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An Introduction To Cask Ale

Cask Dispensing

There are two ways of dispensing a cask beer: Gravity or pouring the beer directly out of the cask and pulling the beer out of the cask using a piston called a beer engine or hand pump (patented, 1785). The Old English word “draught” meant, “to pull,” like the draught horses that used to deliver beer casks back in the day and later pulling a pint from the cask. Etymologically speaking, keg beer is not draught as it is pushed to the tap faucet.

A gravity dispensed cask beer is set on its side in a rack that is gently inclined towards its tap end. A tap is hammered into the “keystone” in the end and the brew is poured directly from it. If the cask is located remotely in a cellar or refrigerator a hose will be attached to the tap at one end and the beer engine piston in the serving area. The use of a hand pull also allows you to bypass laying the cask on its side in a rack. The cask can be left upright and beer pulled out of it using a spear that takes the place of the tap. It is also possible to pull the beer through a “sparkler”, the beer world equivalent of a garden hose sprinkler. Forcing the beer through the holes in the sparkler encourages the carbon dioxide to break out of solution and, with the help of proteins in the beer, form a foamy head on top of the brew. There are different grades of sparklers depending on the type of head desired.

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