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Beer Town: “Brew Your Cask Off” Update

Once upon a time, cask-conditioned ales were rarely available outside of Great Britain.

Nowadays, though, you can find unfiltered, unpasteurized natural ales served straight from a tapped cask or pumped from a beer engine at many Atlanta bars. And more craft breweries and brew pubs are experimenting with unique flavor combinations in imaginative, limited edition cask offerings.

In January, Sweetwater Brewing Co. won first place in the specialty category at the annual Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting Festival with a version of its spiced winter seasonal Festive Ale that had been aged in an oak rum barrel from Prichard’s Distillery in Tennessee.

brew your cask logo

Now, in typically irreverent fashion, Sweetwater is putting a new twist on the typical cask ale tasting event with its inaugural “Brew Your Cask Off” Cask Ale Festival. The brewery invited some 75 special guests — including local celebrities, home brewers, retailers and representatives from charitable organizations — to create recipes for their own one-of-a-kind cask ales using ingredients supplied by Hop City home brew shop.

Feb. 27-28, the guests gathered at the brewery, chose either a dark or a blonde base beer specially produced by Sweetwater, then added an assortment of yeast strains, fruits, spices, and hop varieties (plus a few secret ingredients) to their casks.

The beers will be aged until March 20, when the “Brew Your Cask Off” festival is scheduled to take place under tents on the grounds at Sweetwater. The day marks the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and the party atmosphere will include Sweetwater beer, Mellow Mushroom pizza, live music, and guided brewery tours.

Attendees will sip samples of the cask ales and vote for their favorites in the “people’s choice” award. In addition, all entries will be evaluated by a group of judges from the Atlanta beer community and the winning casks will be announced during the festival.

Besides bragging rights, the top four casks and the people’s choice winner will have their recipes replicated at the brewery and served at the Sweetwater 420 Fest on April 17 and 18 in Candler Park.

Though I can’t reveal the exact recipe for the beer I made for “Brew Your Cask Off,” I can report that the name suddenly came to me one morning while I was sitting at the computer.

It’s called “Deadline Destroyer.”

And if all goes according to plan, it will turn out to be a tasty hybrid of a couple of European and American beer styles, as well as a fitting harbinger of spring.

cask off kegs

“Brew Your Cask Off” Cask Ale Festival, 6-10 p.m. Mar. 20, $30 in advance at or $35 at the door. Sweetwater Brewing Co., 195 Ottley Drive NE, Atlanta, 404-691-2537, All attendees must be 21 and up with a valid form of ID. No pets allowed.

6 comments Add your comment


March 3rd, 2010
9:02 am

For the “brewers” who participated last weekend, and some of you really are brewers, what sort of recipe did you decide on?


March 3rd, 2010
3:01 pm

The South Atlanta Home Brewers ( went with 2oz of toasted oak cubes @ 60min, 4oz of High Alpha hops (3oz @ 60min, 1oz @ 15), 1lb of Brown Sugar, 1lb of dry malt extract, a pair of Vanilla beans (1 or 2 minutes from flameout). When cooled,we pitched Wyeast 1056, because in 2 weeks no other yeast would have a chance to get into all that sugar.

Steve Farace

March 3rd, 2010
3:44 pm

some great beers were made – looking forward to trying em all (not sure that is possible) check out the photos and videos
from last weekends festivities, and make sure you come out on the 20th to sample away


March 3rd, 2010
6:11 pm

For the Summits restaurant entry we chose the dark Sweetwater ale and tried to build muttiple layers of complexity into the beer. We added elderberries to give the beer a light dark fruit flavor similar to a dark belgian, powdered cocoa and roasted cocoa nibs, and dark oak sticks that have been in whisky for over a year. 4 ozs of Golding hops to dry hop.


March 4th, 2010
12:06 pm

We (the Porter) tried to make a southern version of Lagunitas’s brown suggah by adding pecans along with simcoe and cascade hops to the pale ale and finally to ensure it is truly unique we used Belgian yeast. We thought it would be funny to imagine those guys from Lagunitas getting drunk with belgian monks. Whoo whee, would that be a sight to see!

Covert Hops

March 8th, 2010
12:13 pm

We went simple considering the bulk of those participating would go nuts with their ingredients. A mix of the light and dark wort with dry noble hopping. We boiled some DME with some Bravo hops to give the beer a slightly more bitter profile. Our goal was to make a beer that will transition from the winter to the spring.