Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Steve Jones has a glass-bottom ... firkin

It's a Cask Ale Lab, Wednesday, 16 February, as classic cask ale techniques come to the Columbia Firehouse Restaurant, in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. None will be flat, cloudy, or warm!

Columbia Firehouse Restaurant

Steve Jones, brewmaster of Oliver Breweries at the Pratt Street Ale House, in Baltimore, Maryland, travels to Columbia Firehouse Restaurant to discuss and pour cask-conditioned real ale. He'll describe the brewing process (traditional English techniques), explain the difference between casks and 'regular' kegs, talk about cask ale terminology and technique, and, of course, reveal how to enjoy an authentic pint of cask-conditioned beer.

Beginning at 5:30, Jones will tap and serve from a unique glass-bottomed firkin (10.8 gallon cask) of his IronMan Pale Ale. In an instructive visual, the beer, hops, and yeast sediment can be seen within the firkin itself.

Glass 'head' firkin (01)

Here's how Jones describes IronMan Pale Ale:
A very English pale ale, balancing malt and hops rather than a citrus hop assault! The base malt is a mixture of English Halcyon and Canadian Pale Ale with a little crystal 45 and malted wheat added. The bittering hop is English First Gold made as a single addition at the start of the boil. The finishing hop is Kent Golding leaf steeped in a hopback through which hot wort is passed prior to cooling on transfer to fermentation. 6.2% alcohol-by-volume (abv). [The name is an homage to Hall of Fame baseball shortstop/third baseman, Cal Ripken, Jr., who set the record of playing in 2,632 consecutive games.]

Another one of Oliver cask beers —3 Lions Brown Ale— will be served handpulled through a traditional beer engine at the main bar. Again, from Jones:

Three Lions is a heraldic symbol adopted by the British Royal family (Richard The Lionheart, etc.) Nowadays, it's worn by English National teams (football, rugby, etc.). I originally brewed Three Lions as a one-off in support of our rugby team in the Rugby World Cup. Everyone loved it, and it stayed on tap. 3 Lions is a nod to my heritage and I thought suited the beer style: a big, bold, full bodied English Brown Ale. The full complexity of the body offers undertones of anise, hints of sweet toffee. and a well-rounded, dry finish. Hopped with Challenger, First Gold, and Bramling Cross. 7.5% abv.
[For this event, Jones specially aged the beer over oak staves.]

Throughout the evening's Cask Lab, Columbia Firehouse will serve complimentary 'small bites', and offer brewery glassware per participant. There is no entry fee. Participants simply pay for the beers they order. The event concludes at 10pm.

Oliver Breweries was established in 1993 in what was known then as The Wharf Rat Pub, located in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, Maryland, across from the Baltimore Convention Center and Camden Yards Ballpark. The restaurant and brewery were sold in 2009; the pub, quite successful, is now known as the Pratt Street Alehouse. The brewing equipment was imported from the U.K. The brewery's ales are brewed with imported malt and hops, using a traditional single infusion mash technique, and fermented in open vats with English Ringwood ale yeast.

Oliver's Brewhouse

Steve Jones graduated from the University of Warwick, Coventry U.K., with a Bachelors of Science (Honors) in Biochemistry. He has a diploma in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, London. Stephen brewed for the Firkin Brewery in Coventry and Loughborough in the U.K. for six years before joining Oliver Breweries in December of 1999.

The special firkin —with both a glass top and bottom (referred to as the heads of a cask)— is actually the property of Steve Parkes, on a long term loan to Oliver Breweries. Parkes, a degreed brewer —also originally from the UK— is the owner of the American Brewers Guild, an on-line brewing school, based in Vermont. The firkin was specially fabricated for him by keg (and cask) manufacturer Maisoneuve.

  • UPDATE: Photos from the event: here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for beer & wine wholesaler Select Wines, Inc., I sell the ales of Oliver Breweries in northern Virginia.

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