We run our business a little differently, something you can do if you publish a magazine about beer and put on events about beer. We have two staff meetings a week — Monday morning sets the week up and Friday afternoon closes it, which we do every week at Tyler’s Taproom, Durham’s largest multitap bar. Nearly every Friday after 3:30, the staff of All About Beer Magazine and the World Beer Festival are found there checking out what’s new and catching up with each other about the week. Not too shabby.
Recently there was a treat. Triangle Brewing Co had two beers on cask: 100th batch IPA and Best of Both Worlds Stout that included chocolate, coffee and raspberries.
Earlier in the day, Ola and I had swung by my house to pick up some soft spiles for the casks. While there we paused for a half pint of cask Singleton from Top of the Hill Brewery & Restaurant. As we stood in the sun room, each with a glass of an exceedingly beautiful beer, we both commented on how beer makes great moments perfect.
I’ve been a passionate fan of cask ale before I really knew it. One a trip to Great Britain in the early 1980s I had spent a couple evenings in small out of the way pubs. The Lamb & Flag might have been one if memory serves well, where the local tipplers had goaded the Yank in to drinking “warm” and “flat” ale. I’d fallen in love with the flavor, although it was years before I came to know what it was that I’d been drinking.
I’m sorry I can’t remember the time and place when I “got” cask ale. No doubt it was with either Michael Jackson or Roger Protz on some English junket. It remains one of my favorite ways to enjoy beer. Cask ale has much in common with fresh bread out of the oven. Served at cellar temperature (low 50 degrees) and pulled with a pump rather than pushed with CO2, it tastes soft, rich, and complex. More often dry-hopped, the aroma and finish of cask ales can be a sensory feast. However, the name of the game is always subtlety.
The Singleton, made from just one malt and one hops (brewer John Withey told me it’s pale malt and Liberty, including Liberty in the dry hop), was rich without being daunting. It poured very golden. I do have a sparkler on the hand pump so the glass had a large but soft, head. Very full without being heavy. It has a slightly candy sweetness on the beginning with a long floral finish, not astringent in the slightest.
When the staff closed up shop for the week and arrived at Tyler’s, a small band had already gathered, led by Rick and Andy of Triangle Brewing Co. Our style writer Keith Klemp showed up, as did a few members of our Triangle WBF Brew Crew. Sean Wilson, of the soon-to-open Fullsteam Brewery, arrived. All in all, it was a gathering of some of the town’s passionate beer community.
As for Rick and Andy’s cask ales, they were a nice surprise for just another Friday at Tyler’s. They couldn’t be on stilage for longer than about 6 hours and they just had gravity pouring taps. Having had the cask Singleton earlier, Ola and I found the differences intriguing.
First and foremost, Rick and Andy’s beers didn’t throw such a large head and they had much more carbonation held in the beer. Since they’d only recently been set up, they couldn’t pour as bright, either. Having said that, they both were enjoyable beers.
I preferred the IPA over the stout, which seemed to have a little something for everyone (see above) . The IPA had a rich balance with a strong fruit at the beginning and an offsetting dryness on the finish. It barely lingered, too, making the next taste, the next pint, equally exciting and enjoyable. The stout showed off the special ingredients well, you could taste each without them competing for center stage.
And I guess we liked it. My credit card bill at the end of the evening had 10 stouts and 12 IPAs on it, plus a handful of other beers tossed in. Like I said, Friday afternoons are pretty cool around here.