After learning about cask ales at the American Craft Beer Festival this past weekend, it became clear that, in an age of growing knowledge about craft beer, casks have room for maneuver in America. One style in particular, India Pale Ale, looks like it could be the vehicle to introduce casks to a greater segment of the public. Defined as a hoppy ale, largely due to the need to keep British ale fresh for the long voyages to her colonies around the world, it stands to reason that it would've been served out of casks, like in the bars and gin joints of Bombay or Singapore.
Fortunately, at Five Horses Tavern in Somerville, MA, there is a cask of the IPA from Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, MA as their cask ale of the moment, and despite the $7.75 price tag, it's worth it for a strong, well-crafted, hoppy beer.
Since it comes out of a cask, it is served at cellar temperature, which tends to be warmer than a standard beer from the taps. Yet IPAs are better at this temperature because it allows the yeast to bloom and the hops to be more pronounced. The copper liquid has a muted spicy head that has a mellow hoppy scent. One taste though identifies it as a real IPA. Very bitter, and quite hoppy, it has a complex taste with an underscore of citrus that makes it a very pleasant beer, even if it's not out-of-the-tap ice cold.
The only negative thing about Mayflower IPA is that it's an IPA lovers IPA. It's a straight shot of hops right from the start, which can be too bitter to some drinkers. Moreover, having a beer a cellar temperature is still a foreign concept to a lot of people, and usually brings about memories of warm beer that's been in the sun too long on the beach. This is unfortunate, and it's part of the reason why cask ale hasn't caught on in the United States as much as it should, because IPAs especially are best enjoyed when the beer is at cask temperature because more flavors can be developed, out-weighing the disadvantages of not having an ice cold beer.
This Mayflower, straight out of the cask, is definitely worth hopping on.