I was really looking forward to heading to the Michigan Cask Ale Festival at Ashley’s in Westland, MI. I had never tried a cask ale and I was interested to taste the difference!
As a brief primer, cask ale is a very traditional way of brewing and called “the craft beer of craft beer”. It is unfiltered and unpasteurized which is fermented and served out of a cask without carbon dioxide (or nitrogen). These beers are served at a warmer temperature than most beer as well. This leads a cask ale to be less carbonated and, I found, to be more aromatic than most beers. I found, however, that I was more likely to find a beer that misses the mark than a typical beer festival. Since this allows for very flavorful beers, any flavors that I am not a fan of were very strong, making them pretty intense.
Ashley’s biergarten is a perfect location for such an event. It has a nice open area with multiple tables to sit and even lounging areas after you’ve had way too many samples. Pleasant live music wafted from a small stage in the corner and corn hole was set up along the fence. I felt like I was at a great backyard party! It also felt like there was a wide variety of beer fans in attendance making it a very unique crowd. There are also benefits being right next to a restaurant including nice facilities, ample parking, and delicious food!
Speaking of nourishment, let’s talk about the beer. As I mentioned, there were a number of beers that I would say I’m not particularly a fan of. The tastes ranged all the way from cream cheese wine to boozey orange juice. I wanted to point out a few of my favorites to give them some kudos. Also a special shout out to Kuhnhenn’s Porter Colada, which won the people’s choice award. I am not a fan of the more tropical flavors but I can see how this was a fan favorite!
Dirty Bastard – Founders Brewing (Grand Rapids, MI)
This beer won my personal choice. With the added praline there was an incredibly pleasant and warm nuttiness that I really enjoyed. It tasted like a dessert beer. Big thumbs up.
Lemon Lime Cyser – Northville Winery (Northville, MI)
I had to look up what a cyser was, it’s basically a mead made with apples. It tastes like sour apple lemon lime soda but in a very nice way. Very drinkable and fresh.
Three Kord Kolsch – Witch’s Hat Brewing Company (South Lyon, MI)
I was hoping for slightly more cranberry taste but the orange made me happy and it seemed like almost a peach flavor.
Honeystone – Transient Artisan Ales (Bridgman, MI)
This was almost my favorite. Sweet but not cloying with a very pleasant spiciness. It’s like buying a lemon-lime honey stick! Yum! I also tried this out of a can and it has a definitely different taste. A unique example of the difference in taste! A cool experience!
The Michigan Cask Ale Festival is a very unique event. Not only are you able to try beers that are very unique, you are also tasting them in an incredibly unique way. The crowd is small and low-key, the staff is open and friendly, there is fun background music, there is abundant seating, and you are literally steps away from delicious poutine! This is a good event for anyone but I think it caters very well to craft beer fans who are looking for something different to do or who shy away from very large crowds or events with tricky logistics.
I’ll see you there next year!