When was the last time you enjoyed an ale straight from the fermenter?
The astute observer will notice that there is a small room with two doors directly behind the center of the bar. Further observation will reveal that this room contains two stacked rows of brown containers enjoying varying degrees of tilt. These are generally known as 'casks', but in particular are called 'firkins' or 'nines', as they contain 9 Imperial (U.K.) gallons of beer. That converts to a nominal 72 Imperial (U.K., 20 oz.) pints, but in reality there is a certain amount of ullage (waste) reducing the actual number of proper pints to around 65 to 70. As the beer is pumped by hand from a beer engine into your glass, the tilt of the casks will increase.
In the production of real ale, the cask serves as the secondary fermenter. This means that the yeast continues to ferment and condition (carbonate) the beer in the cask. When the cask is tapped, oxygen is introduced, which changes the character of the beer over a period of several days to the delight of the brainy, discerning ale connoisseur. Fermentation stops shortly after the lightly carbonated and flavorful liquid reaches your stomach.
We will assume you want a pint unless you specifically ask for a half.
It changes all the time. We have 6 handpulls for the cask beers and 6 keg guest taps, one of which is always a cider in a gluten free line. All of the beers rotate on a regular basis, so it is impossible to put up a list of what's currently on. Regular appearances are usually an ordinary or best bitter, something malty, something hoppy and something dark and roasty.
The Brewers Union Local 180 brewery has been adapted from the equipment belonging to the former Hawks Brewing Co. out of Roseburg. It features a propane-fired brew kettle, assisted by a tankless water heater that boosts the incoming filtered water to 85° C. The kettle is used not only to boil the wort (the term used for the beer before the yeast is added), but to provide the hot water needed to extract the fermentable sugars from the grains (or grist) in the mash tun. The technique of employing the destination fermenter as a holding tank for the mash and sparge procedures contributes to the sterilization of the equipment prior to transfer of the wort to the fermenters.
Imperial measure is used all the way from the mash tun to the pint in your hand. The typical brew-length is 2 Imperial Barrels. An Imperial Barrel is 36 Imperial Gallons. An Imperial Gallon is 160 ounces. An Imperial Pint is 20 ounces. The beer is racked into firkins, which literally mean "fourth of a barrel", so therefore we produce 8 firkins of beer per batch. A firkin contains a nominal 72, 20 ounce pints. In reality it will yield around 70. In U.S. measure this all translates into a brew-length of 89 gallons or 2.79 BBL.
Real Ale; what is it? It sounds pretentious, as if suggesting that there is such a beverage as Fake Ale. Well, perhaps this is not so far off the mark. But, setting aside that argument for the moment, perhaps a formal defintion is in order. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Real Ale is
"a name for draft (or bottled) beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide."
Good beer doesn't travel well. Variations in temperature from warehousing and transportation can wreak havoc on the quality and the flavor. And not only that, but those additives and preservatives that are not discussed on the label of the bottle aren't doing you any favors.
In order to keep our casks in peak condition, and to serve in an optimum way, we have built a temperature-controlled cellar behind the bar. This temperature will be maintained at 50° F (10° C), plus or minus a degree or two. A recirculating glycol line in the python and the use of jacketed beer engine cylindars ensures that your pint is served at around 52° F. The stillage has been built to accommodate 8 casks, six of which can be in service and connected to the six beer engines on the bar at any one time. We are using CypherCo plastic firkins shipped from England that are automatically kept at the correct angle of incline based on remaining volume in the casks by the use of Tilt-a-Cask auto tilt mechanisms from A-Cask, another product shipped from England.
You would have to search far and wide, perhaps involving the journey over a large body of water, to find a more authentic pint.