Monday, January 18, 2016

2016 ATLANTA CASK ALE TASTING Full Lineup & Winners

List of Amazing Casks and Winners at our Fantastic 2016 ACAT - 01/23/16:


Even though the festival went on without a hitch, fear of icy roads forced us to cancel our traditional early morning expert judging panel at ACAT this year. The winners below are based solely on votes by attendees for their favorite cask of the day. The casks this year were absolutely jaw-dropping, and every beer received votes...

  • Abita Habanero Grapefruit IPA is our popular, citrusy IPA with fresh habanero peppers added to the cask. Heat and flavor from the peppers blend nicely with the aroma and acidity of the grapefruit and hops. ABV: 6.0%, IBUs: 40.
  • SECOND PLACE CLASSIC STYLE: Blue Tarp Last Place Stout aged in a bourbon barrel from Independent Distilling in Decatur, GA. This big, bold imperial stout is as black as night, with hoppy bitterness and rich coffee notes up front that fade into a delicate, dark chocolate sweetness. 11.3% ABV.
  • Burnt Hickory Eerie Von Mother of Mercy is our 8% ABV winter spiced apple brown ale dosed with vanilla beans. It's an evil apple pie a la mode - just in time for the dead of winter.
  • Cedar Creek Paradise Gone a Rye offers flavors of peach, pear, citrus and pine. We added fresh grapefruit zest to this bad boy to really kick up the citrus character.
  • FIRST PLACE SPECIALTY BEER: Cherry Street O.A.S.I.S. (Old As Sh** Imperial Stout). This 10.1% ABV ale was made originally for our brewer Chris' 40th birthday and contains sarsaparilla whiskey-soaked cocoa nibs and vanilla beans, with cherries and extra vanilla beans added to the cask. Last year's ACAT People's Choice winner!
  • Copper Creek English-Style Pale Ale. Experience classic real ale at its best in this elegant, soft, lightly fruity, amber best bitter that showcases caramel malts, traditional UK yeast and a sessionable 4.8% alcohol volume.
  • Creature Comforts Biere de Garde with Booger Hill Bee Company honey was barrel-fermented with Belgian yeasts and then conditioned for 12 months with our house mixed culture. This cask was primed with Booger Hill honey and filled with 7.8% ABV unblended beer from a single barrel with a beautifully complex, balanced flavor.
  • Eventide Kattegat Baltic Porter with peppermint and bourbon. We took our current winter seasonal and added real peppermint and bourbon to create a wonderful, wintry treat!
  • THIRD PLACE SPECIALTY BEER: 5 Seasons Prado Hot Nuts Scotch Ale. The beer's complex malt character is enhanced with  toasted pine nuts and Moroccan spices during secondary fermentation in the cask. The subtle spice and pine notes create an appealing allure in this malty, 8.5% ABV ale.
  • Flix Brewhouse St. Lucie Belgian Quadrupel is a special batch of our Druish Princess Quadrupel dosed with mahlab - a spice from the pit of the St. Lucie cherry. The mahlab lends flavors of bitter almond and cherry that complement notes of dates, caramel and toast in the base beer.
  • Fonta Flora Beets, Rhymes and Life is an "Appalachian saison" brewed with local barley, wheat and rye from Riverbend Malt House of Asheville and aged on local Bull’s Blood Beets from Bluebird Farm of Morganton, NC. Dry-hopped with Cascade and Mt. Hood. 2015 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner.
  • Founders Centennial IPA dry-hopped with lemon peel and chamomile flowers forms an interesting take on Centennial IPA, with the chamomile adding flowery notes to an already floral IPA, and the lemon complementing the bitterness, while adding a citrusy tone.
  • Green Flash Handshake IPA is a collaboration between Green Flash and Alpine Brewing. This unique cask features prickly pear and tangerine peel. 7.5% ABV.
  • Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter (UK - 4% ABV) is a superbly balanced, malty pub ale with classic UK hops. Tailored to the taste buds of Sussex for decades, this popular beer is brewed with Maris Otter and dark crystal malts. 2005 and 2006 CAMRA Champion Best Bitter of Britain.
