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  • Cask Serving Options

    I do a weekly cask at my brewpub but it is more experimental one-off rather than real ale. As such, the carbonation in my casks is similar to draft beer and I gravity dispense. After 3-4 hours the carbonation fades and I have a hard time selling any left-overs. I have a hard time attracting beer enthusiasts in my area, let alone real ale enthusiasts so it's important that the beer has both head and carbonation. I have recently been given a $1000 budget to improve my cask set-up from the table-top, gravity dispense method I am using now. Ideally, I would like the carbonation to remain close to peak from Thursday night when I tap it to Friday night. This way, I can minimize waste. What is my best option for achieving this? For cooling, would a jacket or a dedicated fridge be my best bet? For venting, would a breather or an auto-vent be better? Would a beer engine help me achieve these goals?

  • #2
    I recommend getting a dedicated cask refrigerator for under the bar. Then to maintain quality get a cask breather and serve the cask using the cask widge device. Also use a beer engine that has a sparkler attachment on the dispense nozzle to get a good foam head on the pint. That should help with those issues. Good luck!

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    • #3
      You don't mention what size cask you are using, but if you are currently using firkins (10.8 US gal) I highly recommend switching to pins (5.4 US gal.)

      I've found that even with an enthusiastic crowd it's often difficult to pour through a whole firkin. The smaller container helps to reduce the amount of "left-overs..."

      Be aware that pins usually cost exactly the same as frikins, so sometimes there is sticker shock, but that beats throwing away beer.

      -Mike

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      • #4
        Excellent recommendation MikeS to use pins!
        Last edited by Catfish002; 03-26-2018, 01:14 PM.

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        • #5
          Yes. I am using pins.

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          • #6
            I second the suggestion of beer engine + sparkler I work at a brewery that specializes in British-style ales, we go through casks about as fast as kegs, serving with beer engines and sparklers. This setup produces a pour more like a nitro pour than a typical keg pour very tiny bubbles, smooth rather than aggressive carbonation, even does that neat little cascading thing if you really haul on it and push the beer through the sparkler quickly.

            Con, it will end up essentially flat if the customer really dawdles over their pint, but pro, it will produce a passable, if not terribly long-lived, nitro-esque pour even from an essentially flat cask. Also pro it just looks friggin' cool in operation, and as they say, you also taste with your eyes.

            Apologies if you're already on top of this, but, we've also found that a little bit of customer education "Have you ever had cask ale? No? You've had Guinness before? It will be similar to that" goes a long way!

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            • #7
              Thanks for your advice. I want to reiterate that I don't do traditional cask beer. I fill a cask with finished beer from the tap, add sugar and extra ingredients, re-ferment, and carbonate to 2.5 volumes. I tap and vent for maybe half an hour so it pours very similar to a draft beer. I use it as a chance to really experiment with flavours. For instance, I have done a brown ale with cherries soured with balsamic vinegar. CAMRA would shudder at what I do with cask lol

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              • #8
                Originally posted by jtoneller View Post
                Thanks for your advice. I want to reiterate that I don't do traditional cask beer. I fill a cask with finished beer from the tap, add sugar and extra ingredients, re-ferment, and carbonate to 2.5 volumes. I tap and vent for maybe half an hour so it pours very similar to a draft beer. I use it as a chance to really experiment with flavours. For instance, I have done a brown ale with cherries soured with balsamic vinegar. CAMRA would shudder at what I do with cask lol
                Since it’s not traditional cask ale that you are focusing on, I have seen a brewpub have good success with instead of putting these types of “one off/experimental” beers in cask they bottle condition them in 22oz bombers for taproom only consumption. It’s a unique product that adds more beer options to their tap beer line up, keeps quality in check because of the packaging, and it stands out that it has been naturally carbonated in the bottle. They price it higher per once than a tap pour that gives a good profit margin. Also, a lot of customers heads turn to look at the one guy who gets to pour his beer out of a big bottle and others start asking “hey what is that?!”. It’s also a great introduction to educating customers about naturally conditioned beer to hopefully get them into cask ale later :-)
                Last edited by Catfish002; 03-27-2018, 07:06 AM.

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                • #9
                  For what you are trying to accomplish, it seems like skipping the casks and getting some sanke-converted Hoff Stevens side bung kegs might be a good option? The side bung allows you to easily add and later remove your fruit/coffee/hops/spices/etc then you can fill and serve with your normal equipment. Added bonus- they show up used on pro brewer occasionally for peanuts.
                  ______________
                  Fred Orndorff
                  Rumpus Beer Co.
                  Revelstoke, BC

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                  • #10
                    I have heard of people pushing out the beer with nitrogen rather than air. Not entirely sure how this was set up though.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by FRO View Post
                      For what you are trying to accomplish, it seems like skipping the casks and getting some sanke-converted Hoff Stevens side bung kegs might be a good option? The side bung allows you to easily add and later remove your fruit/coffee/hops/spices/etc then you can fill and serve with your normal equipment. Added bonus- they show up used on pro brewer occasionally for peanuts.
                      That, or Cornelius kegs with hatches in the top. Should be able to get a handful, plus fittings to hook them up to your draft system, for well within your $1,000 budget.

                      With a widge, you can drive a cask with CO2 we do this when we bottle our cask ales but if you're looking for a keg beer experience, a keg with a port is gonna be a better tool for the job, especially if you've got the budget for it.

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                      • #12
                        I don't know how easy it would be for you to get them, but look at Key Kegs (https://www.keykeg.com/en/home?gclid...SAAEgIXjvD_BwE). They have an internal bag, but with an external plastic shell. So you can condition in the "keg", to your desired carbonation level, and then dispense using air top pressure, which because it is outside the bag, doesn't come into contact with the beer. So you keep the carbonation, and you keep the air out of the beer. Plenty of people using these in the UK. I believe you can simply replace the bags once emptied rather than chucking the whole lot away.

                        The use of a bag means you can use compressed air or nitrogen or CO2 - whichever is cheapest for you. And the gas doesn't have to be sterile either - good clean gas, but not sterile filtered for instance.
                        dick

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jtoneller View Post
                          I do a weekly cask at my brewpub but it is more experimental one-off rather than real ale. As such, the carbonation in my casks is similar to draft beer and I gravity dispense. After 3-4 hours the carbonation fades and I have a hard time selling any left-overs. I have a hard time attracting beer enthusiasts in my area, let alone real ale enthusiasts so it's important that the beer has both head and carbonation. I have recently been given a $1000 budget to improve my cask set-up from the table-top, gravity dispense method I am using now. Ideally, I would like the carbonation to remain close to peak from Thursday night when I tap it to Friday night. This way, I can minimize waste. What is my best option for achieving this? For cooling, would a jacket or a dedicated fridge be my best bet? For venting, would a breather or an auto-vent be better? Would a beer engine help me achieve these goals?
                          I may be missing something here, but in this comment you seem to be saying "I use firkins for draft beer". I don't understand why you are using firkins to dispense beer which sounds like it isn't cask conditioned? Why not just use kegs and be done?

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