Recently, I was reading the excellent Dave Bailey's views on the fastcask system being introduced by Marston's, (you can read the original here), as well as his thoughts on Brewdog advocating a "real keg" system.
To briefly summarise what I hope is an accurate reflection of Dave's views, Marston's fast cask is handy, but the quality of the beers the system is being launched with, as well the degree to which yeasty gel balls will actually condition the beer is a moot point. Likewise, many breweries leave beer to settle for so long in a conditioning tank, that very little conditioning actually happens in many kegs; albeit enough to do a little fermenting and for it to be classified as cask ale. Lastly, Dave would see the idea of a blanket of CO2 being laid down over the beer in the cask, as it is opened and pumped out, would be a good idea, as long as it was merely placed their to prevent oxidisation, and not force carbonated.
Finding all of these points very salient, and having my own doubts about the fast cask system, it got me wondering about my own views and alternative suggestions. I mean, Brewdog advocating "Real Keg" is all well and good, but I personally feel "Real Keg" is suitable for styles which are traditionally served draught- in my mind, it would be best utilised for their 77 lager, for example. Which is fine, good beer in a keg, is good beer. But you can't really stick complex smoked beers, or strong, golden ales in a keg. No matter how real the beer is, it just wouldn't be quite right. Likewise, manufacturing yeast in gel ball suspension is such an odd technology it would simply be too awkward for the average microbrewery.
As such, I got thinking about how to get a beer bright, without it having to drop bright. Well, one way is to filter it, that's what is done prior to kegging. So, why not just filter the beer as it leaves the cask and before it gets into the punters glass? That way, the beer can condition perfectly and stay active in the cask, but just pass through a filter in the line as it gets into the glass.
Then, I dismissed such a though. That's madness. The filter would clog. It would be impossibly slow. There would be little to gain.
Then, however, I thought it could be possible. How difficult would it be to stick an activated charcoal filter into a sparkler? The advantage being it could be replaced easily every few pints as it may clog, less if the beer has actually dropped bright. Furthermore, they wouldn't be expensive to manufacture, either they could placed in the plastic housing of a normal sparkler, or simply be made specifically for the purpose.
Then I realised that I am a Southerner advocating sparklers. Then I noticed the strong emotions even on the sparkler subject.
I think I'm going to sit and stew on this one for a bit...
Seriously, however. Would such a system be possible? I know it sounds so obvious... so I'm wondering what the flaws are/were. Has this ever been tried? If so, what went wrong?