Cask Ale is a relatively new phenomenon for South Africa. They are fermented in old barrels that have previously fermented liquors such as whisky, brandy or rum. At least that’s what we thought. We’re clearly not experts on all of this so asked Stephen Peel, Head Brewer at Shackleton Brewery and organizer of In The Shadow of Giants Cask Ale Festival what makes cask ale great. This was what he had to say.
- More complex flavours – “Real ale (cask ale) is a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation. It is this process which makes real ale unique amongst beers and develops the wonderful tastes and aromas which processed beers can never provide. Real ale is a natural, living product.” – CAMRA Guidelines (Campaign For Real Ale). Unlike draught beers, cask ale is unpasteurised and contains active yeast in each cask. This yeast adds a considerable amount of flavour and aroma to the beer which would have been lost if force carbonated like the standard keg beer.
- Lighter & more sessionable – Cask ale is renowned for its subtle carbonation and sessionable characteristics. Due to the secondary fermentation in the cask, the beer goes through a more gentle carbonation than the unnaturally ‘fizzy’ draught beer. Temperature is also a key factor in making cask ale more sessionable. Typically served between 10-14 degrees C, one is able to truly experience a lot more flavour than those beers served at ice cold temperatures.
- Care has gone into every pint – The process of producing draught ale and cask ale is much the same until the end of the fermentation. Draught beer will be dropped, carbonated and mostly filtered or pasteurised before going into a keg and off to its final destination. Cask ale however, takes a different route. The beer needs to condition (secondary fermentation) and settle out once arriving at the cellar from which it is served. The bar owner/cellarman will then vent the cask releasing CO2 and taste the ale ensuring it has the right clarity, flavour and carbonation. All this has to be done before the first pint of cask ale can be served. The beer is also tracked once the cask is open in order to ensure the ale being served is fresh.
- Traditionally satisfying – There is something about producing and serving beer the same way people have for centuries. The beer can be tapped either directly from the cask or through the beer engine. Beer engines/hand pull taps are designed to draw the beer from the cask in the cellar below. This requires no additional gas, coolers or electricity. When you find yourself experiencing the next season of load-shedding, make sure to find a pub with cask ale.
- Uncharted in SA – Cask ale in South Africa is by no means a “new” thing. This form of real ale has been around for centuries and has been, for the most part, replaced by draught beer. Currently, there are only a handful of breweries experimenting with cask ales. The South African craft beer scene is booming and one can expect those amazing craft ales to be put in cask soon.
If that hasn’t convinced you, here is our video from the first Shadow of Giants Cask Ale Festival. It’s a great way to try a whole lot of barrel aged beer on top of being just an excellent way to spend an afternoon.
This time round you can expect to see the following breweries bringing something interesting to the Festival:
- Shackleton Brewing Co
- Swifty’s Bru
- Old Potter’s Inn & Brewhouse
- Afro Caribbean Brewing Co
- The Kennel Brewery
- Devils’ Peak Brewing Co
- Atlantic Storm Brewing Co
- Dissident Brewing Co
Now, we’ve been given two pairs of tickets to give away. To enter:
- Make sure you Like the Barley&Hops Facebook Page (we like to give stuff away).
- Head over to this Facebook post.
- Tag the brewery you’re looking forward to seeing.
- Tag your mate you would like to spend the afternoon sinking beers with.
Alternatively, tickets are available from Webtickets.
We will select a winner on the 27th of August. Good luck!