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Cask Beer


TedE
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Brief summary for this continuation of the Heffalump & Castle thread:

Boy walks into a bar. Boy orders a cask beer. Barperson pulls beer through an engine. Boy tastes beer and realizes he's been duped. Boy weeps softly for the state of real ale in this country and abroad.

That is so wrong.  Some time ago, I had a pint of hand pulled Newcastle at Finn MacCools on 8th SE.  It didn't taste right at all, and I wonder if this may be a reason.  Should be the subject of another thread, though.

Aye, 'tis the reason. Be wary of any and all hand-pulled beers from across the pond; 9.56 times out of 10 it's just keg beer. It is ostensibly done for quality reasons (cask beer ain't the easiest thing to ship long distances), but if you can't do it right don't pretend that you can! At least put it on nitro if you want to differentiate.

On a brighter note, the Brick says they WILL be having real casks once they get the beer engine rolling, and you can get gravity casks at RFD now. Same thing with Firkin Thursdays and the Reef. They've had some great ones. Not to mention the local brewpubs that serve up real ales.

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Which brewpubs are those?

I'm relatively sure that Old Dominion Brewery has a cask ale, but I don't know if it's hand-pumped or not. Not that it makes a difference, since I always have to drive myself out there to get my growlers refilled!

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Which brewpubs are those?

I'm relatively sure that Old Dominion Brewery has a cask ale, but I don't know if it's hand-pumped or not.  Not that it makes a difference, since I always have to drive myself out there to get my growlers refilled!

If I'm not mistaken the District Chophouse does, but I confess I haven't been there in a while. They may be gravity pours as well, but at least it's the real deal.

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If I'm not mistaken the District Chophouse does, but I confess I haven't been there in a while.  They may be gravity pours as well, but at least it's the real deal.

District Chophouse has their Vanilla Bourbon Stout on the beer engine. It's far too sweet for my tastes and I miss the rotating cask they used to have on the handpull. John Harvards serves some of their beer on the beer engine also.
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Vanilla. Bourbon. Stout. 

Nope, there's no part of that I don't like the sound of!  Except maybe the vanilla, at least in a 'beer' context.  Definitely merits a try!

It's really just their stout, however it's held in old bourbon casks, giving off that vanilla-y bourbon-y tang. Edited by CrescentFresh
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Shenandoah Brewing, easily my favorite brewers in the area, sometimes have a firkin on at their small retail counter, though it's much more a place for brewing than a bar.

Vermillion in Alexandria is starting a weekly firkin night tomorrow with New River Pale Ale from Old Dominion.

When it opens, the new Old Dominion pub in the convention center should have a couple of hand pumps, as they'll have 32 taps. Maybe I'll head to the Beer Fest next month and make sugestions...

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It's really just their stout, however it's held in old bourbon casks, giving off that vanilla-y bourbon-y tang.

Oh, well...that's still probably good. A True 'vanilla bourbon stout' will have to wait until I get home from class. Or better, a deconstructed vanilla bourbon stout.
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What makes it better?  Does it keep the beer from being bruised?

The beer engine isn't really what makes cask-conditioned beers better, it's simply that these beers are "alive" (have active yeasts still doing their magic). Cask beers are not pasteurized or filtered so they have more character than most beer you will see. As they develop and age these beers produce their own natural carbonation, but it is much lower than what most folks are used to (well, in the U.S. at least). A beer engine's primary job is to agitate the beer as it's poured. Pulling the handle forces the beer through a little aeration device that gives a bit of a head to the beer. Cask beers can also be served as is with whatever carbonation is present in the product already (gravity pours).

Long and short of it: beer engines don't a good beer make, but good beers are typically poured out of them. That's why some folks get in a tizzy when someone plants an engine on a bar and pours regular old pasteurized, filtered, non-real ale through it. Misleading advertising and all that.

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Vermilion's Firkin Thursday is once a month (for now)...mark calendars:

Tomorrow night - New River Pale Ale

June 23rd - DC Chophouse Summer Bock

I'm kinda out of touch re: paying attention to what DC Chophouse does. (that happened after they stopped pouring from a cask of anything but the stout) but I find it fascinating that they're providing firkins elsewhere but not pouring them themselves? What gives with that?
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On a whim last night, a handful of us went to drink the beer at John Harvard's next to the Warner Theater, which I have frequently touted as the best on-premises restaurant brewing operation in the area. Jacques Gastreaux got to try the cask ale from the beer engine. (You did try it, didn't you?) And I think we all liked the $3 plates of fried calamari. Very tender.

