Britain’s Cask Ale Is Struggling. Is American-Style Craft Beer to Blame?

Dozens of London pubs have acquired a new decorative feature this summer. On bar tops across the city stand vaguely old-fashioned, totem pole-like objects amid serried ranks of colorful keg fonts. These are handpumps, traditionally used to serve cask ale — for so long a staple in this country. But in many of the British capital’s pubs, they’re now purely for show.

Covid-19 has been hard on cask ale, the “warm” British beer that completes its fermentation in the serving vessel. This is how it acquires its distinctive soft carbonation, a key part of what makes it so enjoyable and such a contrast to keg beer, which generally has carbon dioxide added from an outside source. Cask needs to be drunk quickly, within three days of being breached, because when beer is pumped out of the cask, air enters. Also known as “Real Ale,” a term coined by consumer organization the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in the 1970s, it’s best enjoyed at cellar temperature, around 53 degrees Fahrenheit, not chilled like keg.

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Of Beer Judges and Bench Judges

Originally published as an Inspection column. These opinions are not officially approved by the BJCP This editorial is the opinion of Mr. Carman, and not the opinion of all the staff or writers here at Professor Good Ales.

Written by Ken Carman

    What does the assignment of Aileen Cannon to the Trump case, after this Trump appointee’s previous Trump case remind me of?
    The kind of potential beer judges who, if honest, shouldn’t be judging an entry in a beer competition because they know the brewer. Also the kind of test taker who might not pass a beer judging test, if they were honest. Example paraphrased question, “Can you judge an entry if you know the brewer?” The answer is obvious, “NO.”
    Beer judging tests are actually quite hard. But the bar should obviously be higher for bench judges than beer judges.
    I have heard some lawyer wannabes compare the written BJCP beer judge test to being harder to pass than the Bar. Once you become a beer judge you are expected to judge according to, and within, the BJCP Guidelines. If you’re judging IPAs but somehow a stout got into the flight you’re not supposed to make it a winner because you prefer stouts. In fact before even judging that entry you need to ask if it was placed in the wrong category, essentially the wrong group of judges.
    Equally, as bench judge, guidelines for getting assigned to any court case should be at least equally tough. If there are no uncompromised judges (like no conflicts) in a circuit then a uncompromised judge should be brought forth from elsewhere. Just letting THEM decide if they’re compromised isn’t good enough. Indeed a beer competition organizer, and/or the judge organizer, has/have the job of making sure Judge Ken doesn’t judge his own beer, and like bench judging one of the highest, most important, ethical calls is to tell the organizer of such conflicts. Continue reading “Of Beer Judges and Bench Judges”

American Craft Beer: Confusing Evolution with The Apocalypse

Written by Steve Body
SO…within the past couple of months, some breweries have failed and some have made some drastic decisions, spurred along by the well-established New Reality of post-pandemic America. Yes, certainly Covid was exactly like a nuclear warhead, planted within an earth fault, exploding and wrecking shit in every direction. MANY business of all types closed the doors for good and some of those – actually a reasonably small number – were breweries. And of course, I read this morning that reaction to this latest couple of Unthinkable Events – The brilliant Lost Abbey scaling back, moving, and curtailing distribution to California only and Anchor Brewing cancelling their iconic Christmas Ale and similarly limiting distribution – constitute Chicken Little screaming that the sky is falling and that “everything’s Changing!!”.

And that part, certainly, is true…but not for the reasons given.

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Jones Creek Brewing: A Disturbance in The Force

Written by Steve Body
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a thing in The Pour Fool about seeking out smaller, less celebrated (or even downright obscure) breweries, wineries, and distilleries in your own area. Around the Seattle/Tacoma area, names like Top Down Brewing Company in Sumner, Olalla Vineyard & Winery, off state route 16, Wind Rose Cellars, in Sequim, Old Soldier Distillery of Tacoma, and Yoked Farmhouse & Brewery, in Purdy, come to mind.

Many producers like these are punished because they have sinned: they have the audacity to start a business outside the Cluster and breweries and wineries BOTH cluster like mad. There is, for lack of a better term, a Force at work in this. This Force repels people away from the very real fact that, given all the remote breweries being built and started, every year, a few WILL, inevitably, be objectively better than the buzz-worthy ones that inhabit those urban Clusters. It doesn’t happen frequently but it does happen. Breweries in Washington that are not in Seattle suffer tangibly because they are Over There. Some overcome that. Bale Breaker Brewing Company, Iron Horse Brewery, Dwinell Country Ales, and Echoes Brewing of Poulsbo are just a few of my own local examples.

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