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.

No Regrets

Up, up, up.  Time to get up.  What time is it?  I wasn’t sure.  It had to be late, I was alone which meant Tracey was already up and had started her day.  I grabbed my cell  phone, 9:10am.  Temperature? Already 85o.  Ug.

I had some things I needed to get done today.  Not a lot, do some more work on the smoker, put things back in the reconstructed shed, clean up the deck.  Nothing earth shattering, but I wanted to get a jump on them early.

I’m not one to usually bag things I need to do just because it’s hot. I’ve always felt that if the grass needed mowing, than the fact that it’s 90o doesn’t matter.  But today is different.  At 85o, the temperature was already beginning it’s steep climb to a high today that would finish at some where between OMG! and WTF?!?  I needed to get out there and get started.  No regrets.

After the usual Saturday morning rituals I decided to also go out and pick up a few more things at The Home Depot and Pathmark.  I wasn’t really looking forward to it.  Then I decided a quick stop at the liquor store was in order.  I weighted my options.  I took the day into consideration.

The first thing I had to do was get a coat of paint on the smoker.  The high temperature paint I bought said not to apply it if the temperature exceeded 90o.  That struck me as funny.  I only had a 5o window remaining.

It was already hot outside.  The kind of hot that tells you it’s only going to get worse.  I quickly went to my task, covering the firebox with flat black goodness.  Had I ever sweat before from just spray painting?  This wasn’t fun.  After I had used up my one can of paint, I hopped in the shower to clean off.

Off to the stores.  The truck is hot as hell.  The thermometer in it says 93o.  Lovely.  Once I picked up more paint and a few other supplies I headed back home via the local liquor store.  As I walked in, I was greeted with the usual chorus of hellos.  I stayed focused.  I firmly walked back to the coolers as so many times I’d done before.  But this time I followed them down farther than I normally go.  To a section I rarely visit.  No regrets.

As I carried my selection up to the counter I couldn’t help being over come by a wave of uneasiness.  Much like the feeling I’m sure some people get walking out of the curtained back room at a video store with the sign declaring “ADULTS ONLY” over the curtained threshold.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Notice how Ed is trying to write this analogy in a way that leads you to believe he’s never done that before. LOL]

I quickly push the feeling aside.  Tall, confident and with a purpose I walk to the counter. I make firm eye contact with the clerk as he rings me up.  I show no sign of embarrassment.  No sign of faltering.  No regrets.

On the drive home the black bag sat in the passenger seat like the proverbial 400lb gorilla.  My usually loyal truck anti-theft system seem to sense some thing was up.  And he eyed me questionably.

Whatcha got in this bag, Ed?

Once home I withdrew my purchase and popped it into the freezer.  Again I found myself outside finishing up on the grill just as the weather app on my phone hit 98o.  I turned my attention to the deck, cleaning up the remnants of some projects I’d done while also getting stuff put back in the shed.

All things totaled it took me a little over an hour and soon I was back inside the house.  I’ve always wondered why you really notice the sweat more when you walk into a cool room.  Outside it hadn’t seemed all that bad, but now standing in the kitchen I was drenched as if my skin was pushing out every drop of moisture in my body.  There’s probably some reason.  But I’m a chemist, not a dermatologist, Jim.

I walked over to the freezer and withdrew my purchase.  It was cold.  Inviting.  I went to the glass cabinet and absentmindedly pulled out a glass.  I laughed.  I’ve written in the past how I didn’t think glassware really matters that much when it comes to beer, and in this case it certainly didn’t.  I didn’t want to waste time selecting another glass, they were all stacked in the cabinet requiring to much effort to liberate a better one.  I needed relief.

I poured the beer into glass and let the head settle before taking that first long sip.  Heaven.  At that VERY moment it was the best beer I’d ever tasted.  So refreshing, so what I needed.  I thought of my blog.  Maybe I should do a review?

THEM: They say it’s beer.

ME: It’s ice cold.

There.  Covered.

As I greedily finished the first glass and poured my second I thought about beer and the many ways it can enhance our enjoyment of life.  Every beer has a purpose.  Even if for some beers it’s simply to wash a scorching summer day from your mouth.  Any beer.  You just have to have no trepidations , no prejudices and most importantly,

Time for another beer…

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