I am very gently working my way through Hopworks‘ Bourbon De Ieso Spades IPA. It’s being served via the firkin and it’s quite tasty; their imperial IPA kept in bourbon barrels? Whoa!
But…it’s different enough that I can’t help but wonder how it wold be if it had been allowed to carbonate like a modern ale. I can see the tiny bubbles on the side, a faint, desperate show of carbonation and I can’t help but think: what’s the point?
This isn’t an argument against Bailey’s, understand. I need to say that up front: I love it here and I know they aren’t screwing around with their beer. I just don’t know that I see the advantage to an ale served from the firkin instead of being allowed to carbonate. It’s warm, the nose fades much, much faster than what I am used to and in the end, I am compelled to ask: Why is ale served from a cask such a big thing?
In the old days, bartenders mixed the beer according to a customer’s taste: younger beer with older beer in order to give that customer what he or she desired in terms of flavor, carbonation, etc. This was because younger beers were carbonated but older ales, with the maturity of flavor that comes from being aged in barrels, tasted better. So they get mixed and voila! A beer someone wants to drink.
Since all that has been done beforehand, what is the point of serving an ale to someone that is mostly flat and significantly warmer? This isn’t mixed to my taste: it’s just served as is.
Technology has allowed us to make better beer. Is the firkin now just some kind of hipster/elitist bullshit, that is trying to harken back to ‘ye olden dayz’, when men died from leprosy and women in childbirth? Or is there an actual shift that is lost because of the technology? It seems like an idea worth asking.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe that the new should be embraced just because it is the new, nor the old held onto just because it’s the way we’ve always done things. I am just curious as to what the firkin brings to the experience of drinking an ale that is lost if served using modern tech. And unfortunately, I cannot compare right now.
Still: let’s put it on the list-compare a carbonated brew with the same kind served from a firkin. It’s bound to be educational. And even if it isn’t: beer.