Posted in Breweries

Keg vs. Cask: What’s your take?

This isn’t just another post about the actual difference between the two. Relax. There is plenty on the matter out there 🙂

Griffin is working the taproom at Freewheel Brewing Company

Today, I’m taking you to Freewheel Brewing Company —what I would call a nano-brewery— right here in Redwood City. They set up shop back in 2012 and have gone through some ups and downs over the years. Who hasn’t? But lately they are just killing it!

I met with General Manager Devin Roberts yesterday and we had an opportunity to chat about the state of keg vs. cask for a bit. As a general consensus, heavier beers are easier to sip on when they are cask conditioned, while lighter beers are way better when served from a keg (and obviously chilled). Do we all agree? Maybe… Couple problems though…

Freewheel Brewing Company
Head Brewer Orion Lakota (right) and assistant Johanna Dunham (left) cleaning after running a batch at Freewheel Brewing Company

What happens when Mister I’ll-just-get-a-Blue-Moon walks into a brewery that primarily serves cask ales? You can try to win him over and you very well may, but you are fighting an uphill battle right off the bat. It may be smarter, from a business perspective, to offer a 50/50 menu (which they are now doing) with about the same amount of keg and cask offerings. Devin even seems to think that, ultimately, they’ll most likely be offering more keg beers than cask-conditioned brews. Probably smart.

He brought up another very good point. As the brewery is growing, they are finding themselves sell more and more beer to different taprooms, etc. around the SF Bay. They found that most places do not know how to properly take care of cask ales and ultimately ruin the beer, which reflects poorly on them. Again, keg may be the way to go. He said they are also starting to can their beer as well.

Freewheel Brewing Company
Joanna Dunham cleans out the hops out of the copper

I’d say this is all a very smart move but make sure not to lose your identity. At the moment, their about-us section still focuses on English-style cask-conditioned ales… and for a good reason. Their casks are truly amazing. I mean it. I enjoyed a nice flight yesterday and liked every single one of them. I sure have a couple favorites, but they are all solid brews. [Get closer. Imma tell you a secret: my faves are Gone Fishing Pale, Paint It Black (Irish red ale) and Revolution Scotch Ale.] But, hey, I still look forward to seeing what kind of keg ales they’ll come up with!

I also met with head brewer Orion Lakota and his assistant Joanna Dunham (formerly at Camino Brewing), but they were doing their thing so I mostly tried to stay out of their way. They work with pretty cool equipment, all original and especially made for them by a guy named Big “Vince” Johnson. He came directly from England and welded the tanks right there all those years ago. Nice work!

You know what else is really cool? I got to meet the floor manager of Imperfect Produce, who was also enjoying a nice cask at the bar. Ryan Holmes told me they donate produce to several breweries in the area to use in their brews. I remember I tried Marmalade Skies Mandarin IPA at Freewheel a couple months ago. Ryan told me those mandarins all came from Imperfect Produce and were donated. Love the idea of not wasting food!

See you guys soon!