When you order your cask beer order the correct size cask. Usually cask ale comes in Firkins (9gal) but you can also get it in Kiderkins (18gal) and Pins (4.5gal). You should aim to sell the beer with in three days. Therefore, it is important that you check the dates when they are delivered and make sure that each barrel has enough “life” on them.
It is important that you check the dates when they are delivered and make sure that each barrel has enough “life” on them. Remember you will need 3 days before you can serve the beer.
You should ensure that your cask ale is stored in a temperature controlled cellar or beer store at a temperature between 11°C and 13°C (52°F-55°F). The optimum temperature being 12°c (54°F).
4. Stillaging (racking)
All casks should be laid down flat (stillaging) and scotched (wedged so they can not roll) on delivery. If you do not have the room to stillage all your casks on delivery then you must roll any barrels before stillaging them at a later date. This re-distributes the finnings within the beer. You will need to stillage your casks for at least three days before sale, this is because cask ales take between 48 and 72 hours to drop bright. If you are using a tilting racking system you will not have to use a wedge as they are designed to prevent the barrel rolling.
5. Venting and Pegging
Your cask beer should be vented with a soft wooden peg between 2 and 6 hours after they have been placed on the stillage. Pegging allow fermentation to take place, check frequently that the peg has not become blocked, if it has replace it with another soft peg. Once this strong fermentation has taken place you should replace the soft wooden peg with a hard peg. These hard pegs are traditionally wooden but can also be plastic. When you are ready to serve the cask beer the hard peg should be removed during service, but should be replaced at night to give the beer maximum shelve life.
All casks should be tapped 24-48 hours before use. Remember that beer is “food” and you should always use a clean tap every time to prevent contamination of the cask.
After tapping you should sample the beer directly from the barrel. You are checking for the clarity of the beer, its aroma and taste. You should also do this before you open each day. By sampling directly from the barrel you are not wasting beer that is in the beer line. Remember to record your sampling for your stocktaker.
Cask (real) ale is a natural product and will start to deteriorate once exposed to air. You should be aiming to empty a cask ideally in three days. If you have a beer that looks like it is going to take longer to sell, you need to consider ways that will help you use it, the last thing you want is to throw it away. Brief your staff, you might consider using that beer for bitter shandys, consider reducing the price, if you have a catering operation, can the chef use the beer in any dishes.
To get maximum yield from your casks you will need to tilt them. You can either lift the back of the cask or lower the front. Which ever is easiest for you, you are looking to change the height by about 3 inched (7.5cm). You should do this when the cask is between a half and two thirds full.
You should clean your beer lines and equipment every 7 days, this prevents yeast build up in the pipes that will affect the quality of your beer. If you have a spare hand pump then you might also considering pulling water through every time you change a barrel. And don’t forget to record your pipe cleaning for your stocktaker.