On Sunday, November 17th, the Ladies Beer League will be hosting a Cask Beer Event at The Stubborn Goat in Halifax. Consisting of afternoon (1-4pm) and evening (5-8pm) sessions, attendees will be able to sample special one-off casks from seven Maritime breweries, while chatting with the brewers and plenty of local beer fans.
An overview of the event can be found on the Facebook page, but we reached out to Tracy and Pam of the LBL with a few questions on this exciting event, to go into more detail:
ACBB: Why choose cask-conditioned beer as a focus? What are the interesting characteristics that drew the group to it?
Tracy: Well, great question! The LBL knew that we wanted to help foster Cask Beer in Nova Scotia (like in other Canadian provinces, where it has taken off), but first we realized that if we were to play an important role, we needed to do two things: 1) Help Craft Beer drinkers understand & appreciate Cask-conditioned beer, and 2) Encourage breweries to produce beer in this way. Of course, established breweries Garrison, Propeller, and Picaroons have been dabbling in Cask for years, Kevin Keefe at Granite Brewery is the Cask God Father, and Greg Nash creates Cask-conditioned ales at Rockbottom weekly. However, for the newer brewers in Nova Scotia, we knew that if we helped create the market demand, they’d be super keen to experiment. Also, now that we have craft beer bars like The Stubborn Goat & Bar StillWell, there will be licensees willing to buy, promote, & dispense their casks. Now is the time! This particular event really got going after the Stubborn Goat reached out to us, and wanted to plan an event together. From the beginning, they were very intrigued by cask-conditioned ale, so it seemed like the perfect venue to plan our most ambitious event yet. We’re thrilled to be the first public event at The Goat, and help develop their customer base of cask-beer lovers!
ACBB: How were the breweries selected to take part in the event?
Tracy: This was really easy – Part of our agreement with The Goat was that we would only approach craft breweries that the gastropub had already developed a relationship. Luckily for us, all 7 breweries we approached were super keen! Unfortunately, this left out a few great new/old breweries in NS, but we hope in upcoming months we can organize events with breweries who were not involved in Cask Fest.
Pam: The breweries we partner with for our events are currently limited to accounts the venue is already dealing with under their liquor license. We chose the Stubborn Goat for our Cask Fest with this in mind, as they are working to make a larger variety of local microbrews available under one roof.
ACBB: Did you give the breweries any guidelines for what to send, or how to prepare/treat the beer?
Tracy: As I mentioned earlier, some breweries had expertise making casks & others were completely new to the concept. We wanted to give the breweries the space to learn & experiment without limitations. That being said, there is an assumption that breweries will comply with the general practices of making casks in North America. That is, fermenting the beer to a designated level, then cask-conditioning a specific volume in a stainless steel vessel by adding fermentable primer, yeast and additional wacky ingredients. Secondary fermentation results in a smooth, unique and naturally carbonated-ale that is sooooo easy to drink when dispensed directly from the cask. I understand this is not how Real Ale is necessarily brewed in the UK, but this is the technique that is generally practiced at comparable breweries across Canada & the USA.
On that note, the industry came together to make this event a reality. Kellye Robertson (Ladies Beer League Member) provided guidance to Emily Tipton at Boxing Rock, Greg Nash lent cask & supplies to Bridge so they could participate. Mike Grieg from Garrison will be on hand to help tap the casks on the 17th. It’s really neat to see.
Pam: We gave the breweries full creative control in the making of their casks. Knowing that given the time of year, they would naturally be in the throws of crafting some of their more unique one-offs and seasonals, we didn’t feel the need to set any guidelines. We are thrilled with the selection of brews they are bringing to the table.
ACBB: I believe your previous events were women-only. Why have you opened this event up to all genders?
Tracy: After we realized that this was going to involve 7 breweries and be Halifax’s first Cask Beer fest, we knew we could not exclude the guys. It’s too great of an event! The LBL’s mandate is to even-the-playing field, introduce women to craft beer AND hopefully have future beer events consist of 50% men and 50% women. Over the past few months we have held 6 sold-out events for women who are now craft beer converts, and many LBL members are thrilled to bring the men in their lives to Cask Fest.
