Unpretentious, warm, with a touch of sweetness… just like a hug from your dear ol’ Mum. That’s what we Yanks think of when drinking cask ale. It’s an essential style to try as you journey through the world of beer. Also known as “real ale”, cask ale is unfiltered, naturally carbonated, and goes through a second fermentation in casks. It takes strength and a tricky bit of rolling, racking and tapping to produce.
Hand pumps or “beer engines” are used to bring the beer from the cask to your pint. When pulled downward, they draw beer through the line and out the spout. Sometimes a ‘sparkler’ is used; a plastic piece that forces the beer through a smaller spigot, resulting in carbon dioxide releasing and a foamier head. Cask ale has a limited shelf life, so once tapped you need to drink up. Hence, the imperial-sized pints.
Want to give it a go? You’re in luck. Two local breweries are busting their bollocks making quality cask ales.
McClellan’s Brewing Co. in Fort Collins opened in 2015 and has casks on racks ready for tapping. Joe McClellan describes Cask Ales as “naturally smooth and creamy.” Joe also corrects the misconception that it’s too warm. Ideally served at 50-55 degrees, McClellan’s pulls at an even cooler 40. Need a nosh? Sample artisan sandwiches and charcuterie boards from their full-up kitchen.
Try: Kilt Tilter, a Scottish wee heavy ale with sweetness and surprising peppery end-notes.
If flat is not your cup of tea, Hogshead Brewery uses not only casks, but kegs for a little more CO2 action. Located on Denver’s west side in a renovated 1950s gas station, it definitely has a neighborhood pub feel. Additional outdoor seating makes it a great place to meet friends for a chat over a proper pint. Have a favorite style? Visit often because it might not be there for long!
Try: Hogshead’s Downtown Julie Brown, a nutty, nosy, English brown with traces of chocolate. Cheers!