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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Inked and Real

Ah, the beauty of cask-conditioned 'real ale.'

Real ale is a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served [without extraneous gas pressure] through a process called secondary fermentation [and served at what is called 'cellar' temperature —in the low to mid 50 degrees Fahrenheit.] It is this process which makes real ale unique amongst beers, and develops the wonderful tastes and aromas which processed beers can never provide.
CAMRA [with edits].

Ink & Firkin
A bartender pours real ale directly from a firkin (10.8-US gallon cask). At Spacebar in Falls Church, Virginia, USA, on 8 September 2012.


Think of real ale as uber-fresh, as if it were being poured directly from a brewery fermenter. It is a deliberate process, involving both a brewery and pub.

What cask-conditioning is NOT is tossing beer into a cask; that's just tossing a beer into a cask. In fact, cask-conditioning does not imply or require the infusion of artificial or extraneous ingredients. That's just —as a friend describes it— tossing in "cocoa-puffs and dingleberries."

What real ale IS —as Jeff Alworth described it on p.84 of The Beer Bible— is "living beer."

Firkin Thursday.
A bartender pulls real ale from a firkin via a beer engine (hand-pump). At Metropolitan, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, on 13 November 2008.


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Cask Marque USA

If your U.S. pub, brewpub, or brewery taproom serves cask ale on a regular basis, you can receive accreditation from Cask Marque, now also available in the United States. Consultation is also offered. Information: here.
Cask Marque, begun in the U.K. in 1997, is a voluntary accreditation scheme that allows publicans to display a special symbol indicating that their cask ale is of good quality, as judged by a series of surprise inspections.

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  • CAMRA is the Campaign for Real Ale, a consumer beer organization in the U.K., founded in 1971.
  • Here's another, longer description/definition of real ale, written by a past president of a Washington, D.C.-based homebrewers association, that puts many 'pro' brewers to shame.
  • Metropolitan was a well-respected pub —regularly serving cask ale among along with its draft taps— in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. It is now, unfortunately, closed.
  • Spacebar —a craft beer bar and grilled cheese restaurant in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.— is still open and thriving. Cask ale was (is?) an occasional thing there.
  • PS. I was accused, on Facebook, of running a "shakedown" in promoting Cask Marque accreditation. There's a first for everything, even at an advanced age!

  • For more from YFGF:

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