Saturday 20 December 2014

Koelsch in casks

One article in particular caught my eye when perusing the brewing related abstracts this month. "Problem-Free Casks" it was called. Not perhaps hugely interesting, except when you see it's from the German magazine Brauwelt. 

The article is about the flexible keg and cask washing machinery a koelsch brewery in Cologne uses for cleaning its "diverse range of draught containers, including 20, 30 and 50 litre polyurethane-coated metal kegs, 30 and 50 litre conventional kegs, 5 litre traditional wooden casks (called "Pittermaennchen" in the Cologne dialect) and 10, 15, 20 and 30 litre polyurethane-coated metal casks (of a design based on that of the wooden ones)". 

There's no doubt here a clear and correct distinction is being made kegs and casks. I have noticed that cask beer has spread to barbarian lands, but from the reports I've seen from The States it seems your chances of finding a cask beer without weird shit added to it are about the same as finding a British brewed unflavoured gose or traditionally hopped saison.

Serving koelsch from casks on the other hand sounds extremely close to beer as god intended. Surely the similarity is so profound that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of real ale. And I have to say my impressions of keg and bottled koelsch have been that it's decidedly dull and crying out to be served on cask. I'm not sure if the German cask beer has a proper secondary fermentation in the container from which its served, but surely CAMRA could send a few missionaries over to teach the vital last step if  needed?


  1. I've never been to Cologne but from what I understand this sort of cask dispense is pretty common in the old Kolsch places. Similarly it's what you see in Franconia and even in some places in Munich. It's certainly nothing new, or something that's been revived.

  2. I've rememebered I've gone on about this one before, some very interesting comments:

  3. I’m lucky enough to have been to Cologne on several occasions, and to have drunk Kölsch straight from wooden casks whilst there. The beer is not cask conditioned; the rough handling the casks receive as they are rolled through to the serving area and then unceremoniously lifted up onto the bar, is proof enough of that!

    However, with no forced gas dispense involved, the beer relies on the naturally dissolved CO2 to give it condition. Like Jeff says, the system is quite common in Munich and also, of course, in Franconia – Schlenkerla and the Mahrs Bräu tap in Bamberg are two examples which immediately spring to mind.

    The Hirschgarten in Munich claims to be Europe’s largest beer garden, and the Augustiner beer served there is dispensed direct from huge wooden casks. These are lifted up by forklift onto a wooden platform, prior to tapping and serving; so again the beer is obviously filtered, rather than cask-conditioned.

    A point worth noting is that all these casks are stood upright; i.e. on their “flat end”, rather than on their bellies, as with British cask-conditioned ale. The tap is inserted several inches above the base. See the photo on this blogpost from 2009.

  4. There's no comparison between Kölsch from a cask and the keg or bottled version. Malzmühle is about the only reasonable bottled Kölsch.

  5. Isn't it always the case? I want to find it in cask now.