As I said in previous articles, one of the main problems of cask conditioned beer is its inadequate care when it arrives to the pub. We shouldn’t forget that we are talking about a live beer, which needs to be taken care of to pour it in perfect conditions in maximum two or three days.
Luckily, that doesn’t happen in all pubs, as there are really good professional people working hard to make sure people enjoy a pint of great beer. One of them could be The Harp, the legendary pub placed in the centre of London in which you are able to enjoy an authentic “real ale” (and please, don’t forget to order their pork scratchings, trust me…). Another great pub is Pembury Tavern (now under the stewardship of The Five Points Brewing Company), and I was so lucky because we visited its cellar and we could see how the casks are handled there!
The casks need to rest when they arrive to the pub, and they do it in the cellar (at constant temperature of 10-12 ºC). After that, the whole conditioning process occurs (as I said in the previous article) before starting to be poured, by gravity or with a hand-pump. In any case, CO2 is never used.
The traditional way for storing cask is in a horizontal position, with an inclination of 20º, which allows to the yeast to settle at the bottom, below the tap level, and thanks to this, the beer is poured clean. As you can imagine, this disposition is not the best for pubs, especially for small ones, because the structure takes up too much space in the cellar.
For some time, some pubs have been using another way to pour beer from a cask, and this method allows them to store the cask vertically in the cellar. In this case, a valve is placed instead the traditional tap, and a flexible tube with a float is placed through it, inside the cask. This float is porous so as to promote the extraction of the beer, always from the top, ensuring that clean beer is poured (sending the yeast to the bottom). With this method, it is possible to do the venting too, but in this case the spile is placed in the valve, not in the shive. Using this system, it is not necessary to place casks in a horizontal position, which allows more casks to be stored in the cellar without the traditional structure, saving a lot of space. Obviously, all these pieces need to be cleaned and sterilized before use.
And with this article I finish my little tribute to cask beer, I hope you have enjoyed reading them and that you know a little bit more about this beer tradition.
If London is worth visiting by itself, don’t forget to have beers in authentic pubs, you will realise that the experience of having beers there is much better than at home with a bottle which has travelled for a few weeks. For example, I remember a pint of “Adnams Ghost Ship” the day when we enjoyed the traditional “Sunday Roast” (yummy!), it was so fresh!
Finally, I have to thank Adrián and all the East London Brewing team again, for their kindness and time. They showed me all their work and we visited some pubs and their cellars, it was awesome!
And of course, thank to Alys for helping me with translations, I owe you an “afternoon tea” 😉
God save the cask!
PD: Spanish article, click here.