Sunday, July 03, 2011

Deconstructing the Cask Widge

Today, it's a bit of zymo-geekery, more precisely, cellarmanship under duress: serving cask ale in difficult conditions.

A Cask Widge is a weighted float tube and apparatus that combines the functions of a cask keystone tap and a venting peg. Many US pubs are not set up for cask ale and don't have the space to store a cask horizontally, particularly in an under-the-counter refrigerator. The Cask Widge allows beer to be pulled from a cask that is being stored vertically.

The device is also useful at outdoor summer festivals —when used in conjunction with a beer engine— in keeping, and serving, a cask cool under hot and humid conditions.

Cask widge: deconstructed

1) The tap, sealed, is hammered into the cask keystone, with the cask sitting upright.

2) The firkin can now be vented through the short side tubing, with the 'V' valve opened (turned aligned with the direction of the tubing.)

3) The bamboo peg (soft spile) is inserted into the end of the venting tube (the very short line) to allow CO2 out while the beer is venting.

4) Once the beer has finished venting (is in 'condition'), the 'V' valve is turned perpendicular to the tubing, thus shutting the line, and preventing any more CO2 from escaping or any air from entering.

5) When the beer is ready to be served, the top cap is removed from the tap, by a simple 90° twist.

6) The cask widge tubing (24.5") is inserted through the tap, the weighted end (another 2.5") first. The weight will hold the tube suspended within the cask about 8 inches under the top level of the beer. The weight will sink as the beer is pulled, unfurling the tubing until it is fully extended reaching the bottom of the nearly emptied cask. [These dimensions are that of a Cask Widge designed for a firkin (10.8 gallon cask). A Cask Widge for a pin (5.4 US gallons) and a kilderkin (21.6 US gallons) are also available.]

7) Just above the weight is the beer-intake port in the tubing. It is covered by mesh to prevent ingress of cold break (protein sludge), yeast, or hops, that could stop the flow.

8) The top of the tubing has a red cap that is inserted into the tap and sealed by a simple 90° twist.

9) At one end of the tubing cap is a gray nut and hose barb. It is connected to a 3/4"inch line that runs to the beer engine. The other end is sealed with a gray cap, but could also be connected a second beer engine line, by screwing on another nut and hose barb.

10) The red 'V' valve on the short 'air-in' line is opened by turning it parallel to the tubing, and the soft spile is reinserted into the end of the short tube.

11) If a cask breather is to be used, the short tube is removed and the line from the cask breather is attached to the hose barb just to the right of the "V' valve.


Here's another use for the Cask Widge, as seen at a cask ale festival at the Pratt Street Alehouse, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Cask widge (03)

In this case, a tap to fit this wooden cask was not available. (Standard beer cask taps are not compatible with wine or spirit barrel keystones.) So, Oliver Ales' brewer Steve Jones inserted the Cask Widge through the top shive bung. Note the side barb: it allowed ingress of air as the beer was hand-pumped out.


1 comment:

  1. Cool lookin aparatus! I've never seen that before.


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