(512) Brew News

Tradition Worth Tapping Into by Kevin - Owner/Brewer
December 10, 2010, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Brewery Floor, Uncategorized



Today’s American beer culture is driven by innovation. It’s what put American brewing on the map in the early 80’s. It’s what allowed the U.S. to support more breweries in 2009 than it’s had since prohibition; and it’s what has the world’s traditional brewing powers on their heels and clamoring to catch up (We’re looking at you Germany). Sometimes, though, innovation requires looking back to a tradition that’s hundreds of years old. Such is the case for us.

For over a year now we’ve been producing a small amount of our beer in cask conditioned form. “Cask-conditioned” is a specification that refers to the way a beer is carbonated and packaged. This has been the traditional method of producing and serving ales in the British Isles for hundreds of years, and is still considered by many to be beer in its purest form. The large majority of beers produced in America, however, are carbonated in a final holding tank called a “bright tank” using pressurized carbon dioxide. The CO2 is dissolved into the beer and remains in suspension until poured, also by way of pressurized carbon dioxide.  Pouring causes some of the carbonation to be roused out of suspension, forming the picturesque head you’ve come to expect on your pint. Cask beer, however, uses no pressurized CO2 either in carbonation or serving.

(512) Firkins

A standardized definition:

Cask ale or cask-conditioned beer is the term for unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure.

Thus, in order to be called cask beer, a beer must undergo a secondary fermentation within its final vessel. This can be done several ways; the most common method involves adding a small amount of unfermented beer (called wort) to the finished beer just before packaging it. The dormant yeast, now aching for sugar, will greedily consume the small amount of sugar found in the wort, releasing several byproducts, most notably a fair amount of CO2. This CO2, having nowhere to go, ends up dissolving back into the beer over the course of several weeks, carbonating the beer naturally, and (as many Brits would argue) providing the beer with a creamier head than it would normally have. The beer was traditionally served out of wooden vessels, most of which have given way to stainless steel barrel-shaped vessels called firkins. Funny as the name may be, this type of vessel is ideal for the storage and service of cask beer due to its ability to trap sedimented yeast and prevent it from ending up in your glass. The beer is then served via a hammered-in tap or hand-pulled beer engine. Both methods provide a superb pint.

What does all of this mean for you? Our brewers have been working hard to hone this art (make no mistake, it is an art), through research and a fair bit of experimentation. You may have seen or tried some of our cask beers available during Austin Beer Week. However, in the spirit of setting the bar ever higher, we are preparing to undergo our first (and to our knowledge Texas’ first as well) cask only release. What beer do we have to offer that’s worthy of such a monumental event? Our Whiskey Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter, of course. This beer, a stronger version of our normal Pecan Porter, spent 10 months aging in Jack Daniels Whiskey barrels before the barrels were blended together and packaged in a limited (and we mean LIMITED) amount of firkins. We tasted the beer earlier this week (to many thumbs way up) and expect it to be released sometime early this month. We also expect to release the 2011 vintage of this beer sometime early in the new year.

Head Brewer, Nate Seale (left), and Assistant Brewer, Spencer Tielkemeier

Racking this year’s Whiskey BA Double Pecan Porter from Jack Daniels barrels

If you’ve never been to a cask beer tapping, we heartily encourage you to seek one out (we can think of a couple that should be happening soon…) The experience, if done properly, is one you won’t forget. There’s nothing like a hammer, a handheld tap, and some spraying beer to put you in touch with your beer-drinking roots. Cask tappings bring ritual to beer culture and provide a communal drinking experience to everyone at the bar. Plus they’re just plain fun.

Look for more cask releases coming soon.



5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This is a very good post and. Keep up the good work so that we all can stay up to date. Best regards.

Comment by thalis

Is there a chance any of these casks will wind their way to Houston?

Comment by Jerald Carter

[…] rare cask version of one of Texas’ most sought after brews for our guests on Christmas Eve.  (512) Brewing Co. gives an excellent and succint description of what is cask […]

Pingback by Rare Beer Tappings at The Moth on Christmas Eve « Matt's Beer Blog

Can people in Dallas get a taste of your brew or is it only sold in Austin? Where would I be able to get it in Dallas?

Comment by mark

This pecan porter can be found at the Flying Saucer in Ft. Worth. Great brew!!!

Comment by Aaron

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