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Brace yourself: Cask ale ‘redefined’

The headline alone suggests much hand wringing ahead: “Marston’s redefines Cask Ale.”

Pete Brown has an exclusive about the roll out of Fast Cask by Marston’s, one of Great Britain’s most highly regarded breweries.

Without going into too much technical detail, Fast Cask is still cask ale because it has live yeast working in the barrel, conditioning the beer. But that yeast has been put through an innovative process that makes it form beads which do not dissolve into the beer. These beads act like sponges, drawing beer through them to create the secondary fermentation.

Does this sound like something that will turn more than a few CAMRA beards prematurely gray?

Pete offers a succinct summary of what are bound to be long and perhaps loud arguments. Is it tradition and progress or is it tradition versus progress? Beer makers and beer drinkers have been debating just that for more than a thousands years.

Britain’s Beer Writer of the Year concludes: “So what do you think? Is this good? Bad? Significant or not? Do you want to taste the beer first and then decide, or have you already made up your mind?”

Here we go again.

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6 Responses to Brace yourself: Cask ale ‘redefined’

  1. Alan March 16, 2010 at 7:07 am #

    Isn’t that mere flocculation boosting? Various yeast strains are chosen for their properties of flocculation and, relatively conversely, their attenuation. What is wrong with lumpy yeast if the brewer wants it in lumps? While I have waited a long time to find the perfect moment to write about being in support of flocculation control I think this is actually an appropriate moment to do so.

    If only I had a good book on yeast strains…

  2. todd March 16, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    But that yeast has been put through an innovative process that makes it form beads which do not dissolve into the beer.

    Does innovative mean GMO?

  3. Joel March 16, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    Hmm. I think I’ll let me tastebuds make the verdict as to it’s effectiveness… but for me something is lost when we forget history and meaning. Traditions are important, not because they can be done without but because they are beautiful.

    My 2-bits…

  4. Tom from Raleigh March 17, 2010 at 7:09 am #

    I think this is more than mere flocculation. British yeast use in casks has been selected over the centuries to complete frementation quickly and drop out of solution, when it’s done. The article talks about beading and pulling the beer through it like a sponge – something different altogether. Interesting, but I wonder if they including some sort of media or binder. When I read the article, I thought of the word “polymer” for some reason. These “beads” may also settle out of solution sooner, reducing or eliminating the need for casks to be cellared after delivery allowing them to be served fresher from the brewery.

  5. Kevin McGee (Healdsburg Beer Co.) March 17, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    As the owner/brewmaster of a nano-brewery that makes cask ale exclusively, the first question I’d have to ask is: how does it taste? One of the lovely things about cask ale is the flavor developed in the conditioning process, an essential aspect of which is time. If you ramp up a strain of yeast to carbonate the cask faster, you may lose flavor development characteristic of cask ale. Or maybe not. Hard to tell without tasting it. In any event, the first cask ale was in itself a progressive thing that bucked tradition, so I’d be one of the last to knock the brewery for innovating (provided the beer still tastes good).

    Kevin

  6. Alan March 19, 2010 at 7:30 pm #

    “British yeast use in casks has been selected over the centuries to complete frementation quickly and drop out of solution, when it’s done. ”

    Not meaning to be a dickhead or anything as I know what you mean but that is not a trait limited to British yeast. Also, there are many British yeasts with different degrees of flocculation. So it may fit in the range and it may not. I like Kevin’s point, too: how does it taste? It is the only question that matters. Even if I really really like writing flocculation over and over.

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