Monday, 12 January 2015

Real Ale at Home

I usually have a small party for family and friends over the holiday period and when I do, I always put a nine of beer on.  Given that I am somewhat involved in the beer business, I don't have any problems getting more or less any beer I care to and I have the kit to serve it.  I also like to think I know enough about what I'm doing to serve it in tip top condition.  But you know it is a worry. I've looked after countless casks of beer, including in pub cellars, but the one you are serving to friends is always the one you fret over.

It was a trifle colder than I'd have liked over the period it was conditioning, but I had time and the beer did condition well and drop bright too.  The day before the gig, it seemed slightly flatter than I'd like, but a rise in temperature and a little heat in the garage  brought it to a fine peak for the event itself.  In fact the condition was perfect which was a relief.

Clearly it's a better way to do things than have a few tinnies or bottles and folks love it, not only because it is better to drink draught beer, but they get the pleasure of pouring their own pint, a feat that seems to give satisfaction way beyond the simple act itself.  Naturally the beer was served through the tightest of sparklers and you know what? Spillage into the drip tray was less than a pint.  My usual drinking buddies of course had done it before and had no issues, but even those unused to it managed well.  I suppose Northern ale drinkers have observed it so often that it is more or less bred in the bone. It was supped in no time of course, but I noted the constant trail in and out of the garage and ensured I got the odd pint myself.

Cask beer at home. Lovely. I recommend it if the circumstances permit. And you only have one empty to get rid of.

Wilson Potter Tandle Hill was the beer of choice. A really good pale, hoppy beer and local.  Easy to get and to return the empty container.


Alistair Reece said...

That's one of the things I love about my 1 US gallon polypins and homemade handpump - I can have cask conditioned homebrew whenever I feel like it.

Paul Bailey said...

A friend and work colleague of mine treated himself to a pin of beer from a local brewery for Christmas. He tapped it the night before Christmas Eve, but found the beer rather lacking in condition.

He expressed his concern to me at work on Christmas Eve, so I suggested he contact the brewery. Their answer was that it had been cold at the brewery and this had probably slowed the conditioning process down. They offered to swap it for him, so he took them up on this.

When I saw him after Christmas, he said that the replacement cask wasn’t any better, but as he has family round over the Christmas period, they made a valiant attempt at drinking it. Unfortunately the whole experience has put him off from having a cask in the future; even though he is a CAMRA member. He has had polypins before, and they have always been OK.

If there is a moral to this tale, it has to be to buy the cask early, up to a week in advance if possible, to allow plenty of time for the condition to develop in the beer. I won’t name the brewery concerned, but they do brew some pretty good beers. My thoughts are they were rushed at Christmas, and hence were racking of beer earlier than they would have done otherwise. Given sufficient time this beer undoubtedly would have been fine, but unfortunately people leave things to the last minute and then expect instant results.

An experienced hand, like yourself, obviously knew what to do when you increased the temperature in your garage during the conditioning period, but unfortunately my friend did not have the time to do this. He knows better now, but I somewhat doubt he’ll want to risk a cask again.

I always accumulate a good stash of different bottles during the run up to Christmas. I am the only one in the house who drinks decent beer; my wife doesn’t drink, and our son drinks cooking lager, so there’s no point in me getting a cask, although I have had polypins in the past. However, I like the variety which bottles give, and being able to mix and match different brews and different styles with the wide variety of food one gets in over Christmas, only adds to the pleasure and enjoyment of beer drinking.

ps. You obviously have a hand-pump set up for dispensing your beer, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to pull it through a sparkler. I couldn’t be fagged with all that, and would stick with straight-forward gravity dispense. But then you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you!

Ed said...

I always amazed that when given a free for all from a cask how many people fill the glass till it overflows. When you're not paying you might as well under fill and come back for more later.

Paul Bailey said...

Ed, it sometimes happens because people don't realise a beer tap is either on or off. They keep turning the handle, like they would with an ordinary domestic tap, and are then horrified when the beer doesn't stop flowing!

Some form of simple instruction is definitely needed, although if people are aware but still insist in filling their glass to over-flowing, that is just plain greed!

Erlangernick said...

The weather even turned around to help your cask out? A Christmas miracle!

If houses come kitted out with handpumps and sparklers in the Grim North, maybe we'll have to re-consider wanting to move to the south, weather be damned.