The Ladies Beer League has grown organically over the past several months, and if we start to take the role of “event organizer” for the local craft beer community, we will likely continue to host a handful of events for men & women… And, if we achieve our goal, these events will indeed be attended equally by men and women.
Pam: Given that this is the first Cask festival in Halifax open to public attendance, we felt it would be unfair to limit attendance to ladies only. That said, we’ve never stipulated that any of our events were specifically ‘ladies only’. If a man walked into one of our regular events, no doubt he’d have a lot of fun!
ACBB: Will the brewers (or someone from the breweries involved) be there, pouring their beer and able to chat with attendees?
Tracy: Most of the breweries will have either a brewer or marketing/sales rep on-site to talk about their beer. For a few, like Picaroons, it’s a little more difficult. In that case, LBL organizers or The Goat staff will step-up and help pour the casks. The only thing that worries me is the actual tapping of the casks… with 7 casks, at least a few are bound to go crazy. That’s part of the fun!
Pam: The breweries will be sending a representative, in most cases the brewer of the cask. A board member from the LBL will be around to pour and answer questions on behalf of any brewery should they be unable to do so.
ACBB: Can you explain the cask sampling itself? I understand attendees will be given a passport, in order to try each of the seven casks…
Tracy: This is the FUN part! After attendees have filled their passport, they have the opportunity to go back for an 8th sample glass and cast a vote for their favourite cask! The brewery who collects the most 8th samples will be named “Ladies Choice for 2013”.
Pam: Again, the 8th sample is a chance to ‘double-up’ on a brew you want to experience again. We plan to keep track of these last samples as a means of voting for a sort of people’s choice, giving the winning brewery a bit of bragging rights.
ACBB: Anything else to add?
Tracy: The day session is selling quickly, get your tickets now! LBLCaskFest.EventBrite.ca
Also, if you are curious about cask beer, OR you just really appreciate trying new styles of beer, this is the perfect event for you! Each cask will be something you’ve never experienced before. It’s also a really great opportunity to talk to the people who make your favourite craft beer & see Halifax’s new gastropub!
Thanks very much to Tracy and Pam for all of the great info, it’s going to be a great time!
We also reached out to the breweries for some details on the beer they’ll be pouring, and thoughts on the event, so you can begin salivating now:
Boxing Rock: Emily Tipton, Founding Partner and Beer Engineer (I like the sound of that job!) tells us they will be serving a cask of their newest seasonal Crafty Jack English Ale, an English Brown Ale, and naturally primed in the cask. She will be there to pour the cask and chat with people. Their brewer’s assistant, Shelby Peters, will also be there. Emily says, “This beer is also our fall seasonal. We’re really looking forward to being part of this event, and to supporting the Ladies Beer League. And we can’t wait to hang out at the Stubborn Goat!”
Bridge Brewing will be serving a Belgian Apricot IPA. Brewed with five different malts, three different hops, Blonde Belgian Candi sugar, and their own homemade apricot concentrate. It weighs in at 6.5%, 65 IBU, 7 SRM.
Garrison Brewing will be serving Cask-conditioned Winter Warmer. Brewmaster Daniel Girard is trying to reproduce his mom’s Raisin Pie with this year’s recipe of Winter Warmer. There are notes of orange, rosemary, rose hips and raisin that complement each other so well. Since this is already a very complex beer, he decided to not add additional ingredients. The priming agent for conditioning is rice sugar, to maintain a vegan product. Brewer Kellye Robertson will be pouring the beer.
Hell Bay Brewing will have their Dark Cream Ale fall seasonal pouring.*
Picaroons will have their new Smoked Porter at the Fest.*
Propeller will be serving a dry-hopped version of their IPA.*
*Unfortunately, we did not hear back from these breweries before today’s deadline, so are unable to provide more details.
Some final details on the fest: The event will be taking place on the upper floor of the Stubborn Goat, so their main floor will be open for plenty of post-Fest beer, and the kitchen will be open throughout to cure those grumbling tummies.
Breweries will be serving the same beer at both sessions, and to make sure both sessions will be able to sample, will be respecting a “one sample per cask per person” protocol (except for Ladies Choice).