Cask 2018: a modern cask festival beneath Bermondsey arches
Running between the 7th- 9th of April, Cask 2018 brought a modern cask festival to Bermondsey, South London. Brainchild of Ben Duckworth and Steve Grae, also the minds behind Affinity Brew Co, the festival was an ode to cask beer, aiming to instigate a discussion on price, range and quality of serve.
Affinity teamed up with Partizan Brewery to divide the festival between two arches, spreading the crowd across the taprooms beneath the din of a railway line. A short amble separated the spaces, allowing drinkers to enjoy two different menus of beer that included over 60 casks from 30 breweries. Participating breweries included some of the UK’s most revered names, from up-and-coming stars like Little Earth Project to established favourites Northern Monk Brew Co.
The event unfolded across two day sessions, Saturday being exceptionally busy due to a bout of clement weather. Tickets were £5 and included a festival glass and a first pour of beer. The affordable ticket price made it an easy option for a weekend activity – it wasn’t surprising that sessions were humming.
For an inaugural attempt, Cask 2018 was a resounding success – with a large turnout and some enticing examples of cask beer on offer, it was a solid debut. Crowds were friendly and comprised curious industry types alongside groups who would otherwise be embarking upon the Bermondsey Beer Mile on a Saturday.
The beer list was exciting, seeing traditional styles rubbing shoulders with modern beer; best bitters were present alongside piña colada porters. Some of the most outstanding examples were the Little Earth Project’s Organic Harvest Saison, a 6.7% saison brewed with organically grown Suffolk hops and malts, then undergoes second fermentation in oak barrels. Dry, funky and refreshing, this delicious saison had nuances of a rustic cider.
The Jester DDH Pale from Partizan Brewing was an accurate example of a flavoursome modern beer performing well on cask and Good Chemistry Brewing’s Rich Stock Ale was a full-bodied malty wonder that’s perfectly suited to cask, but still impressed with its quality and flavour.
Queues ebbed and waned throughout the day and we were happy to wander between taprooms to ensure that we tried everything recommended by fellow attendees. The atmosphere was exceptionally relaxed and the beer menu offered enough choice without being daunting. The event seemed to draw in a hybrid of regular cask drinkers together with habitual keg drinkers.
The premise of Cask 2018 was to shake up our notion of cask festivals and provoke positive conversation about this method of beer dispense and they certainly achieved this. Indicative by the turnout alone, it seems that people are willing to explore good cask beer in a city that doesn’t have much of a reputation when it comes to keeping and serving it adequately. Londoners, it seems, will drink cask beer.
There are murmurings of a Cask 2019 and this will undoubtedly offer a wider selection from even more breweries, which will attract even more attention. More beer and bigger crowds are guaranteed and we’re looking forward to a new addition to London’s drinking calendar.