All too often people from over in the states complain that the English drink their beer warm. This couldn't be further from the truth. They drink their "beer" (lager) cold, just as you do. For some unholy reason they even drink Budweiser, and you know no one could drink that piss unless it's ice cold. But I digress. Alas, it is the Ale that they drink at cellar temperature,which is generally around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
While real cask ale is hard to find in the USA, it is not impossible. Britain really is the last bastion of real cask ale because their people spoke up and didn't take Keg for an answer. Thank you Britain. So what is real cask ale? Do read on.
A few of the obvious differences between real cask ale and keg beer you will find right away. The bartender uses a traditional pull pump, known as a beer engine, to get the ale into the glass. This is because the cask isn't infused with gas, such as CO2. Cask ale is the traditional way of serving and preparing ale.
When drinking real ale, you will also notice that it is cloudier than traditional beer. This is because the yeast has not been killed through pasteurization (or murdered in my opinion.) This gives the ale it gives a milder and more natural CO2 carbonation and at the same time developing the malt and hop flavours. Don't worry, it's perfectly safe to drink, reamember, yeast equals flavor.
Flavor? What a novel concept. Who knew you were supposed to be enjoying the taste of your ale?
The process of pasteurizing the ale, infusing gas and serving beer cold has only been around for mere decades, while the tradional way of letting the yeast do what it does best has been around for centuries.
The other beautiful aspect of real cask ale is the variety of flavours that are available. You find a lot of local and regional breweries producing flavours unique to their region because it isn't as profitable for the big breweries to produce real ale. All along the English countryside small businesses are creating the likes of Old Speckled Hen, North Dakota, and Bristol Sunrise. Don't you want to support small business? Drink real cask ale.
One reason real cask ale is not preferred by bar owners is the extra work it requires to maintain. When tapping the cask, you have to let it sit for 24 hours to allow the yeast to settle. This also means you have to know the demand you can expect to have. That would require a business owner investing the time to know his customer base and their daily habits of product consumption; what a novel concept.
Then you must clean your pipes at the start of each business day to ensure the ale left sitting in the beer engine overnight doesn't get drank, as it has a bad taste. As well, after casks are tapped they don't have the same shelf life as our less than impressive keg beers.
Here is a lineup of bottled ales, standing at attention like little soldiers ready to go to battle in my stomach.
Their deliciousness is almost overflowing.
Real ale is also commonly found in bottles, at your local super market or off license. In the UK they cost around £1.50 - £2.00 each. Want to forget a great night in Wales? Purchase one of every kind of ale that looks delicious.
This will include all of them.
It is really by the influence of big breweries and bar owners who prefer the long shelf life of keg beer that we have so much of it. In the 1970's there was a big push in Britain by breweries to replace real cask ale with keg beer. This resulted in hysteria by the beer drinking public. Fortunately, they sobered up long enough to take action.
Then began the CAMpaign for Real Ale, and CAMRA was created. They are an organization dedicated to ensuring and promoting the consumption of real cask ale. You can join the campaign online by donating money to the cause, signing up for more information or by making sure you seek out and drink real ale.
To find out more about the CAMpaign for Real Ale and to sign up check out the CAMRA website. Also find out more about real ales from people who are smarter than me at cask-ale.co.uk. And for the Yanks, there is a great human being who created this guide to help us find real cask ale in the USA. Alex Hall, you are a hero to us all.
Support real ale. Drinks lots of it.
More Mildly entertaining and insightful reads...