This is a story of a 'small' cask-conditioned ale that traveled 2,766 miles, from a brewery in Paso Robles, California, to a bar in Baltimore, Maryland.
This is a story of Pale 31 Ale: 4.8% alcohol-by-volume and 38 International Bittering Units; sparkling and bright; pungent and refreshing; full-flavored and sessionable.
It's a tale of the brewing chops of this man —Matt Brynildson of Firestone-Walker Brewery— and the publican skills of this man —Casey Hard of Max's Taphouse.
Here's the story. I was sitting at Max's, as the bartender pulled a pint of Pale 31 from a cask.
I looked. The ale was bright, although unfiltered; it was carbonated, although naturally, with a lacy head of foam.
I sipped. It was fresh —amazingly fresh, considering how far it had come— redolent of piney hops, and tasting of biscuity malts and those hops. There was no shredded wood bark there, no Madagascar single-rhizome ginger (no offense to that island nation), no civet-extruded coffee beans, no hermetic cellaring at Funk & Wagnalls. There was nothing but the 4 beer verities: water, malt, yeast, and hops. It was cask-fresh. It was all it needed to be.
I sipped again, and again, until I had reached ... The End.