In England if you were to venture into a pub and ask for a local brew, (shame on you if you don't), the bartender would grab the pump and "draw" an ale up from the cellar.
Where draught beer in North America is drawn from kegs pressurized with carbon dioxide to force the beer to the tap, English beer, "ale" actually, is drawn from casks with no injected additives. The handle at the bar serves instead as a pump, which is why you will see the barkeep pull the handle more than once when filling up your anxiously awaited pint.
English ale is not served warm but at cellar temperature. The beer is all natural using only malted barley, water, yeast and hops. It continues to mature naturally in the keg for a greater flavor.
The bartender needs to be trained and experienced in the use of storing and handling of these casks as the beer can spoil easily. Once a cask is tapped, it can spoil within days, unlike regular draught beer kegs.
Drinking this type of beer in a London pub has always been an enjoyable experience. Good news though, this type of beer is making inroads into Ontario. Here we know them as " Cask conditioned ales" or "Real Ales" and are available at a few pubs in the Toronto area.
I have not had one yet, but is definitely in my near future. The Victory Café on Markham Street at Bathurst and Bloor, is having a Cask is having a Summer Cask Ale Festival this Sunday July 13 from noon to 7 PM.
There will be ten traditional cask beers from local brewers. The cost is $6.50 per person, which gives you a half pint souvenir glass and two half-pint sample tickets. Additional sample tickets can be purchased although I don't yet know the price.
I am looking forward to it.