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Beer school: what is real ale? | The Craft Beer Channel

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Britain is famous for its love of real ale, but how is it different to keg beer? And why do some people think real ale fusty and boring? Bollocks to that says Jonny, as he heads to his favourite real ale pub, the Southampton Arms in Kentish Town, to discover the magic behind cask beer.
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Text Comments (86)
pdjhh (1 month ago)
It’s not “room” temperature though is it. It’s cellar temperature.
Yajna Amakusa (2 months ago)
If you find a good real ale pub, you're onto a winner. But real ale lost out to lager because most pubs didn't know how to deal with it and it lacked flavour, became sour, etc. The best ales I've ever had were ales bought direct from the brewery, second best were those I drunk at known good ale pubs, the poor ones were supermarket canned and bottled 'real ales', and the abysmal ones were served by pubs who didn't understand the product.
Michael Colello (2 months ago)
I love real ale. I won't drink in (UK) pubs that don't serve it. However, I find individual brews very hit and miss, with more than a few turning up thin, flat and sour in the glass. Very disappointing. That said, I enjoyed some great malty, full-bodied pints during my last visit, to Glasgow. Keep it up, friends! I can't wait to return and have another round with you.
Luca Raimondo (9 months ago)
Could have been a good video but the audio is so bad...
Miguel Camilleri (1 year ago)
*I'd be a lot happier with a belly full of Ale*
The Review Bar (1 year ago)
Great video! Real Fire and Real Ale what a great combination!
our idea of happiness.
WUEDXFEI (1 year ago)
how is cask conditioning and different than bottle conditioning a Homebrew? if I do a bottle conditioned Homebrew that uses typical British grain bills and hops, aim for mild carbonization and keep at cellar temps, how different is the result from the same at beer brewed and served as "real ale" ?
Well, according to CAMRA there is no difference. Bottle conditioned beer counts as real ale - but there are some fundamental differences. It's VERY hard to achieve the soft, fine bubbles of well conditioned cask beer via bottle re-fermentation. Also, cask beer is going to be fresher as it doesn't need time in bottle to carb - most are only fermented once. Essentially a bottle conditioned bitter is as close to a cask conditioned bitter as can be – softer feel, living beer – but not quite the same mouthfeel and freshness.
Thomas W (1 year ago)
I've had a few today, so forgive me, but I just bloody love a good beer in a good pub. People, let's keep this beautiful thing alive.
Amen brother.
BellaBooo1998 (2 years ago)
Jonny its been nearly 2 years, do you still love cask/real ale? Enough of this fizzy overly hopped crap, get back to basics
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
Lots of plans for some more real ale content this winter....and there is no such thing as over-hopped!
Randall Schoverling (2 years ago)
I still don't understand. I didn't know drinking beer "fresh" was that desirable? I very much look forward to bottle conditioning my homebrews. The time adds complexity to flavor.
Randall Schoverling (2 years ago)
+The Craft Beer Channel French 'Biere De Garde' and Saisons; Liege Biere and smoked polish Grötzer ales. I also love English porters, stouts and brown ales. IPA's (meant to be drunk fresh) are my least favorite style. The one thing I would really like to learn is how to brew an ancient "Gruit" all-herb ale. I did a rosemary Gruit once and it didn't come out very well.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
We're going to do a beer school on ageing and drinking fresh soon, but ageing removes some flavours while developing others. That means it depends on the style - anything hoppy or light (eg pilsner) should be drunk as soon as the brewer says it's ready, while darker/very strong beers can be aged if done carefully. But certainly ALL cask beer should be drunk as soon as it's tapped - once clarified it has a day of tasting great, two days of tasting decent, and on the third day it will be nothing like the brewer intended. What style of homebrews do you do?
Dan Sage (2 years ago)
That guys at 0:48 seconds in, I see him everywhere....seen him a couple of times in t'Brugse Beertje
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Dan Sage I think he's a big beer rater.
Eric Glueckert (2 years ago)
Isn't real ale lower in ABV than beer in a keg?
Alec Hemy (2 years ago)
No there's a brewery in kentish town doing a blackcurrant mild going @ 25 on the brix .on cask keg & bottle. It's just getting hold of the stuff.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Eric Glueckert not really. That's certainly not a way of defining it, but beyond about 6% cask beer can get a bit sticky and thick so usually stronger beers are better with more carbonation like in keg. As Belgian beers prove.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Eric Glueckert not really. That's certainly not a way of defining it, but beyond about 6% cask beer can get a bit sticky and thick so usually stronger beers are better with more carbonation like in keg. As Belgian beers prove.
nialldor (2 years ago)
Am I the only one to find the background music distracting? Can't concentrate on the beer! :(
peter westgarth (2 years ago)
Good to see some Allendale ones in there :)
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+peter westgarth Indeed! Nice beers.
