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Short North café home to rare beer engine

Photo courtesy of MCT

Nitrogen, precision CO2 and formulas may rekindle memories of chemistry lecture for many, but all are necessary components for Bodega’s new beer engine.

Located at the corner of Third Street and High Street in the Short North, Bodega, as of last week, has one of the only beer engines in Columbus.

A beer engine is a pump that is used to pour cask-conditioned beer. To pour the beer, the engine is pumped at intervals, like one would pump an old-fashioned water well. A small amount of priming sugar is added to the beer before tapping the keg, which creates a more natural carbonation during fermentation, and creates the cask-conditioned element.

The key difference in cask beer is its taste and mouthfeel, which is the texture of the beer, said Collin Castore, owner of Bodega.

“Cask beer is going to have a softer mouthfeel to it,” Castore said. “It has a more natural carbonation to it due to the priming sugars and the chemical reaction since the CO2 isn’t being forced into it. I guess the best way to describe it is that is has a Guinness-like mouthfeel.”

Though the process of tapping the keg and operating it are more tricky, Castore said there is a formula to get the carbonation set and running.

Castore said he decided to introduce the cask beer after attending beer classes in Chicago and that the new brew has gone over well during its first week.

“People seem to really like it,” he said. “All the casks we’ve put on have been blown in about two-to-three days.”

Some serve cask beer at room temperature, but Castore said serving the beer between 45 and 50 degrees is ideal for optimum flavor and that people tend to enjoy the beer below room temperature.

So far, Bodega has carried four casks total, including one from the Columbus Brewing Company.

“That (CBC cask) just worked out great because we always like to promote local beers as much as possible,” Castore said. “CBC is really making some great beers, so we were really happy they came up with a cask for us.”

Bartender Chris Monday has served at Bodega for close to seven months and is very excited to have the cask beer available.

“I just learned what cask beer was shortly before they brought it here,” Monday said. “I’m interested in anything with natural fermentation and it just seems like a more healthy way for beer. The carbonation is not as harsh and the mouthfeel is smoother.”

Monday said the beer has been very popular, but connoisseurs are particularly intrigued by it.

“People who know what they are talking about really like to taste it, judge it and put in their two cents,” Monday said. “It is definitely for lovers of beer.”

One such customer is Mike Kunzer, who is also a market manager for Great Lakes Brewing Company out of Cleveland.

“It’s something new, and in the craft beer industry, people are always looking for new ways of drinking beer,” Kunzer said. “There is nothing better than drinking a nice cask beer. It’s a fresh product, and when handled correctly, you’re going to get a full flavor out of it. I could go on and on.”

Kunzer said Great Lakes does offer cask beer but on a small scale because not many places have beer engines.

On the buyer’s end, Castore said it is a little harder to get the cask beers than other kegs of beer, but in the end, it is a worthy endeavor for Bodega.

“I think it has been worth it,” Castore said. “It expands the beer culture in Columbus, if you will, and it gives people a chance to try something out that they wouldn’t get to otherwise.”

Cask beer varies in price depending on the brewery. It is also usually served in pints, but can serving size can vary based on the volume of alcohol.

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