2005 | FEATURES | EDITORIALS & LETTERS
Notes From The Publisher
By Tom Dalldorf
"When the bottom is falling out of your world,
drink real ale and the world will be falling out of your bottom."
— Old Irish Saying
CASK BEER REVIVAL
After a recent visit to Philadelphia, I was astounded at
the frequency of "cask" beers served on hand-pump
(or occasionally from a firkin keg via gravity). Cask beer,
finishing fermentation in the keg and served on its own natural
gas at cellar temperature, is not for everyone but is a joy
to behold for those familiar with the flavorful genre. In
England, Fuller's Brewery in Chiswick is the largest brewery
still dedicated to cask beer production and distribution.
In the early ’70s, a nascent CAMRA (Campaign for Real
Ale) was formed in England to preserve and protect this increasingly
rare style of beer production. Indeed, cask beer owes its
continued existence to both a consumer group that supports
its production and a few brewers willing to spend the time
and resources to produce this unique beer.
Some cellar-masters (those learned in the care and presentation
of cask beer) have become well known, such as Mark Dorber
at the White Horse Pub in London. Most, however, labor in
obscurity, assessing and presenting casks of beer when they
are at their prime and pulling those sadly past it —
usually just a few days after tapping. Most cask beer offers
a softer mouthfeel (noncarbonated), is not as cold on the
palate (cellar temperature) and has a delicate head produced
by a "sparkler" on the tip of the hand-pump.
Judy Ashworth, the prescient publican who founded Lyon's
Brewery in Dublin, Calif., in the late ’80s, had a separate
section in her keg room for cellar-temperature beers such
as stouts, barley wines and cask/keg beer served on hand-pump.
Obviously ahead of the curve.
In the early ’90s, a beer distributor/evangelist by
the name of Ken Vermes insisted I follow him to a pub called
Mad Dogs and Englishmen in the remote gold-mining town of
Nevada City, Calif. The owner had put one of Ken's beers,
Scottish & Newcastle Brown Ale, on a hand-pump, and Ken
insisted that I try this new style of service. I had never
had a Newkie that tasted that wonderful!
Today's active pub scene increasingly celebrates the wide
diversity of beers and brewing styles with multi-taps featuring
local and regional brands. Add to this the occasional cask
beer or keg beer served at cellar temperature on hand-pump,
and our choices increase delightfully. Often, however, publicans
will list a beer on the chalkboard as "cask" when
it is really keg beer on hand-pump. Hence the phrase "Ask
if it's cask" from the CAMRA chaps. At a time when a
"conscientious publican" usually refers to someone
who cleans his beer lines occasionally, defining the nuances
of cask and hand-pump beer is going to be a stretch.
Encourage your local to feature a session beer on cask or
hand-pump and savor the flavor. That's what great beer enjoyment
and selection are all about, right? And as to those sassy
Irishmen who came up with the "real ale" quote at
the start of this missive: What else can you expect from folks
from a one-beer beer culture?
LETTERS | Our
readers in their own write...
We visited the San Andreas Brewing in Hollister [California] on Saturday.
It's listed as "Closed" in your directory.
It's not closed. We had excellent pub fare and brews
there and really enjoyed hanging out with the owner
and brewmaster, Bill Millar, who plied us with tastes
and great stories after everyone else had left.
He's a real good guy and a fine chemist with a very
subtle touch in brewing. He pulled us a beautiful lambic
ale made with fresh apricots and another, my favorite,
a delicate woodruff ale that's also made in Germany.
Even brought out a perfect root beer made with pure
sarsaparilla according to an old recipe.
Bill and SAB would be a good subject for a feature
article in the Celebrator. You may already have done
this, but I hope you'll let readers know that the brewpub
is still open and doing just fine.
||Thanks for the update and your kind review of San
Andreas Brewing. We fixed the error in the Hop Spots and
are delighted that one of California's legendary brewpubs
continues to flourish and that "rumors of its demise
are exaggerated," to paraphrase Mark Twain. —