Whiskey River (2 years ago)
As an American who was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in England, I would rather have a pint of real English, cask conditioned ale, than any other beer on the planet; and although I prefer Yorkshire ales, a real ale from anywhere in the country is quite a treat. It is very difficult to explain to another American who hasn't been there, exactly why I believe it to be better than anything else; even after explaining the complete brewing and aging process, and the more complex drama of blending young brown ales with "stale", or serving "three threads", or "entire butt". But, perhaps it's just an individual taste that I have. There really isn't anything quite like it anywhere in the world; except maybe Messr Maquire's Pub, at O'Connell Bridge, on the Quays, in Dublin, who do a lovely replica. Certainly, I have yet to find anything that comes close, at any of the thousands of microbreweries in America. So for now, real ale, and it's CAMRA supporters, are found in one secluded place on the global map; and what a wonderful place to be.......... to find the best pint of mankind!!!!! Purrrrfick!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!
Race Frazier (2 years ago)
I am a craft beer lover here in the USA. I am very picky on my tempature of my beer. I have a few beers I buy and keep on my shelf. Also some craft breweries here ad some yest to the bottles to kick it off when you pour it out to make natural carbonation.
mike rotch (2 years ago)
+Race Frazier I am uncertain where you come from. Here in my state Belgian beer is incredibly popular.
Race Frazier (2 years ago)
Belgiums are not popular here. Although I will be attending a Belgium beer festival in January to get a tase of good Belgiums, saisons and lambics.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Race Frazier temperature is very important! Despite the cliche about warm beer in Britain, we actuall serve most of our beer too cold. We'll do a video on it soon. As for bottle fermentation, most British and nearly all Belgian beers are done that way, we think it's the best way to serve beer from the bottle
ACDCofthe21stcentury (2 years ago)
It's just a shame the guy pulling the beer didn't know how to pull it properly. I work in a pub in Yorkshire, and so know how real beer should be pulled, there should be a 'sparkler' (a plastic sprinkler kind of thing the beer is pushed through to give it a nice head and a smooth finish) on the end of the swan neck (the metal pipe the beer comes out of) and the sparkler should touch the bottom of the glass, with the glass held vertically, and the beer should be pulled slowly as to not push too much air through it, which will ruin the taste and give it too much of a head, meaning you have to top the beer up and therefore waste good beer!
BeeRich33 (2 years ago)
Sparklers are often taken off because of dry-hopping. Second, slower casks oxidize enough in the cask without beating it up upon delivery to the pint glass. And staff don't like them.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+ACDCofthe21stcentury there's a definite north south divide, as well as ENDLESS blogs by breweries and drinkers about it. Like real ale v keg, there will never be a right and a wrong side.
ACDCofthe21stcentury (2 years ago)
+The Craft Beer Channel aye, but I work in a pub in Yorkshire, so it's common practice! I know plenty of head Brewers (mainly the ex head brewer for Theakston, as he's a local in my village) and they all say that beers best with a sparkler! But I went to Coventry the other week, and the girl behind the bar didn't even know what one was, and when she asked her boss, was told they didn't even own one!
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+ACDCofthe21stcentury uho! You said the sparkler word! So many debates about it that we left it out. You can pour great pints with or without it, it's down to what you prefer...or the publican.
Roraigh Price (3 years ago)
where is this pub "the Southampton arms", is it in Southampton? are the beer boys based in southampton
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+A Mac what he said! It's in between Kentish Town and Highgate.
A Mac (3 years ago)
SoloTravelBlog (3 years ago)
Thanks for this video. I never knew about "real ale" until I watched this. Then, yesterday, I saw real ale available at a craft beer place in Tokyo. It was extremely good!
Kmwee Shee (1 year ago)
SoloTravelBlog The
Kmwee Shee (1 year ago)
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The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Amazing! Glad it's spreading. It's a great way to serve beer.
Patrick Hennecke (3 years ago)
Teach me your ways
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+Patrick Hennecke We're trying! best advice is to keep on drinking.
JohnS1704 (3 years ago)
Did he say "not really suited to super hoppy beers"? That'll come as a bit of a surprise to many a brewer. Oakham, Hawkshead to name but two.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Every rule has its exceptions (and I'd add Magic Rock High Wire from the vid to that list) but I think if it's hoppy and over about 5.5% it's probably going to be lighter and more balanced on keg. Many disagree with me but it's down to taste innit?
Tim Gagnon (3 years ago)
As a brand new craft bartender can you please add more videos!!! LoL these are fantastic.
TheBeerDiaries (3 years ago)
Check out an episode about a brewery in the US called Real Ale! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ba6PLTXbae4
darrylldefoe (3 years ago)
Great video, really informative.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Neil Martinez (3 years ago)
Back in the 80s I visited a friend in Cirencester, in the Cotswolds, who took me to his favourite local pub. I was under the impression that the beer we were drinking was a local brew but the evening ended very hazily with rumors of me singing at some policemen. Is the issue of "real ale" as much of an issue out in the rural counties or is it largely confined to the big urban centres?
