Friday, September 16, 2011

Learn about Cask Ale, then drink it!

Real Ale is a beer brewed from traditional ingredients (malted barley, hops, water and yeast), matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide. Real ale is also known as ‘cask-conditioned beer,’ ‘real cask ale,’ real beer,’ and ‘naturally conditioned beer.’
CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale)

Cask ale USA

It's a wonderful thing, that's happening now in the United States.  It seems that almost very week, more and more cask-conditioned ale is being served at brewpubs and 'regular' bars and restaurants than at any time since possibly before Prohibition. But, for every well-made cask, there's another not so well-cellared, and for every well-intentioned publican, there's misinformation on proper service.

Three of us (among many others) have been discussing this 'real' information gap, if you will, for a couple of years now. Steve Jones is the long-time brewer for Oliver Ales at the Pratt Street Alehouse in Baltimore, Maryland. Paul Pendyck is an importer of cask equipment at UK Brewing Supplies and the proprietor of the cask-ale serving Bulls Head Publick House in Lititz, Pennsylvania. All three of us agree that there is an urgent need for cask ale education: not only for brewers and cellarmen, but for pub operators, and, yes, for drinkers.

So, we're excited to announce our first joint project: a Cask Ale Panel discussing: what cask-conditioned real ale is, how to make it, how to serve it, how to enjoy it, and where to find it. As part of the Baltimore Beer Week festivities, the seminar will be held Saturday, 15 October, from noon until 1pm, during the hour preceding the Chesapeake Real Ale Fest, at the Pratt Street Alehouse.

Baltimore Beer Week

Seven members will comprise the panel, and each will speak to a certain aspect of cask-conditioned beer.

  • Steve Jones
    Brewer: Oliver Ales at Pratt Street Alehouse
    Baltimore, Maryland.
    ... the Festival's host brewer will discuss the production of cask ale in a brewpub setting, and the traditional use of isinglass finings.

  • Paul Pendyck
    Owner: UK Brewing Supplies, Bulls Head Pub
    ... how to successfully serve cask ale in the United States, and what equipment a pub needs to do so.

  • Bill Madden
    Brewer/Owner: Mad Fox Brewing Company
    Falls Church, Virginia.
    ... the issues of brewing and serving cask ale in a brewpub. Using a cask breather vs. not using a cask breather. And, what exactly is a cask breather?

  • Steve Marsh
    Cellar Master: Heavy Seas Brewing Company
    Baltimore, Maryland.
    ...producing cask ale not in a brewpub, but in a production brewery, and the use of ‘non-traditional’ ingredients.

  • Casey Hard
    General Manager/Cellarmaster: Max’s TapHouse
    Baltimore, Maryland.
    ... successfully serving traditional cask ale in a U.S. beer bar. Cask breather or no cask breather? Pushing cask ale up through long lines from cellar to bar.Training staff AND customers!

  • Ron Fischer
    Division Manager: B. United International, Inc..
    ... U.S. importer of award-winning British cask-conditioned ales. The difference between US and British cask ales. How to ship cask ales great distances, and still have those casks 'like you' when they get there.
I'm the 7th panelist. I'll be moderating the discussion.

Chesapeake SPBW

The Chesapeake Real Ale Fest is organized by the Chesapeake branch of the SPBW (the Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood), the only US branch of the UK-based society. This year, it's the 8th annual run for the festival at the Pratt Street Ale House. Before that, for 7 years, a smaller festival, the Real Ale Challenge, was co-organized by the SPBW and the venerable Racers Cafe.

The list of casks remains fungible until the day before the festival (when Steve Jones must vent and prepare the lot), but as of today, it includes: [local breweries highlighted]:

  • Breckenridge (Colorado)
  • BrewDog (yes, that BrewDog in Scotland)
  • Brewer’s Alley (Frederick, Maryland)
  • Brewer’s Art (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Dog Brewing (Westminster, Maryland)
  • DuClaw (Bel Air, Maryland)
  • Evolution (Delaware)
  • Flying Dog (Frederick, Maryland)
  • Flying Fish (New Jersey)
  • Great Divide (Colorado)
  • Heavy Seas (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Oliver Breweries (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Oskar Blues (Colorado)
  • The Raven (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Stillwater (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Stone (California)
  • Stoudt’s (Pennsylvania)
  • Troegs (Pennsylvania)
  • Weyerbacher (Pennsylvania)
  • White Marsh (White Marsh, Maryland)
  • Yards (Pennsylvania)
Pratt Street Alehouse

Cask-conditioned real ale is beer at its freshest. Come learn more about it. And then ... drink it! We hope to see you there.

  • The Chesapeake Real Ale Festival runs from 1 until 5 pm, on Saturday, 15 October 2011.Tickets are $40 in advance, via the website: The cost includes unlimited sampling and a souvenir glass. The Cask Ale Seminar occurs at noon.To attend, purchase a VIP ticket at $60.That gets you in the door to begin your cask sampling, whether you attend the seminar or not!
  • The Pratt Street Alehouse is located across from the Baltimore Convention center (and only a few blocks from Oriole Park at Camden Yards) at 206 W. Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland. 21201.
  • The idea that cask ale is being produced and served in the U.S. more now than at any time since prior to Prohibition is conjecture, based upon practical observation. Neither the Brewers Association nor any other organization compiles statistics on real production and sales in the U.S. However, Alex Hall, at the Gotham Imbiber, maintains a list of bars and restaurants across the US that serve cask ale. He regularly updates the list, using information sent in by 'tickers' across the nation.


  1. Will there be an audio recording, I think those of us who can't make it would love to listen :)

  2. That's a good idea, Daniel. I'll see what we can do. At the very least, I'll be posting a summary here at the blog.


Comment here ...