As for the beer, I continue to believe there is nothing better in the area (offhand, this includes Gordon Biersch, District Chophouse, Cap City Brewing, Founders, that dreadful Hops chain, and perhaps one or two more I'm forgetting). I had threatened to make fun of anyone who disagreed with my claims about the beer. :wub: No one disagreed with me. (That's a first! Then again, there are all those voices I hear of people talking behind my back. :P )

Can't say much good about the food at John Harvard's (calamari excepted), but it's really good beer. A fine variety of flavors, body weight, hoppiness. Try them and enjoy.

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You must've gotten a fresh cask at JH's...the times I've tried it have been pretty oxidized.

And I work close enough to Dominion (which turns over casks of Tuppers and other things pretty quickly--they use American kegs instead of firkins, but it's pretty much on the up-and-up otherwise).

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Ah Hops isn't bad, for a chain. Beer is alright...better than what you're going to get in a restaurant without somebody taking an active interest in their beer list, anyway. Those honey biscuits they give you are awesome...flakey and sweet and dusted with some kind of delicious narcotic agent.

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You must've gotten a fresh cask at JH's...the times I've tried it have been pretty oxidized.

And I work close enough to Dominion (which turns over casks of Tuppers and other things pretty quickly--they use American kegs instead of firkins, but it's pretty much on the up-and-up otherwise).

Have not been there. I'm just never out that way unless I'm on the way to places to drink wine. But I would like to try them.

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On a whim last night, a handful of us went to drink the beer at John Harvard's next to the Warner Theater, which I have frequently touted as the best on-premises restaurant brewing operation in the area.  Jacques Gastreaux got to try the cask ale from the beer engine.

I tried the cask ale as well-- a creamy stout. It was truly delicious with a perfect caramel flavor. One of the best beers I've had in a long time.

Plates of nachos for $3 weren't bad either. Then again, you can't go wrong with melted cheese.

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Anyone ever been to Franklin's (Hyattsville,  MD), DC's "stealth" brewpub (this place is off the radar of even the biggest beer enthusiasts around here).  Apparently they do some great cask ales.

I have been to Franklin's a couple of times, although not in the past year or two. You're right, they do have excellent beer. I was particularly impressed by the variety of styles they brew. If I recall, they weren't caught up in a "we need to have a "lite" we need to have a brown, we need to have a red, we need to have a stout, we need to have a fruit" beer mentality.

It's too bad their location sucks.

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As for the beer, I continue to believe there is nothing better in the area (offhand, this includes Gordon Biersch, District Chophouse, Cap City Brewing, Founders, that dreadful Hops chain, and perhaps one or two more I'm forgetting).  I had threatened to make fun of anyone who disagreed with my claims about the beer.  :P   No one disagreed with me.

Ooh, ooh, I'll disagree! :wub:

I don't find JH very noteworthy at all. Totally meh in my opinion. And this seems to extend to all of the branches I've visited (including the original which admittedly was the best of the lot since they strayed more from the corporate recipe book; lots of specials and one-offs on tap).

Old Dominion is the best of the local bunch by a long shot; too bad it's way out in the middle of nowhere. I'd take Cap City second, if only for a handful of their offerings, not the usual lineup. Most any place can put together a string of "regular" beers satisfactorily; it's the specials that will keep me coming back. Had a great IIPA at the Cap City Union Station a couple months back. I've been trying my hardest to get there for Thursday happy hours this month when their brewer has had a firkin on the patio, but work has held me up. Every. Single. Time. And last night they had a Wit on cask. Damn.

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Ooh, ooh, I'll disagree!  :P

I don't find JH very noteworthy at all.  Totally meh in my opinion.  And this seems to extend to all of the branches I've visited (including the original which admittedly was the best of the lot since they strayed more from the corporate recipe book; lots of specials and one-offs on tap).

Old Dominion is the best of the local bunch by a long shot; too bad it's way out in the middle of nowhere.  I'd take Cap City second, if only for a handful of their offerings, not the usual lineup.  Most any place can put together a string of "regular" beers satisfactorily; it's the specials that will keep me coming back.  Had a great IIPA at the Cap City Union Station a couple months back.  I've been trying my hardest to get there for Thursday happy hours this month when their brewer has had a firkin on the patio, but work has held me up.  Every.  Single. Time.  And last night they had a Wit on cask.  Damn.