Francesco Bandini (3 years ago)
It's so nice to see that some people still care about traditional beers. Keep it going
Ireland1984 (3 years ago)
+Francesco Bandini  Real ale in this country is as strong as it's ever been. There are over 1200 breweries in operation. The overwhelming majority of them produce cask beer. Don't worry, traditional British beer is in safe hands. I can't imagine we'll ever go back to the dark days of the 70's.
Francesco Bandini (3 years ago)
But you know, with all this craft beer movement, super hoppy and extremely sour beers, it's nice to see someone who cares about real ales ;)
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
it's a hugely important part of British beer's past and future.
Kory Cavanagh (3 years ago)
Thanks for sharing, i learnt allot
Hugo Mendes (3 years ago)
Well guess it is time to visit my friends in UK!
That was excellent.  I never thought of cask beer like that, also have never had a local pub put in that kind of attention to detail.  Great job.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Thanks, glad you liked the vid. And excellent user name!
Kevin Williams (3 years ago)
Good video but remember it's cellar temperature not room temperature! there is a big difference! such inaccuracies play into the hands of the warm and flat brigade! (ps I don't have a long beard!) :P
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
No beard offence meant! The Southampton Arms cellar is 12 degrees I think so whatever we call it that's around where it should be. But you're right - it should be cooler than most "room temperature" red wines that's for sure.
Holgomatisch (3 years ago)
The video just arrived in time. I am heading to the southhampton arms tonight (for the first time). Hope they have some tasty beers this week. Regarding the temperature; It can't be that cold in the store room considering you both were wearing T-shirts ;-)
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
How was the southampton!? Yeah we left there pretty promptly after filming...damned chilly.
T T (3 years ago)
What are some common hop varieties used in the UK for dry hopping real ales?
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Well! If you're talking British hops it's not a common practice, but East Kent Goldings is common is golden beers. We also grow cascade here and that's used a lot. Most dry hopping here uses big American or NZ hops though. We'll do a feature on dry hopping I think - because then we get into beta acids......
Carlos Vélez (3 years ago)
Well done!
TheMatthi26 (3 years ago)
Nice video! The pub is already on the list for my next London holiday ;)
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
enjoy! Well worth the trip!
lilasbua (3 years ago)
Great channel. But how about getting some mics for on shoot use?
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
We do have some! But we're upgrading all the time. Money is tight...
JFreezy91 (3 years ago)
Cask beer is popping up in our town of Erie, Pennsylvania. Some really good stuff. Unfortunately it's not quite as varied but in time I'm sure it'll get there.
bigfootedbastard (3 years ago)
I'm in Eastern PA, outside of Philly in Doylestown, and it's been building up for a few years now. My local bars have had stuff from Victory, Dogfish Head, Weyerbacher, and Firestone Walker, to name a few. It's not super popular, but becoming more common. At the bars that specialize in craft beer, you can usually find one cask ale on tap, and it's always something worth trying. The cask version of Firestone Walker's Double, Double Barrel Ale was the best beer I ever had, a 12% monster, but unbelievably good.
Ireland1984 (3 years ago)
When I lived in Sydney I remember one brew house use to do real ale, although they'd only open ONE cask on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month. Other than that cask beer was virtually non existent, hence my return to the UK ;-)
JFreezy91 (3 years ago)
Actually, I just looked it up. Right now, they have Rogue Brewing Brutal Bitter Ale on. I'll have to get some soon because they go fast!
JFreezy91 (3 years ago)
Off the top of my head, I can't quite remember exactly. If I find my way down to The Tap House, I'll find out. Usually they only have one at a time but they consistently rotate what's on.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
wow that's amazing news! Which breweries are making them?
Extremely interesting! Didn t even know such beers existed...That pub is my next stop ! But where is it exactly ?
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
It's in Kentish Town, north London!
Mark Hall (3 years ago)
care, attention, and pride.
Simon Yates (3 years ago)
Well done, excellent video and very informative. Your voiceover seems to have been done in the loo though!
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Damn you caught me...  Not sure what happened there. Sounded fine in the headphones! Lesson learnt!
HopZine (3 years ago)
Really nicely done. Concise but with everything you need to know without getting boring or caught up in detail.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Thanks chap. Took a lot of restraint not to get bogged down in all the glorious detail!
tomber220 (3 years ago)
Real ale tastes so much better in my opinion, one of the things I love best about England
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+Ireland1984 Exactly how we feel too.
Ireland1984 (3 years ago)
Completely agree, don't get me wrong I love a big hoppy keg beer. But there is something truly special and unique about the flavour of British real ale.  

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