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Brewtopia Events LLC

Owen Ogletree's Brewtopia Brewsletter: January 2013

In this issue:

- Five Reasons to Attend the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting

- Ale Sharpton Talks "Cask Ale" with Owen

- To Live & Brew in L.A.

- Cask Ale Clarifications

- Brewsletter Sponsor

- Southbound and Down

- Featured Beery Links & Events

- Follow Brewtopia Events on Facebook

Follow our craft beer adventures...


- Five Reasons to Attend the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting



We can think of loads of reasons for every beer lover in the region to attend our January 26 Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting, but here are the top five...

  1. Some participating breweries are premiering new brands at ACAT this year.
  2. It is truly a fun, sociable, unique craft beer celebration.
  3. Most casks at ACAT include special processes or ingredients that are only done for this event.
  4. Cask-conditioning really allows attendees to explore the aromas and flavors of the malt, hops, wood, spices, etc. in each cask.
  5. Serving cask ales is not easy, but each and every cask at ACAT has been stored, conditioned, vented and cared for in expert manner.


The ATLANTA CASK ALE TASTING (Saturday, January 26, 2013) allows attendees to sample from almost 40 one-off, cask-conditioned real ales, take home a free Peak Organic pint glass and vote for "People's Choice" cask - all while experiencing one of the Southeast's most highly regarded craft beer events! Delectable food from 5 Seasons and Taco Mac will also be on sale! Sponsors: Peak Organic, 5 Seasons Brewing, Taco Mac and Brew Depot - with additional thanks to SweetWater Brewing for their support. A benefit for the Atlanta Humane Society. Click below to purchase one of the last remaining tickets and be with us to explore the joy of cask (real) ale...


Click here for ACAT tickets and full details.


- Ale Sharpton Talks "Cask Ale" with Owen

From Atlanta beer blogger Ale Sharpton...


There’s no mystery that I love featuring fellow beer lovers who are pioneers, brewers, visionaries and simply folks who truly appreciate the craft of brewing. I thought it would be awesome to interview “Double O” and pick his brain regarding casks, why everyone goes crazy over them, and what to expect with the upcoming Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting that will be held at the Prado in Sandy Springs between the patios of 5 Seasons Brewery and Taco Mac. Trust me, it’s a blast so try and snatch a ticket before it sells out again! You know I will be there!


Click here to read Ale's entire interview!


- To Live & Brew in L.A.

Ten years ago, when someone would ask Owen where to find the best beer in Los Angeles, Owen would reply, "San Diego." Not true any longer! The City of Angels now showcases a fine craft beer scene - with new brewpubs, micros and beer bars opening up like a San Andreas fault-line.


In December of 2012, Owen Ogletree and The Beer Wench went exploring for craft beer in the Los Angeles area. Once known as a craft beer desert, L.A. now blossoms as an oasis for gourmet beer styles. Pictured to the right is Owen Ogletree with Patrick Rue, brewer and owner of The Bruery in Placentia, CA.


Click here to check out Owen's photos. Click on individual photos to see captions and read about our new Los Angeles craft beer finds.


- Cask Ale Clarifications

By Owen Ogletree


With cask-conditioned ales making regular appearances at a growing number of pubs, brewery tours and festivals from Alabama to North Carolina, this interesting process and tradition now forms the hottest new beer trend in the Southeast. Unfortunately, many people responsible for brewing, distributing and serving cask ales sometimes lack complete knowledge and experience needed to provide the very best pint to the customer.


Cask-conditioning comes from the English tradition of placing young, unfiltered beer with yeast, a touch of residual sugar and clarifying finings into sealed metal or wooden casks. Typical casks hold 10.8 gallons of beer and are known as “firkins.” Inside the bunged firkin, yeast consumes remaining sugars, producing soft carbonation and subtle, appealing fermentation notes before settling into the belly of the cask as sediment.


English pub owners - well versed in the care and serving of cask ales - place their firkins in horizontal "stillage" position in the pub's cool cellar immediately upon delivery. From this point, the casks remain still - never moved or jostled until empty. After a few days of allowing the beer to clarify and form a sediment, the publican hammers a porous, wooden peg (spile) into the cask’s top bung to vent any excess carbonation. A tap is later hammered through another bung on the front of the cask, with the ale being served by hand pump.




Most pubs in the United States lack cellars and equipment to condition and serve cask ale in the traditional English way. Here, most casks are placed on their sides and vented in the beer cooler, then carried gently (in horizontal position) to a stillage cradle on the bar, and a simple gravity tap serves up the beer.


Cask ale must include a secondary fermentation with live yeast cells and a conditioning period inside the cask, so putting filtered, carbonated beer into a cask doesn't constitute cask ale. All cask ales should have sediment. Watch carefully at a pub's cask ale tapping - if a cask is rolled out or carried in a vertical position, then put in horizontal stillage position, immediately tapped and pours clear, it is probably not real cask ale. If cask ale were handled in this manner, it would pour very cloudy and murky. A slight haze is considered acceptable in U.S. cask versions, but murky, muddy or chunky cask beer should be avoided.


