Great Lakes Brewing News December 2011/January 2012 : Page 1

CASK ALE: Black Oak Brewery Brewing Up Happ iness Black Oak Brewing Company fermen-ters are always active turning out hoppy beers such as 10 Bitter Years. PHOTO BY ROBERT HUGHEY DREAMSTIME The Real Thing alternatives. There are people who almost religiously promote the cause of cask ale, and to groups such as the U.K.’s CAMRA, there is no substitute. While not restricted to England, cask ale carves out even smaller See Cask p. 3 By Jeff Sparrow ask ale has been poured for centuries. It’s the traditional beer of Great Britain, even though cask ale is a modest blip on the Brit-chart of national alcohol consumption, next to “ fi zzier” INSIDE Events ...................................................... 2 Jolly Giant ................................................ 7 Beer Queendom ...................................... 8 Homebrewing ........................................ 10 Beer & Health .........................................11 Maps & Directories ..........................18-23 Cooking for the Novice ........................ 25 Business of Beer .................................. 31 State by State News Wisconsin ......... 12 N Wisconsin ..... 13 Michigan ........... 14 SE Michigan ..... 15 SW Michigan .... 16 Indiana .............. 24 I ll inois ............... 26 Chicago ............ 27 Minnesota ......... 28 Ohio .................. 32 New York .......... 33 W New York ...... 35 C New York ....... 37 Pennsylvania .... 36 Ontario .............. 38 I By Robert Hughey t doesn’t take long to realize Ken Woods (manager, owner and president), newly pro-moted head brewer Simon DaCosta, and Jonathan Hodd (brewer in training), are genuinely having fun with brewing at the Black Oak Brewery, on the western edge of Toronto. “We are trying very hard not to run out of beer,” said Woods with a smile. How-ever, he has a caveat. “Yes, there’s more beer going out the door, but that also means we have to fi x and repair equipment more frequently.” See Black Oak p. 6 Ken Woods, president of the Black Oak Brewery. PHOTO BY ROBERT HUGHEY

Cask Ale: The Real Thing

Jeff Sparrow

Cask ale has been poured for centuries. It’s the traditional beer of Great Britain, even though cask ale is a modest blip on the Brit-chart of national alcohol consumption, next to “fizzier” alternatives. There are people who almost religiously promote the cause of cask ale, and to groups such as the U.K.’s CAMRA, there is no substitute. While not restricted to England, cask ale carves out even smaller niches in countries such as the U. S.A.

While the ever increasing demand for craft beer in the U.S. is a tremendous boost to the brewers who produce it, demand without a matching supply may cause quality to slip. Economics aside, what does that mean to the beer?

Let’s review cask ale. First, what it’s not: warm, flat, cloudy beer. What it is: beer served at cellar temperature (about 53°F), perfectly clear with a gentle, subtle carbonation. It is truly all natural beer—unfiltered, naturally carbonated, straight from the fermentor to the cask. So why is cask ale served in the U.S.—and in the U.K., for that matter—often closer to what it’s not intended to be? Several determining factors are time, knowledge, and resources.

Proper cask ale takes time to produce, more than the average keg of ale. “In the UK about 33% of the work required to produce cask ale is conducted after the cask leaves the brewery - stock rotation, adequate conditioning time, venting, tapping, even fining and dry-hopping,” says Summit Brewing’s (MN) Damian McConn. “ UK pubs have professionally trained cellar staff that exclusively handles cask on a regular basis.” This is rarely the case in the US, with the bulk of the effort left to the breweries. If the cask is prepared correctly by the brewer, the next step is the pub.

The care and feeding of a cask at the pub is not rocket science, but it is fluid dynamics! Given the right time and conditions a cask will clear, with the help of one important item: finings. A substance added to beer with the opposite charge, finings attract yeast cells and eventually drop out of solution, resulting in clear beer. Finings were traditionally produced using the bladder of a sturgeon. Modern substitutes don’t taste terribly good, either.

Carbonation, too, heightens over time with a properly produced cask. Temperature remains the one factor where the publican can maintain the largest degree of control, providing the proper investment in cellar equipment. “Once you learn how to do it, it’s not that hard,” said Middle Ages Brewing founder Mark Rubenstein. “It just takes enough training to get a pub up to speed.”

Once the pint hits the pump, it’s up to the drinker. What does today’s average craft beer drinker know about cask ale? “For folks who have been immersed in the craft beer scene for some time, I think the general level of knowledge is quite good,” stated McConn. “There is still a degree of education required however for the average craft drinker.” That sulfury character, or buttery aroma (diacetyl) are common offcharacteristics mostly avoided with proper yeast handling.

