Surprisingly there seems to be very little information out there on cask beer production. I ordered a copy of Patrick O'Neil's "Cellarmanship" but unfortunately it deals mostly with cask beer once it leaves the brewery. After talking with a bunch of different local brewers on the topic (as any brewer's spouse can tell you, we really do talk about beer all the time) I found that there are really two basic methods; racking still fermenting beer into the firkin or priming brite beer with some sugar source and additional yeast. To this point I've opted for the first option, attempting to capture the beer at its sweet spot. As you might suspect, this method, though more traditional, is by nature kind of hit and miss.
Why do I bring this up now? Twice a year the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, Northwest District, holds a 2 day conference that feature lectures, sensory panels, and overall discussion on a particular topic. Recent conferences have focused on topics as varied as barrel aging, water, the history and variety of porter and belgian yeasts. The upcoming fall conference next weekend in Seattle focuses entirely on cask beer. Brewers are encouraged to bring cask beer for a Friday night tasting and as a result we volunteered to bring a firkin. After much discussion between Head Brewer Dave Fleming and myself we decided to offer up 2 firkins, each using a different cask conditioning method.
Yesterday I filled the first of the two firkins with the base porter for our Holiday Cheer direct from the primary fermenter. My task for today, along with brewing another batch of C-Sons Greetings, is to fill and prime the second firkin. For this I'll be using LSD from one of our conditioning tanks and about 100 grams of corn sugar as the priming sugar. Both firkins will sit until Monday at around 60 degrees before being moved to our cellar where a slightly lower temperature will hopefully help with CO2 uptake. It should be an interesting (and delicious) experiment and with the knowledge I hope to gain from the experience, coupled with the content of next weekends conference should result in more regular firkin tappings at our various pubs with a much higher degree of success and consistency. I'll post some pictures following the conference and look for more posts in the future on our continuing cask beer adventures. Until next time, Cheers!