Damn it Jim! I’m a Cask! Not a Randall!

It’s not often I drag out a soap box


Thank you…and voice some harshness towards something in the beer world that has me scratching my head.  No, I’ve kind of taken a “live and let live” approach as I see the craft beer scene explode with all kinds of fad-type, crazed hysteria that a new boy band would covet.

I believe the craft beer scene has gotten old enough where a generation gap has formed and I’ve likened these trends to the requisite argument most parents have with their children about their taste in music.  Let’s face it, if you’re a father most likely your kid’s music “stinks”, “isn’t music”, and “couldn’t hold a candle to the bands I grew up with”.  And if you’re a kid, your parent’s music is “out dated”, “elevator music”, and “belongs on an oldies station”.  The young beer crowd is jumping into things like overly hopped beers, randalls, beer cocktails, and high ABV, while I believe that a well crafted 4.2% bitter blows all that stuff out of the water.  I’m just not interested in spending the energy to argue the point (and in truth, it’s not ALL bad).

After all if I tell my daughter that the Beatles were WAY better than that Katy Perry stuff she listens to, well it’s hard for her to accept that considering she’s watching Katy break record after record held by the fab four (for the record, my daughter likes the Beatles over Ms Perry).  So if I say that the new beer to hit the scene is unbalanced and doesn’t have the malt to support its hop, but everyone is falling in love with it, who’s right?   Like Jimmy Buffett sang, “I’m just an old man, I’ll probably get sore….”

But something happened this week that caused me to actually go downstairs and pull the soapbox up from the basement.  So if you’ll permit me…

[SOAPBOX] Beer lovers, brewers, and pub denizens, why in the name of God (or whoever) are you insisting on trying turning a cask into a randall!

Cask beer is in my mind one of the greatest achievements in beer.  At its purest, cask beer is unfiltered, unpasteurised ale that gets what carbonation it has from a secondary fermentation in the cask.  As beer is drawn off the cask, air replaces it and comes in contact with the beer unless a blanket of CO2 is entered into the cask to push the air out.  This causes the beer to change over the course of the cask, as more beer gets pulled out and more air goes in.

In England, enjoying the subtle changes in the beer this process creates is part of the real enjoyment of cask, or real, ale.  And indeed, when cask beer first started making its way over to the US, there was a little bit of that, but Americans tend not to stop at their local “pub” as often as the British, so some of that charm was lost over here.  But that didn’t mean you couldn’t enjoy the differences that cask beer offer verse their kegged brethren.  And most people did.  But apparently that wasn’t enough.

Not to long ago the guys over at Two Stones Pub went to Maryland based brewery Heavy Seas to “get a cask”.  Apparently Heavy Seas has a program where you can arrange for a cask of their beer, and they’ll gladly put just about anything in it you want, kinda like ordering oreos, gummy bears and reese’s cup in your Marble Slab Creamery ice cream.  When they posted pictures from their trip, this is what caught me eye:

The Picture was Captioned : Cask Flavors Table

Really?  Cask flavors?  What the hell?  I’ve got fewer ingredients than this in my pantry. Heck, I think there are fewer ingredients than this in the pantry of Food Network’s “Chopped”!   Now I will state as a bit of a back off that I don’t have as much of an issue if you’re going to throw some hops in the beer.  Dry hopping in the cask is not unknown.  But to me, some of this stuff is just off the wall.

Then this week it came to my attention that local bar Tyler Fitzgeralds had also gone down to Heavy Seas (apparently they’re big enablers in this trend) and put together a cask.  Here is their Facebook announcement:

They managed to throw everything in there they could. Even a hop variety that to my knowledge doesn’t exist.

Again, what the hell?  That’s almost DFH worthy right there, and I don’t mean that in a good way!  I’m sorry, I don’t get it.  A cask is NOT a randall, and I don’t get why some in the current beer scene seem hell bent in treating it as such.[/SOAPBOX]

Jimmy was right.  I am sore….

Time for another beer.

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