I'm as guilty as anyone of not promoting cask ale, but in my defence, I do run one of the best beer shops in the UK, and consequently am more of a bottled beer man. But I do love good beer in all of its forms, and one of its most unusual, exciting forms is that of cask ale.
I'm sure you know this, but cask ale is a uniquely British product. On paper, it's lunacy: it's an unfinished food product that is turned over to a pub landlord to complete. If you've ever seen Michael Jackson's "The Beer Hunter" TV series, you'll know that he makes the same point while interviewing Mark Dorber, then of the legendary White Horse on Parson's Green. Part of the skill of cellaring beer to peak condition is what makes a good landlord, a good pub, and happy customers.
Good cask ale has a completely unique taste and texture. It's live, unfiltered, and refermented in the vessel from which it is finally dispensed. Served at cellar temperature (10 to 12 degrees Celsius), and with a gentle prickle of natural carbonation, there is nothing like it. Done right, it should be cool, refreshing and moreish.
Of course, the brighter amongst you will have spotted a problem. As an unfinished product, there are various things that can go wrong with it. Cask ale isn't a magic bullet, and it doesn't guarantee good beer. There are many filtered and kegged (or bottled) beers that can kick the arse of poorly kept cask ale. Like any artisanal food product, it needs to be treated right to get the best out of it.
There we are. Do what you must: join CAMRA: buy the Good Beer Guide: visit Cask Marque: read the Cask Ale Week website. But above all, go out and drink some cask beer.