I was 15, my father’s uncle introduced me to my first all grain homebrewed ESB in his meticulously kept, proper English garden. I do not think there was a drinking age..? And dad seemed to be enjoying himself anyway.
I have had the opportunity to travel and meet people from very different backgrounds, cultures, languages and have beers with them. I've collected beer cans on many of my trips abroad, often hauling home great cardboard boxes full of cans, and even taking empty suitcases to bring back beer paraphernalia. Imagine the security problems and extra costs involved in that now!
Gardening is another passion that my father passed to me. My garden has increased in size and function every year for the past ten years. I now have the homegrown ingredients to use in my home brewing and homemade spice creations. This includes established Cascade, Centennial and Northern Brewer hops. The spice list itslef is endless. I hand pick, peel, prepare, and dry anything and everything.
In the early 80s, I was introduced to Mr. Hugh Sisson, again through my father. He was a large influence on my developing beerhood. It turned out that for years my father had been bringing fellow researchers from all over the world to Sisson's Brewpub. They would toss back a few pints of the local real ale and discuss beer with the man who really started it all in Maryland for microbreweries.
Most of my work history has involved fresh produce. I started in the Jessup Produce market working 12 hour days making sure the fresh veggies were delivered to local Baltimore restaurants. A move from wholesale to retail put me in charge of a large produce, salad, and floral section at a local food chain. I am not scared to say I can make a hell of a floral arrangement. This passion for everything fresh, clean and aesthetically pleasing to the public has been incorporated into my home brewing and casking techniques.
Six years ago, I had just graduated from UMBC with a BS in Environmental Science and had been working part-time at Clipper City for over a year. I was still very involved in home brewing and the real ale concept (unfiltered beer, dry hopped and kreusened). With photo help from Tom Cizauskas, I created a protocol for cleaning and filling casks, a “Real ale program.” Five years later this program is like a fobbing cask, bringing lots of excitement and experimentation to the Heavy Seas portfolio. Fans are so excited with real ale that Clipper City Brewing Company now owns over 150 casks –and each one my 'baby'.
And, I want each of my babies to make a lasting impression on the server and drinker, whether in New York City or a bar in Ellicott City. Maryland.
Everyone should have the opportunity to try cask conditioned ale. It is our obligation, as distributors, brewers, and fans of real ale, to educate the retailer and to generate enthusiasm amongst craft beer drinkers for this purest form of beer. This should include information about how to serve a firkin professionally, with all the pomp and circumstance each one deserves.
Creating and producing real ale is just a part of the attraction for me. It is also being part of something grand, and believing in yourself and the product.
Meeting great people, while drinking a cask conditioned Loose Cannon that has been dry hopped with local Cascade hops: that clinches the deal.
Stephen Marsh is the Cellarmaster for the Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore, Maryland.
The Session: Beer Blogging Friday is a monthly event for the beer blogging community begun by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer, and co-moderated with Jay Brooks at the Brookston Beer Bulletin.
On the first Friday of each month, a predetermined blogger hosts The Session, chooses a specific, beer-related, topic, invites all bloggers to write on it, and posts a roundup of all the responses received.