Help needed with Firkin of Real Ale at home

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I purchased a firkin of real ale (Hook Norton's Old Hookey) yesterday
(Tuesday 20/12/05) for consumption over Christmas. I set it up in my garage
at midday, left it to settle for the afternoon and vented it at 6pm. I first
used a hard spile to penetrate and then inserted a soft spile for the rest
of the evening. I checked back on it at about 11pm to change the soft spile
if required but no beer had come up through the spoft spile !! I removed it
and there was absolutely no activity whatsoever! For the evening I replaced
a hard spile and then changed it to a soft one again this morning. Is this
correct? The garage is very cold so I am worried that it may be too cold? I
drew off some beer yesterday and again today and it is indeed clearing, but
there are hardly any bubbles and the flavour is not that great.

Any advice appreciated.


Re: Help needed with Firkin of Real Ale at home
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Temperature will certainly have a big impact. The thermometer in my
garage (in west London) says the ambient temperature has been around 4-5
degrees Centigrade over the last few nights. At this temperature the
beer will hold significantly more CO2 in solution than at cellar
temperature. In addition, the enzymes involved in the secondary
fermentation may well have shut down at that temperature before they've
finished their job.

My suggestion would be to try wrapping hot towels round the cask (a
technique which I've seen used to re-awaken the secondary fermentation
in casks of Taylor's Landlord which wouldn't drop bright).

Once the secondary fermentation is complete and the beer's dropped, the
temperature will have less of an effect.

Hope this helps,


Re: Help needed with Firkin of Real Ale at home
Thanks Martin

I have just been experimenting with a thermometer in the different rooms in
my house. This afternoon, the conservatory was 12-13 degrees centigrade
rather than the garage which was somewhere around 10 degrees centigrade. I
live just outside Reading and am going to have similar overnight garage
temperatures to you, so ..... I have moved the cask to the conservatory!!

Bearing in mind that a soft spile and tap are already in place, on the trip
through the house I witnessed the bubbling effect I had been looking for
through the spile for the first time. I guessed that this was because I had
disturbed the finings, even though I kept the cask as level as possible.
Therefore, on reaching the conservatory I thoroughly rolled the cask back
and forth a few times across the floor, which again produced the bubbling
effect through the spile whenever the shive was uppermost. I have a copy of
the CAMRA cellarmanship guide and it advises to do this if you cannot
stillage upon delivery, which is effectively what happened. The cask finally
came to rest at 4pm today.

Ideally, I would have delivered it to the conservatory yesterday and vented
and tapped there in an ideal temperature. However, it was vented and tapped
almost 24 hours ago, remaining at a low temperature (i am guessing no more
than 10 degrees) until now. What effect has this had? I am a newbie with the
science but am thinking that secondary fermentation never started due to the
low temperatures, even though the cask has been vented. With the better
temperature range I am hoping for, secondary fermentation should now start
to occur and I should monitor this for between 24 and 72 hours. This should
all mean that I should be able to drink on Christmas Eve.

Have I worked this out correctly or have I done irrepairable damage by
venting before moving, letting too much gas 'out' ?



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Re: Help needed with Firkin of Real Ale at home

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I think you are worrying unduly.
I am sure that once it has settled down after 48 hours or more, you'll find
the beer in excellent condition.


Re: Help needed with Firkin of Real Ale at home
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Relax!  Beer hates to have anxious people fretting over it.

Hook Norton isn't difficult to keep, but ISTR its liveliness varies
quite a bit from cask to cask even with the same batch in the same
Let it settle for a day or two (leave a hard spile in if it seems
flattish) then sample it.  Remember there may be some rubbish in the
actual tap so if the first quarter of a pint's thick throw it away and
try again.
In a warmer place you'll naturally get a richer flavour.

Sue  ]:(:)p

Re: Help needed with Firkin of Real Ale at home
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I'd say you've done exactly what you need to do and it should be fine.

Me, I've got 2 bottles of Fuller's Vintage Ale (a 1998 and a 2004) to
compare and contrast in the evening of Christmas Day.


Re: Help needed with Firkin of Real Ale at home
Sean Spicer wrote:
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Invite us round and we will help you drink it b4 it spoils!

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