The first question a lot of people ask about cask ale is:
what’s the difference between it and other beers, such as lager and keg/bottled ales?
Cask ale has a lot of different names: cask beer, real ale, cask conditioned beer, beer from the handpump, even beer from the wood or real beer.
It’s unique to the UK (although some craft brewers in the US and elsewhere are starting to realise its beauty) and in most notable in that it:
- Is an unpasteurised, fresh product containing live yeast (the ‘bio-yoghurt’ of the beer world)
- Is a fresh, natural product full of flavour and character
- Is one of the best tasting, most satisfying drinks in the world when served in good condition.
- Is made from four wholesome ingredients: water, malted barley, hops and yeast
- Is fermented twice, once at the brewery and once in the cellar of the pub
- Isn’t highly fizzy or overly-creamy because it has no added gas. The light sparkle, or ‘tingle on the tongue’ in cask ale is from carbon dioxide produced naturally during the fermentation process (like Champagne!)
- Can be identified by the ‘handpull’ on the bar, and the barrel shaped containers in the cellar
- Needs special care and attention by licensees: they receive from the brewery an unfinished product. The quality of what they serve to the customer depends on their care regime and their commitment to standards
- Should be totally clear and served at a cool 11 – 13 degrees centigrade (cool and refreshing and allowing all the full flavours and aromas to be savoured)
- And, most importantly of all, cask ale is a product which can only be experienced in its full glory in a pub
If your licensee isn’t serving cask ales then you’re missing out and it’s time to ask him why!