Thursday, April 24, 2008

Get Real

Let this be a preview to you lot out there privy to peruse my public picklebox of personal ponderings. I plan to run a few recurring series here on the Grain Bill, I am pretty excited about some of them, but with my summer gig starting tomorrow night I don’t know exactly how much of a chance I am going to get to pull them all off. But the plan is there, and when the iron is hot I will strike.

The first series I’ll clue you into is called Know Your Blogger, and basically it’s just a chance to put someone else’s blog in the spotlight for a day. I plan to talk about their site and interview them to give you folks a bit more insight into the people behind the rants, reviews, previews, and posts. That said, this is not one of those posts, however, but I am going to do a bit of highlighting anyway.

Real Ale, Cask Ale, CAMRA, beer engine, hand pump, cask breather? Firkin?! Pin?!!! What does it all mean? Beer in all it’s glory James, that’s what it means. Real Ale is more or less beer to be dispensed from a vessel without the force of CO2 or Nitrogen, therefore it is the closest representation of the beer that has been brewed…no filtering, no pasteurizing, no nothing. Hops and a bit of priming sugar are sometimes added to a cask as the beer will still be maturing and finishing even as it arrives at the pub.

And you know what? Pennsylvania has more of it than any of other state on the map. PA accounts for 12.8% of the country’s cask ale outlets with New York right behind it spurred by the amazing work of Mr. Alex Hall.

Of the 65 different bars serving cask ale you can catch a daily report of about 25 of them on Kevin Rowe’s site, Cask Ale Kev. Through a network set up by Kevin he is able to provide daily updates of who’s pouring what in Philly, Delaware, Montgomery County, Chester County, and Delaware County. It is a great resource site that I visit often and think you should too. Whether you love yourself some real ale or have never tried it, Kev’s site is going to steer you towards your local options.

If you’re new to real ale and are thinking about taking the plunge, the following are a few tips as prescribed by me in hopes that your first experience will be a good one:

*If they have Nugget Nectar on cask, just get it and ignore everything below.

*Cask Ale is going to have less carbonation than you’re used to in a beer, remember the only carbonation in Real Ale is created naturally by yeast consuming sugar. To a new comer the beer may seem ‘flat’. Conquer this by getting all of the beers aromas up your nose and concentrating on flavor as you swoosh and swallow your beer.

*Real Ale is going to be served a bit warmer than you may be used to as well. This is a great thing. We discussed temperature big time here, but as a quick line- beer that’s a bit warmer with release more aroma and there will be no coldness to numb your taste buds and/or mask the actual flavors of the beer.

*Unless the bartenders are extremely busy, don’t be afraid to ask questions. One I’ll usually always ask is how long the cask has been on for. Sometimes they know, sometimes they don’t, but it is good information when you can get it. Real Ale won’t hold up more than a few days once oxygen has been introduced to the beer. This is called oxidation and it basically just means that the beer is going stale. It is the risk we take for the glory of cask ale. If you are out for your first pint from a cask and you know it’s been on for like 5 days, maybe you want to hold off.

-Side note: Many places are wise to the beauty of the cask breather which introduces a blanket of nitrogen over top of the beer, not allowing oxygen (which is lighter) to come into contact with the fragile beer. Genius.

-Sidier side not: The same happens in a beer fermenter, but naturally as yeast consumes sugars creating alcohol and releases CO2 upwards.

It’s been a great couple of weeks for Real Ale in my neck of the woods, Iron Hill’s Phoenixville location has been running a dry hopped cask version of their Iron Bound Ale which has been just delicious (along with English and Dry Stouts on nitrogen) and Teresa’s Next Door has a great cask of Nugget Nectar on right now. I’ll have to go check out Kevin’s site to see what else is being pulled around these parts.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Sly Fox put a firkin of their Rt. 113 on today. It will be more regular I am told.
Also thanks for the mention. It is much appreciated.