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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Asimov on Cask

I have taken the New York Times' Eric Asimov to task for crude, confused articles on beer. Today, he gets nothing but praise for his wonderful description of cask-conditioned ales. Like those luscious pints, he hits nary a wrong note.
She pulled down on the tap, then pushed back, pulled down and pushed up, in rhythmic repetition like a farmhand at a well. The ale poured slowly into a mug, at first all foam, then turning translucent before suddenly clarifying into a brilliant suds-topped amber.

I touched the faceted glass, cool, but not cold. A floral-citrus aroma rose up, and as I took my first sip I marveled at how soft and delicate the carbonation was, the bubbles giving the flavors lift and energy without aggression.

This was beer the really old-fashioned way. Today most draft beers are injected with carbon dioxide, filtered and often pasteurized, stored in pressurized kegs and served through gas-powered taps.

But the beer I was served was unpasteurized and unfiltered. Like the earliest bubbly brews, it was naturally carbonated, or conditioned, in its cask by yeast transforming sugar into alcohol with a side of fizzy carbon dioxide trapped in the cask. And it was served by muscle power pumping the ale up from its cask into the mug.

His prose isn't as elegant as Michael Jackson's, but for once his article has the same effect--opening a new world to people that is accurate, inviting, and rich with history and detail. It's exactly what good beer writing should be. Cheers!

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