Atlanta Event: Tickets on sale for Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting

Tickets are now on sale for the 18th Annual Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting at Bold Monk Brewing. It’s on 20 January 2024 from 230-6pm, and it’s indoors so you don’t have to worry about getting wet or freezing if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

This is something I’ve always wanted to attend but never managed to make it (that was ten or so years ago before moving abroad), but I’ve got tickets so it’s finally happening!

If you’re not sure what a cask ale is or why you should care read on!

What’s a cask ale?

Well, it’s a beer, of course. It’s usually put into a cask (most often a 10.8 US gallon/9 Imperial gallon/40.9 liter firkin) without being filtered first. Because of the lack of filtration, finings are added — these are substances that help the yeast in the unfiltered beer fall out of suspension so that the beer will pour clear (or mostly clear, there’s often still some cloudiness left behind, and any cask movement can stir up the dropped yeast at the bottom).

Image: PeteVerdon at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

But the two characteristics most people think of when it comes to cask beer is its serving temperature and the level of carbonation.

Cellar temperature

Cask beers are served at cellar temperature. That’s around 13 C or 55 F, colder than you’ll find other beer served at. Consider that most beers are served below 45-50 F or 7-10 C (depending on the style) and that you’ve certainly seen some bars advertising that that they serve their beer at or below freezing temperature. So a cellar temperature beer will certainly seem warm in relation to your average draft beer. Because cask ales originated in England, you’ll sometimes hear people joke that British beer is warm and flat. And that flat comment leads me to the next bit..


Cask beers have a very low level of carbonation because they traditionally get their carbonation from some additional fermentation that happens in the cask (remember that these are unfiltered beers, so there’s some live yeast in there). As the yeast consumes the remaining sugars in the beer, they give off carbon dioxide. But because the cask is sealed there’s no space for the CO2 to go, which lightly pressurizes the cask and drives the gas into the beer. Because extra sugar isn’t added to the beer, there’s not a lot of sugar left for the yeast to ferment, so the level of carbonation is much lower than you’ll find in other beers.

You’ll often find these beers served from a beer engine, especially in the UK. They require a bit of hand pumping by the bartender to dispense the beer due to the lower carbonation.

Image: calflier001, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What you’re left with is an unfiltered beer with a low level of natural carbonation that’s served at a warmer temperature than you’re probably used to. And that means that you have a very different experience drinking it. Cold temperatures can mute flavors, filtration also removes substances that affect flavor and mouthfeel. Higher levels of carbonation also change flavors and mouthfeel. A cask ale provides a much more delicate experience that lets you appreciate beer in a different way. Some breweries even serve the same beer in both styles – I recently visited Upstream Brewing Company in Omaha where they had their Flagship IPA available as a standard draft beer as well as a cask conditioned beer served from an Anagram beer engine at cellar temperature. The hop and malt character in the beer was very different between the two, even though they started their lives as the same beer. The picture below is their cask conditioned IPA.

Image: Robbie Honerkamp, CC BY-SA 2.0

Where to find quality cask conditioned beer?

It’s also worth pointing out that these beers are rather delicate, if the cask isn’t stored or handled properly you can have an awful beer. Not every bar serves their cask ale at proper cellar temperature either (some chill it because they don’t want to explain to customers why it seems warm), others will let a cask sit longer than it should and serve old, spoiled ale. You should feel confident that the beers at the Atlanta tasting will be fresh and handled/served correctly. If you’re at other bars, you can take a look at the Cask Marque website to find bars that are certified to serve cask conditioned ales correctly. And in Atlanta, the Brick Store in Decatur has a cask ale program you can trust.

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