The main worry of running a brewery

Paying staff, bills and making sure we have enough money to pay our mortgage are obviously really important but there is another thing that no one seems discuss.

Cask Taint, a cask that seems to give an earthy or funky taste or aroma to a beer.

I’ve spotted this on plenty of brewers beers served in good pubs, it can be fairly subtle and sometimes mistaken for the character of the yeast.

Brewers sometimes get their used casks back after many months, or a shorter period of warm weather and cleaning them can take a bit more effort due to them being full of fly eggs, mold, even live maggots in some cases. The reason for all of this is that the casks have been left unsealed after the beer has been sold. The brewer now has to tackle this Earthy, rank, foul-smelling mess and turn it back into a vessel that is clean and sanitised to put fresh new beer into.

They are de-bunged and their dregs tipped down the drain.
Jet-washed externally while paying particular attention around the Shive and Keystone holes.
They are put on the cask washer and given a high pressure internal rinse through a sprayball to removes the thickest of the muck inside, then a Hot Casutic wash followed by a final fresh water rinse and drain.
Casks are inspected inside visually with a torch and given a good sniff to check for any off-smells.
If there is an off-smell or any part of the cask that is not clean the cask must be re-washed until it is fit to put fresh beer into.

Occasionally a cask will smell of earth or mold when you come to fill it, if we detect this we aim to keep hold of the cask and not sell it into trade so if there is any issue it is our own issue rather than a customer. Things like this slip through the net occasionally with any brewer out there.

Our brewery isn’t graced with a brewery yard so out of politeness to our neighbours in the building we pre-wash all dirty casks the week before we need to re-fill them, this means that we leave them coated with Caustic Cleaner inside and then the following week we Hot Casutic wash them again followed by a fresh water rinse.
We NEVER detect any off-smells in our casks with our current procedure, it may seem labour intensive but we don’t want beer flies in the shared access we have with our neighbouring businesses, and it leaves our casks looking and smelling great inside.

All that is not to say that an occasional cask will leach out a bit of an earthy smell into the new beer, I would say stainless steel casks are best and its plastic casks that hold the taint most, this could be something that plastic cask manufacturers could look into, Brewery Plastics, Emerald etc.

As I say, its something most breweries will come across, and I would say is my biggest concern in packaging beer for sale.

The simple solution to this is ‘Training’ staff that casks should always be re-sealed, and it doesn’t mean you have to be PubCo or regional brewery supplied with Corks and pegs a simple roll of Duct Tape will do or screwed up plastic or paper towels, just bung those cask holes up with something to stop flies and stuff getting in.

Cheers 🙂