Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Real ale at home in Virginia

On a chilly Saturday afternoon, thirty or so homebrewers attended a 'real' party in northern Virginia. The Herndon Wort Hogs were celebrating a style of fresh beer called 'real ale.' I was an invited guest.

Real pour (02)

Real ale?
Unfiltered beer that is naturally carbonated, and served from the vessel in which some or all of the fermentation occurred ... which is already a description of most homebrew.

Herndon Wort Hogs?
A homebrew club in the town of Herndon in northern Virginia, named in part after wort —the sweet liquid extracted from barley malt before it is fermented. I didn't ask about the "hogs".  All attending were well behaved.

At any one time, many at the party would abandon the warmth of the living room (and the Olympics on TV) to stand outside on the porch, where members were using 4 handpumps —called beer engines— to dispense the 'real ales.'

The real ale here had been conditioned —that is refermented, providing gentle carbonation—  within 5 gallon kegs. Called 'Cornie's for short, Cornelius kegs were originally designed and used for dispensing soft drinks and sodas.

Real Ale setup

When beer is re-fermented within 10.8 gallon casks — firkins— the beer is referred to as 'cask-conditioned.' There are other sizes of casks with other unique names.

Good food, good company, and, oh yes, 15 kegs of 'real ale.' Some were good. Some were very good. And most were 'session' strength: that is, less than 5% alcohol by volume, the level to which much cask ale in the United Kingdom —its ancestral home —was produced during the 20th century.

A special thank you goes to our hosts Lynda and Wendell Ose (pronounced "OH see"). They volunteered (sacrificed?) their home as the festival site when another had become unavailable.
  • More photos here and here.
  • More on 'real ale' here.
  • Wendell contributed an essay on brewing real ale at home for February's The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom, just got back from a cask night at Naked City Brewery and Taphouse here in Seattle. I posted a little blurb about cask/real beers and thought of you. :)

    Thanks, we appreciate all your efforts!


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