Cask beers have a different mouthfeel. That’s the industry way of saying it. Another way of saying its that cask beers are smoother, creamier, and maybe a little sweeter than their traditional counterparts. And you could add that the waterfall effect you get after a pour — see the picture on the left of their Hybrid IPA — is a fun addition to the experience.
Today’s casks are plastic for the most part, so it’s not about some interaction with the wooden casks of yore. What’s happening is that all of the CO2 in the beer is produced by natural fermentation processes while the beer is casked. There’s no forcing CO2 into the beer at the end. And there’s no end — the beer continues to change as it sits in the cask. And that means, perhaps, that the beer is more ‘organic,’ that the tastes develop over time in the cask, and that it has a bit of age to it. Or that it has a different mouthfeel.
Casks and hand pumps seem to work best with IPAs and stouts, in my experience. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t love English style beers.
Freewheel Brewing is a new craft brewpub in Menlo Park, and they produce all English-style beers on the cask and hand pump — Golden (Lager), Bitter, Amber, IPA, and a Stout. Good stuff, despite my predilections.
The Stout and the IPA were great and really played up due to park effects: their brewing process and hand pump delivery produced a nice smooth, rich consistency that I’ll enjoy again. The IPA was a hybrid English/American, so it was a mellow drinkable beer that won’t make my wife roll her eyes at the hoppiness.
But it was hard to separate those beers from the whole context — those brewers and the clean, sustainable brewery they showed us, and the delivery method, fresh out of the cask and off the hand pump — and it would be rude to call them just a home park and try to separate out the beer too far from their context to get at the true talent of the beer, wouldn’t it be? Good people, good beer.