Beer Lovers: The Pure Joy of a Cask Beer Engine
Need to put out a fire? Call 911 for a fire engine. Need to quench your craving for the smoothest, creamiest, most flavorful craft beer you've ever sipped in your life? Call for a beer engine!
So, what in heaven’s name are those tall, dark, and handsome tap beer handles behind the bar? And why are they NOT back along the wall, with all the pedestrian tap handles? These noble-looking dark-stained wooden batons are the tap handles of cask beer engines, the old...really old-school way of pouring tap beer. Also known as hand pumps, beer engines are a beer dispensing device that is specifically appropriate for traditional cask-conditioned ales.
A Dutch inventor named John Lofting - who must have been thirsty - invented the beer engine in 1691 in London. If you've ever visited an authentic British pub, you would have seen and probably been served from a killer lineup of beer engines. Beer engines in America are rare. Monk’s in Sioux Falls has one, but they don’t always have a cask-conditioned ale on the menu. Granite City may have one. We found these 4 cute little orphans in Rapid City, South Dakota, at Dakota Point Brewing, located in the historic former Landstrom’s Black Hills Gold factory.
As you see in the photos, a tall swan neck arch spout protrudes from the front of the beer engines, so Madison, our Dakota Point Server, could scoot our pub glasses underneath to be thoughtfully filled. Between Cask pours, she keeps a wad of Saran
Wrap, binder-clipped to the tip of the spout. Then when someone orders a beer from the cask, she removes the wrap, screws-on a tightly fitted schnozzle called a sparkler,
a restrictor device that causes the beer to be sprayed into the glass. Ahhhh…I think I
need a cigarette!
Below are 3 ways tap beer is carbonated and served:
Carbon Dioxide - CO2 The most common way tap beers are served - around 38 degrees.
Nitrogen - N2 Example: Guinness. Notice cascade of tiny bubbles in the glass as it's poured - around 38 degrees - smooth.
Cask Conditioned Ale Hand pumped from low carbonation casks stored in the basement of the bar – 52 to 57 degrees….yeah, that’s the way they do it in jolly ole’ London town.
- Takes several draws of tap handle/piston pump system by your well-biceped server to properly fill your glass.
- Watch the graceful cascade bubble dance effervesce in your glass. It’s as sexy as late-night Cinemax.
- Once bubbles have relaxed, lift the glass to mouth, close eyes, and take your first sip.
- I believe you’ll agree, Cask beer is soooo very smoooooth, creamy and tasty.