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Old Man Winter Goes Casking

ribstonecreeklogoOver the past couple of years, the cask event scene in Edmonton has quietly plugged away. The number of events has grown (the original 2 monthly events at Sugar Bowl and Next Act joined by weekly casks at Beer Revolution and Craft Beer Market), but the overall buzz factor has, in my opinion, dropped off. While that is somewhat expected – it is far more exciting when there is only one per month vs. eight or ten – I was also hoping to see more breweries and pubs engage in cask-related activities. Alley Kat has been a solid anchor, deserving kudos for it, but I wonder if the lack of diversity limits the potential reach of these events?

That question is why I made a point of swinging by the Next Act the other night to partake in the first Ribstone Creek Cask event. It took place on the regular Next Act cask night, and I was curious if the novelty of a different brewery and the use of their promotion networks might shift the dynamic.

For the record, this was offiically Ribstone’s third attempt at casking. The first was the Beer Geek’s Real Ale Festival, where their cask unfortunately got bunged up. The second was an event hosted at the brewery in Edgerton that reportedly drew 250 people (out of a town of 400!). [Edit: The Ribstone folks tell me this was actually their SEVENTH cask, including two events in Edgerton.]

For Next Act they were offering up their Old Man Winter Porter, dosed with cardamon (as a tea) and vanilla beans. It sat a surprisingly long time in the cask – almost two months. The base beer is a chocolatey dark ale with a noted molasses character and touches of coffee. In my opinion it is something of a hybrid between a porter and a winter ale.

The cask version was completely different. I am always amazed at how the cask process can transform a beer. The coffee and molassess slip away to be replaced by a noted vanilla aroma and flavour. I get a strong cardamon hit on the nose, but not so much in the taste (although others in the room reported they got a clear cardamon flavour, so it might just be me). The vanilla gives the beer a bit of a candy character. The chocolate seems sharper and overall the beer seems slicker in some fashion.

No question it was an enjoyable pint and an admirable first effort.

I cannot report with any reliability that the event garnered more attention than others. The Next Act was packed, but it usually is, and the cask ran out at the usual rate. I noticed a number of beer industry people that likely came for the novelty, and at least a couple of other tables that had the cask purposefully in mind.

Still, Ribstone deserves credit for taking the plunge into cask. The folks there indicate a desire to do casks more regularly. How often and where remains to be seen.




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