Cask Appreciation: Piston or Gravity Dispense

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by M-Fox24, Nov 8, 2022.

  1. M-Fox24

    M-Fox24 Meyvn (1,483) Mar 17, 2013 New Jersey
    Trader

    Another appreciation thread: One dedicated to cask dispense systems (graph below), for exhibiting Real – Traditional – Ales + Lagers that are in their most organic state: Unfiltered, Unpasteurized, Naturally Carbonated


    Ale Example (Traditional Dispense via Hand-Pull or Gravity):
    • UK: Fullers London Pride
    • USA: Hogshead Chin Wag
    Lager Example (German Gravity Dispense via Anstich):
    • DE: Mahr’s Ungespundet
    • USA: Notch Ungespundet


    Howbeit, some leeway on traditional/real ale to near truism (e.g. BIB, Cask breathers, Caskerators, Lagerbier, Lambic enrollments, Alternate techniques to natural carbonation…), as sourcing ‘true craft ale’ – post pandemic – is either scarce, or comes with an economic Markup. Essentially a subsection that’s mostly dedicated to onsite experience(s), where the pint being served is in a natural state: helpful criteria, but not necessary –
    • Pub Name
    • Pub Location
    • Pub Dispense Setup/Treatment/#
    • Pub Pint
    • Pub Picture(s)
    ***Pub in this sense = Any Establishment (e.g. Lagerhaus via faß)
    ***repeat submissions are advocated & commended, given the nature of the thread

    ---


    Graphs (Sources: Micro Matic & Beverage Factory):
    [​IMG]
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    ---


    Piston Pump: Siphoned from the pub cellar (e.g. pin/firkin) & discharged through a goose-neck (swan-neck) spout
    • Stored: Pub Cellar
    • Some aliases
      • Beer Engine Piston
      • Hand-Pump
      • Hand-Pull
      • Hand-Drawn
    Gravity Dispense: Discharged directly from the cask
    • Stored: Pub Counter
    • Some variations
      • Pin/Firkin (Steel Cask): Dimensions below
      • Bayrischer Anstich (German Gravity): Anstichfaß, Holzfaß, Stichfaß
        • Often matured in (horizontal) lagering tanks, before the faß, as opposed to cask-conditioned ale
      • Flexible Cask Ale - Bit overkill, but an adequate submission nonetheless
        • Polypin/Cubitainer
        • BIB (Bag-in-Box)

    ---


    Keywords with condensed explanations - Parts/Supplements/Modifications:
    • Cask: Necessitates proper technique (e.g. Stainless Steel, Wood, Plastic, Aluminum)
    • Cask-Conditioned: Maturation on active/live yeast via secondary fermentation in the cask
    • Natural Carbonation Methods: Priming, Kräusening, Spunding
    • Shive: Top plug (Spile placement)
    • Tut: Temporary placement within the Shive
    • Hard Spile: Sealing/Equalizing
    • Soft Spile: Venting
    • Spigot: Tap: Gravity / Threaded Tap: Piston
    • Keystone: Rim plug (Spigot placement)
    • Mallet: Mallet
    • Stillage: Positions the cask (e.g. Wood, Auto/Mechanical/Spring)
    • Priming Sugars: Supplements to assist with natural carbonation
    • Fining Agents: Supplements to assist with forming a clear & bright beer (e.g. Isinglass)
    • Drip Back Systems: Auto-Bac, Auto-Vac, Economiser, or Univac per Ron Pattinson (Mostly obsolete & replaced by goose/swan-neck spouts)
    • Cask Widge: Positions the cask upright
    • Cask Sparkler: Aerates the ale/lager to create a denser head
    • Cask Breather: Aspirator that extends the life & prevents spoilage, which can deter the development
    • Caskerator: Kegerator with an upright dispense system (widge) + cask breather
    Sizes: (Imp-gal/US-gal)
    • Pin: 4.5/5.4
    • Firkin: 9/10.8 (Most Common)
    • Kilderkin: 18/21.6
    • Barrel: 36/43.2
    • Hogshead: 54/64.9
    ---


