Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co. on March 5 presents the second annual “Brew Your Cask Off” festival — a clever twist on the traditional cask ale tasting that brings together 80 invited guests who each create a special beer to be judged and maybe even enjoyed by attendees.
Last year, I was one of the guests for the inaugural event. Although it was a lot of fun, I have to admit it was humbling to read the critical comments from the judges. And it was embarrassing to realize that my beer wasn’t very good. In fact, several folks at the festival gleefully pointed out that it was awful.
So why am I doing it again this year?
Even if it feels a little like climbing back up the ladder to the dunk tank after getting soaked, it’s an honor to be invited. And, of course, it’s for a good cause. Last year, the Atlanta Humane Society was the big charity winner.
Beyond that, it’s been a great learning experience. Brewing is a combination of art and science that requires skill and imagination. The balance of aromas and flavors in a well-made beer is the product of a series of choices and processes that are both elemental and complex.
Basically, yeast works on the sugar in malt to make a sweetish, bubbly alcoholic beverage, and the addition of hops gives the finished beer its distinctive bitterness, citrus, pine and herbal notes.
The things brewers are doing to beer these days, though, reach far beyond malt, yeast and hops. Aging beer in whiskey barrels, adding coffee, chocolate, herbs and spices, even bacon, are some of the tricks of the crazy and exciting world of extreme brewing. And all that has become a big part of cask ale, too.
In its simplest form, cask ale is beer that’s been sealed in small metal casks (or firkins) and conditioned with yeast that produces natural carbonation and subtle flavor components.
If you want to taste a good example of that kind of ale at “Brew Your Cask Off” this year, try beer writer Owen Ogletree’s C-Hop Session Ale, made in the style of a light, hoppy English golden ale.
On the other hand, there’s Single Barrel Porter, a dark ale flavored with toasted oak chips soaked in a concoction of Elmer T. Lee single barrel bourbon, Dolin rouge vermouth and Regans’ orange bitters, plus a dose of Georgia dark cane syrup.
I’m thinking of it as kind of a classic cocktail cask ale, and I might even serve it with a cherry. After all, if I’m going in the dunk tank, again, I might as well have a good time. I just hope I don’t wind up as the “Biggest Loser.”
“Brew Your Cask Off” Cask Ale Festival, 6-10 p.m. March 5, $35 in advance at brewyourcaskoff.com or $40 at the door. Sweetwater Brewing Co., 195 Ottley Drive N.E., Atlanta, 404-691-2537, sweetwaterbrew.com. All attendees must be 21 and up with a valid form of ID. No pets allowed.
While we were brewing up beer, the fun guys from Sapelo Productions were brewing up a little promo film (find it at the Brew Your Cask Off link above).
When they asked if they could include me in their epic, I muttered something about not wanting to look like I’d been caught by the TMZ crew.
A few days later the following hoax appeared in my e-mail box, with an interesting photo and narrative.
Popular beer writer lost at sea
What started as the 2nd annual SweetWater Brew Your Cask Off Festival, Saturday, took a turn for the weird when local beer writer, Bob Townsend, showed up with his entry, an adventurous dark beer-coffee-mescal blend that he was calling Jose’s bean dePort’ed.
“We figured his beer must have a kick by the big smile that came over his face,” said festival-goer Nick Davis of Cumming, “but when he started making locomotive sounds as he sucked porter through a Bunsen burner, we figured it was time to leave.”
When last seen, Mr. Townsend had ripped a giant oar from the SweetWater headquarters logo and was row-walking down Piedmont Rd. An eye witness claims to have encountered Mr. Townsend heading, as he claimed, “further out to sea”, although Mr. Townsend was more than 300 miles from any coast line.
— by Bob Townsend, Drink blog