One new brewery owner decided cask ale wasn’t worth the investment, at least not at the level required to do it correctly. “Proper cask ale is time consuming and I didn’t want to do anything half-assed,” said Pete Crowley from Haymarket Pub & Brewery. “Nothing is worse than shitty cask beer. If it’s not done right, don’t do it at all!” Crowley added, “I am not ruling out doing it in the future, it’s just not my focus right now.”

But surely for all the effort, something worthwhile must result from all the passion that goes into a great cask ale. “I’d answer freshness,” said Roger Baylor of New Albanian Brewing. “The process in the UK is meant to brew ales that obviously require proper cellaring & care, but nonetheless are meant to turn over quickly.”

“I think the important factor is keeping real ale local,” Rubenstein seconded, saying,” I produce enough cask ale to keep local [upstate New York] pubs happy.”

So once you find that perfect caskconditioned beer in a local pub, you’re all set, right? “Just because the beer is served in a cask, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s conditioned in a cask.” said Steve Hamburg, a Chicago-based consultant who cut his teeth at the White Horse in London. One shortcut American brewers take is filling a cask with lightly conditioned beer from the bright tank. While not laying any claim to tradition, Hamburg and I actually both prefer this approach to serving flat, muddy ale.

For all the problems associated with cask ale, the end result is worth the effort, and a knowledgeable drinker can help reach that goal of a perfect pint. “The average craft drinker is aware of hand pumps but not always cognizant of the process,” commented Baylor. “Beer geeks naturally know more, although I believe appreciation of cask ale among geeks is stunted owing to the fact that if it is done right, almost always, real ale is lower gravity, and the geeks routinely snub session [beers].” So purchase the next bright, cellar temperature cask ale you find, and maybe think twice about the cloudy warm pint.

If practice makes perfect, the local brewer and pub still face challenges. “At the Bank Street Brewhouse location,” said Baylor, “cooperage [all things cask] and space issues—not the absence of the ability to do it the right way, which we possess— have scuttled early plans to have two hand pulls going always, so we manage to keep one hand pull going much of the time, and do gravity pours on occasion.”

While Middle Ages will produce around 390 casks this year, Summit will produce almost 300 bbls, yet faces much the same challenges. “Cooperage is an ongoing issue at probably every craft brewery,” lamented McConn. “We will probably evolve to a dedicated FV/CT block for cask beer, but plant footprint space is always a challenge. A small-scale approach to the program does allow us to closely monitor and provide support for the trade. This ensures a focus on quality, always the priority over quantity.”

So if this doesn’t make you want to go out and show your appreciation for a local brewer and publican serving a bright pint of bitter, with a fine white lace, served at cellar temperature, perhaps a brewer’s thoughts will. “I’ve loved [cask] when traveling in the UK, and done right here, people appreciate the theater of pulling pints as well as the differences in carbonation and character,” said Baylor. “We’ll keep flailing away at it until we get it done; my goal remains to have cask pouring all the time at BSB.”

“For me personally it certainly provides a link to my background in the UK,” stated McConn. “When appropriately produced, cask-conditioned ale has the potential to produce a beer with unparalleled freshness and flavor, and allows the brewer to take a creative new approach with an existing brand. US brewers that overcome the challenges of offering quality cask ale also allow the consumer the opportunity to try tradition and heritage in a glass.” Amen, brothers, keep preaching the Gospel of cask.

Jeff Sparrow, who also learned about cask beers and cellaring in England, is the organizer of Day of the Living Ales in Chicago, and a “Master Pinstman.”

Read the full article at http://archive.brewingnews.com/article/Cask+Ale%3A+The+Real+Thing/910178/91630/article.html.

Black Oak Brewery

Robert Hughey

It doesn’t take long to realize Ken Woods (manager, owner and president), newly promoted head brewer Simon DaCosta, and Jonathan Hodd (brewer in training), are genuinely having fun with brewing at the Black Oak Brewery, on the western edge of Toronto.

“We are trying very hard not to run out of beer,” said Woods with a smile. However, he has a caveat. “Yes, there’s more beer going out the door, but that also means we have to fix and repair equipment more frequently.”

Woods said the new 11,000 square foot building is working out well and it certainly helps being closer to the main market of Toronto, having moved in from Oakville. Having eclipsed 10 years of brewing, he said the company plans on using micro-marketing such as the Web, Facebook and blogging to better keep in touch with its growing customer base, many of whom are new.

