Think beer is too fizzy? Try cask ale
Real ale is a staple of British pubs - in Ireland it’s called cask beer and there’s an entire festival devoted to it
The Cask Ales and Strange Brews festival in Cork kicks off on January 25th
For those who complain that beer is too fizzy – cask is the perfect alternative. Known as “real ale” in the UK, cask beer is much lower in carbonation and is served at cellar temperature, which allows its fresh and full flavour to shine. While some people dismiss it as “warm and flat”, there are a growing number of fans – a trend that looks set to continue in 2018.
“It’s not traditionally something Irish people go to drink,” says Kate Clancy of Franciscan Well brewery in Cork. “But there’s been a noticeable rise in interest in cask beer.” Many female drinkers, she adds, are also drawn to this style because it is less bubbly than other beers.
Next weekend the Cork brewery is hosting Ireland’s only cask beer festival, with more than 18 breweries taking part, including Metalman, West Cork Brewing, ThirdBarrel and YellowBelly, with up to 20 cask engines rotating a range of brews.
Cask suits some styles better such as stouts, bitters, milds and pale ales as well as beers with a lower alcohol content. Serving it also requires a certain amount of skill by bar staff: when a cask beer is delivered it has to be left in its serving position for 24 hours, then opened to breathe before pouring. Served by suction from a hand pump, known as a beer engine, ideally it’s used within two-three days so it remains fresh (the flavour will change over those days, with some beer connoisseurs preferring cask beers at particular stages).
This is the sixth year of the Cask Ales and Strange Brews festival in Cork, which kicks off a year of celebrations for Franciscan Well’s 20th anniversary. Taking place on January 25th-27th, admission is free and there’ll be talks, meet-the-brewers events, music and the Strange Brews competition. And while you’re there, you can brush up on the lovely old-world language of cask beer: pins, firkins, shives, spiles and keystones.