Monday 31 March 2014

Cask beer in the US

American has long been known as a backwards beer country but things are starting to change. I was delighted to see that New Brewer magazine has an article on the one true living beer.

Things are definitely looking up for those that want to drink beer as god intended. A cask beer supplies retailer states:

"Cask ale is growing as rapidly as craft beer in the U.S. and maybe even more so."

Though he continues:

"Thankfully, we are also seeing an improvement in the standard of the pint crossing the bar, but there are still improvements to be made."

There still seems a need for  more information on cask beer. The article will no doubt help, but the author seems to have worked out his own way of making cask beer, which I think it's fair to say is slightly odd. He adds a yeast starter to each cask, which I've never heard of anyone else doing, and is surely impractical unless you're filling a very small number of casks. There's also no mention of the fact the beer still needs to have some fermentable sugar when racked, either from the primary fermentation not being completed or as added priming sugar. He also rather oddly talks of goosenecks instead of swan necks and gives the dreaded sparklers more prominence than they deserve.
Perhaps there is a need for beer missionaries to cross the Atlantic and spread the good beer news? From the South of England preferably, we don't want to encourage sparkler use.

As a small contribution I will add that:

  • Beer should be racked to cask with 0.5 to 2 million yeast cells per ml.
  • There should be 2 degrees sacch (0.5 degrees plato) of fermentables in the beer
  • The CAMRA guide to cellarmanship is an excellent source of information for those looking to serve beer from casks.


  1. It's like barrel-aging - you take your (finished) beer and stick it in a cask to see what happens. He doesn't seem to have got the idea that the beer isn't finished until it's been in the cask - you could even say that it's not finished until it goes off. Essentially he's reinvented 'Fast Cask' - take bright beer, add yeast.

  2. Ooh, there's a few folk take bright(ish) beer and add yeast, one way or another. Some more yanks here. It's not unheard of in this country, with sound well matured beers, a spot of "krausen" (or whatever) works wonders. It's been going on since before "FastCask" [spits].

  3. P.S. Fermentis even do a special yeast for the job. "F2" they call it. I guess there's a market?

  4. I'm not sure how the bloke who wrote the article treated his beer before racking, and the picture of a pint at the end had an unfeasibly large yeasty looking head. I was quite pleased to see he's trying, even though he seems to have worked out his own strange way of doing it rather than just asking someone.

  5. Recently I tried looking up more details about how cask beer is made/processed/cared for etc. I was disappointed to find that pretty much all the easily found information online is from US craft brewers and bars.

    As you note they aren't experts but, unlike the British brewers, at least they think it's interesting enough to put online - whether it is in a blog post or a youtube video or whatever.

    I would guess that craft brewers in the US (and here in NZ) would be forced to do it differently as they're probably only doing a very small number of casks/pins. Certainly most of the ones I've seen in my local pubs have been one-offs from the breweries. Different rules may well apply if you're putting a whole batch into casks - or even doing it more than a few times per year.

  6. I have found a 1985 guide to producing cask conditioned beer written by the Brewers' Society and the Brewing Research Foundation. I guess it's time for a second edition!