[ENGLISH] God save the cask – Intro

This is the introduction to a few articles dedicated to cask culture, a British beer tradition. And all of this came about thanks to a great friend, Adrián Morales (follow him on Instagram as @hoppy_basil), who is currently the head brewer in East London Brewing, a brewery situated in East London as its name indicates. If you are a regular reader of this blog, Adrián’s name probably rings a bell from his interview when he worked in Naparbier.

Thanks to him, and to all the East London Brewing crew, I was able to visit the brewery and learn about cask beer, from the brewing process to how the cask is stored. So, before I go on to write about it, I want to say that I’m so grateful to all of them for showing me their work in such detail, just so I could know a little bit more about them. It was awesome!

When anybody talks about traditional beer in the United Kingdom, it’s not possible to do it without mentioning CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). This consumer organization, founded in the early 70’s, was created to promote and advocate the traditional production of brewing beer, cider and perry, in opposition to the growing mass production of beer.

Nowadays, CAMRA represents nearly 200,000 members across the UK, and besides being concerned about beer, they also promote beer pubs, and the idea of understanding them as social centres and part of the UK’s cultural heritage. In that way, CAMRA’s seal of quality was created, so, if you see a pub with this badge, you know that you are going to enjoy a beer that has been elaborated without hurry, cask conditioned and checked by the cellarman, who is ultimately responsible for serving the beer in the best condition. At least, this is what the theory says…

CAMRA’s definition says that a “real ale” is one that is brewed and stored in the traditional way, without filtering nor pasteurization, and whose fermentation occurs (not from the beginning, but rather before the end) in the same container in which the beer will be poured, respecting the natural carbonation. Therefore, no injected CO2 is in contact with beer, neither to carbonate it, nor to pour it. Later on we will see more details about this.

But since the “craft beer boom”, popularity of cask beer has been gradually decreasing in the UK. There are new beer releases almost every day, which are not traditional beers, but there are more and more beer geeks waiting for them. In addition, there are some pubs that do not carry out an adequate management of cask in the cellar, as stipulated by CAMRA, so there aren’t perfect conditions, and this is another reason why cask consumption has decreased.

Personally, this situation seems a contradiction for me. We are sick of the “drink local” slogan that is brandished everywhere (all new micro-breweries use it!!), but, what is “more local” than a beer which has been elaborated and conditioned in cask?

These beers are brewed for quick consumption, in the best moment in terms of maturing. I don’t know how a beer that travels during weeks (even months!) through many countries, could be fresher to drink than a “real ale” in its origin. But as I’ve said, this is only a personal opinion.

Matt Chinnery (Sales & Marketing Manager) & Adrián Morales (Head brewer)

Luckily, the new trend of supporting local business (in general terms, not only beer), seems to be giving the popularity of cask culture a nudge in the right direction. I hope it continues to do so!

In the next articles we will go deeper into some aspects of cask culture, talking about cask life in pubs, as well as the process of brewing and conditioning cask beer.


PD: I have to thank Alys Williams for helping me with the translation, without her, this article won’t be possible!!

PD2: Spanish version, clic here.

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