In a world of “born on” dates, freshness labels and cans that change color when your beer has reached its “optimum temperature,” the marketing of beer has reached a frothy foam. Some beers are touted for how quickly they can go from farm to pub, with refrigerated trucks waiting in the hop fields of Yakima to rush them to breweries hundreds of miles away.
Now, though, there is a chance to enjoy your beer the way it was made in the earliest days of brewing.
Cask ale, as it’s known, is beer that is fresh, unfiltered and naturally carbonated through the fermentation process, instead of being pumped full of other gasses. It’s the way everyone from Sophocles to George Washington enjoyed their beer, and to many, it’s still the best.
“Cask beers are a great way for consumers to get in touch with the way beer was served for thousands of years prior to the availability of compressed gasses,” said Pat Ringe of Mukilteo’s Diamond Knot Brewing. “The result is a very mellow, delicious, smooth character."
This Saturday, March 30th, the Washington Brewers Guild is hoping to tap into people looking for a bit more adventure with their beer. After selling out for several years in a row, the annual Cask Festival moves to the much larger Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center. It’s a testament to the growing popularity of the style, among both beer geeks and novices, alike.
"Just the very method of serving cask beer lends itself to a more flavorful experience versus your typical tavern draft pint,” said Alex Dittmar, founder of Airways Brewing in Kent. “We serve a new cask every Thursday in our tap room. It's become so popular, if we forget to post what we're pouring online, we get phone calls saying, 'Hey, what's the cask this week?'"
Cask ales run in stark contrast to the “cold activated bottle” crowd, wooed by marketers who try to convince them that colder beer is better beer.
Cask-conditioned brews would be considered “warm” by their snowy-peaked counterparts at Coors, served at around 55 degrees. That warmth, however, is refreshing to those seeking a more flavorful drinking experience.
Warmer temperatures bring out the full flavor in beer, food and wine. Which would you prefer, a bite of your steak straight from the skillet, or a few hours later from that doggie bag in the fridge?
“More than 40 breweries will be pouring this Saturday,” said the Brewers Guild’s Lisa Miyashita. “This is a great chance for people to experience something the way it was originally meant to be, without all the slick marketing, packaging and hype.”
For more information on tickets and times, visit www.washingtonbrewersguild.org