Cask at Home, Beer Sediment and Tasting ABV

Ask the Beer Geek by | Sep 2007 | Issue #9

Illustration by Kyle T. Webster

Is it possible to have a cask-conditioned beer on tap at home? A local brewer has it available in kegs; I just cannot find the hardware I need. Any thoughts? —Matt Cole, somewhere in the US

Yes, you can have cask-conditioned beer at home, but it’s not as easy as simply saying “yes”—and you can’t just buy a keg, hook it up to a hand pump and consider it cask-conditioned, either. Finding a brewer who will fill a firkin/cask for you, let alone part with theirs, even with a deposit, will also be a challenge. Your best bet is to do some more research on the topic. Though their focus is on the UK, check out the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) at camra.org.uk—they’re a good place to start. I also recommend caskale.co.uk for getting a feel for what it’s going to take to properly dispense the beer. Good luck and happy learning!

Howdy, Mr. Geek! In a recent Q&A article, you suggested to a curious reader that when enjoying Duvel, one should “leave the yeast sediment in the bottle.” That caught me off guard. I was introduced to sediment at the age of 25 thanks to my brother-in-law, who gave me my first bottle of Franziskaner Dunkel, the label of which offered instructions for the effective transfer of sediment from the bottle to the glass. I’m admittedly sophomoric in my beer knowledge. Please teach me about sediment. —Sedentary and Soused in Dallas

Sediment in beer is typically found in unfiltered and/or bottle-conditioned beers. What exactly is sediment? It can range from ingredient particles to protein break to dead yeast. In the case of fresh, bottled-conditioned beer, the yeast could still be alive. When to drink the sediment is a matter of style, as well as preference, on the part of the brewer and the drinker. In the case of unfiltered beers, the sediment is often still in suspension, so drinking it is inevitable and often tasty. With unfiltered wheat beers—like Franziskaner, other German Hefeweizens, Belgian Witbiers and American Wheats—part of the enjoyment of the style is rousing the sediment and pouring it into the glass to enjoy the fresh yeast flavors. For beers like Duvel, the brewery specifically asks consumers to carefully decant and leave the sediment in the bottle for a clear golden pour—you’ll see said instructions on their labels. This method holds true for most bottle-conditioned beers, especially ones that are aged. Pouring the sediment into the beer can drastically alter its taste which is why you’ll see beer bars in Belgium leave a good inch of beer in the bottle when they present it, which allows the consumer to decide. Giddyup!

It seems that no matter where I search for information about Rolling Rock beer bottles, it all comes back to the same topic: “33” on the painted label. I have a very large collection of bottles, but all of my Rolling Rock bottles are embossed. There are no labels, nor any 33 on these 12-ounce light green bottles. They all have four horse heads around the top of the short fat bottle and “ROLLING ROCK PREMIUM BEER” embossed on the bottles. The caps say brewed from malt, rice, corn and hops. Can you point a gal in the right direction and tell me why my bottles do not have a painted label, nor this 33? Would greatly appreciate any info you can give. —Mary Burrows, Michigan

Sorry, Mary, I’m as confused as your question and can’t help you on this one. Maybe Ron Stablehorn, the V.P. of Marketing, Rolling Rock, can? You can contact him here: rollingrock.com/ron. Good luck.

Does ABV affect the taste of the beer? Is it possible for a beer with an ABV of 7.5% to have the same taste profile as a beer with only 6.5% ABV? — Yvonne Kiunisala, somewhere on planet Earth

Indeed. This by-product of yeast fermentation known as alcohol can often impact the flavor (and aroma) of beer. Flavors can range from a subtle spicy note to solvent-like to fusel to fruity esters to hot and boozy to nothing at all. It all depends on the brewery, ingredients, process and style.

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