    Past & Upcoming Events:
    USA:
    Overseas:
    ---


    Auxiliaries:
     
  2. M-Fox24

    M-Fox24 Meyvn (1,483) Mar 17, 2013 New Jersey
    Trader

    • Odd Bird
    • New Jersey, USA
    • 1xActive Beer Engine
      • Cask-conditioned
    • Golden British-Style Pub Ale: ‘Twas Brillig
      • Grains: Floor Malted Maris Otter, Caramalt
      • Hops: Whole Leaf East Kent Goldings
      • Yeast: Omega British Ale VII
      • ABV:4.5%
      • Priming: Yes
      • Fining: No
      • Breather: Yes (low/variable usage)
      • Sparkler: On
        • Pictures: 3
      • Sparkler: Off
        • Pictures: 2

    Sparkler: On

    [​IMG]
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    Sparkler: Off

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  3. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,961) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Society

    This is my beer porn.
     
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  4. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,656) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    Yes please. :slight_smile:
     
  5. M-Fox24

    M-Fox24 Meyvn (1,483) Mar 17, 2013 New Jersey
    Trader

    Another recent visit to – hopefully – get this thread kickstarted:


    • Forest & Main
    • Pennsylvania, USA
    • 3xActive Beer Engines
      • Cask-conditioned
    • Smokey Pub Ale: Suspended Thoughts
      • Grains: Maris Otter & Crystal Malts, German Smoked Barley
      • Hops: Fuggles and Grungeist
      • Yeast: British ale yeast
      • ABV:4%
      • Sparkler: Off
        • Pictures: 2
    • Pub Stout: Fore and Aft
      • Grains: Barley, British Chocolate & Roasted Malts, Golden Naked Oats
      • Hops: Fuggles and Polaris
      • ABV:3.6%
      • Sparkler: Off
        • Pictures: 2
    • Honey Pub Ale: Dwelling Place
      • Grains: British Maris Otter & Crystal Rye Malts, Golden Naked Oats
      • Hops: Fuggles and Wolf
      • Yeast: British ale yeast
      • Additions: Honey
      • ABV:4%
      • Sparkler: On
        • Pictures: 4

    Smokey Pub Ale - Sparkler: Off

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    [​IMG]



    Pub Stout - Sparkler: Off

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]



    Honey Pub Ale - Sparkler: On

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  6. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,961) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Society

    Chalkboard says 5% for this one?
     
  7. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    To sparkle or not to sparkle, that is the question?

    I have had many cask pints of beer in Great Britain and the vast majority were served without a sparkler. I was told when visiting there that using a sparkler is a northern England thing. As discussed in the below linked article:

    “Many British beer drinkers say the debate is geographic, with the dividing line between the north and south of the country. Debenham, a southerner, says she never encounters sparklers until at least the Midlands, two-plus hours north of London.”

    The alleged advantage of using a sparkler is that it creates a ‘better’ head to the beer. I have had a few US brewery beers served using a sparkler and it seems to me the downside is that the sparkler ‘knocks out’ what limited CO2 is in the beer resulting in an even lower carbonated beer in the glass.

    From my time drinking cask ale in Great Britain I have a preference for drinking cask ales without a sparkler in place.

    Cheers!

    https://www.winemag.com/2021/03/26/sparkler-cask-ale/
     
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  8. M-Fox24

    M-Fox24 Meyvn (1,483) Mar 17, 2013 New Jersey
    Trader

    Ya. Dwelling Place is 5%
     
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  9. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,907) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    I was recently in Yorkshire for 10 days and they use sparklers to put a nice head on the ale.

    London, nope.
     
  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Given that Yorkshire is in Northern England it stands to reason they would use sparklers there.

