Monday, May 05, 2014

Recap of Ashley’s of Westland’s 7th annual Michigan Cask Ale Festival

Written by  Erik Smith
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On Saturday, May 3rd, hundreds of craft beer drinkers attended Ashley’s of Westland’s 7th annual Michigan Cask Ale Festival, enjoying craft beer from Michigan and around the USA in a more traditional form.
Cask Ale is a more natural form of beer, with no filtering or pasteurization done, witch allows the live yeast to ferment in a more natural way. This process also enhances the more subtle and complex flavors of the beer.

Beer in this form is also served differently. Instead of relying on CO2 or nitrogen as in conventional draft beer, the cask beer is poured straight from the container using the traditional hand-pull method, or another method known as a gravity dispense. Both of these produce a clean, fresh pour.

Many breweries produced special cask-conditioned beers for the event. Some of these were craft beer staples, such as Bell’s Two Hearted, New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk, and Arbor’s Strawberry Blonde. The majority of the beers, however, were specially made for such an event. Those beers included Founder’s Dirty Bastard (with maple, cinnamon, & vanilla), which was the first cask to run out, Jolly Pumpkin’s Saison Z (brewed with chocolate and sweet orange peel), Saugatuck’s ESB (with cinnamon sticks), Vivant’s Triomphe (dry-hopped with centennial hops), Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA (with Grapefruit added), and over 20 others.

One of the fun events at the Cask Ale Festival was the funeral and burial for Ashley’s Bud Light Tap Handle. The restaurant’s management had made the decision a few weeks before to stop carrying Bud Light in draft as it is not in line with Ashley’s craft beer mission. Local Author David Bardallis (Ann Arbor Beer: A Hoppy History of Tree Town Brewing) delivered the eulogy and festival participants were asked to join in shoveling dirt into the grave. A headstone reading “Bud Light 2005-2014: Done in by better beer” was placed over the grave in Ashley’s Beer Garden.

The Michigan Cask Ale Festival is a May tradition at Ashley’s and the 8th annual is scheduled for May 2nd, 2015.


Erik Smith

Erik Smith

Erik Smith is a relative newcomer to craft beer, having first been turned on to the scene by a chance encounter with "The End of The World" (Unibroue's La Fin du Monde) during the summer of 2011. Since then, he has increased that love of beer by serving as the 'un-official' photographer for the many beer events at Ashley's in Westland, MI. His goal is to visit every Michigan brewery. An avid traveler, beer tourism has played a prominent role in his travels since 2012. 

Find him on Untapped at eriksmithdotcom and at his blog at