Beer Town: Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting returns for 17th year

After a two-year COVID hiatus, the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting returns on Jan. 21, celebrating 17 years.

Bold Monk Brewing will host again, and as always, proceeds will benefit the Atlanta Humane Society.

Founder and longtime cask ale aficionado Owen Ogletree has also presented the Classic City Brew Fest in Athens and leads Brewtopia Brew Excursions around the world.

During a recent chat, I reminded Ogletree of the Eagle and Lion in Griffin, a place I wrote about way back in 2012, as a “rare vision of owner-brewer Mark Broe, a man on a mission to make cask-conditioned ‘real ale’ readily available.”

But not surprisingly, the Eagle and Lion didn’t last, which Ogletree and I agreed was a shame.

“Some 17 years ago, when I started promoting cask ale in Atlanta and began the Cask Ale Tasting, brewers really weren’t into it at all,” Ogletree remembered. “They had no idea how to do it or what supplies and equipment were needed. But they were very willing to learn.”

The first tasting was held at SweetWater Brewing in 2005 with 15 casks and entries from Atlanta Brewing, Five Seasons, Max Lager’s, and several other breweries. Terrapin won first place with its Wake-N-Bake on Wood coffee oatmeal Imperial stout.

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Credit: Ashton Smith

Credit: Ashton Smith

“A few years after that, cask ales started getting really popular,” Ogletree said. “They’d throw it up on the bar and have somebody tap it and sell out the cask in one night. And then the new wave of craft beer came in, and everybody wanted hazy-juicy IPAs and pastry stouts, and cask was forgotten a bit.”

The good news is that over the past few years, classic cask styles have made a comeback.

This year’s Cask Ale Tasting will feature nearly 60 cask-conditioned ales, lagers and meads from the likes of Creature Comforts, Good Word, Halfway Crooks, Little Cottage and Monday Night.

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Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

More than half the entries are classic styles, Ogletree said. “And more than half of those are just solid English styles, which makes me really happy,” he added.

Perhaps the biggest shot in the arm for cask beer in Atlanta came about in summer 2021 when Brick Store Pub reimagined its cozy mezzanine as the Cask Bar. It features four hand-pumped beer engines for pulling pints, a beautiful bar top fashioned from pieces of the Brick Store’s original wood flooring and several high-tops for gathering.

“They’ve encouraged local breweries like Wild Heaven, Three Taverns and New Realm to do excellent cask ales for the pub, and I think that’s gotten those breweries more interested in doing cask ales for their taprooms,” Ogeltree said. “Creature Comforts installed a hand pump at their taproom bar, and now they have a cask ale on every single day.”

EVENT

17th Annual Cask Ale Tasting. 2:30-6 p.m. Jan. 21. $48. Bold Monk Brewing, 1737 Ellsworth Industrial Blvd. NW, Atlanta. 404-390-3288, boldmonkbrewingco.com.

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