I have not been to Old Dominion, and will be happy to try it sometime when I can make it out there. (It's just past Indiana, right?) My Cap City experience is from the branch at 11th and H. I've only been to the Union Station one a couple of times, perhaps most recently was 8 - 10 months ago. Does Cap City serve cask now? They never had to my knowledge. And the beers I was used to drinking all had the exact same mouthfeel. If I drank their beer blindfolded I'd get flavor differences, but their dark and light beers all have the exact same mouthfeel, body and carbonation. To me, that's boring, and Harvard's excels beyond that.

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I have not been to Old Dominion, and will be happy to try it sometime when I can make it out there.  (It's just past Indiana, right?)  My Cap City experience is from the branch at 11th and H.  I've only been to the Union Station one a couple of times, perhaps most recently was 8 - 10 months ago.  Does Cap City serve cask now?  They never had to my knowledge.  And the beers I was used to drinking all had the exact same mouthfeel.  If I drank their beer blindfolded I'd get flavor differences, but their dark and light beers all have the exact same mouthfeel, body and carbonation.  To me, that's boring, and Harvard's excels beyond that.

The brewer at Union Station has started doing casks during Thursday HH. One firkin only on the patio. Reports from other beer geeks have been positive. They had an IIPA a couple weeks back, oatmeal stout last week, a Wit yesterday, and a cask of Double Amber Waves next week (which I will miss, again :P , but only because Brew at the Zoo is that night). It's the same beer they are featuring for their 1000th brew celebration in Shirlington.

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The cask beer at Harvard's ran out tonight after my first pint. So I had to try something else. I tried a taste of the Belgian. Bleah. So I said just give me a pint of the porter. AIIIIIIIIIIGGGHHHHHH! It was like drinking coca cola with a few shakes of powdered espresso added to it. Most foul.

So, Harvard's has now dropped a ton in my book. I'll still drink their cask. But if it's not on. I'm going elsewhere.

Edited by CrescentFresh
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not cask-beer related but beer related

was picking up a few things at Magruders in CT Ave yesterday when I noticed large bottles of Delirium Noel on sale for 4.99 (reg 9.99)

I picked up a few to taste and if I like it I'll be back for more. This is an excellent price for a Belgian.....

thought some folks would like to know

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I was really disappointed to see that John Harvard's downtown has closed. :lol: I really enjoyed their beer and hope whoever ocuppies their space in the future doesn't mess with the great ceiling.

Does anyone have the inside scoop on this?

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I was really disappointed to see that John Harvard's downtown has closed.  :lol:   I really enjoyed their beer and hope whoever ocuppies their space in the future doesn't mess with the great ceiling.

Does anyone have the inside scoop on this?

Regardless of the reason for closing, this is a real bummer. That's 2 brew pubs in the area to bite the dust recently. The place on King Street in Old Town Alexandria also recenly closed. Other than Cap City Brewing and Gordon Biersch (assuming they qualify as brew pubs), what else is left?

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That's 2 brew pubs in the area to bite the dust recently.  The place on King Street in Old Town Alexandria also recenly closed. 

Yes, but rumors are that it (Founders) is going to be moving to the north end of Old Town to the space now occupied by Cafe Marianna, and presumably the adjoining antique/gift shop.

While it's not going to be a brewpub, I think a lot of us in the area have high hopes for Rustico, which looks like it will have a great beer selection....

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Other than Cap City Brewing and Gordon Biersch (assuming they qualify as brew pubs), what else is left?

District Chophouse

Old Dominion

Sweetwater

Brewer's Art

DuClaw

Shenandoah Brewing Company (Sort of, more brew than pub. Supplier to Dremo's.)

Ram's Head (Fordham) and The Wharf Rat (Oliver) count at least as much as Cap City - off premise brewing specific to the pub.

DeGroens went under, too...

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District Chophouse

Old Dominion

Sweetwater

Brewer's Art

DuClaw

Shenandoah Brewing Company (Sort of, more brew than pub. Supplier to Dremo's.)

Ram's Head (Fordham) and The Wharf Rat (Oliver) count at least as much as Cap City - off premise brewing specific to the pub.

DeGroens went under, too...

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,

Little boy blue and the man on the moon

Hey! All of those place serve beer and play Ugly Kid Joe (just noticed the patern)

What about...

The Oval Room?

:lol:

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I was really disappointed to see that John Harvard's downtown has closed.  :lol:   I really enjoyed their beer and hope whoever ocuppies their space in the future doesn't mess with the great ceiling.

Does anyone have the inside scoop on this?

