On a crisp, chilly January day with a light dusting of snow still glinting on the ground, Brewtopia LLC hosted the 12th Annual Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting. Cask Ale (also known as “real ale” to our compatriots in the U.K.’s CAMRA organization) is housed exclusively in wooden barrels. These barrels create a unique, creamy drinking experience that cannot be fully recreated in kegged beers.
Sprawled across 3 areas in 5 Seasons Brewpub and Taco Mac Roswell were 47 beers from around the country (and a few special brews from Britain’s cask ale movement as well). Most of them were obscure and off-the-wall variations on breweries’ year-round or seasonal releases, which is exactly what all festgoers had been expecting.
Seeing as it was quite a cold day, most of my choices tended to be darker beers. When the temperature hits a certain threshold, you can’t help but reach for a barrel-aged stout or a delightfully creamy oatmeal porter. I did exactly the latter. My first choice was Highland Brewing Company’s Oatmeal Porter. While an enticing beer by itself, this version was infused with vanilla and cayenne peppers for some additional heat. The combination of the vanilla, cayenne and oatmeal created a creamy and hot concoction that lit a fire under me to try some more of these delightful cask-conditioned creations.
Next up was Creature Comforts Brewing Company’s Biere de Garde with Booger Hill Bee Company honey. A malty, sweet and refreshing brew, this rarity from Creature Comforts is another excellent style experiment from a brewery known for acing numerous styles in their brew creations.
I followed with two Imperial Stouts: Reformation Brewing’s Raspberry Vanilla Declaration (a thick, silky stout reminiscent of a fruitcake) and Cherry Street Brewing’s OASIS (a delightfully complex beer brewed with whiskey-soaked vanilla beans and cocoa nibs along with cherries and vanilla added to the cask). OASIS took home 2015’s ACAT People’s Choice Award, and it performed well this year too, taking home first place in the Specialty Beer category.
Though it's always difficult to choose, my personal favorite beer of the event was Burnt Hickory Brewery’s excellent Eerie Von Mother of Mercy, a “winter spiced apple brown ale” with vanilla beans. According to the event’s beer list, it’s an “evil apple pie a la mode,” which actually perfectly sums up its flavors. This tasty treat would make for an excellent dessert beer and would indeed pair perfectly with some apple pie with a bit of ice cream on top.
In the end, many beers were drunk but only one could take home the honor of being 2016’s ACAT People’s Choice Award winner. This year, Mazurt Brewing Company’s Machupu’s Coffee MAZURT RIS won the award. This beer proved so popular, in fact, that it was tapped out by the time I got around to giving it a try. There’s always next year I guess…
Still, the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting is always worth checking out. Cask ale from great breweries and some of the most impassioned craft beer fans around make this event a must-visit. Next January can’t come soon enough!
All photos courtesy of Ale Sharpton / alesharpton.blogspot.com