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Best Bitter Tasting Notes

img_1268This beer led me to discovering that my nitrogen gas line has a leak; needless to say this did not make it to the nitro tap. I hadn’t used my handpump in a while so I decided, what the hell, let’s use this as an experiment to see how long a beer would last uncooled and uncarbonated on cask. Usually I reserve casks for parties since it needs to be completely drank within a few days after tapping. After a few days the warmer temperature and oxygen in the headspace spoils the beer.

My procedure for this experiment is as follows:

  1. Decide that I’d like to have a pint of cask ale (or two). Rarely a difficult decision.
  2. Vent any excess CO2 from the keg.
  3. Connect handpump to keg, pull beers until finished, usually leaving the keg “tapped” for 2 to 3 hours.
  4. After this “session”, disconnect the handpump and put CO2 on to pressurize the keg to 10 psi. Disconnect gas.
  5. Repeat for each session.

I tapped the keg on 9/6/16 and am pleased to report that it lasted a full 2-1/2 weeks (9/23) before starting to show some noticeable effects of aging. From my experience with previous casks I was expecting it to become “funky”; small amounts of bacteria/wild yeast would eventually become active and create off flavors. However, the effect was more of a general oxidation – the caramel flavors become over-pronounced, slightly harsh and cloying, reminding me of a lot ill homebrew I’ve tasted in the past. Still drinkable, but having tasted it every other day it’s definitely noticeable. By 9/30 there was a noticeable Brett funk that had developed. It actually didn’t taste that bad if you took it as intentionally being funky, but it definitely had deviated too far from the original beer to be passable. Original recipe can be found here.

How it look: Crystal clear, amber, chestnut brown (lighter than the picture shows) with a frothy, airy, sudsy head. Excellent cascading bubbles when pulled from the hand pump. Just like something you’d see in a London pub!

How it smell: Clean English yeast esters with caramel, toffee, and flowers.

How it feel: Flat, but very expressive. Moderate earthy bitterness in the finish.

How it taste: Like a cozy English pub. Toasted malts and hints of caramel initially fading to earthy, floral hops. In the first pour I thought the bittering hops were a little too assertive, but it’s just enough to poke out in the finish and leave you wanting another sip. The aeration provided by the handpump amplifies all of the flavors wonderfully.

How it do:  I have an absurd bias towards English cask ales, so naturally this was one my favorites to drink. I can say as objectively as possible that this is on par with bitters I’ve had in the UK. After all, when you use all English ingredients, you’re going to hit the mark on getting all of those characteristic flavors into your beer.  I actually thought the beer peaked after about a week in the cask – the malt flavors seemed to develop and become more expressive.

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Filed under Amber, English, Reviews, Session, Tasting