Charlotte Craft Beer Week’s Annual Cask Ale Festival at Duckworth’s
What is cask ale? According to the web site Cask Toronto, cask ale is “beer that is brewed from traditional ingredients and matured in the cask from which it is served. This means that it is fresh and unfiltered and therefore has a unique flavor. Cask ale is naturally conditioned as a by-product of the secondary fermentation that takes place inside the cask. It is then served directly, without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide or chemical treatments of any sort.”
Cask ale is the freshest flavor punch of beer you will ever try. It’s no coincidence that cask ale is also referred to as real ale because what you are drinking is ale in its purest form with no chemicals or other additives. In fact, the beer is still alive with live yeasts which lends to its cloudiness. The cask also serves as a vessel for infusing additional flavors to the ales allowing the brewer to insert a bit of creativity.
I had the privilege of sampling a variety of cask ales at Duckworth’s Annual Cask Ale Festival on Saturday as part of Charlotte Craft Beer Week. What a way to break in the Spring with 7 top tier craft breweries both nationally and locally and a gorgeous Spring afternoon on the patio. Beer and sunshine is the perfect way to shed the terrible winter blues we have experienced this year.
The event was setup as a competition with each participant casting a vote at the end for his or her favorite cask ale. Below are my notes in the order of tasting as I led up to my vote.
- Birdsong Brewing Honey Pie Double IPA – Dry hopped with Chinook and Columbus. A respectable beer to start the day with a creative take on a DIPA. The hops did over power the honey a bit much. The early winner though as it was the first beer of the day.
- Terrapin Beer Co Rosemary Double IPA – Very creative. The rosemary was front and center on the nose and tongue creating an Earthy yet garden fresh flavor. Unfortunately, there was some sugary sweetness that didn’t seem to fit in, like the priming sugars had not fully fermented. It’s a shame because this could have been my winner.
- Stone Brewing Ruination IPA- Dry hopped with Citra. Kaffir lime leaves were added during the secondary fermentation. Bitter with hints of grape fruit. The lime was mostly lost with only subtle notes on the nose. Good but nothing special.
- Founders Brewing Red’s Rye IPA – At least this is what I am assuming the beer was. The rep was not at all friendly and was too busy chatting with some guy for most of the festival than to bother with other patrons. He filled my glass, slid it over, and went back to his conversation. I had to ask what the beer was. Annoyed, he said, “It’s a rye.” He also gave the worst pour of the event. After the head settled, I had less than half a glass. All the other breweries made sure you had a proper pour. Onto the beer, it was pleasant but basic.
- Olde Hickory Brewery Imperial Stout – Brewed with honey and casked with peanut brittle. Sweet nuttiness. A salty finish. Ever so slightly boozy. Ding! Ding! Ding! I think I found a winner.
- Ballast Point Brewing Dorado Double IPA – Dry hopped with Mosaic hops. A perfect balance of malt and citrus hops. While it wasn’t the winner in my opinion. It definitely deserves runner up having been brewed with beer nirvana in mind.
- NoDa Brewing CAVU – NoDa’s latest offering but aged in the secondary with pineapple and cherry. While I look forward to sipping CAVU poolside this summer as it’s a blend of a wheat and a pilsner, the cask additions didn’t quite cut it. The beer was pineapple upside cake in a glass. Good for a wine cooler, but not for a beer.
My vote went to the only cask that contained something thick, dark, and malty. A note to breweries, not all craft beer fans are hop heads. All but two of the selections were hop bombs. A little variety might be nice as cask ales produce some beautiful stouts and browns. Did the crowd agree with my decision?
And now for the winner…
The crowd favorite for the day was Birdsong Brewery’s Honey Pie Double IPA. This was definitely a creative take on cask ale, and Birdsong took home a well deserved win. And what a win it is for a a little craft brewery from right here in Charlotte to tackle national powerhouses like Stone and Ballast Point. Congrats to Birdsong!
Look for additional Charlotte Craft Beer Week events at charlottecraftbeerweek.org. There are a lot of fun events going on this week. I know I am looking forward to the All Ale to the Queen Dinner on Friday at Harry’s Tavern