    Jeff, did you ever ask if the beertender would remove the sparkler for an non-sparkled pour? Is this a request they would honor?

    Do you have a preference on the pour? Do you prefer an non-sparkler pour?

    I have had many cask pours in England but in locations south of the Midlands (e.g., London, Cambridge, Oxford,...).

    I also had several cask beers in Edinburgh (Scotland) but I don't remember whether those pubs used sparklers or not.

    Cheers!
     
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  11. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,907) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    I never asked, they know how to serve their beers.

    The beers were very good North and South. I'm not sure if theyadjust carbonation in the cask for a nonsparkler beer.

    Went to Germany afterwards and had many biers srved Bayerisch Anstisch. At Keesmann in Bamberg they had a bock release night in the couryard, and they were serving from jockey boxes. The Hellerbock was fizzy there.
     
  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Yeah, that is a point worth considering.

    FWIW I have never heard during my conversations in Great Britain or via my readings whether the brewers of Northern England vs. Southern England use differing carbonation levels for their cask beers. Maybe the brewers of Northern England use a bit more carbonation for their cask beers to 'compensate' for the sparkler delivery?

    Cheers!
     
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  13. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,907) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    That could be true. No way of knowing. The beers around London didn't seem to have higher carbonation without the sparklers, just less head formation.
     
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  14. slander

    slander Poo-Bah (2,369) Nov 5, 2001 New York
    Moderator Society

    There's a lot to take in here, but I will comment only on the list of 10 'past and upcoming events' (USA), two of which I've attended.

    One was absolutely wonderful.
    A well curated list of styles appropriate to being done on cask by people who get it.

    And the other was not.
    Fruited & hazy & pastry adjunct cask beer after beer after beer.
    What fresh hell is this?
    I can see a brewery or two going off the rails, but it seemed like the whole event was designed to murder cask.
    "Would you like to try our... ??"
    "NO! You don't do that to cask. What the phuck's the matter with you?!?!"
    I honestly don't understand how cask got perverted so.
    Broke my goddamn heart.
     
    #14 slander, Nov 9, 2022
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2022
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  15. TheMattJones88

    TheMattJones88 Aspirant (226) Sep 12, 2009 Massachusetts
    Trader

    I've definitely been to some breweries in New England where the cask is just something that they've been sitting on for a while with some adjunct thrown in the cask. Always disappointing.
     
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  16. zid

    zid Poo-Bah (1,797) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    Regarding sparklers - Some time ago I had the same cask beer at two different bars (two weeks apart). The top pic is from the bar that didn't use a sparkler. The bottom pic is from the bar that did. These two results might be extremes... and there are other variables in the mix besides the sparkler... but a fun (unintentional) comparison nonetheless. The head in the bottom pic was very loose and wasn't dense.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  17. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Chris, did you have a preference between the two beers (i.e., differing pours)?

    Cheers!
     
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  18. zid

    zid Poo-Bah (1,797) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    If I had them side by side and was more focused on appreciating the differences, I might have a different reaction... but under the circumstances, I can't say I found much difference. I wasn't thinking of carbonation levels at the time. I enjoyed drinking the beer w/o the sparkler a bit more. It might have felt a bit bolder in flavor, but that could have been my imagination or a result of reasons beyond the carbonation... or simply a matter of having had it first. I enjoyed the head on the sparkler version for the novelty of the presentation.
     
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  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Yes, the sparkler does indeed present a more pronounced head to the beer.

    Cheers!
     
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  20. patto1ro

    patto1ro Defender (600) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    I believe beers brewed in Yorkshire squares have a higher degree of carbonation.
     
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  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Ron, thanks for that input. A higher carbonation level would be complimentary with using a sparkler whilst pouring those beers.

    Cheers!
     
