Paul Pendyck is a man whose time has come. Thirteen years ago, Pendyck, an English expatriate, was a home brewer in rural Pennsylvania who wanted the special casks needed to serve traditional “real ale.” He contacted a British company about buying some and became their American sales rep. His company, Lancaster, Penn.-based UK Brewing Supplies, was more like a hobby for years, until cask ale suddenly exploded. Now he’s flying all over the United States, filling firkins and putting in pumps.
“It’s changed dramatically over the past couple years,” he says, with a soft chuckle. “People are far more aware of beer generally, and that brings along cask ale. More and more bars and beer distributors are buying firkins to get them filled. As opposed to an optional extra, for a good beer bar, it’s more of a necessity. People expect there to be cask ale.”
If you’re thinking cask ale, “that flat, warm stuff,” is just for specialty bars and a specialty crowd, think again. Pendyck was recently in Las Vegas, trouble-shooting the cask ale delivery system at celebrity chef Todd English’s P.U.B. restaurant and bar in the new Crystals retail district. P.U.B. will carry four cask ales with prices yet to be decided.
Pendyck sells and installs the equipment—and he uses it, too; he just opened a cask ale pub, the Bulls Head, in Lititz, Penn.—but he doesn’t really want to sell it to you if you’re not excited about it. “Unless you’ve got some passion about it,” he warns, “you’ll get tired of it. It’s more work than just hooking your keg up and away you go. You’re part of the process, not just a dispenser,” He offers two cask ales at all times at the Bulls Head, priced from $5 to $6. Cask ale needs to be kept at the right temperature, coaxed along to perfection, and served promptly. Pendyck has a guide that covers all the basics, but it’s still a lot of work.
“Cask ale in America is the best it’s ever been,” he says. “That forces people to step up to that level. It’s my job to make sure people are doing it right, just for the sake of cask ale. It’s a reward when it’s done right.” Speaking as a drinker, it’s quite a nice glass of beer, too.