How We Made It: Lunkenheimer’s Black Cap Kölsch on cask

How We Made It: Lunkenheimer's Black Cap Kölsch on cask

What is a cask ale (or sometimes called a real ale)? Simply put, it is unfiltered beer, which is racked (transferred) to casks, krausened (add wort that is at its most active fermentation stage) and sealed, and then undergoes a slight final fermentation in the cask.

What is the result? A beer that has a much lower, gentler level of carbonation, a rounder mouthfeel and, because it is unfiltered, more complex flavors and aromatic profile. The pour is often slightly cloudy and is served at cellar temperature of about 55 degrees. For some, this is warm and flat beer, but for others, a delicate treat.

Historically, cask ale was the primary way beer was served. This was done by manually pulling it from the cask via a hand pump (also known as a beer engine) or by a gravity-fed faucet (tap) that is hammered into the keystone (a part of the cask). Here, the expression of “tap the keg” originates. It has been only recently in the past few decades that filtering, pasteurizing, carbonating and chilling beer has become the norm. Cask ales are commonly still available in Britain and, more scarcely, they can be found at bars and breweries locally, generally as special events.

Which brings us to the origins of our Black Cap Kölsch. We were cask virgins up until a couple of months ago. We have always very much enjoyed drinking real ales and would always have a cask pint when it was available at breweries, but had never created our own. We were invited to a Cask Ale Fest held at Woodland Farm Brewery in Utica, and this gave us the motivation to give it a shot.

We took our most easy-drinking, always available beer, Buster (a Kölsch style) that fully fermented. We transferred it to a firkin (about a 9-gallon cask) with the yeast still in suspension (not filtered or cold crashed) and added two pounds of handpicked black caps (these berries are well-known by farmers, date back centuries and grows wild in the thickets) that were picked by two of our very dedicated customers (actually, they picked 40 pounds, so this cask only utilized a small portion — which means there’s more to come with the delicious black caps).

Then we added our krausen wort, which is wort that we previously saved, but delayed fermentation until we were ready to add it to the fully fermented beer in the cask (this allowed the sugars to still remain, in order to permit a second fermentation in the cask). Finally, we plugged the shive (the top opening on the cask) and placed the cask on its stillage to complete the secondary fermentation. Approximately 10 days later, we had our Black Cap Kölsch ready. Once tapped, the wild black caps provided a taste all its own, a less tart, slightly sweet fruit that complemented the dry finish of the kölsch. A delicate and delicious treat indeed. And so our first cask experience created firkin freaks out of us, and the thirst to produce more casks.

Lunkenheimer Craft Brewing Co., owned and operated by Derric and Kristen Slocum, is located at 8920 N. Seneca St., Weedsport. For more information, call (315) 834-7027, visit or email

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