Today we’re going to have a little history lesson about a specialty ale, which is not well-known in Canada…unless you frequent pubs that throw Cask Parties.
So, what the hell is a cask? Literally, it’s just a container in which the beer is commonly stored and conditioned. Typically, it’s a large wooden barrel. In Britain, casks were the primary method for storing beer until 1970s when they were replaced by the well-known, and well-loved metal kegs. By definition, cask conditioned beer, or cask ale, is a
“natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation.” *
The process of preparing Cask Ales is simple:
1. Brew the unfinished product (unfermented and unfiltered beer) at the brewery.
2. Rack it into casks. Unfinished beer casks were then left to condition at the brewery or sent off to the pubs to mature.
3. After some time, the casks are assessed by the brewmaster who examines the beer and determines if it’s ready to be served.
Due to its short shelf life, the brewmaster assessment was an essential part of the Cask Ale lifecycle. Cask Ales are usually served within weeks of brewing and must be finished within days of being tapped. From the 17th century to the 70s, Cask Ales were very popular in Britain. Unfortunately, due to the beer’s fragility most brewers and brewpubs moved to metal pressurized kegs as the storage method of choice leaving cask ales to enthusiasts.
This shift caused British beer enthusiasts to create the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), an organization that campaigns for preservation of the cask ales. And thanks to the CAMRA efforts, cask ales have regained their popularity and are once again widely available in Britain. While not as popular, cask ales are also available in Canada and US.
When drinking cask ale, you should expect a lightly carbonated, unfiltered beer served at a cool à room temperature. (Guinness is commonly served at similar temperatures). You’ll also discover that the same beer may vary from cask to cask since there are several factors that may affect the taste and condition of the beer.
In the GTA, cask ales and cask ale parties are available at the following locations:
Please check BrewBlog events calendar to see detailed information about Cask Ale events near you!