  • Harvey's Old Ale (UK - 4.3% ABV). Crystal malt and black malt sugars produce a soft, elegant beer with a nutty palate. Reminiscent of England's historic mild ales produced in the early part of last century.
  • Harviestoun IPA (UK - 6.6% ABV) uses Fuggles and Challenger hops for bittering, then Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo and Apollo for aroma and flavor. Expect notes of tropical fruits and melons with a malty background. IBUs: 70.
  • Harviestoun Orach Slie (UK - 6% ABV) - a light, slightly sweet, whisky barrel-aged lager housed in casks from the Glenfarclas Speyside distillery. It has a surprisingly robust, chewy mouthfeel with a gentle sweetness that gives way to a pleasantly bitter, dry finish.
  • Heavy Seas Deep Six - A rich, malty, robust porter with a surprisingly dry finish, deep mahogany color, and complex flavors of chocolate, coffee and brownie batter.
  • Highland Oatmeal Porter is infused with fresh vanilla beans and cayenne peppers that complement its chocolatey roastiness. With layers of spice on the nose and heat on the finish, this silky beer is like a smoldering, bittersweet, cayenne truffle. ABV: 5.9%, IBUs: 33.
  • J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2015 (UK - 11.5% ABV) is a limited edition barleywine, made annually from the first hops of the year and the finest British malt. This vintage is slightly darker than previous versions, with predominant flavors of toffee and sherry.
  • J.W. Lees Moonraker (UK - 6.5% ABV). The name comes from a story of tipsy farmers who thought the moon's reflection in a pond was a floating wheel of Lancashire cheese. They tried to rake it out, but fell in. The beer boasts a strong, fruity, licorice aroma and rich, sweet, malty flavor.
  • THIRD PLACE CLASSIC STYLE: JailHouse "I Was With Peaches!" Alibi Ale with peaches, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Alibi is our elegant and quaffable cream ale brewed with Georgia stone ground grits.
  • Jekyll Copious Imperial Stout. At 9% ABV, this rich and complex imperial stout is chock-full of roastiness and chocolate backed by a balancing hop bitterness. Expect pleasant vanilla notes, a velvety mouthfeel from oats, and a smooth finish.
  • Kentucky Bourbon Barrel English Pale Ale. Aged for eight weeks in freshly emptied bourbon barrels that impart caramel, vanilla and toffee character, this flavorful brew packs a wallop of complexity in the nose and palate.
  • PEOPLE'S CHOICE WINNER: Machupu’s Coffee MAZURT RIS. His report was due. Machupu needed coffee but also craved a big beer. MAZURT stepped in with their super tasty blend of brandy and whiskey barrel-aged Russian imperial stout heavenly infused with deep roasted high-grade Kenyan coffee, Vermont grade-B maple syrup, Madagascar vanilla, organic Peruvian cocoa nibs and GA wildflower honey.  He should have been fired for missing the deadline, but after sharing his MAZURT with his bosses, Machupu received a promotion and the coveted corner office. Machupu is a Kenyan name for “one who likes to drink.” 13.6% ABV. Guest brewed at Burnt Hickory.
  • Max Lager's Dark Soul. The addition of dried Mission figs and chocolate enhances the dark fruit and caramel character of this malty, rich, warming Belgian-style strong dark ale. 11% ABV.
  • Monday Night Pirates of the Scottish Isles. We took our Drafty Kilt and dosed the cask with chicory root and rum-soaked orange peel for a malty treat with new layers of herbal, citrusy complexity.
  • Moon River Bethesda Farmhouse Ale with whole-leaf Chinook hops. Our friends at Bethesda Farm feed our spent grain to their cows and pigs. The 6.9% ABV Bethesda Farmhouse is a blend of a Brettanomyces barrel-aged saison with our fresh Belgian-style IPA.
  • New Belgium Fat Tire dry-hopped amber ale showcases a velvety smooth mouthfeel, toasty malt profile and zesty green apple finish that are complemented by citrus and pine aromas from the extra Simcoe hop additions to this special cask.
  • Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale dry-hopped with Citra and Mosaic in this special cask. This complex, malty ale offers notes of mango, lemon, grapefruit and earthy pine.
