For most beer lovers, popping the cap on a cold one is the perfect way to end a long day. That's not necessarily the case for a growing number of drinkers, though. Cask beer is becoming more and more popular. What is cask beer and why is it getting more popular today? If you ever venture to a brewpub on a "firkin" night, you know exactly what this is all about but many people haven't experienced that particular enjoyment.
Cask beer refers to beer straight from the cask, or firkin. This is a vessel in which secondary fermentation takes place, and drinkers are able to enjoy their brews without any manipulation. How is beer manipulated? Let's take a look at the situation.
Cask beer is usually pumped using a hand-pump and there are no gasses injected in the cask to make the beer perform better over time or make it easier to pump out of a tap. You will also find that there are no additives and low carbonation here. Because it is kept in its cask rather than being put into a keg, it has a chance to develop far more character and flavor. The yeast continues to live, as well – cask brew is not pasteurized and it is usually not filtered either.
Because the yeast is left alive in the brew, it actually offers natural carbonation to the beverage. That's not the same as artificial carbonation. You'll find that it's really light. Casks are also not chilled. They are kept cool but not cold – served around 54 degrees or so. However, there are some problems with this option that are not present with kegs.
The most significant problem for cask brew is that it does not last as long. Because it is not pasteurized, it begins to breakdown faster. This means that it does not ship as well as kegs and you will have fewer options available if you want to enjoy it. If you do decide to test the waters, make sure that the beer is served cool and that there is noticeable carbonation in the pint. Warm and flat is not a sign of good cask beer.
Cask brew offers amazing flavor and aroma, and is most certainly a huge departure for those who are accustomed to kegs and bottles. If you have never experienced this for yourself, find a brewpub in your area that offers cask beer and be there when they broach it.