Cask ale

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Cask ale or cask-conditioned beer is the term for unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. Cask ale may also be referred to as real ale, a term coined by the Campaign for Real Ale, often now extended to cover bottle-conditioned beer as well.

The history of cask and keg beer

Cask means container. The word comes from the Spanish cáscara which means tree bark, in the sense that the bark surrounds and holds the tree in the way that a cask surrounds and holds the beer. The Histories of Herodotus, written in 424 BC, refers to "casks of palm-wood filled with wine" being moved by boat to Babylon, though clay vessels would also have been used. Stout wooden barrels held together with an iron hoop were developed by the north European Celts during the Iron Age for storing goods. But whether the "cask" was made of clay, palm-wood or oak, whether it was a barrel, a pot or a storage jar, all had one thing in common: they all contained unfiltered, unpasteurised beer. Put simply, cask ale is the original method of storing and serving beer; the history of cask ale goes right back to the origins of beer itself. Over the centuries other methods have been developed for preserving and storing beer but this ancient method is still used, particularly in Britain, and increasingly in the USA.

Bottled beers were commonplace by the 17th century for the...
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