Cask Ale Abounds

I have been asked to offer some insight into what we plan to do at Mad Fox Brewing Company with regard to cask ale.  First let me explain my history of cask ale in the DC Metro market.  My first attempt at making cask ale was with Capitol City Brewing Company, Capitol Hill in 1996.  I had been encouraged to produce cask ale by a good friend and patron of CCBC (in fact one of the first paying customers at the first CCBC location in 1992!), Barton Day.  Barton possesses a true passion for cask ale and introduced me to the real deal at the Great British Beer Festival in London, but that is another story.  Well, back to my first attempt, I got hold of a Golden Gate keg since, in those days, true English firkins were hard to come by.  I had filled the keg with ESB, primed it with fermenting wort and fined it,  taking great care to not disturb the “cask”.  My assistant brewer and I gently moved the “cask” of ESB to the bar, put it in stillage and spiled it.  The beer poured a beautiful crystal clear and the first pints were wonderful.  I told the bartenders how to pour this special product and asked them to please not move the “cask” which was poured  from atop the copper bar.  Next thing I see is the bar back coming on shift and the first thing he did was pick up the “cask” and move it to the service bar.  At this point it was mud and I was frustrated.  I was then determined to do this right and later had a weekly Friday night cask  at CCBC at Shirlington when I moved over to that location in 1997 which lasted until I moved on in 2004.  I believe the brewers at CCBC are doing a cask night again.

I also had a regular cask ale program at my last gig with Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge in Leesburg, Virginia.  We were so committed to cask ale that a firkin was on tap at all times and we  never ran out.  It was amazing that the demand for this product was so high and,  as  such,  we were pouring 3 plus firkins of real ale per week, sometimes more.

All brings me to Mad Fox Brewing Company, our new brewpub now under construction in Falls Church, Virginia.  We have been working with Paul Pendyck at UK Brewing Supplies to design a superior real ale kit.  We  have on order six water jacketed English-made  Angram hand-pumps designed into the backbar mill work for a beautiful display and have searched for the right size refrigerated cabinets so we can have the firkins on display.  We have 50 firkins on order as well to ensure that we can keep a good reserve and maybe while away some gems for future vintage tappenings.   The concept is not to necessarily have all six hand pumps working at the same time with different products but to have at  least 3 or more on with backups at the ready, perfectly conditioned, so that when a cask runs out we turn the clip around on one and turn another around to be on.  Nothing worse than running out during Friday night rush and that poor bar back rushing around to put a “fresh” one on that has not had the time to be properly conditioned.  Cask ale is not something to be rushed, it would not be proper!

More to come, Cheers,  Bill


~ by billmadden on February 8, 2010.

27 Responses to “Cask Ale Abounds”

  1. I’m so excited to have you in my area I can’t stand it! Great to hear about the cask ale plans. I look forward to a pint.

    To be honest, I was excited about Dogfish Head in the region…until I ate there a few times. I hope and pray that you’ll have better chow.

  2. […] Link: Cask Ale Abounds […]

  3. Bill, As a huge fan of real ale you know I appreciate your efforts to have something always on cask. Over time I have seen more and more real ale become available at brewpubs and better beer bars. That is heartening. I have always enjoyed those of yours that I have sampled. Thank you for your committment. My son and I are making our annual trek back to the UK in March and we will be attending at least one CAMRA event, as well as supping our way through the usual plethora of pubs. We’ll get back to some old favorites (including Market Porter) and undoubtedly find many new ones. Last year I was in London 3 times and made it back to GBBF after a couple of years absence. Real ale is a special pleasure and I know all the patrons of Mad Fox will appreciate it. Thank you!!!!

  4. At least 3 pumps of cask ale at all times. Walking distance from my house. NOT OPEN ‘TIL MAY! The anticipation may kill me.

  5. Awesome! Can’t wait to enjoy your beer again!

  6. I echo the comment above about Dogfish — the beer is great but the food is mediocre at best. Bill, I always loved your food (as well as tghe beer and ale, of course) at Founders in Alexandria. Falls Church is not quite as convenient to my just-south-of-Alexandria home, but I’ll make it there often anyhow — so hurry up and get open already!

  7. This is fantastic news, Bill! And it’s not even my birthday!

  8. I really can’t wait for you to open in the spring. I agree with Sandy, hope you find a chef who can match your talent at brewing. Maybe the snow will even melt by then!

  9. […] Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church, the upcoming brewpub by Bill Madden of Vintage 50. But their most recent post stopped me in my tracks (emphasis […]

  10. Horray! How about a Mad Fox Real Ale Fest?

    • You are onto something with that comment Brian. Having helped to found the Cap City Shirlington Oktoberfest and the V-50 NOVAbrewfests I have always wanted to do a Real Ale Festival of some sort but was reluctant to do something not quite right by the beer. I think I have a solution….more to come. Cheers!

  11. Seriously, a real ale fest would be a great idea. Maybe you could get other Virginia breweries involved. Hint hint…

    • Mike,

      I think that would be a tremendous way to demonstrate the wondeful beer and real ale produced in Virginia. I would love to be able to showcase the great beer of your brewery Legendor Rockbottom, Capitol City, V-50, the muliple GABF medaled Devils Backbone and so on and on. Maybe even Gordon Biersch if they would do a cask. This could be a good way to kick off an event for the potentially newly formed Virginia Brewers Guild.
      Cheers, Bill

  12. BIll,

    Cask Ale!! Great!! I cannot wait. Has opening date been set yet? The sooner the better. And I echo the comments about food.

    • Bob,

      Opening Date will probably be in the May to June timeframe, although this snow is not helping this week! We were only able to get the trades in one day so far to work at the site.

  13. Was at the Connecticut Real Ale Fest 2 weeks ago. And have been to all of the SPBW Fests in Baltimore. Bill, I’d be glad to help and SPBW might also be willing.

  14. Bill,
    Falls Church is not convenient to our Norfolk home, but we’re looking forward to the Mad Fox opening.

  15. I’m looking forward to your opening. I’ve recently become fond of cask beers and real ale, and will travel all the way to VA for it. (yeah, I know, I live in DC…we don’t like to cross the Potomac, but this would be worth it.)

  16. Anyone who thinks Bill’s “Mad Fox” will not become THE premier craft brewing location in the DC area, if not all VA is, well, “mad”. Bill, can I come by and pound a few nails to speed things up?

    • Absolutely!!! We just need to get rid of the snow so we can get folks in to work at the site. Cheers, Bill

  17. You’re not upset or is all this firkin talk about a small keg? May I add that May is a little slow. Perhaps a beer card for a few weeks for the workers might help move things up!

    • I might have to try that, we do plan on getting thr brewery up and running earlier yhan opening anyhow. Good idea!

  18. Bill,

    I read in a comment that you’re planning to open in May. Will Mad Fox be taking reservations any time soon? I’m graduating from George Mason Law May 16, and I would love to celebrate at your pub. We’ll probably ju

    • No reservations yet and May 16th is probably too close to call for our opening. Congrats on the degree!


  19. No updates for over a month now. Any better precision on the opening date?

    • Sorry about the updates, the construction phase we are into now is kicking my butt. I would say given the setbacks we have had thus far that we might open at the very end of May but will probably open more like in June. Still a ways to go and the roadblocks can still bite us in the rear.

      Cheers, Bill Madden

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