Guide to craft beers

Cask-conditioned beer between old and new

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Written by EFW Staff

Cask-conditioned beer, back to the origins

Cask-conditioned beer or cask ale is the most particular way to tap the precious blond liquid. In the past, in fact, the barrels were placed on beams behind the counter of the pubs, in this way the beer preserved its original taste, typical of craft beer. Barrels were preserved in fresh cellars to avoid that the bacteria attack them. Beer was produced according to the rules of the German Beer Purity Law (in German Reinheitsgebot) issued in 1516, which says that beer should be produced with water, barley and hop. The yeast wasn’t already considered as a main ingredient as, at that time, the aesthetic appearance of beer wasn’t important. It, in fact, was served in pewter mugs. Then, the spreading of glasses made of glass, people needed to serve a clear and pleasant beer, to the sight besides the palate. Cask-conditioned beer system is pretty characteristic and it is used during fairs, festivals and events.

Oktoberfest and cask-conditioned beer

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Oktoberfest is the greatest festival of the world, where the main character is beer. It takes place in Monaco di Baviera between the end of September and the beginning of October. Here, the historical breweries of Baviera (Paulaner, Hofbräu, Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr) have their own stand where people, coming from all over the world, can taste their beer.
The festival begins at midday when the major of the city tap the first barrel inserting the tap hitting with a hammer. The first glass of cask-conditioned beer is offered to the Prime minister and the festival can start. Music, parades and traditional folklore to entertain this extraordinary event.

Drought beer and cask-conditioned beer: the differences

Cask-conditioned beer uses, thus, the force of gravity to tap beer, no carbon dioxide. Drought beer, instead, as we all know it in the breweries and pubs uses this gas for tapping. Carbon dioxide has three main functions: it prevents the beer oxidation as it avoids the contact of the liquid with the oxygen; second, it gives gas to the drink and finally, it pushes the beer up from the barrels to the tap. Drought beers have more gas than the cask ales.

The right rules to tap drought beer

Drought beer gives a polisher product than cask-conditioned beer, but the perfumes are more neutral and sometimes the gas can cover the taste.
To have a good product to taste, anyway, it is necessary to follow precise rules to tap beer: the glass has to be wet in order to create less friction. Moreover the Belgian way to tap advise to tilt the glass pouring the beer without touching the tap and straightening the glass until it is full. The exceeding foam is cut to preserve all its aromas.
The German tapping method, instead lasts about 7 minutes: here the glass is placed under the tap and served in three steps. The first hit fill 2/3 of the glass, then wait until the foam decrease. Second step, more beer and wait, with the third hit fill the glass and make the foam exit together with the exceeding gas. In this way you can fully taste the aromas.
The English method foresees the filling of the glass tilted till the end. The most suitable beers for this type of tap are the one with a low carbonation.

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EFW Staff