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Thursday, February 20, 2003

Cask ale is NOT cloudy.

Here is how a local brewpub recently announced its cask ale:

There are 3 main differences between real ale and conventionally dispensed ale. First, real ale is served unfiltered (cloudy) where as the yeast in conventionally served ale has been filtered out to give it a "clear" appearance. Second, real ale is served at "cellar" temperature (50-55°F)
unlike conventional ale which is served much cooler. Finally, firkin real ale is lightly carbonated so it almost appears "flat" compared to your conventional ale.
NO, NO, NO ... NO!

That's a description of something I wouldn't want to drink.

What real ale is ...
It is a method of producing and serving ale in its freshest and most flavorful state.

What real ale isn't ...
It is not cloudy; it is not warm; it is not flat.

Let's say instead:

1) True cask beer is served cold. Anyone who thinks that 50*F is warm should try setting the thermostat to 50*F in their house during the winter. Temperatures below 42*F begin to numb the tongue, masking malt flavors. Adjunct-rich mainstream beers proudly disdain the use of flavorful compounds. Thus, it's SAB-Mill-Bud-Coors which are served with ice shavings floating in them.

2) A true cask ale is wonderfully carbonated, at 1.8 volumes or a bit more, which is just enough to deliver the aromas of the hops, malt, and esters, and sufficient to develop and hold a nice head.

In fact, a properly poured or pulled cask pint will naturally produce a pint-sized (sorry!) version of the Guinness-cascading-head without the artificial injection of extraneous nitrogen.

More than that - excessive gassiness - masks malt flavor. And cask ale doesn't bloat the drinker.

3) Cask ale IS NOT CLOUDY. Poorly made cask ale might be cloudy. But I repeat, cask ale IS NOT CLOUDY!

True it isn't filtered. But that's a good thing.

By not being filtering it, a cask ale retains many flavorful compounds that would otherwise be stripped out. Yeast remains in the cask to naturally carbonate the beer (and to provide the drinker with a complete Vitamin B complex). A careful pour by a publican will leave most of that yeast behind

A cask-conditioned beer tasted next to its filtered, gassy, nearly frozen, and flavor-deprived cousin will always delight.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Ebulum Ale - a review

cask of Heather Brewery Ebulum Ale (Scotland)

Dark, dark, dark. The head had lighter mocha tints. Strong roast and baker's chocolate aroma and flavor with a hint of winy fruit. The grist contains roasted barley, hence the stout-like character. The brew is infused with elderberries, which appeared as this hint of fruit, as opposed to the sickly-sweet character often encountered in US microbrew fruit beers. The 6.5% alcohol wasn't apparent..until a couple of pints had been consumed!

This is the best product (cask or bottle) I have tasted from this brewery, excluding a few marvelously fresh bottles of Fraoch I sampled last year from a just delivered shipment. Paradoxically, those bottles tasted fresher and more complex than casks of Fraoch delivered at the same time.

Tasted 4 February 2003 at Max's on Broadway in Baltimore, MD. The firkin had been broached for 24 hours and then served on the bar, at 50*F, open to atmosphere, and gravity-drawn.