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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Cheers for cask-conditioned beers

Several Wisconsin breweries sent samples to the Real Ale Festival, including the Delafield Brewhaus.

Brewer John Harrison created more than 24 specialties in the first year of Delafield Brewhaus' operation, and continues to brew a huge variety, with at least one ale always served cask conditioned. "This is my dream brewery," he says, gesturing to the gleaming stainless steel tanks that soar to the second story of the pub.

And part of Harrison's plan from the beginning was to include cask conditioned ales. "I helped Wisconsin Brewing Co. when we launched the Badger Porter and installed our first beer engine at the Y-Not II tap," Harrison recalled. "Cask dispense makes such a difference in flavor." In commercial beer lines, the pressure of CO2 is used to push beer from keg to tap, adding gassiness en route. With real ales, the beer must be pumped to the bar using a traditional beer engine, that takes several long pulls to fill a pint.

Harrison also flavors his ales with dried hops added directly to the cask before dispensing at the bar. "I use hop cones that are pressed into small plugs that can be pushed into the bunghole of cask (also called a firkin)," he explains. The hop cone plugs expand and release their aromatic oils slowly into the ale.

"That's where the real creativity for the brewer comes in, during the secondary fermentation and dry hopping," claims Harrison.

For the Real Ale Festival, Harrison provided several casks of ale. First, Harrison brewed his rendition of a 17th century British ale dubbed Thames Valley, plus, a cask of the Czar's Choice Russian Imperial Stout, and his powerful vintage Barleywine from 2001. The Barleywine is smooth and creamy in texture, with a brandy-like finish.

The gigantic bar at the Delafield Brewhaus has a beer engine for cask dispense, in addition to guest taps from area breweries, and more than a dozen Delafield specialties.

Pictured at the bar: a recipe for a real ale Wisconsin fish boil!

See tips on cooking with beer, browse the profile of brewchef Kurt Linke.


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