Cask Ales

caskIn this month’s 101, we will be explaining a term that might not be heard very often, and that’s for a good reason. Unless you live in the UK or one of just a few places in the United States, cask ales will not be on your radar. Let’s break down this month’s 101 and educate you a little on what Cask Ales are all about…

Cask Ales, also referred to as Real Ales, are beers that are, most of the time, unpasteurized and unfiltered beers that use casks instead of kegs. They are served at warmer temperatures and have very little carbonation. Main tasting notes, depending on style, are bread, malt, and yeast. The main difference between Cask Ales and Real Ales is that Real ales are considered to be the most natural form of beer: unfiltered, unpasteurized, in a cask with the active yeast still sitting at the bottom continually acting on the beer until the cask is empty. Cask ales aren’t always like that. Sometimes brewers add an ingredient to the beer, called finings, to activate yeast at the bottom as soon as possible, then transfer the beer into a secondary cask to ensure it won’t be sitting on the active yeast.

cask2History tells us that when beer was brewed hundreds of years ago, it was done in a cask (which by definition means “container”). These casks were made of wood, which gave the beer a very short shelf life. Casks were replaced in the mid-20th century by stainless kegs because steel was easier to clean and gave the beer a longer shelf life. Wooden casks also had a greater chance to contaminate the beer. Today, wooden casks are being replaced by more traditional materials, like steel and plastic. Although they use different materials today, cask ales still have a very short shelf life. When a beer is tapped, it is not sealed like traditional kegs are. Oxygen does enter the cask and the life of the beer is drastically shortened to about 3-5 days, which is why casks are smaller than a typical stainless keg. A full sized stainless keg holds about 15.5 gallons of beer where casks only hold 9 gallons, which is referred to as a “Firkin.”

Another major difference between draft kegs and cask ales is how they are dispensed. Traditional kegs typically use CO2 to dispense the beer into the glass by use of a tap handle. Casks use nature’s greatest scientific wonder:  gravity. They also use what they call a hand pump. Breweries essentially use gravity to “pump” the beer into a glass.

pubCask ales aren’t typically what we are on the hunt for. Fortunately, we are privileged to have an actual cask ale brewery only a few miles away from us. Although we aren’t huge fans of cask ales (being hop heads), the atmosphere of these breweries are what we love since we are large fans of the traditional English-style pubs. If you are fans of Brown or Red Ales, ESB’s, Porters, or draught Stouts, then we highly recommend looking out for Cask Ale breweries. If you’re a foodie like us as well, Cask Ale breweries are usually known for their pub-style comfort foods: heavy and delicious with loads of flavor.

Who knows what may happen in the future? Americans might get burned out on the constant “next big thing” and start going back to drinking traditional style beers. If that would be the case, Cask Ales might make a comeback. Until then, it will just continue to sit dormant, at least in the U.S., waiting for its moment to strike. Not sure it will be a problem continuing to be the prominent style in the UK; tradition seems to reign supreme over there.

Until next time, let’s raise a pint, cheers, and, of course, Beeresponsible.

The Hopostles

Passionfruit-Habby Reinheitsgewhat by Little Fish Brewing Company

The Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law, was adopted in 1516 in Bavaria, limiting brewers in those parts to make their beer with only water, barley, and hops. As craft brew fanatics with German heritage, we’re thankful that American brewers don’t give a rip about adhering to such a strict code, choosing instead to brew beer with every conceivable ingredient under the sun. Passionfruit-Habby Reinheitsgewhat by Little Fish Brewing Company is our case in point…

100 bottles of beer on the wall…

Have you ever had a collection of something that grew too large for its own good?  I have, and here’s the story about it…

beer bottles

Some might call it hoarding, but I like to think of it as collecting.  As a single guy living at home with my parents, I realized pretty early on in my drinking career that I had an innate obsession with beer bottles.  I’m not quite sure if it was the labels, the different bottle shapes and colors, or just the vast array of names that accompanied the beers, but I became a collector pretty much from day 1.  And believe it or not, I can remember day 1…

First BottleIt was a Michelob bottle, and it was the first full beer I think I ever consumed.  Nothing special, just the old brownish glass that had a pinched lower half and a top that gradually got smaller.  It was followed by a Coors Light bottle (believe me, I still shudder about it to this day).  The collection literally began in a drawer of my desk in my bedroom, and when that couldn’t hold it any more, I started lining them around the perimeter of the wall along the floor.  My parents tolerated my newfound love of trash that was now serving as a frame to the Dennis Rodman-plastered walls, and when the whole perimeter of the room was covered, row 2 began.  When I got married and moved out, one would think that would have been the perfect time to do away it once and for all, but you see, by now it become an obsession.  Little did I know how far the obsession would take me…

Fast forward 10 years or so, and the collection had reached what was going to be its peak–somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 bottles, all different from one another, were now gracing the bar and built-in shelves of our first home, but they were in the basement and so were out of the way for the most part.  However, when it came time to move into our new house, boxing up that massive collection was proving to be quite a chore.  Why did I go through the agony of packing them up and not just dump them now when I had the chance, knowing that this couldn’t go on forever?  I’m not quite sure, but I think the fact that had it had consumed the better part of 15 years of my life made it seem easier to pack up than purge.

A large storage barn at our new house became the new home for the bottle collection, but they never saw the light of day again.  There was no real good place to display so many bottles, and so I felt like common sense was finally going to prevail and the collection was going to be eliminated once and for all.  However, at the encouragement of my wife in the 11th hour of a post on Craigslist to not get rid of them all, I decided to keep enough of them to grace the top of the kitchen cabinets in our new home. (Coincidentally, the guy who took away the other 500 was the father of a student I had that year in school…talk about awkward!)

