It’s probably a prudent move for me to begin a piece of writing about such an incredibly polarizing topic with a good ol’ nota bene: Real Ale is one of those things that the beer world just loves to debate and bicker about, a topic that has both seasoned industry professionals and bearded armchair warriors alike feverishly waving the Flag of Authenticity and quoting various texts and studies. Let’s get this straight: we are not trying to make any lofty statements here, we’re pretty much just fans of drinking and making delicious beverages. So we’re going to start playing around with cask ale, in hopes that the beverages we produce turn out to be delicious. End of story.
Now that the housekeeping is taken care of, here’s a brief overview on cask ale and what that means to us here at The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company.
What is Real Ale?
Here’s the definition of Real Ale, straight from the people whose job it is to create definition (CAMRA – the Campaign for 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 in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation.”
So instead of force-carbonating a fully-fermented beer and putting it into a keg, fermentation is allowed to finish once the beer is in the cask. What you end up with is a naturally carbonated beer with all of the unique flavors generated by the secondary fermentation. Here’s the basic process:
- Fill a cask with beer that’s almost reached the end of the fermentation process.
- Prime the cask with extra sugar if necessary, and add any additional ingredients you’d like to infuse the beer with (hops, fruit, spices, Sour Patch Kids, etc.)
- Let the beer complete its fermentation.
- Tap the cask and serve just below room temperature.
Although the CAMRA and the Real Ale movement started in England in an effort to save the tradition of cask conditioned beers (as well as the waning British pub culture), it has been adopted by the American craft brewing scene more as an experimental art form than as a preservation movement. Because beers conditioned in the cask are inherently different than the standard fare, it provides an opportunity to try new versions of existing products. And because nearly anything can be added to a cask to steep while it conditions, the variations are more or less limitless.
For us it’s just plain fun. Having the ability to offer cask beer allows us to try out new flavor combinations, preview upcoming beers, and use ingredients that may be neither feasible nor reasonable on a production scale. So, without further ado, let’s get down to brass tacks: what, when and where are we doing all this stuff?
Every first and third Friday of the month from here on out, we’ll be doing Cask Fridays in the taproom. Each biweekly (fortnightly?) installment will feature one pin (5ish gallons) of a new, unique concoction. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Hey, maybe somewhere along the line we’ll make something so unbelievably compelling that we end up changing a recipe or creating a new one altogether. That’s the beauty of these types of things.
So if you’re a fan of real ale, a fan of silly experiments, or a fan of breathing: consider attending Cask Fridays at The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company.
Our first official installment of Cask Friday will be this Friday, February 20th – a preview of our upcoming year-round flagship, Table Beer (a session-strength saison), infused with Amarillo hops and orange peel.