Cellar Management Tips

We brew our beers the way we prefer them – lively and intensely flavoured.  All of our beers are naturally conditioned with live yeast, even our kegs and cans, which were certified by CAMRA as the first real ale in a can!  They are all unfined (i.e. no isinglass finings, otherwise known as fish guts) and will pour with a beautiful, natural haze.  These are modern beers with higher condition and hop levels than you may be used to.  Consequently they may require a slight change to your cellaring and dispense processes.  Please read the tips below and feel free to contact us any time for advice, particularly if you are used to managing traditional beers that drop bright in hours.  You will be rewarded with beer that is full of flavour and full of life.

Secondary Conditioning – unless otherwise specified, our beer has undergone secondary conditioning in the brewery and does not require maturation in your cellar.

Cask Tapping and Venting – Our beers tend to be highly conditioned and will need a good venting.  They are designed to hold a high level of condition for gravity dispense.  They can be served via hand pump but DO NOT use a sparkler.  Traditional, horizontal stillages work well by tapping with the ‘open tap’ method (described below) which used to be the industry standard but seems to have become a bit of a lost art.  Vertical extraction via spear will require more patience but will work.  Most of our beers take 24 – 72 hours to vent before they are ready to serve.  We recommend the following steps to get the best results:

            Standard Horizontal Stillage (cask on its belly) – ‘open tap’ method

  • Do not roll the cask around.  There is no need for it and by doing so you will increase your settling time.
  • Lay the cask on the stillage.  If the cask has moved a lot prior to laying down leave it for a few hours; if not you can wait a few minutes and go to the next step.
  • Use a Y-type tap with the bottom end for dispense.  Open the tap and place a bucket underneath it. Using a wooden or rubber mallet knock the tap into the keystone by striking the bunged end hard with one hit.  Some beer will be ejected into the bucket out of the open tap (minimal as there is a vacuum in the cask at this point).  Quickly close the tap once it is in securely.
  • Grip a hard spile in a pair of pliers and knock it fully into the shive.  Ensure the tap is closed prior to doing this.
  • Gently easy the spile out with the pliers.  Hold it firmly as you ease it out or it will hit the ceiling and you may get a jet of beer.  While easing out the spile some gas and foam may come out.  This is normal.  It may take a few minutes to work the spile out.  Be patient – it will be worth the wait.
  • Once you can fully remove the spile place it loosely back in the shive.  Do not push it in.  This will allow the cask to vent while keeping debris from falling in.  If your cellar is warm or the beer is very lively it may eject the spile during venting.  That is fine.  Just replace it with a clean spile when ready.  It is essential that the gas has a way to vent so don’t plug up the shive hole until the beer is settled.  We do not recommend soft spiles as they often block up with foam, thereby turning into hard spiles and resealing the cask, not allowing it to vent.
  • Check the beer at periodic intervals.  When it is at the desired level of clarity you can either serve straight away or hard spile until ready to serve.  Remember that our unfined, natural beer should be hazy and will not drop bright.  No ullages will be accepted.
  • Once the beer is settled do not move it.  Beer does not resettle well and you will likely mix air in and ruin it.
  • Always use clean, sanitised taps and spiles.

Spear vertical exraction system (cask on its chime)

  • Do not roll the cask around.  There is no need for it and by doing so you may increase your settling time.
  • Stand the cask in its serving location.  If the cask has moved a lot prior to standing then leave it for a few hours; if not you can wait a few minutes and go to the next step.
  • Close the beer end on your tap, open the vent valve and attach hose to the vent leading to a bucket.
  • Using a wooden or rubber mallet knock the tap into the keystone by striking the closed end hard with one hit.  Some beer will be ejected into the bucket (minimal as there is a vacuum in the cask at this point).
  • Control the venting of the beer with the valve.
  • When ready insert a clean spear into the tap.  The beer at the top will clear quickest, so if you are in a rush you may be able to keep the spear near the top of the cask and serve from the top, working the spear down as you go.  This is an advantage of the spear system.  The Cask Widge works great as well.
  • Check the beer at periodic intervals.  When it is at the desired level of clarity you can either serve straight away or close the vent until ready.  Remember that our unfined, natural beer should be hazy and will not drop bright.  No ullages will be accepted.
  • Once the beer is settled do not move it.  Beer does not resettle well and you will likely mix air in and ruin it.  Also be careful not to push the spear too far down into the cask or you will disturb the sediment.
  • Always use clean, sanitised taps and spears.

Keg-conditioned Beer – Our keg beers are conditioned with live yeast in the keg, the same as a cask.  They are ‘real ale’, just in a different container.  They are unfined and designed to be served with a haze. No ullages will be accepted.  We use KeyKegs, which are a bag in ball type system widely used around the world.  They have their own bespoke couplers so please ensure you have the right one.  KeyKegs keep the gas from coming into contact with the beer.  The space in between the bag and ball is filled using your normal cellar gas, or an air compressor, which squeezes the beer through the tap and into your glass.  Be careful about following the guidelines for pressure regulation, and when disposing the kegs ensure you de-gas them according to the manufacturers instructions.  As the keg contains yeast it should settle in its serving location for at least 24 hours and not be moved during service.  If you desire to vent the beer, you can do so by attaching a coupler to the keg and opening the beer side of the line until the desired carbonation level is reached.  

Can and bottle-conditioned Beer – Our canned and bottled beers are conditioned with live yeast in the bottle, the same as a cask.  We package them all ourselves at the brewery on our own lines.  They are unfined ‘real ale’, just in a different container.  If allowed to settle long enough and poured gently they can be served clear.  Otherwise they will pour with a natural haze. No ullages will be accepted.  Recommended serving temperatures are on the sides of the containers.

Ageing – Some beers will continue to improve with age (particularly Old Freddy Walker, and to some extent Amoor and Stout).  Most of the others are best enjoyed young, particularly as they tend to be hop forward and hop oils degrade rapidly.  JJJ IPA can be drunk young (if you prefer the freshest hop hit) or aged (if you are looking for more of the barley wine character).

Dispense – We brew and prefer our cask beers to be served directly via gravity.  If using a hand pump you should NOT use a sparkler.  Sparklers will kill the flavour and you will likely get a glass of foam.  If removing a sparkler please be sure to clean the threads and end of the neck before dispense as they are a natural gathering place for stale beer and bacteria.