Cask Ale: The Craft Beer of Craft Beer

Source: Beer for Dummies, 2nd Edition
Most of the time when you go into a bar or a brewery, you have two choices in beer: draft or bottle. A small number of places offer a third option: Cask ale.  But what is cask ale?

Cask ale is also known as real ale, cask-conditioned beer, or “hand-pulled” beer. We like to call it the “craft beer of craft beer.” It differs from conventional draft or keg beer in that it’s alive. That is to say, it is not filtered or pasteurized in any way, so it contains live, active yeast that have been left to ferment and mature the beer naturally. This process results in a gentle, natural carbonation and complex, delicate flavors that simply don’t exist in filtered keg beer.

Cask beer is never served with extraneous gas, whether CO2 or nitrogen, but is usually dispensed straight from the cask (this is known as “gravity dispense”) or through the use of a beer engine, AKA a hand pull. Either method ensures the freshest possible pour.

Most establishments – even those friendly to craft beer – prefer not to handle cask ales because they have a shorter shelf life (and less profit potential) compared to filtered beers. At Ashley’s, we just wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t offer our guests the chance to try beer the way it’s traditionally been made and served for centuries.

At the Michigan Cask Ale Festival, guests get to sample from more than 20 of such beers. But you can come to Ashley's any time, where we have two hand pulls that we regularly serve cask ale from. So you can count on always being able to get your fix of beers the way God – and the brewers – intended them to be served! Enjoy.