    BigIronH likes this.
  22. brewmastertimmy

    brewmastertimmy Initiate (27) Jul 20, 2020 Michigan

    Primary fermentation in open fermenters may yield slightly lower levels of CO2 when ready for racking into casks, but the level of carbonation in any given cask is determined by the amount of fermentable sugars remaining in the beer combined with the amount of priming sugar/yeast to generate "cask conditioning." Open/Square fermentation is outstanding for producing esters and aromas that are distinctive, yet final levels of carbonation take place downstream.
     
  23. M-Fox24

    M-Fox24 Meyvn (1,483) Mar 17, 2013 New Jersey
    Trader

    • The Shakespeare (Cask Marque = Proper Pub)
    • New York, USA
    • 3xBeer Engines
      • 1xActive
      • Cask-conditioned
      • Cask Tapped: Nov. 9th, 2022
      • Pub Visit: Nov. 10th, 2022
    • English-style Pale Ale (ESB): Tavern Ale
      • Brewery: Strong Rope
      • Grains: Erie Canal Pale, Crystal, Buffalo Bitterless
      • Hops: Columbia
      • ABV: 5.2%
      • Breather: No
      • Sparkler: No
        • Pictures: 6

    ---

    Sidenote(s)/Background:
    • SR is a NYS farm brewery that utilizes local ingredients to reinterpret the ‘classics’ – New York Craft Malt + The Bineyard (NY Hops) – The Shakespeare handled the outfit respectfully, given the temp + carb/feel
    • SR hosts an annual Caskiversary (gravity-fed) with local establishments: Typically, February
    ---


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  24. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,656) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    The gentleman to whom you preach:
    https://barclayperkins.blogspot.com/?m=1
     
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  25. Providence

    Providence Champion (821) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island
    Trader

    Fucking A, man. This thread makes me sad. So little cask options near me. It sucks. I need this in my life.
     
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  26. M-Fox24

    M-Fox24 Meyvn (1,483) Mar 17, 2013 New Jersey
    Trader

    This is a bit off topic, but while Ron is with us…figured I share his recent thoughts on the US craft beer scene:


    Aside from that: Ron discusses the naming convention behind his blog, for those who don’t already know + the origins of barley wine via brett + Greene King + foreshadows the decline in pilsner + a discussion on “the brewers and beer professionals that came before us”

    ‎Good Beer Matters Podcast: GBM 114 - Once Upon A Time In Beer, with Ron Pattinson on Apple Podcasts
     
  27. Blueribbon666

    Blueribbon666 Zealot (538) Jul 4, 2008 Ohio

    Exactly, people who get it, i.e. old world styles that frankly those who ran the 2nd event have no hope of getting old world styles across, to that crowd it is boring grandpa beer, not the beer version of liquid panty remover. Same reason why most of brewers are going with trends and solid old world styles are passè. No idea how people have the stomach for some of these styles beyond a single serving.
    I feel the same about nitro, it's NOT for every style but go head and stunt beer that thing if you want to Jr.
     
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  28. vinicole

    vinicole Poo-Bah (3,568) Feb 17, 2006 England
    Society

    I'd say close to 50% of my reviewed beers are cask conditioned. I would normally start with how the beer is served. In future I will try and remember to add if a sparkler is used.
    My most recent recent ale (Coyote from Wolf Brewery) a sparkler was used but was nevertheless very carbonated for cask dispensed. It's hazy look suggested to me that it may have been "over primed" in the cask.
     
  29. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,656) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    For comparison, can you find it at another pub where it was handled by another cellar master?

    I remember trying the same cask ale brand on opposite sides of the street in London and the differences were amazing.
     
  30. brewmastertimmy

    brewmastertimmy Initiate (27) Jul 20, 2020 Michigan

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  31. vinicole

    vinicole Poo-Bah (3,568) Feb 17, 2006 England
    Society

    It was a guest beer at 'Spoons. So no. What I'm suggesting is that the carbonation of cask beer is a combination of a number of factors. The sparkler is just one of these. How the conditioned beer is dispensed is another.
    That's of the the wonder of cask.
     
