Real ale is stored & served mainly in casks; we have three sizes. The smallest cask is called a “pin” it holds four & a half gallons, 36 pints. Next we have a “firkin”; this cask holds nine gallons, 72 pints. This is the most popular size of cask. And finely we have “kilderkin” this cask has a capacity of eighteen gallons, 144 pints.

These casks can be rather tricky to manoeuvre!

Here we have some full casks. The ones on their sides are ready for serving. Note the one with the cask tap, it is a kilderkin & the ones upright in front are firkins.

How to keep & Serve Real Ale


  • Keep casks at the correct temperature (53-55 f) whenever possible.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement of casks between delivery & venting.
  • Wedge casks securely & tap in good time—24 to 48 hours before serving.
  • Ensure that the beer has cleared by checking at the tap before attempting to serve it.
  • Clean beer lines at least once a week & keep taps &/or extractor rods sterile.
  • Replace hard spile firmly between sessions.
  • Seal empty casks with corks & spiles to reduce risk of spreading infection & to keep the draymen happy.


  • Return beer to a cask, it is likely to turn good beer ‘off’.
  • Tilt casks too steeply, you may actually get less saleable beer as a result.

This is a small stack of Firkins.

Looking after your Beer (as a publican in the pub seller)

As with all food products, our cask beer has a natural shelf life. You should sell your stock within this period, to give your customer the quality of beer he/she expects. To help ensure that this is the case there are several easy procedures to follow.

Upon Delivery
The casks should be located on stillage as soon as space becomes available, To prevent cask movement and allow venting and settling. The front of the cask must be level with the front of the stillage, the chocks placed under the front rim of cask and the back block under the back of cask to hold cask steady.

1. Syphon
The casks should be located on a nice flat spot on the cellar floor, think about the position of keystones, they may be stacked two deep, or hiding valves. As your bar staff will want to have good access to any valves, casks or beer lines behind your stock, they may have to turn on during busy bar sessions.

2. Tap & Spile
24 hours before cask goes on sale. Scrub top of the shive, To prevent beer being spoilt by beer spoiling organisms, then Knock in spile.
Scrub Keystone, if it has any mould, pour about 1/2 a pint of boiling water on it, this will kill most beer spoilage organisms. Ensure Keystone is flush with rim of bush. Knock tap firmly into position, ½ an hour after tapping Run off ¼ of a pint into clean ½ pint glass and discard.

(Syphon) Knock lance body in to the keystone.

3. Prior to Dispense
Just before dispense Run off ¼ of a pint into clean ½ pint glass and discard. Run off another and check for clarity. If cloudy try another if still unsatisfactory call brewery.
Check beer in plenty of time before going on dispense.

(Syphon) The lance may now be Gently inserted into the syphon body & lowered about 1/2 way down into the cask, draw threw to bar and check for clarity.

4. The Bar Session
At the start of a bar session, remove spile and turn on dispense tap.
(Syphon) Open cask vent on the lance & turn on the dispense tap.

At the end of the session, replace spile and turn off dispense tap.

(Syphon) Close cask vent on the lance & turn off the dispense tap.

5. Stooping
When cask is ½ to two thirds full, Gently raise back of cask until front of cask rests on stillage. Slide back block forward until underneath cask.
To allow the maximum amount of beer to be drawn from cask. Stooping must be done gently. Do not jerk cask.

(Syphon) When cask is ½ to two thirds full, Gently lower the lance so it is about 1 1/2 inches from the bottom. If to low you will drag yeast & finings up into the despence line.
If dregs have been pulled threw the dispense line, it must be purged with fresh water to remove all traces of yeast & finings.

6. When the cask is empty
Remove cask to stop contents of cask becoming sour & To allow the stillage to be cleaned.

You must
1) Push cork into keystone and drive hard peg into shive.
2) Remove from stillage and store in secure place.


A. To allow beer time to settle and condition, ensure room on stillage for new delivery.

B. Ensure beer on sale is not aged and therefore poor quality.

C. Maintain Cask Ale stocks so that immediately before delivery there are three days sales.

D. Order cask sizes to ensure individual casks are not on sale longer than 3 days.

E. To prevent infection of new cask. After container is emptied.
Dismantle tap and rinse under cold tap and clean all internal passages with tap brush rinse under cold tap again. Store in bleach solution and thoroughly rinse under cold tap before using. (Bleach solution strength to be 1 fluid oz per gallon.)

F. To prevent mould growth and slippery services and beer infection, Scrub cellar Floor, Ceiling, Walls & stlige with bleach solution then hose down, Weekly and as spillage’s occur.

G. To ensure all lines are clean and sterile, Flush through dispense lines with cold water. Clean system as per line cleaner Manufacturer’s recommendations. Rinse system by drawing 3 gallons of cold water through each dispense point.
Cask ale lines should be cleaned at least every 5 days.

H. Any thing that touches the floor, should never touch the beer unless sterilised first, even the best seller floors will have beer spoilage organisms on them.

I. Observe Health and Safety and C.O.S.H.E. regulations.

J. Sample your stock frequently, a small wine glass full would be enough to look at clarity,
Smell for aroma,
Sip for flavour.
Your customers will-be as passionate about there beer,
as you are about their custom.

Ballards Brewery

The Old Sawmill, Nyewood, Hampshire GU31 5HA
Telephone: 01730 821362 or 01730 821301

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