Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is Austin Doing Cask Beer Wrong?

In response to my story in last week's Austin Chronicle about cask-conditioned beer, somebody replied that the picture of Draught House brewer Josh Wilson shows him tapping the keg all wrong. But I thought that's they way everyone did it if you plan to use gravity to dispense the brew.

What do you think: Are we befouling our "real ale," or is this guy just too picky? (Bottom line for me: Just about every cask beer I've ever drank in Austin has tasted anywhere from damn good to magnificent, including the one being tapped in that picture.)

I encourage you to not only leave replies here, but to respond in the comment section at the end of the Chronicle story.


assurbanipaul said...

The commenter has a point, but it's not about the "proper" way to tap a keg. It's about allowing the sediment to settle, generally by positioning the keg and letting gravity work for you.

Bill Shirley said...

That's a perfectly common method of tapping the bung into the cask.

Since 1968 said...

I am interested in this highland Scottish cask ale. The tapping and serving method described is similar to beer served from wooden casks 100 years ago. A tap with a rod was inserted through the bung of an upright wooden vessel. Beer was then pushed with pressure from the bottom of said vessel to the faucet. I own many of these old tapping apparatus and wish I had the wooden casks to match them to. I assume Scottish real ale is vented and physically pumped to the faucet with a beer engine, however.

In our case, we are tapping a Firkin, which is a traditional British cask size that is 1/4 the volume of a UK barrel or 10.8 US gallons. The sediment is meant to settle in the belly of the cask which is laid on its side in a stillage (rack) at a slight incline.

A shive is a bung with a plug in the middle that seals the cask on the side. The cask is laid on its side in the stillage with the shive facing upward. The plug in the middle of the shive is driven into the cask with a tool, usually a hard spile and mallet. The cask is slowly vented of pressure. Then a faucet is driven into the keystone, which is another bung with a soft plug, on the top (now side) of the cask. At this point, the beer is ready to serve through the faucet.

At it's best, cask or real ale is a work of art. It is naturally carbonated and has a fine, creamy head, though it is noticeably less carbonated than keg beer. It is very "natural" in character, not completely clear and often cloudy with soft mouthfeel and full hop and malt flavor. It is often dry hopped.

Come and experience it at the Draught House. We try and serve a firkin every Friday.