Kitchen Pic

Just over 100 bottles are now a permanent fixture in our kitchen, and it’s a collection that gets rotated as I try new beers and trade them out with older ones, just to keep it interesting.  3 Floyd’s beers own the most real estate, and the rest are the other favorites among the countless new beers I try each year.  But no matter how old I get, or how many times I replace the old with the new, there’s one bottle that will always remain in its place.  The Michelob bottle that started it all will forever hold its position, serving as a reminder of just how long and how large my love for all things beer is…

BEEResponsible,
the Hopostles

Snoochie Boochies by Forbidden Root Brewing Company

With a name as bad as Snoochie Boochies, one can only help but wonder if whoever named this beer was being pinched on the cheeks by Grandma at the time it was chosen. We’ve had a little experience with Forbidden Root Brewing Company, and to be quite honest, we weren’t impressed. So why give them another shot? Well, because it’s a DIPA, and because anyone bold enough to give a beer such a moniker as this is obviously out to prove something. We put them to the test…

The Brew Kettle

Brew Kettle LogoAddress: 8377 Pearl Rd.
Strongsville, OH 44136

Phone: (440) 239-8788

Website: www.thebrewkettle.com

Flagship Beers: White Rajah IPA, Black Rajah IPA, Old 21 IPA, Four C’s American Pale Ale, Kitka Chocolate Coconut Milk Stout, Big Woody Lager, Tunguska Stout, Awesome IPL, El Lupulo Libre DIPA

Special Releases: All For One Session IPA, Winter Warmer, Dark Helmet Imperial Schwarzbier, Oktofest, Summer Rays Wit, Jackhammer Barleywine

The Down Low: Picture yourself standing in front of a large cauldron, stirring in crazy ingredients to concoct your potion:  legs from a frog, eye of a newt, horn of a goat, etc.  You cackle as you stir, knowing that your elixir will cause the recipients to be under your control.  Sound like a typical witch’s story?  Now, replace the cauldron with a pot.  Replace the crazy ingredients with barley, hops, and water.  Replace the control you’re trying to place others under with a smile instead.  And the cackling laughter?  Well, that may stay the same…welcome to Brew Kettle.

Brew Kettle taproom

Looking unassuming and ordinary on a stretch of road that features hundreds of other places to dine sits a craft brew venue that is unlike most others.  With locations in Strongsville and Amherst (and a new one coming soon in Hudson), they’re expanding to satisfy the masses.  Not only can you try some great draft brews that they create themselves as well as several guest taps that other breweries occupy, but you can also try some incredible food options as well.  Oh…and the best part?  You can also make and bottle your own beer.  Sound too cool to be true?  Well, it isn’t.  Grab a group of friends, choose a style of beer that appeals to your palate, and brew it up together.  A few weeks later, after the batch is ready, you show up again to bottle your beer.  Then, share it with all the suckers that turned you down on the opportunity to join.  Or don’t.

Many of Brew Kettle’s flagship beers are bottled and available for purchase in local stores, sold both as 6 packs and/or as options in their Journey Tour box set.  For Cedar Point lovers, there’s even a “Thrill Pack” featuring six other beers not found in the Journey Tour.  And though Brew Kettle produces most of the major styles of beer, our favorites in the past have been the barrel-aged versions and the El Lupulo Libre DIPA.  Hop for hop, El Lupulo holds its own against some the most piney, grapefruit-laden DIPA’s you’ve tried.  Think Pliny the Elder, Hop Juju, and Permanent Funeral.  When fresh, it’s hard to tell them apart.

Brew Kettle foodThe food menu is impressive as well.  Everything you’d expect from a great pub is offered (nachos, wings, loaded fries, etc.), as well a ton of different sandwiches, steaks, wraps, burgers, and sides.  There’s a BBQ flair to it all, and anything that involves a smoked meat is a must if you get the chance to visit.  Even if you didn’t like beer (clearly I’m speaking to just the insane now), the food options alone are enough to write home about.  In short, it’s got something for everyone.

So the next time you’ve got a hankering for some great food, great beer, or even an opportunity to try your hand at being the brewmaster yourself, think about giving Brew Kettle a try.  At least it will give you a chance to perfect your cackle…

BEEResponsible,
the Hopostles

Social Beer

Social Beer

So you thought social media was only for killing time at work, posting photos of your kids, or bragging about where you’ve been vacationing?

Think again.

Beer lovers are leveraging apps like Instagram and Facebook to connect with brewers and fellow beer enthusiasts around the world. Breweries have also seized the opportunity to connect with their consumers by announcing beer releases and special events through popular social channels.

Another interesting outcome of these social trends is the practice of beer trading. Desperate to get your hands on that seemingly unattainable brew? Have something valuable in your stash that you’re willing to part with? Social media holds the solution through its vast community of users.

Check out this recent article from GQ.com that further discusses how social apps are changing the craft beer industry.

Living the Dream

Beer dream
Have you ever asked someone how they were doing, to which they replied, “living the dream”? It’s usually preceded by a sigh and delivered with a generous portion of sarcasm.

But what would “living the dream” actually look like, specifically in terms of a job or career? Depending on who you ask, it could be just about anything.

The saying goes, “love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” If you love taking care of others, become a doctor or a nurse. If you love shaping minds, become a teacher.

But what if you love beer? Solution: Professional Beer Taster. Yes, that exists.

Check out this article from vinepair.com that highlights a unique opportunity to live the beer drinker’s dream.

120 Minute IPA by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

120 minutes isn’t very long when you think about it. 2 hours of your life is merely a blip on the radar, barely enough time to do anything truly significant. Maybe that’s what makes Dogfish Head’s 120 minute IPA so special–in one age-able bottle, they’ve managed to make the highest ABV IPA on the market, all while retaining a rich and hoppy flavor unlike no other. It can even help to calm rage on the golf course…