  • Red Brick Chocolate Chakra Milk Stout. We took our Divine Bovine Chai Milk Stout and dosed it with extra Masala chai, chocolate and lactose to create an amazing dark ale guaranteed to warm your bones on a cold January afternoon. 6% ABV.
  • Red Hare Saison Rouge stemmed from an employee brew-off. A warm-fermented saison aged on fresh cranberries, the final beer was conditioned on vanilla beans and fresh ginger for an enjoyable blend of sweet and spice.
  • Reformation Brewery Raspberry & Vanilla Declaration. An imperial stout with roasted and espresso flavors that give way to subtleties of dark fruits, raspberry additions and vanilla.
  • Second Self Valentine’s Seasonal Bleeding Heart Chestnut Dessert. We added chestnuts, cinnamon and lactose to this extraordinary cask of Bleeding Heart. Roasted chestnuts enhance the nuttiness of the malt, the cinnamon plays well with the vanilla, and lactose provides a sweet balance.
  • Service Brewing Imperial Oatmeal Cookie Stout - Inspired by the original Byrd Cookie Company's Scotch Oatmeal Cookies, a combination of biscuit malt and oatmeal cookies in the mash gives this 10.2% ABV brew a subtle oat finish complemented by molasses, honey and cinnamon additions.
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot - A beast of an American barleywine, brimming with bittersweet malt and heaps of whole-cone Pacific NW hops. This cask version shows soft carbonation with interesting ester nuances from cask-conditioning.
  • Southbound Rockin' Chair Imperial Nut Brown Ale with fresh South Georgia pecans, Madagascar vanilla beans, local caramel, cocoa, small batch craft whiskey-soaked oak chips, and fresh Ceylon cinnamon sticks.
  • Starr Hill Debut #7 Double Chocolate Stout with peppermint uses three separate additions of chocolate for a full, smooth chocolate aroma and flavor. This beer was enhanced with organic peppermint leaves in the firkin. ABV: 7.8%.
  • SweetWater CafĂ© Chas. With notes of massive dark chocolate and robust coffee, our super special, 9.5% ABV stout also packs 60 IBUs and complex layers of dark malt, cocoa and stone fruits.
  • Terrapin Blind Date. We took our award-winning Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout and added organic dates and vanilla for a new twist. Expect deep, rich notes of chocolate, espresso, dark fruits and a luxurious malt viscosity.
  • Thomas Creek Trifecta IPA. A full-bodied American IPA brewed with an abundance of Citra hops. This flavorful brew offers a refreshing, yet potent, citrus aroma with notes of grapefruit and sweet malt.
  • Three Taverns Wango Tango is a 5% ABV habanero, pineapple and mango sour ale brewed with 100% pilsner malt, soured with Lactobacillus in the kettle, fermented with American ale yeast and then matured on fresh habanero peppers, pineapple and mango in the cask.
  • Twain's Galactic Criminal Sin IPA. Boom! Hops, like whoa! This delicious IPA features a big dry-hop dose of Australian Galaxy hops, and with every sip, you'll blast off to outer space in this 6.6% ABV hop rocket!
  • FIRST PLACE CLASSIC STYLE: Wild Heaven Blackberry is Not a Planet Either - An extremely rare wild ale fermented with Drie Fonteinen Brettanomyces, then aged in Bordeaux barrels for 16 months with 40 pounds of blackberries per wooden barrel.
  • Woodchuck Barrel-Aged Hard Cider - A blend of cull and bittersweet apple juice fermented and stored in bourbon and wine barrels. This cask was primed with freshly pressed juice, and the dry cider offers notes of bourbon, vanilla, oak tannins and fruit. 6.9% ABV.
  • SECOND PLACE SPECIALTY: Wrecking Bar Almond Joy Jemmy Stout is our Jemmy Stout cask-conditioned on toasted almonds, coconut and cacao nibs. The chocolate and roasted malts of the base beer support layers of decadent flavors.
  • Yes Face ESB is the poster child of flavor, balance and drink-ability - a complex beer with a solid malt foundation balanced by hop bitterness and flavor, and a subtle hop aroma that adds complexity. Water, malt, yeast, hops and 4.8% ABV.

