Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Beer-30: What Exactly is "Cask" Beer?

   Every Thursday at Ballast Point we serve an experimental version of one of our beers on cask. Some times the beer will have extra hops, peppers, or even a blend of different spices. For example, a couple of weeks ago we had our Big Eye IPA with the addition of vanilla, ginger, and kefir lime leaf . The whole idea is to let us as employees experiment with different flavor combinations. The most common question that I get asked is "what is the difference between cask beer and regular keg beer?"

Front of the cask showing the wooden keystone at the bottom(left) 
Side of the cask showing where the shiv would be placed on top (right)

 Cask ale or cask-conditioned beer is simply an unfiltered and unpasteurized beer which is conditioned and served from a cask, without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. Traditionally a cask
would have been a wooden barrel,

Tapping a cask by hammering the tap through
the wooden keystone
however today the casks that we serve beer from looks very similar to a traditional keg, without the port that you would normally attach a coupler to in order to push gas in and get the beer out. Instead of this port there is a wooden disc called a keystone which you hammer a cask tap into, and another piece called a shiv located on the side of the cask (the top of the cask when you are serving it) which you would hammer a soft wooden spile that allows the cask to pull in air as you extract the beer. This cask tap is normally connected to
a length of tubing with a beer engine or hand-pump at the opposite end of it.

Serving a cask beer from a
beer engine
   The beer engine consists of an airtight piston chamber; pulling down on the handle raises the piston which drags up the beer. Beer engines were originally used to siphon the beer from the cellar before the invention of contained compressed gas.

   Now that you know a little bit more about cask beer come visit us on Thursdays to try one of our new creations served on cask, this Thursday we will be serving Long Fin Lager Lemon Shandy!


-Ryan Pistole

Home Brew Mart / Ballast Point
5401 Linda Vista Road suite #406
San Diego, Ca 92110
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