  32. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,656) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    That was meant like "preaching to the choir."

    Ron probably did the original research for most of those facts. :wink:
     
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  33. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,656) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    That's what I was getting at, too -- publicans/cellar masters also being a factor.
     
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  34. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Beyond the aspect of carbonation, the factor that I found to be most influential in the qualities of a given cask beer is time: how long since the cask was tapped.

    During one of my visits to England I became a ‘regular’ at the Crown & Sceptre Pub. I enjoyed drinking the cask version of Bass they always had on tap there. During one visit I overheard the real regulars discuss how the Bass that day was very fresh (tapped just that day). I enjoyed drinking that beer on that ‘fresh’ day but when I came back the next day (i.e., 24+ hours after tapping) I enjoyed the cask Bass even more. The beer had ‘matured’ over that day post tapping and the following day (48+ hours after tapping) the beer was noticeably different as well (but still quite enjoyable to drink).

    The cellarperson at the pub plays an important role in the qualities of the cask beers since they are responsible for the ‘finishing’ operations and determinizing when a specific cask is ready to be served. I was fortunate that the cellarperson at the Crown & Sceptre Pub was very adept at what needed to be done with the cask beers.

    Cheers!
     
  35. brewmastertimmy

    brewmastertimmy Initiate (27) Jul 20, 2020 Michigan

    I completely concur. Peter Austin, founder of the Ringwood Brewery in Dorset, once opined that cask ale is "either great, or it ain't, and brewery/pub cellermen are the ones responsible." A tapped cask without the use of a cask breather will experience flavor and aroma changes over a 24-72 hour period that is often quite remarkable. Properly stored, vented, and tapped, real ale, together with rigorous cleaning and proper sanitation all make a difference in final taste and condition.
     
  36. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    And further to that point the cask beer will change for the worse at around the 72 hour mark with less than pleasant off-flavors due to oxidation. A responsible pub will stop serving the beer at that point but I have on a hand full of occasions experienced cask beer that should not have been served since it was too old.

    Cheers!
     
  37. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Poo-Bah (2,150) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    I've got to believe that has played a big role in the hardship cask has faced in the US beer scene. Chicken and the egg kind of thing, you need a robust demand for cask ales to move through them before they lose their luster but you're having to drum up excitement among a generally unfamiliar consumer base which isn't easy to do on a tight timeline.
     
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  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    A solution to the shelf-life/oxidation challenge is for the retailer to install a cask breather. A craft beer bar near me used to sell cask beer (one beer engine) and they used a cask breather to maintain freshness. Even with this in place his sales were not robust and he finally decided to replace the beer engine with a regular tap (and regain robust sales).

    Craft beer consumers in the US generally are not fans of cask beer. I am fortunate that there are places near me that do provide beer on cask (e.g., Forest & Main with three beer engines, Troubles End with two beer engines, etc.) and I wonder how quickly they kick their cask beers as opposed to the other beers on tap.

    Cheers!
     
  39. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,686) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    While we are talking about cask beer, at Yard's Brewing (Philadelphia) they are having their regular (annual) Real Ale Invitational today:

    https://yards.ticketleap.com/yards-2022-real-ale-invitational/

    I am unable to attend today's event but in the past (pre-Covid) I attended many of these Yard's events. The last one I attended they had >60 casks available served via gravity pours with a number of those beer being from England (I was told they were flown in).

    I am quite sorry that I am missing today's event. :slight_frown:

    Cheers to cask beers!!!!!
     
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  40. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,656) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
    Society

    A local good beer bar used to have 2 beer engines going at once. They'd put new beers on every Friday and, most often, they'd be gone before Monday.

    Last time I was in there the hand pumps were gone. I guess the novelty wore off -- either for the breweries or the customers.

    However, my new local's tasting room is keeping 2 cask ales on tap regularly now -- and they're damn tasty.