If you’re a regular of a brew pub or pub which carries a large number of micro-brewery beers you may notice the odd event called a “Cask Night.” And you may ask yourself; “What does that even mean?” Fair enough, it’s not a term that has really made the move from jargon to common vernacular.
I was recently at a cask night hosted by Parallel 49 out of Vancouver at the Canoe Club brewpub in Victoria. While there I talked to Lon Sheehan of Parallel 49 about why cask nights are done and what the bring to the table.
“The idea is to make a unique product,” he said. “You can have fun with it.”
Cask nights allow brewers to (usually) take one of their existing beers and put a twist into it. The IPA that Parallel 49 was sharing hadn’t been altered at all because it’s a new beer for them and they wanted to people to try the original before their were any twists in it, but more often than not the brewer adds something to make sort of sub-species beer.
“With a cask it’s a beer that hasn’t touched light yet, it’s not like a packaged product which has seen light.” Sheehan said. “This is supposed to have been completely unfiltered, which this particular beer was anyways. In this instance we didn’t actually do anything to it just because it’s a new beer, so we didn’t want to dry-hop it and then people go and buy it later and then go ‘Oh this tastes totally different than the one time I had it!’
“Next time we will definitely mess with it.”
These alterations are something unique to beer, it’s not really done with other alcoholic beverages – wine or spirits. Cocktails can, of course, be mixed differently, but it’s not quite the same idea as what these brewers are doing with beer.
“With something that’s cask conditioned as well, you don’t get a chance to taste it before hand. You literally take, say, your IPA, throw a whole bunch of hops into it and then when you tap it you tap it and hope that it doesn’t suck,” Sheehan said. “Daniel here at Canoe was nice enough to have a different cask from a different brewery each Friday this month [March] and Dean…the brewer from Lighthouse, always does wicked stuff with his cask. That’s why I like to attend them. As a beer consumer it’s fun to be able to have a beer that’s slightly tweeked or completely not based off anything.”
So if you see a cask night being advertised and feel a bit adventurous, that might be the pint for you. It’s not what’s in the bottle, it’ll be a new experience. Maybe it’ll be based on what you’ve had in a pub or out of a bottle before, maybe not. If nothing else it’d be an interesting pint and a good chance to meet other craft brew drinkers.