Cask Fest This Saturday – My Picks

March 19th, 2014 · No Comments · Events, Washington Breweries

Eric Radovich Pours the WABL beer from Snipes Mountain at the 2010 Cask Fest.

One of my favorite beer festivals of the year rolls into Seattle Center this Saturday. The 15th Annual Washington Cask Beer Festival will feature 41 Washington breweries pouring more than 100 cask beers. The afternoon session is already sold out, but as of today there are still some tickets left for the evening session online. Also, The Latona Pub will be hosting the release party for the Herbert’s Legendary Cask Festival Ale tomorrow night. Herbert’s is a collaborative beer brewed each year for the fest at a different location. This year’s version was done at American Brewing Company.

What is cask ale?

Cask-conditioning is a traditional way of brewing and serving beer that has been practiced in England for centuries. After primary fermentation in the tank unfiltered, unpasteurized beer that still contains live yeast is transferred to a “cask” where it finishes secondary fermentation that naturally carbonates the beer. Then the beer is traditionally served at cellar temperature (50-55F) pumped by a beer engine. This process results in smoother mouthfeel and a more complex flavor profile that allows subtle nuances to come through- a quality that many cask devotees seek in their perfectly poured pint of cask ale.

There are really two types of cask ales that you’ll find at this festival. The first is the traditional method described above, which fans will tell you really brings out fuller aromas and flavors vs. the same beer that is keg or tank conditioned and served with C02. It’s really all about serving the freshest product possible in this case. For a great example of traditional cask ale here in Seattle, I advise you to try something from Machine House Brewery in Georgetown, which features English-style ales poured from a cask through hand pumps at their bar.

The second method takes cask beer as an opportunity to add layers of flavor by adding special ingredients to the beer in the cask, such as fruit, spices, chocolate and whatever else a brewer can think of. The second method isn’t wrong by any means, but if a pub in England were to serve a “cask beer” featuring citrus peel, flowers and tears from a newt, you might have a riot on your hands. But, here in the US this experimentation is embraced and enjoyed by many.

At the WA cask festival, you will find many examples of both types of cask beer that I describe above. With 41 breweries pouring over 100 beers, you are sure to find something that fits your preference. If you can’t decide, you’ll find a few suggestions below.

Machine House Bitter – You owe it to yourself to start off with something traditional, at least for comparison’s sake. This 4.2% ABV Best Bitter is a great example of the style. I’ve also heard good things about their Dandelion Pale.

Ice Harbor Whiskey Barrel Porter – Ice Harbor makes some great beers, but I’m not sure if I have had anything barrel-aged from them. Seems like a good idea to me.

Black Raven Session Oaked Chicago Hot Toddy – Yeah, no idea what this is. But, I’m from Chicago & Black Raven kicks ass in general. If you don’t want to take a chance on this, I suppose you could stick with their “Wisdom Seeker-Extra Wise and Firkenized”.

Hi-Fi Brewing Extra Mild – This is another traditional English-style that is great from a cask. At 4.2% ABV it will help offset some of the heavier beers.

Fremont Imperial Porter – I’m going to assume this is their “Midnight Rider”, which has vanilla, coffee & coconut. Sounds right up my alley. Oh, this is the WABL beer…so you have to be a member to try it. You can sign up at the fest.

Georgetown Dry Hopped Lucille – Lucille is a great IPA when it is coming out of a regular keg & w/out dry hopping. I imagine I could just drink pints of this all day and be happy.

American Brewing Decadence Chocolate Imperial Stout – Mmmm….chocolate imperial stout.




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