I dream of a day that I can walk into any beer bar in Los Angeles (or anywhere, really) and ask my favorite 3-word phrase: “What’s on cask?” But that day won’t come until more people demand casks from their local watering holes. Casks aren’t cheap and they don’t have much of a shelf life, so if people aren’t drinking them quickly, bars aren’t going to stock them. Need further convincing? Here’s 5 reasons:
It’s (probably) the freshest thing on the menu.
The nature of cask ale requires it to be pretty fresh. Most brewers will fill their casks for secondary fermentation with the idea of tapping them within 1-4 weeks. This means that most cask ales you will drink are less than a month old. Furthermore, once tapped, it’s shelf-life is quite limited and usually becomes flat and un-servable within 3-5 days. Of course, there’s always going to be a few bars that try to get an extra couple days out of their pin, but for the most part cask ale will only have been tapped within the last 72 hours of you consuming it, so you are getting the freshest beer available.
While its detractors may say that cask is warm, flat and cloudy, the reality is that cask ale is full of flavor you would never get from a kegged beer. First of all, modern brewers add extra ingredients into their casks like extra hops, fruit or priming sugar, which builds on the flavors of the base beer. Secondly, its served at cellar temperature, which allows much more delicate flavors emerge from the beer that would otherwise be hidden by extra low sub-zero temperatures. And finally – by using a hand-pump (and to a lesser extent, a gravity tap) the beer is allowed to aerate more than a keg tap allows. This additional air being pushed through the beer brings out even more flavor (just like using a wine aerator or a decantor). Don’t believe me? If you ever have the opportunity to try the same beer both on cask and keg side-by-side, you’ll see a huge difference.
Natural carbonation means less of that bloated feeling.
We all have those nights where after a couple of pints our stomach starts to betray us and transform into some sort of blowfish-like creature. Kegged beer has a lot of carbonation in it, and that can lead to a build up of gas in your stomach which creates that bloated feeling. Because cask ale is naturally carbonated, there is significantly less gas building up in your stomach, meaning a much more comfortable time for everyone; and certainly less belching.
No extraneous gas might make you feel better tomorrow.
I have to preface this with a warning that there is no scientific basis for this point, just personal experience. Many people feel like draft/kegged beer can lead to headaches the next day, and whether they can prove it or not, the case has been made that the amount of CO2 we ingest with kegged beer can lead to worse hangovers. Cask ale, of course, is not force-carbonated with CO2 or Nitro, and therefore may not effect you the same way. Some say that this is actually due to cask lines being generally better maintained than keg lines. Whatever the reason, in my experience the more natural method of pumping cask out of the firkin leads to less headaches after a night of drinking.
Its familiar, but different.
Being part of the craft beer community can lead to brand fatigue sometimes. There was a time, while living in Toronto, where I would dream of the day when I could buy a Stone IPA at the corner store. But after a year in LA, Stone IPA has become a back-up beer when I’m forced to go to an establishment that doesn’t have a well-curated craft beer list. Its not that I have any less love for Stone, I can just get it whenever I want. But a Stone IPA on cask, dry-hopped with citra with pears added? I may never have the opportunity to taste that again. Cask Ale allows you to appreciate an old favorite with new eyes.
I’m sure a few of these will get people talking, and more than likely ready to tell me how wrong I am. Please, feel free to do so in the comments section of the page. Lets get this community talking about cask ale.