 Photos with watermark are courtesy of Ale Sharpton of

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The UK's Craft vs. Cask Debate Rages... Sort of

Two of the 1000+ volunteers at the Great British Beer Fest.
The UK's Craft vs. Cask Debate Rages... Sort of
By Owen Ogletree
Two blokes walk into a crowded London pub. The gray one with a beard and belly heads to the bar for a pint of traditional cask ale made in an upstart nano-brewery. The bearded hipster in skinny jeans goes straight to the pub's draft taps that offer a range of kegged ales and lagers from London's hottest new craft breweries. With every sip, the two exchange judgmental glances, each being certain that his pint ranks as the greatest beer in the country.
What's the difference between cask and keg? Unfiltered, unpasteurized cask ale contains yeast that carries out a slight secondary fermentation in the serving vessel, providing a subtle, soft, natural carbonation. Casks are allowed to settle in cool pub cellars at 50-55 degrees F, and bartenders "suction" the cellared cask ale to the bar using conventional hand-pump taps with no external gas pressure. Conversely, filtered, pasteurized kegged beer contains much higher levels of carbonation, and pressure from artificial gas forces the beer through standard draft taps.
Traditional cask brewers are now turning out crafty new brands. 
In a controversy unique to the UK, many see traditional cask-conditioned ale (a.k.a. "real ale") as under threat by new-fangled, American-inspired kegged craft options. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), Europe's most successful consumer protection group, started in 1971 as a grassroots protest against the UK's bland, lifeless kegged beers of the day, and some of CAMRA's current 160,000 members still consider any kegged beer as an evil, over-carbonated enemy.
Each August, CAMRA organizes London's Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) that's attended by more than 55,000 thirsty real ale lovers. 1,000 volunteers pour over 900 different beers and ciders in London's Victorian-era Olympia exhibition center. All British beers at the GBBF are cask or bottle-conditioned - kegs are only allowed for a few special, foreign beers. Disgruntled UK craft keg beer producers - like Scotland's BrewDog - have protested this rule.
London's Camden Town Brewery specializes in craft lagers. 
Enter a group of young craft beer lovers who came together in 2013 to start the annual London Craft Beer Festival (LCBF) during the same week as GBBF. With modern, kegged craft beers from the UK and Europe, obscure music, a locale loaded with industrial chic, and beers being served mostly by the brewers, the smaller LCBF caters to a contemporary crowd.
"Unlike the Great British Beer Festival, the London Craft Beer Festival is actually great, rather than just calling itself great," says LCBF founder Daniel Sylvester. "The two events happen during London Beer Week, and we thought people should come to both and see the difference. Our craft beer scene is being driven by amazingly talented UK brewers who are inspired by craft beers from around the world and supported by young, multi-gender craft beer lovers. We found the GBBF's lack of interest in this thriving scene the perfect antagonist for our festival."
Roger Protz, editor of CAMRA's popular Good Beer Guide, believes that the GBBF does a fine job in showcasing cask ale creativity. "Years ago, there were just two basic styles of beer in the country - mild and bitter," he notes. "Now, walk around the GBBF and you'll see casks of hoppy golden ales, beers aged in whisky and wine barrels, beers made with chocolate and coffee - just like in the states, the UK now produces an incredible range of interesting beers."
UK beer writer Pete Brown believes a big misconception among many in the UK is that cask and craft are somehow separate. "For many, 'craft' is synonymous with 'craft keg' - but that's nonsense," says Brown. "Cask ale is the epitome of craft beer, and, despite all the noise around craft keg, craft cask is by far the fastest growing format of craft beer in the UK. Craft keg shows us that format is not everything, and that quality and flavor are not determined by the type of container. I think both will continue to thrive."
The popular Thornbridge booth at the London Craft Beer Fest. 
Alex Buchanan, marketing manager for Thornbridge Brewery, sees no point in arguing about beer. He points out, "Extraordinary beer can come from a brewery that's been going for 150 years and only producing cask beer, or it can come from a brewery that's 15-weeks-old and producing fantastic keg beer. Consumers will be the judge."
CAMRA continues to focus on promoting cask ale, but Roger Protz sees plenty of room for craft keg in the UK. "Variety is important, and some UK bars and restaurants are simply not equipped to handle the challenges of cellaring, caring for and serving cask ale," he says. "Craft keg is ideal for these places, and most modern craft keg beers are good, unlike the dreadful, flavorless beers of the '70s."
Peter Jackson, owner/brewer of London's Southwark Brewing Company, remains optimistic that cask ale and craft keg will find an amiable equilibrium. "I think cask and craft keg producers should be happy that both formats are encouraging people to try new beers. It's an exciting time in the UK, and there hasn't been anything like it for 50 years."
Head brewer John Dreibergen (left) and founder Dan Lowe of London's fledgling Fourpure Brewing. 
The LCBF's Daniel Sylvester sees any equilibrium for cask and craft beer as being a long way off. He explains, "I was recently in a country pub in the middle of nowhere that had two craft beer bottle options, and the owners saw themselves as the most forward-thinking pub in the country. Big cities like London are taking the lead in craft beer, but the rest of the country will catch up eventually."
One thing is certain: the UK's current craft beer craze has encouraged consumers to think about beer, talk about beer and focus on flavor. The vast majority of UK beer drinkers seem too content in enjoying their pints to be concerned with debate.

This article was published originally in Ale Street News.