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Piper’s Pub: It’s where the firkins live

hart tapping

It has a rough, cobbled-together look that seems appropriate for a Carson Street basement.

But don’t overlook the cask ale system that feeds the four hand pumps behind the bar at Piper’s Pub. It’s responsible for what is often the best-tasting beer in the city.

The original iteration of the system was installed in 2008, as owner Drew Topping sought more authenticity for his South Side Scottish pub. It’s grown to be able to handle as many as four casks now, and those lines are almost always spoken for, as the cask program, run by cellarman Hart Johnson, continues to flourish.

So what is cask ale? That’s a broad term to describe beer that’s been conditioned in the same vessel from which it’s served. That gives the beer a different kind of carbonation; instead of the fizzy mouthfeel we’re accustomed to, we get a creamy, velvety texture in its place. The most common container is a firkin, a keg that holds just shy of 11 gallons.

Also, cask ale is traditionally stored and served at cellar temperatures, somewhere between 45 and 50 degrees, so the taste of the beer isn’t masked by freezing cold. Are the beer’s malts sweet or bready? Do you taste citrus from the hops or do they lean toward a resinous, pine profile? It’s all right there, pretty much as close to the brewer’s intention as we can get.

Piper’s, at 1828 E. Carson St., doesn’t serve the only cask beer in town, but I don’t know of any place that does it with such care. And for that reputation, they often get casks that no one else can get their hands on. It’s a different beer experience, sure, but it’s worth a trip to Piper’s to give it a try.

Post-Gazette coverage of Piper’s Pub:

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