Murky cask ale is no fun. This is an indication that the beer might contain too much residual sugar, still be fermenting actively and hasn't been given time for yeast to settle and the beer to clarify. It's also possible that the cask was up-righted or agitated before serving. Infection from bacteria and/or wild yeasts could also the issue, but taste and aroma will usually give this away.





Cask-savvy pub owners don't rush things - they give their cask ales plenty of time to drop clear and form the sediment layer. Cask ales stored in cool stillage position for enough days will typically drop bright without finings, but many cask ale brewers help out the process by employing finings such as isinglass, gelatin and carrageenan. To prevent hop particle "floaters," hole-leaf dry-hops should always be placed into a sealed hopsack inside the cask.


Casks should never be up-righted or jostled prior to serving and should never be delivered and served on the same day. A cask should have at least two to seven days in very cool, horizontal stillage position at the pub before being served. If late delivery of a cask occurs on the scheduled day of tapping, pub owners should immediately place the cask in cool stillage position and postpone tapping for at least a couple of days (one week would be better) - definitely a preferable alternative to murky beer.


Pub owners shouldn't try to soft spile and vent a firkin rapidly just a few minutes prior to serving. Vigorous soft spiling often causes drastic pressure fluctuations that dredge up sediment and make the beer cloudy. Several hours might be needed to allow the yeast to re-settle.


Dense, but still slightly porous wooden hard spiles typically vent pressure above 3-5 PSI or so - just right for a cask. But these hard spiles sometimes take 1-2 days to vent the cask slowly down to desired levels of carbonation pressure. If a day or two exists before tapping a cask, busy pub owners may just use a hard spile to vent - 90% of the time, this works.  Also remember that any spile blocked by a hop bag placed in the cask will vent much slower or stop all together.




Casks should always be conditioned and stored at cool temperatures (50-60 degrees F). Warm conditioning temperatures make for exploding cask bungs and a tremendous mess. Cask ales can't be shipped in warm months on non-refrigerated trucks, and this explains why casks seem less prevalent in the summer months.


Casks taste best when served no warmer than 50-55 degrees F. Cask ales should offer a soft, subdued, bright carbon dioxide sparkle and should never be flat - with occasional exceptions involving well-aged, port-like, high-gravity old ales or barleywines.


Beer festivals provide even more difficult challenges for organizers wishing to include cask ales. Where should casks be stored and vented in cool stillage position for several days before the event? What's the best way to transfer casks gently and carefully to serving positions on fest day? Pouring staff must be trained regarding the nuances of cask ale tapping and serving. How will the casks be kept cool during serving? Cask ales require planning, preparation and practice.




- Brewsletter Sponsor

JailHouse Misdemeanor Ale


From our buddies at JailHouse Brewing in Hampton, GA...


Misdemeanor is built on robust flavors, with practiced restraint. It is a medium-bodied amber ale with a balanced caramel sweetness and a heft of biscuit overtones. Balanced with a combination of earthy hop varieties from the Willamette Valley.


  • Malt - Domestic 2-row, Crystal, Biscuit
  • Hops - Liberty and Willamette
  • ABV - 5.5% | IBU - 23  
  • Suggested Pairings - Grilled meats with rich caramelized flavors, burgers and pizza. Also goes great with spicy steamed shrimp and a good homemade cocktail sauce.


- Southbound and Down

Construction proceeds at a rapid pace at Savannah's new Southbound Brewing Company. "If you drive by the microbrewery, you'll see a huge green silo that stands about 25 feet tall with our giant logo," says Southbound's Carly Wiggins. "The boiler was the first piece of equipment to arrive, and the rest of the equipment showed up in mid-January. Our brewers flew up to Newlands Systems in Canada right before Christmas and came back reporting that the equipment exceeded their expectations and is truly a superior product. The system is a four-vessel, 30 barrel brewhouse with five 60 barrel fermentation tanks. Our completion date is set for St. Patty’s Day weekend, if all goes correctly. We plan to have a bar right in front of our cooler with some stools for our tours, tastings and events."


- Featured Beery Links & Events


- Follow Brewtopia Events on Facebook

CLICK HERE and hit the Brewtopia Events "like" button on Facebook to see live photos and news posts as we sip, quaff and sniff craft beer around the world.



  • Owen Ogletree, The Beer Wench, Terrapin's Spike Buckwoski, Charlie Meers of 5 Points Bottle Shop and Thel Melton head to brave the ice and snow of Anchorage to judge at the Great Alaskan Beer & Barleywine Festival.
  • Owen takes 20 beer lovers across the pond in early February for an epic UK cask ale trek and collaborative brewing session with Terrapin and Thornbridge.
Owen Ogletree is an Athens, GA beer writer, beer traveler, nationally certified beer judge, and founder/director of, the Classic City Brew Fest, and the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting. Phone: (706) 254-BREW.
Brewtopia Events LLC • 265 Newton Bridge Rd. • Athens, GA 30607
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