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August 10, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Twisted Casks


Beer has been around for a while. In some form or another, it’s existed for centuries.

We can thank the English for what we call ‘beer’ today, but what’s on tap at the local pub is nothing like an English real ale.

The term ‘real ale’ has been bastardised by many breweries, with even lagers being touted as real ales—a deadly sin in my books. A ‘Real Ale’ is an ale in which the final fermentation occurs in the vessel it is served from. This is where bottle and cask fermentation come into play.

In New Zealand cask conditioned real ale can only be found in three places. One of which I recently visited in Christchurch: The Twisted Hop. The Twisted Hop is a brewpub, meaning they brew and serve their own beer on premise. In fact, the entire brewery is visible through a glass wall and could probably fit inside unistop.

The friendly brewer Sean explained that the difference in creating real ale is in the conditioning. Instead of letting the yeast do its thing exclusively in the fermenter, the beer is put into ‘firkin’ casks near the end of fermentation. The firkins are then left for a while so the yeast can get busy. After cask fermentation, the firkins are chilled to 10˚C and the yeast settles to the bottom before serving.

Finally, the beer is hand pumped through the brewery wall into your glass—no CO2 added.

Some Twisted hop beer is set to arrive at the Malthouse soon, specifically their latest annual release: Twisted Hop IPA (5.2%). This is an amazingly hoppy IPA, full of citrus and pine with a mouth-filling resiny bitterness which keeps you coming back for more. This outrageous hop will have calmed down a bit by the time it reaches Wellington, so don’t be afraid to try it.

If you ever get a chance to try a pint of Twisted Hop Sauvin Pilsener (5%), jump on it. The beer is served directly from a conditioning tank at the brewbar and is one of two golden lagers that Twisted Hop produces. Again the citric New Zealand hops shine through in the flavour, but this is a far less intimidating beer with a crisp and dry finish. White wine drinkers would enjoy this.

For a night finisher, rip into a pint of Twisted Hop Twisted Ankle (5.9%). Sean couldn’t really place this beer into any particular style, but said it is closest to an English Old Ale.
From the hand pump it is a ruby-red colour, with flavour characteristics from barley wine, porter and bitter styles. There are smooth coffee malt flavours, plum and spice then a full bitterness right at the finish which rounds out the whole package nicely.

Cask conditioned real ale is a rarity in Wellington but Twisted Hop will be carting up casks for the upcoming Beervana festival, where all of these beers will be available for sampling. Beervana is being held on 28 and 29 of August, so get your tickets now to try some real cask ale!

If you have any questions about this week’s beers or any comments, please email me at


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