By Beer Columnist Donavan Hall
Put this on your calendar! Firkin Friday at Deks in Rocky Point will feature a firkin of cask conditioned Oatmeal Stout from Blue Point Brewing Company. The cask will be tapped at 9 p.m. on Friday, September 28, 2007. If you never had cask conditioned ale, now’s your chance. If you love cask conditioned ale already, come on out and join us.
Cask conditioned ale is a young beer. The brewing process for the ale is the same, but just as the primary fermentation slows, the beer is transferred from the fermenter to a cask where it continues to ferment or condition. The result of this conditioning is that the beer is alive with still active yeast which provides a natural level of carbonation without external pressurization.
Cask conditioned ale can be served (at least) two ways: with a beer engine (or hand pump), or with a stop-cock (gravity fed). Most cask conditioned ale you get at pubs is served with a beer engine. The beer engine draws the beer out of the cask and mixes it with air as the beer is dispensed. The beer engine imparts a full, creamy texture to the beer.
Gravity feeding is allowing gravity to push the beer out of the keg into the glass under its own weight. For our Firkin Friday at Deks, the ale will be gravity fed. Don’t worry though, gravity fed beer is the real deal. You’ll be tasting the freshest, most honest beer possible; it’s a complete different experience than regular draft beer.
Cask conditioned ale is also called "real ale". Our friends in England are fond of their real ale. One thing I’ve heard people say about the beer in England is that it is "warm and flat." However, that’s a negative way to think about it. The beer is served between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit which is warmer than draft beer by about fifteen degrees, but it’s not "warm." The relative flatness I’ve explained above. The cask conditioned ale has dissolved in it one atmosphere of carbon dioxide rather than two or three. So instead of thinking "warm and flat" think "full flavored and smooth." The warmer temperature allows you to taste the beer, and the smoothness improves the contact of the beer with your tongue and makes the beer go down easier.
It’s important to come out to Deks on that Friday night because there won’t be any cask conditioned ale on the next night. The cask is for one night and one night only. The reason for this is that keeping the beer more than one night isn’t possible. When the ale is dispensed from the cask, air is allowed into the cask. This air leads to the oxidization of the ale and makes for a less palatable brew the next day. We want you to experience only the freshest cask conditioned ale possible, so all 80 pints have to go that night. If we succeed, then we can look forward to more Firkin Fridays. See you there!