Beer Blog: Chesapeake Real Ale Festival

| April 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Chesapeake Real Ale Festival (spring edition!) was held at the Pratt Street Ale House on Saturday, April 28.  This festival showcases “real ale” or cask-conditioned beer.  Cask-conditioned beer is beer that after it is brewed (in the traditional manner) is transferred to a cask (frequently a “firkin” or a “pin” – two commonly used cask sizes) and is primed using some form of sugar to undergo a secondary fermentation.  This naturally carbonates the beer, which is later served directly from the vessel.  The beer is poured without the use of carbon dioxide, usually either using a hand pump or simply by gravity directly from the cask.  Some people enjoy and support real ale because of the tradition behind it, others for its smooth mouth feel and others for the fullness of flavor.

My favorite aspect of cask-conditioned beer is many brewers add something extra to the cask, creating a new, unique beer.  Sometimes brewers will use maple syrup or honey to prime the secondary fermentation, imparting a unique flavor.  It is also common to add some extra ingredients to the cask to amplify or add flavor and/or aroma.  Extra hops are commonly added, but the list of ingredients used is endless: fruit, fruit rinds, wood, flowers, spices of all kinds, hot peppers and more.  Each unique cask is an opportunity to try a new beer.  Here are a few unique ones crafted by local breweries that I enjoyed at the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival.

Brewer’s Alley “Oatmeal Stout” – Cocoa nibs and vanilla were added.  The vanilla added a sweet flavor and amplified the chocolate making this a tasty treat.

Evolution “Lot No. 3 IPA” – Citra hops were added.  This hop variety has a very citrusy character.  This IPA is usually very floral and juicy; the Citra hops added big orange aroma and taste.

Flying Dog “Gonzo” – Blackberries and vanilla beans were added and it was primed with honey.  The vanilla and honey flavors were very noticeable and sweet with some berry flavor in the background.

Heavy Seas “Plank II” – Two types of wood (poplar and eucalyptus) and liberty hops were added.  The toasted wood flavor was very up-front and helped to balance out the big sweetness of this beer making it very intriguing.

Oliver’s “James Brown Ale” – This beer was aged on red oak.  The oak aging gave the beer a big oak flavor that was not harsh like some oaked beer can be, but was pleasantly sweet.

Fortunately there is another Real Ale Festival at Pratt Street Ale House in October, so you do not have to wait until next year to try some hand-crafted real ales!  In the meantime, stop by a firkin night at your local craft beer bar.  In Federal Hill, Metropolitan offers a cask beer every Thursday and Brewer’s Cask has a firkin every Friday.  Cheers!

About the Author:

I'm a South Baltimore resident that commutes and travels everywhere I can via bicycle. Craft beer used to be a hobby that grew into what might be considered an obsession. When I'm not sampling new beers, you can usually find me either running through the streets of Baltimore training for my next race, in the weight room, or playing with my dogs. Geotechnical engineering pays the bills.
Filed in: Dining, Downtown
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