Party Cask Ale Heaven and Hell

19 Mar

Supposedly one of the nearest things to getting cask ale into your house.

mini keg

A while back I got the following 8 pint mini casks in for a little get together with some friends. I liked the idea of them. Flexibility and choice. But what did I think of them and were there any differences in quality of the products and suitability for the occasion, rather than just in the beer?

The beers were as follows:

Bath Ales Gem – decent session bitter 4.1%

Hop Back Summer Lightning – classic, ground-breaking-in-its-day Golden Ale 5%

Thornbridge Sequoia –  American Pale Ale 4.5%

Thornbridge South Pacific – Grapefruity Pale Ale 5.2%

Lovibonds Henley Dark – Victorian inspired Porter 4.8%

Wolf Granny Wouldn’t like it – Rich fruity red ale 4.8%

Wolf Straw Dog – Light clear Wheat Beer 4.5%

Most of the guests regularly drank beer but not always with any great care and attention, so it was no surprise that the Bath Ales Gem was the one most people liked. Fortunately, I’d ordered a few of these. It was also easy to use, it poured well, was well-packaged, was in good condition and there was little wastage.

Not so the Thornbridge Ales. Despite being one of my top two from the list taste-wise, the Sequoia dispensed about four pints of beer and four pints of dredge. The South Pacific fared the same, so regardless of how much I like Thornbridge beers, I’d have to say that they were not value for money.(All the beers were stored the same way and were allowed plenty of time to rest.)

Wolf’s offerings had a mixed response, they poured well and were well packaged, delivered efficiently from the brewery and had little wastage. The Straw Dog was well received taste-wise, without anyone ranting on about it but most people found the Granny Wouldn’t Like It a bit rich. Fortunately, I didn’t buy too much of it. (I do like this beer though).

Lovibonds Henley Dark was my favourite beer from the list. I loved it. BUT. No matter what you tried to do it just wouldn’t pour properly. Two fingers of ale and 2 hands of head. It was explosive. Everyone got fed up trying to pour some and as a Porter wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea anyway,it got left. More for me but a shame as I wanted people to try something new. To be honest even I got fed up trying to pour it.

Finally, Hop Back Summer Lightning which was the best value in terms of delivery because I picked it up from their South London backstreet pub. It was £16, which was the cheapest. Beyond this, it was also excellent in all other respects, it was particularly easy to pour and a beer people could easily go to when they thought the other beers were getting a bit heavy or they were missing their, god help them, can of Fosters. It went down well towards the end of the party.

Summer Lightning and Gem, I felt were the most successful for the occasion, which is a shame as they are very standard in a way and you want people to be introduced to something new. Or maybe we are just too used to them. Would I buy another mini-cask of Thornbridge? I’d be very reticent to.

Spending all that cash on beer for people did make me think about landlords and restaurant owners. I always complain about the lack of beer choice and the same old faces on menus but perhaps most people just aren’t that adventurous.


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