Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cask Ales, Candlelight, and Lots of Links

A night out with the Wife to celebrate the 2 year anniversary of our secret marriage (our 2 year anniversary of announcing our nuptials will be here in a few days) led us to the Tap and Table in Emmaus. What makes this place standout to me, other than the hundred or so bottled beers they offer - none of which come from the Bud, Miller, or Coors families, even Yeungling is absent from the menu - is that the place is lit almost entirely by candlelight, you generally sit rather close to strangers (this has it‘s benefits), and besides the five beers they have on tap you may also choose from 3 cask ales.

What is a cask ale? Well it seems that it is similar to taps but without the added carbon dioxide. I believe the system works on the natural carbonation formed from the brewing process. So you are drinking the beer in it’s more natural state, from the same “cask” the beer is conditioned in, without the added CO2. I assume a cask looks like an old wooden barrel but it may have a may more modern look like a keg. I think the barrel idea makes for a better mental picture. Also thinking of barrels makes me think of monkeys and who doesn’t get a chuckle out of thinking about monkeys, especially monkeys around a barrel of beer. If you have been attacked by monkeys or maybe had a bad experience at one of those Great Adventure drive thru safaris then I apologize for the bad memories. I don’t think my Dad reads this so we should be in the clear.

My first encounter with a cask ale was at the beginning of the summer at the Tap and Table. I ordered the Lancaster Brewing Company’s Hop Hog IPA. This is a beer that I have had from the bottle and one that I like (also one that will be mentioned in an upcoming IPA post) so I thought it was a good place to start to my cask beer comparison. It is a little flatter, a little warmer, but not much. When people talk about warm beer in Ireland or England, I imagine that this is the warmness they are referring to. I could look into this further but I would rather just make bold statements based on my daydreams and move on.

On this particular trip to the Tap and Table, I started with a Sprecher Hefe Weis and some Shibumo oysters. Sprecher is a Wisconsin brewery started by a former Pabst brewing supervisor with a focus on the European brewing styles, click here for a great little history on Sprecher and brewing in general. This was my second experience with a Hefe Weiss, or Heffeweizen, and it was similar to the Harpoon UFO I wrote about here but this one was a bit lighter, a bit smoother, and completely delicious with the oysters.

Next, I moved on to the Beer Flights - $10 for 5 beers, each 5 ounces, essentially a sampler. Incidentally, beer flights is now my new nickname for the morning after diarrhea (I am by no means implying that this night out gave me the beer flights - I thought it as soon as I read it on the menu). On this particular evening, I chose the following five beers:

Blue Point Pale Ale 5% ABV (on cask): Blue Point Brewing Company is from Long Island, New York. Patchogue, to be specific. This is the only beer from the three I tried that is actually listed on the Blue Point website which confuses me a bit. But anyway, the Pale Ale was good. Nice balance between the hops in the front and the malt at the end. The citrus of the hops is there throughout, perhaps more than other pale ales but it still has the slight malt sweetness common to pale ales. I would but this above some other Pale Ales I’ve had but I am a fan of hops.

Blue Point 10th anniversary IPA ?% ABV (on cask): This was a good IPA similar to a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA with the grassy but floral hop flavor, maybe a bit more of pine taste but still very comparable. Not as much bite as other IPAs but this is probably a result of the cask. Cask ales typically have almost a creamier quality than the same beer in a bottle. Generally this makes the flavors more subtle because they seem to be more blended together. This was good but the name "10th anniversary" had me expecting more.

Blue Point Rastafa Rye 7.5% ABV (on cask): This was really good and my favorite out of the 3 Blue Point brews listed here. Great citrus taste from the hops but without the bitterness that normally comes with hops. Maybe the rye helps to smooth it out with a bit of spice, or maybe the cask factor kept it smooth. Overall, very flavorful and unique. This definitely receives first place consideration for the evening.

Alvinne Gaspar 8% ABV: This is a Belgian IPA and was described as “lively, sweet, funky, strong bitter finish”. Funky indeed! Would only recommend this to a true IPA fan and even then I would stress the word FUNKY. Nothing like I’ve ever had - a lot of competing flavors, very bitter, and dare I say sour. Maybe I’m just not ready for it yet because it gets a grade of B on most beer sites like and I could not give this above C minus at this point in my adventure.

Left Coast Brewing Co. Hop Juice Double IPA 9.4% ABV: Now this is what I was looking for in an IPA. A flavor explosion! Obviously this will have more to offer than the Blue Point IPA since it is a double. The hop profile was very bright and really woke up the taste buds. A definite recommend for IPA fans. This tied for 1st place on the night with the Rastafa Rye.

I would have ordered another Hop Juice but I was already having trouble focusing in the flicker of the candle light and had my heart set on finishing with a Stout. The problem with the 5 flights, as they call it, is that it immediately feels like your in the middle of a college power hour and you drink them way to fast. The higher ABV percents don’t help the matter either.

I finished the evening with a full pint of Young’s Chocolate Stout, from England, which was a perfect dessert replacement with it’s hints of dark chocolate (i.e. not very sweet) and espresso. This obviously leads to me to the point in the evening when getting into an argument with Wife over stout beer is the logical next step, signaling to myself, Wife, and the strangers seated 6 inches away that perhaps the 5 flights had done me in.

Thanks for driving honey, now take me to drunk, I’m bed.

A fellow flight drinker. Nice guy.

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  1. I've never heard of that place but it sounds pretty cool. Where did you learn all this stuff. Wish I could send you some Hawaii beers. You'd like some I think. Nice blog, looking forward to more. So stop reading and get drinking.

  2. The place is where Rumors used to be if you ever went there, outside of Emmaus past that Trivet Diner at that weird Y intersection? Does this make sense? I get most of my info from just buying something strange, drinking it, and then looking it up online. The struggle is remembering what I drank - I've started making drunken voice memos to myself on the iPhone. The Naked Pint is a book I got that helped out with a lot of the vocab.

    I know of someone that mailed a can of beer to Massachusetts and everything worked out fine. Just a thought.

    Thanks for the comment! Become a follower!