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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


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...

Dear Editor:

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.

Ken Scudder
Via Email

Dear Ken:   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. — Ed.


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