Regardless of the reason for closing, this is a real bummer.  That's 2 brew pubs in the area to bite the dust recently.  The place on King Street in Old Town Alexandria also recenly closed.  Other than Cap City Brewing and Gordon Biersch (assuming they qualify as brew pubs), what else is left?

SONOFABITCH! That leaves NO ONE pouring any real ale out of a beer engine!

District Chophouse is now the only place making decent beer inside the beltway, IMO.

As for using a hand pump for the ale, Harvard's closing leaves that tap dry. RFD and Brickskeller don't count for shit.

RUSTICA! DO MY BIDDING!

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I ate recently at District Chophouse due to no other choice and it was truly awful. So bad, I cannot even remember what I ordered because I seem to have suppressed. I do remember that one of my friends ordered a pizza (admitedly a bad call at the "Chophouse") but from the looks of it, I would have rather eaten 7-11 pizza. And we were sat in the bar area and this man was smoking a cigar the entire time we were eating. Not complaining that he was smoking a cigar as we were at the bar, but it ruined my meal and why did it take over an hour to smoke it?!

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District Chophouse

Old Dominion

Sweetwater

Brewer's Art

DuClaw

Shenandoah Brewing Company (Sort of, more brew than pub. Supplier to Dremo's.)

Ram's Head (Fordham) and The Wharf Rat (Oliver) count at least as much as Cap City - off premise brewing specific to the pub.

Forgot to add RockBottom and Thoroughbreds. And Dogfish Head would fit into the Cap City category (but not the same quality).

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I was really disappointed to see that John Harvard's downtown has closed.  :)   I really enjoyed their beer and hope whoever ocuppies their space in the future doesn't mess with the great ceiling.

Does anyone have the inside scoop on this?

My initial thoughts were that this had something to do with rents, because the Dean and Deluca shop disappeared too. But starfish and I ran into a dude this week at BP from Philly area who said that the Harvard's closed there too and many others were closing. So, it sounds more corporate.

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My initial thoughts were that this had something to do with rents, because the Dean and Deluca shop disappeared too. But starfish and I ran into a dude this week at BP from Philly area who said that the Harvard's closed there too and many others were closing. So, it sounds more corporate.

Something is going in to the old Harvard's space. But I don't know what it is.

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Rustico and Birreria Paradiso are the only places that make a point of regularly serving cask beer. Both seem to do it well, though I've not been to the UK to try the real thing. As mentioned, the Union Station Cap City does cask beers pretty much every Thursday, though it's been a gravity pour rather than an engine when I've gone (I can check to see which method he uses if y'all want). Brick and RFD make a stab at it, but I'd make friends with the servers so you can get the straight poop from them about how the beers are doing. The turnover is not fast enough at these places for the beer to get my actual trust.

Old Dominion is probably the best place in the area, IMHO, it's just too dang for out for those within the Beltway to make it out there on a regular basis. New River Pale Ale, Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale, and the Second Runnings Bitter have all been phenonemal off the handpull engine there. I also had the DIPA from the cask there and it was delish (but not nummo (Lindemann's lambics, I bet, are nummo)).

I'm not 100% certain about Franklin's, but I believe they serve cask ales from Thursday to Sunday, which would make sense if they give a crap about the product, which they do. I'll second that Franklin's is undersung. Their beers have character, which is a good thing.

As to whether cask beer is better, I wouldn't say it always is. It's just different. Some beers definitely benefit from the treatment (most English and Scottish styles) while some don't (Belgian and a lot of American styles). Basically, if the style developed prior to modern refrigeration, it will probably taste better given proper cellermanship (which is not easy to find in these parts).

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Well, this thread needs a recent add-on*, it looks like. Churchkey currently has 5 choices available, with the Paradox Isle of Arran as a must-try. An imperial stout aged in single-malt scotch barrels, it goes down a dark, smooth run, with a nice PUNCH of smoke at the end.

*With Thanks to leleboo, of course. :angry:

Edited by goodeats
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Well, this thread needs a recent add-on*, it looks like. Churchkey currently has 5 choices available, with the Paradox Isle of Arran as a must-try. An imperial stout aged in single-malt scotch barrels, it goes down a dark, smooth run, with a nice PUNCH of smoke at the end.

*With Thanks to leleboo, of course. :angry:

The absolute BEST thing about Churchkey is you can go and try 5 great cask beers, then return a week later and have a whole different selection. I've had 2 of the kegs be replaced while I was there and got to try 7 casks in one night. That place just rocks. If only the food were up to the level of the beer.

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