Cask beer is a little warmer, a little flatter, and a little better – Boston Globe

Affixed to a wooden box the size of a toaster oven on top of the bar at Atwood’s Tavern, a Cambridge pub, is a sign that reads, “This is not a mystery box. There is a vessel in here with delicious beer.”

The vessel is a cask, and the beer, currently a subtly smoked porter called Smoke & Dagger, from Framingham’s Jack’s Abby, changes often. The setup is not proprietary. Bars around the city are serving cask-conditioned beer to a devoted group of patrons looking for something different.

Cask-conditioned beer is served from a cask at cellar temperature (about 55 degrees), rather than flowing through lines spiked with CO2. When a cask is vented, oxygen activates yeast already in the beer, affecting its flavor. If you’ve been to a pub in England and tasted beer that seemed a little warmer and a little flatter than what you’re used to, you’ve probably had cask beer.

Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale in Downtown Crossing, has been serving cask beer for three years. Bar manager Jamie Walsh typically has one cask on at a time, and swaps it out a couple times a week. Stouts, lagers, porters, and pale ales all make it through the rotation.

“Those pineapple and grapefruit flavors from a pale ale or an IPA really start to pop at this temperature,” says Walsh. “It’s definitely worth a taste, if only to wrap your head around it.”

Plenty of dedicated drinkers are sneaking a taste. Walsh sends out a social media blast every time he taps a new beer, and says the spike in customers asking for cask beer is noticeable. “It’s not like you lose street cred for not having cask beer, but it helps to balance out your program,” says Walsh.

Cask beer enthusiasts can …read more

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