Cask Ale & Food – A New Cultural Feather in Canada’s Cap

By: Kristen Marano (@kmarano)

As the global dining scene experiments and matures, cask ale is quickly becoming the perfect partner to pair craft beer with good food. Young Canadians, bored with adopted tastes from mom and dad for sophisticated sauvignon blanc, are shifting to cask ale as their preferred drink when enjoying a lone pint or paring it with a meal.

Young people are making cask cool

From trendy, young women sipping cask in the dining room at Toronto’s upscale pub The Oxley, to award-winning brewers like Halifax’s Granite Brewery, cask ale interest is boosting Canadian culture to new levels. 

 

While Canada is known to look up to major cultural hubs like the United Kingdom for fashion trends and new music, cask ale has our friends across the pond learning from North American styles and recipes. Pete Brown, author of the UK’s The Cask Report said: “Cask ale can help pubs to not only survive but thrive … cask is shaking off its historic flat-cap image and is seen by younger consumers as a cool drink.”

 According to this year’s report, more than 50 per cent of cask consumers choose cask because, “it offers more variety and flavour than other mainstream drinks, while its heritage, natural ingredients, and locality are also cited as strong influences.”

Eoghan Banks, manager of Leslieville’s Irish Local Céilí Cottage, which has been serving cask since 2009, agrees.

“It’s very popular among our customers, even to people who may not have tried cask ale before. Most people will drink from the cask irrespective of what style of ale is actually pouring.”

 

Cask ale is a good food partner

Cask ale as a living beer requires less filtering and fewer ingredients, providing a lot more flavour than one would get from a lager, for example. An abundance of flavours present new opportunities for food matching, especially in a country like Canada where dining continues to become increasingly multicultural. From spicy dishes to acidic plates, there’s a cask ale to match—the key is to ensure the beer complements the food rather than overpower the dish.

When selecting your meal at a restaurant or preparing a dinner, think first about the ingredients, rather than the end product to select your beer. If you’re new to cask ale, ask your server or bartender for suggestions to suit your tastes and selections. Cask ales are diverse and can produce bitter tastes from a barrel brewed with coffee, or a sweeter palate from a barrel aged with sour cherries.

If you’ve never tried cask before, Banks says, “Don’t be put off by texture or temperature, but give it a chance and really experience the flavours in the ale.”

 

A cheaper alternative and attractive offer for restaurants


For people who want to have more than one pint at a bar, cask is cheaper and also more tasteful than a regular industrial lager. Ironically, cask requires more time and effort to prepare and it’s less expensive than a mass-produced, fizzy and filtered beer. Real ale is the most pure form of beer people are going to get.  

Aside from cost, there’s a growing need for consumers to know where their food comes from. What’s in the drink—from sugar to aspartame and more—is due to a growing popularity in locally produced goods.

Banks says Céilí Cottage uses cask ales in dinner recipes, and the visual of the bar staff pulling the pump is intriguing to a lot of people.

Recently Celli Cottage worked with beer supplier Barley Days Brewery in Picton, Ontario, to develop its Scrimshaw Oyster Stout. They used one thousand Malpeque oysters from Prince Edwards Island in the brew, and the first batch is currently available on cask, draught and bottle at many pubs throughout Ontario.

If you haven’t had your beer epiphany yet, Cask Days will help you discover an appreciation for cask ale and good food. 

Photo’s by: Connie Tsang