Getting Real at the Pub with Real Ale

We’re doing something new at the pub these days, something REAL tasty and REAL cool that we REALly want you to know about. It’s time to make your way to the pub for your first taste of REAL ale! We’re now brewing up and serving REAL or cask conditioned ales from the new bar in our latest expansion.

A project Joe Short has had on the back burner, “forever and ever,” our latest expansion finally provided the opportunity to do real ale justice in house at the pub. But, what is this “real ale” we’re talking about and what makes it so “real”? According to the Campaign for Real Ale also known as CAMRA, real ale “is a beer brewed from traditional ingredients (malted barley, hops, water and yeast), matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.

To make real ale, a brewer takes beer that has completed primary fermentation and adds it to a cask with any additional ingredients for secondary fermentation. At the pub we’re using both firkins (9 gallons) & pipkins (4.5 gallons) to make real ale.

In a week or two the cask is then moved to the tavern for serving where it is tapped and spiled. In England, Ireland, and Wales it is traditionally set on its side and hooked up to a beer engine. Which pumps the ale or beer into a glass. In Scotland, the Little Traverse Inn, and now at Short’s, the cask is set on its end and hooked up to a beer engine to be served.

Our resident “Brewstorian” and the former owner of Traverse Brewing Company, Jack Archiable is a huge fan of real ale. According to Jack, “Back in 2002 to 2008 T.B.C. served two ‘real ales’ all year long. During the winter holidays we would pump that up to three beer engines with three firkins flowing. Years later, Little Traverse Inn and Owner Graeme, continue this tradition. Oh those tricky Scots.”  

Real ale styles commonly include Bitters, Milds, Stouts, Porters, Barleywines, Golden Ales and Old Ales (styles we most commonly associate with English beers). Because these ales are cask-conditioned they are unfiltered and therefore “still living” or containing live yeast. Real ales also have a lower CO2 content (less carbonation), are served at a warmer temperature, and are poured fresher as they are not cellared or aged for an extended period of time.

Drinking real ale is akin to drinking a beer straight out of the history books. This historical method of brewing and preservation is as close to drinking the ale of our forefathers as it gets. When done correctly, real ale is like drinking beer right out of the fermentor, and according to Joe it is, “the highest quality version of beer a consumer could possible get.” At Short’s, we’re doing real ale justice by ensuring the beer is handled and stored properly. By using new technology, namely a temperature controlled cooler dedicated to firkins, proper beer engines (for serving), and a cask widget that replaces air in the cask with CO2 when a beer is poured, we’re ensuring that our real ale is being served at its most ideal state.

There are a myriad of reasons to try real ale. The lack of forced carbonation leads to a smoother, creamier mouth feel and a richer flavor. If you’re into probiotics, you’re in luck. Because of the presence of live yeast, real ale has a higher concentration of Vitamin B and probiotics. And in true Short’s fashion, we’re making this style our own.

With our latest expansion came the addition of not one, not two, but three beer engines to our new bar! These beer engines are already hard at work and have been serving real ale to thirsty Short’s fans for the past few weeks. Arguably the best outcome of adding beer engines and real ale to our menu? The new avenues for small batch creativity afforded to our brewers. So far, some of our favorite selections have included Cask Conditioned Coffee and Vanilla Bean Bellaire Brown and A Tribe Called Zest.

These brews go fast and we’re always cuing up the next cask. Jack said it best, “Come on in and try our wonderful ales and beers served in the traditional old style. You best get there soon because they disappear very very quickly. Cheers…”

Want to learn more about the Campaign for Real Ale? We thought so! CAMRA was established in 1971 in reaction to the macro-dominated UK beer market. Today, CAMRA is well known as an advocate for real ale and supports well-run pubs as the centers of community life in the UK. Check them out at