One of the ongoing struggles that CAMRA BC (and CAMRA Vancouver) face on a regular basis is our association – or lack of association – with “real ale” in BC. CAMRA, as you may or may not know, is a UK based organization that advocates for traditional english styles (i.e. Bitters, Milds, etc.) They want to see naturally crafted ales, conditioned in a cask and served through a beer engine in a local pub (amongst other things, of course.) But here in BC our raison-d’être is different than our UK counterpart. While we started as an organization focused on bringing Real Ale culture to a very quiet beer scene in BC – it has greatly evolved to something much different. We are consumer advocates, we are supportive of experimentation, pushing of boundaries and growing a fantastic local scene. However, roots are roots and there is always a connection to the Real Ale community locally. In Vancouver, we are fortunate to to have a brewery that is focused on traditional British styles and trying to adhere to the Real Ale mentality of our CAMRA UK brethren – check out our spotlight on Adam Chatburn, real ale and Real Cask Brewing.
Adam Chatburn has been home brewing since the age of 15 (growing up in the UK, I can only assume that is legal.) He has always loved beer and wanted to make it and drink it in copious amounts. But, growing up, it was a hobby and he didn’t expect or it to ever be something that was driving his professional life. Yet, years later here he is as the owner and head brewer of Real Cask Brewing.
As Adam grew up, he got an undergraduate business degree and fell into a few jobs in the UK that allowed him to explore the world of cellarmanship. As a cellarman he was responsible for maintaining cask rotations, making sure lines were cleaned before new beers were put on and ensuring that the beer was served up to the standards that have come to be expected by the average British consumer. Adam explained: “In the UK this is very important, they know how it should be served, they know the sizes, the know the right amount of head. They are very savvy consumers. If you don’t do it right, your business will be hit hard.”
When Adam came to BC, he fell in with the CAMRA crowd here and actually served as the President of CAMRA Vancouver for a few years. In his tenure with the society he tried hard to bring the ideals of consumer standards to the local beer scene. After a few years of those campaigns, however, it was time for Adam to move on. He tells us, “when my time with CAMRA was up (which was one of the best times of my life) I had the opportunity to bring cask beer (or more specifically Real Ale) to BC. British Styles weren’t being handled entirely the way they could be. The opportunity was there to show how it is done in the country that invented this.”
At this point, it seemed like a good time to ask him to elaborate on the term “Real Ale” – which is a term that people locally really struggle with here in British Columbia. “I have tried a number of time to write an article for What’s Brewing about it – but I feel like they always come across as too preachy.” (Author’s note: give it a read and judge for yourselves!) He continues: “The main difference is you can do anything in a cask; you can do a sour, anything you want! We have seen a lot of creativity at local cask events, which is fantastic. Real Ale, is boring in one way but also it’s a matter of making sure it is served correctly. Doing something like a bitter or a mild, but not adding anything, cask conditioned with yeast in it, ideally served fro a cellar and tapped well ahead of serving to allow it to settle.”
Adam talked about how a lot of breweries locally won’t be truly cask conditioned and instead may fill directly from the tanks. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but that doesn’t fall into the cask conditioned Real Ale niche that he is trying to teach people about. I asked him about beer engines versus gravity taps as we see a lot of Casks up on bars where they may warm up and not be served up to the standards that he mentions. He said when it comes to truly cask conditioned beer serving through a beer engine makes a world of difference. “It changes the beer dramatically. Serving it that way allows you to keep the cask in the cold, still, and therefore well carbonated. When the beer engine pulls the beer through, it rouses the beer which will allow it to create a lot of body and change the feel of it entirely.”
Adam has taken these views on Real Ale and brought them to Real Cask Brewing in East Vancouver and is bringing a new level to the Craft Beer Revolution. He wants to show the people in this community that “This is how it can be done in our city – and how it’s been done for hundreds of years.” He has been brewing out of Callister Brewing, which is Vancouver’s only collaborative brewing facility with several different brewing companies renting space out of it. “It has been a wonderful experience overall, it really has. Sure people disagree, but we have dialogue and can share ideas and solutions. It’s great to be able to cascade my knowledge and learn from them. The incubator benefits everyone involved, we are all learning off of each other.”
Adam said that now that people have seen this incubator exists as a model, they will be more willing to jump into the brewing industry. “We are seeing it with places like Foamer’s Folly, where home brewers are coming together and brewing together.” Beyond that, people are getting their feet wet, getting established and sometimes branching out and opening their own independent facilities.And the people behind Callister are a major reason why these amateur brewers turned professional are seeing so much success. Adam wanted to express “A huge thank you to Chris and Diana from Callister for putting this model together. They are involved in so many things – helpful to VanBrewers and other organizations. The amount of time and focus they have put into this project with a community mindset. This kind of initiative is the driving force, the cutting edge of the craft beer revolution.”
So, come on out to Callister Brewing and try Adam’s Real Cask Brewing as well as the other amazing breweries that they have housed in the facility! Callister is pleased to announce that CAMRA members are now receiving a$1 off 20oz pints of non-premium beers at the brewery, so come on out in droves and support these amazing people making amazing beer!
One response to “Community Spotlight: Real Cask Brewing”
I recently spent 2 weeks in Vancouver on holiday from the UK and found the lack of real ale frustrating amongst the otherwise huge craft scene. Comments from bar staff like ‘we haven’t had cask for months’ were common.
Good luck Adam, I hope you can convert a few Canucks. They must first realise though that real ale is very different beast – and is certainly an acquired taste – to cold craft with all sorts of exotic ingredients.