When asked about how he felt about the many years he has spent building up the Black Oak Brewery, Woods said cheekily that he was just exhausted; however, things were getting a lot better in terms of awareness and support among beer drinkers. Ken Woods is active in the Ontario Craft Brewers, OCB.

The heart of the brewery consists of a 25 hectolitre mash tun that usually, depending on the brew, holds around 400 kilos of grain, a brewkettle that knocks-out 21 hectolitres of hopped wort and 4X44 hl fermentors. There is also a 100 litre pilot brewery on-site along with a single fermenter owned by Paul Dickey, a long-time associate brewer and owner of the Cheshire Valley Brewing Company, who batch brews as required.
Black Oak also contract brews Augusta Ale and other specialties for the recently minted Kensington Brewing Company, which has plans to open its own small brewery in Toronto’s historic Kensington Market at the Burger Bar on Augusta Avenue. The brewery only uses reverse osmosis water, R.O. water, during the brewing process, which lets Black Oak have more control over the quality of its brewing water. Water is treated with minerals and salts according to the water required for each beer style brewed.

The Black Oak Pale Ale and the Nut Brown will be hitting the shelves of Ottawa LCBOs and Beer Stores in June as the brewery pushes to reach its current yearly capacity of around 3,000 hectolitres. The saison is to be brewed next with the usual dose of fresh yeast to ensure correct characteristics for the style. And in keeping with new Ontario label requirements to list ingredients, Black Oak is refreshing the look of its labels at the same time as disclosing the contents of each beer.

The Beers

Black Oak Pale Ale, a 5 % abv pale ale, has a burnished orange amber coloured ale with a fine, off-white foam. In the nose, fruity aromas in the lead, with fresh malt and then hops in tow. On the palate, malt quickly gives way to a lasting hop attack. Medium in body, mouthfeel is of peppery hops poutingly playful on the palate. A long finish sees a continued hop bitterness pressing down on a malty spine, with a distinctive and defining dryness throughout.

Black Oak Nut Brown Ale is a 5 % abv brown ale that is a rich ruby red coloured beer in the light. Embracing nutty aromas, with underlying chocolate notes, surface alongside roasted ones. Medium in body, mouthfeel is of roasted and toasty elements smoothed out by a good dose of sweet pale malt. Roast, nutty, chocolate and hop
flavours all vie for attention in the middle. Roast, chocolate and a defining hop bitterness play on the palate in a fairly elongated and drying finish.

Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout,5.5 % abv, reveals a creamy thick mocha coloured head of foam on a blackened liquid that has brownish tinges out at the edges. In the nose, rich, dark chocolate aromas are bouyed by roast notes, with a hint of softened cherry lurking in the background. On the palate, roast and chocolate are forward, and are underpinned by hop bitterness, with a late kiss of cherry tartness. The
finish is splendidly long with roast, toast, chocolate, cherry and a developing dryness.

Black Oak 10 Bitter Years, 8 % abv, has a burnished chestnut colour and a frothy head of almond foam. Aromas of heady green hops and citrus abound. On the palate, this beer is earnestly stamped with a divine hop bitterness. A rich, malty backbone neatly balances the extended bitter finish of this fine ale. The 10 Bitter Years, also known as ‘Ken’s Bitter’, is dry hopped a number of times to add rich aromatic notes to this wonderfully complex beer.

The Black Oak organic, unfiltered Oaktoberfest at 4.7 % abv, is an Octoberfest style beer utilizing all German ingredients. It is reddish brown in colour with a creamy, mocha coloured head and malty aromatics and a drying finish.

The Black Oak Nutcracker Porter is a stunning 5 % abv brew. A thick and creamy mocha head of foam sits merrily atop a glassy ebony coloured ale. Toasted malt, dark chocolate and sultanas (figs?) Are evident in the enticing nose. While on the palate, the roast/toast element and the dark chocolate on a luscious malt base are intersected by hop bitterness that is trying to express itself more fully. The finish is long and lingering as hops roll out from under the grasp of chocolate and toast/roast, exerting its bitterness to bring it all into a neatly balanced whole that shouts out for more. The Black Oak Nutcracker Porter will cellar nicely for around three months, where it rounds out, adding even more drinkability.

President Ken Woods and brewmaster Simon DaCosta brew up a lot of happiness at the Black Oak Brewery, for which the beer consumer is truly grateful.

Read the full article at http://archive.brewingnews.com/article/Black+Oak+Brewery/910187/91630/article.html.

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