Monday, August 30, 2010

Are You For Real?

On Friday afternoon I needed a pint. A proper pint that is, one that is 20 fluid ounces, or just over half a litre, as in 68ml over half a litre (for those outside the States, not everything here is bigger than elsewhere, their pint is a mere three quarters of the real thing). Thankfully the pub I frequent most often here in Charlottesville, and that not as often as I would like, now knows that when I ask for a pint, that's what I get, a  proper pint, in a nonic glass - my favourite shaped glass.


The pub in question is Beer Run, a bar, restaurant and bottle shop rolled into one, 2 minute drive from my house, delight. They also have a handpull, with a sparkler! Friday's firkin of fun was a barleywine from Cricket Hill, and it was delicious, far too easy to drink for an 8%abv beer. I needed a pint, the second one I wanted. So all seemed right with the world, a sparkled pint of barleywine, not cold, not warm, just right, pulled nicely and served by a smiling young lady - seriously, what more could you want in life? Perhaps being sat by a roaring peat fire, with my new Cairn Terrier puppy stretched out at my feet would round the scene out perfectly.

I love seeing handpulls in pubs, there are at least two such treasures here in Charlottesville that I know of, the other being in South Street Brewery. I am not a fan in the slightest of cold and fizzy beer - and people that try to give me a frosted glass are politely asked to return with a normal glass, thank you very much. If I want cold and fizzy, I'll drink Pepsi. Even when I am in the Starr Hill tasting room, I pour the Dark Starr Stout just after giving a group the penultimate beer for the day, so it can warm up and the lovely chocolate and coffee aromas and flavours can unlock and come to the fore.

Perhaps I am alone in this, but I often sit in the pub gazing at the beer engine and thinking about the stillage. I assume as most beers I have had on cask at both Beer Run and South Street are properly stillaged. Then my mind wanders back further in the process, to the filling and priming of the cask itself, and whether or not it is possible to use a regular Sanke keg as a cask? I am then filled with dread, am I being duped? Is this really cask conditioned ale, or is it just unfiltered beer, pulled through a beer engine?

At the end of the day though, it is the beer in the glass that is important, and every pint I have had in Beer Run from the beer engine has been a delight - especially the Joker IPA they had from Williams Brothers a while back, oh and the Two Hearted Ale from Bell's in Michigan, oh yes, mustn't forget Cricket Hill either - a brewery I will have to winkle out more beer from.

7 comments:

  1. I, too, wonder what goes on in the alleged cellar with alleged stillage whenever I see a handpull. Sometimes I ask.

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  2. Does it really matter? If you can't tell whether it is or not, and you like it, then it being truly cask-conditioned is irrelevant surely...

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  3. Of course it matters, otherwise consumers are being misled into buying an imitation of cask ale, whether by willing deceit or an honest misunderstanding of cask conditioning.

    People like Thomas Cizauskas are on the nail with wanting cask done properly - just because you have a handpull doesn't make you a real ale pub.

    http://thomas.cizauskas.net//cask_contents.html

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  4. How long did it take for them to find out that when you say pint you mean 568ml?

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  5. If your issue is that there's a big handpull on the bar and it's potentially not serving genuine cask-conditioned ale then fine. Personally, I'm in the other camp - if it tastes good, I'll drink it happily without worrying about whether it's 'real' real ale.

    BTW, you can use a sanke or corny keg on a handpull - and with some minor modifications you can also 'cask' condition in those kegs.

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  6. vdog,

    I partly agree, at the end of the day as long as the beer tastes good then I am a happy camper, as I said in the original post:

    "At the end of the day though, it is the beer in the glass that is important".

    On the sanke keg as a cask thing, then I will need to do some more reading into how that works.

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