The Seattle Cask Ale Scene

August 24th, 2011 · 17 Comments · Chris Clemetson, Uncategorized, Washington Breweries

From SBN contributor Chris Clemetson.

I have been fortunate enough to have some recent vacation travel and one of the things I look forward to is catching up on my reading list.  One of the books that I enjoyed was titled “Beer Is Proof God Loves Us:  Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing” by Dr. Charles Bamforth.  It was a quick read and an interesting book on many levels from a man who has been exposed to many different aspects of the brewing industry.  The book is part autobiographical and I found his notes lamenting how the cask ale culture in his native England have changed and been diminishing over the years.

It once again reminded me how lucky I am to live in the Pacific Northwest.  I can’t speak for many other areas of the country, but in Seattle the cask ale scene has seemed to explode over the last five years.  Cask Ale at the Washington Cask FestivalCustomers are embracing it and local brewers are really taking advantage to show off their skills.

What is Cask ale?  Well I will let said author define it:

“Cask ale – Also known as cask-conditioned beer, it is beer racked from fermenter without filtration or pasteurization into barrels, with the addition of priming sugar, isinglass finings, and quantities of whole hops. The residual yeast uses the sugars to naturally carbonate the product, while the hops provide the classic robust dry hop aroma. The isinglass finings clarify the product. The beer style demands care and attention; otherwise, it can rapidly spoil. The author has been known to claim it to be the most drinkable beer on the planet and likens it to an angel weeping on one’s tongue.”

Whether the pub has a hand pump with a rotating selection or if it is a dedicated night where a cask is brought in and gravity dispensed, there are options almost every night of the week to find some cask ale in Seattle.  I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite events every year, the Washington Cask Festival, held in the spring.

Cask ales have less carbonation since they are naturally carbonated and they don’t use carbon dioxide to force dispense the beer from the keg.  They were traditionally kept in the cellar and were served at cellar temperatures (53 to 57 degrees F).  The combination of these conditions lead to a beer that pairs well with food and it is always fun to sample a kegged version of a beer versus the cask conditioned to experience firsthand the differences.

Below is a list of establishments that have cask ale on tap or a cask night.  Let us know if there are any places we missed or if there is any particular ale that really benefits from being served cask conditioned.

Big Time Brewery
Beveridge Place Pub
Brouwer’s Café
Elliott Bay
Hilltop Ale House
Jolly Roger Taproom
Pikes Pub
Rock Bottom Brewery

Scheduled Recurring Cask Nights:

Cask Night @ Airways Brewing
Every Thursday

Cask Night @ Naked City Brewing
Every Thursday 4pm Naked City features a cask from a different brewery each week on Thursday. Contact Naked City for weekly cask info.

Cask Night @ Diamond Knot Brewing
Every Thursday 5-9 PM
Cask is tapped at 5 PM, check with pub for details.

Cask Night @ Elliott Bay, West Seattle
Third Thursday of each Month at the West Seattle pub, they will be tapping a cask-conditioned keg from the Burien Brewery.  Contact Pub for info.

Triple Cask Tuesday @ Maritime Pacific
Every other Tuesday, three different casks are tapped on the bar.
Call for cask info.

Cask Crawl @ Black Raven Brewing
Every Wednesday
A new Firkin is tapped every Wednesday at 4:00 PM.

Cask Crawl @ Malt and Vine
Every Wednesday
New cask tapped every Wednesday.  Call for info.

Cask Night @ 74th Street Ale House
Every Tuesday
New cask tapped every Tuesday.  Call for info.

Cask Night @ Stumbling Monk
Every Thursday


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