Altbier on a beer engine?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


New Member
Feb 14, 2018
Reaction score
I have an Angram pump collecting dust for way too long and the intention was to focus on Milds, Bitters, Porters, etc.

I read in a "popular beer magazine" that one of the contributors favorite beer in a cask was Altbier.

So, silly question, not having a ton of experience in Altbiers (not a huge popular beverage in NJ), I had a question about carbonation. The beer style calls for medium to high carbonation similar to all German beers. I had always just associated cask ales with a lower carb but maybe just a little sparkle. Do I lower the carb if I'm going to use a pump or keep the carb as high as possible without causing a massive foam disaster?
First off, I'll say I don't approve of the recent trend of pushing highly carbonated beer through a hand-pump. You are absolutely correct that hand-pumps are associated with cask ales with a low carbonation. Unfortunately, a device often associated with hand-pumps, a "demand-valve", are being built to handle greater pressures (40psi 😲 ) which allows some hand-pumps to be connected to high pressure kegs, for whatever reason (I don't know).

Fortunately, (perhaps?) you have a hand-pump (Angram) that really doesn't like high-pressure. It will start to creak and groan alarmingly if you put as much as 5psi through them. It should be enough to put you off.

If you promise me not to abuse your hand-pump you can read this essay I wrote on cask beer which includes a section on hand-pumps: (follow link in post).

If you are tempted to put high pressure beer through your hand-pump I suggest you take this essay to another forum member on this site (@McMullan) and say, "you have this fine treatise from PeeBee and could he (McMullan) help you make sense of it?". He has a better grasp of English to help you with it ... Oh, and please tell me if you're going to do that so I've time to hide down this hole with my fingers in me ears.

I would just carbonate the alt to 1.5 volumes instead of the normal 2.5ish. That way you won’t have issues with your beer engine.
According to some YouTubers, you can pull any beer (anything, including time?) through a beer engine, even hazies. 😱 In reality, of course, you can. It’s your beer engine. Pull whatever you like through it. Whether it does the beer or the beer engine any justice is another matter. Personal preferences, etc. If you enjoy, that’s all that matters. You can definitely pull English ales and English ciders through an English beer engine to get a very nice result in the glass. They coevolved and work well enough to survive extinction.

Beer casks are just traditional kegs really. They’re actually designed to hold significant pressure. It’s actually good practice to promote higher carbonation levels in cask ales to help increase shelf life in storage. When a cask - even one containing a traditional English ale - gets tapped, the beer is often quite lively and requires some ‘cellarmanship’ to condition it ‘down’ for serving through a beer engine. This is the bit home brewers seem to overlook. Letting it ‘breathe’ for hours to a day or so, to bring the carbonation level down to serving levels. But higher than what ends up in the glass, right? Because a lot of CO2 gets knocked out of the beer (becomes head) by the turbulence promoted by the force pushing the beer out of the pump and into the bottom of the glass. A common schoolboy error most home brewers armed with beer engines make is trying to condition beer in cask or keg to levels we’d expect in the glass. A decent traditional English ale is not warm, flat horse p*ss at all. It should be served at cool cellar temperature (~11C) with a decent head and, my personal preference, a low level effervescence, which tells me it’s freshly tapped and likely at its best, for me.

I have pulled a lager through my beer engine, after conditioning some ‘down’ in a mini keg and raising its temperature to about 11C. It was definitely what I imagine flat horse p*ss tastes like. It’s surprising how much CO2 adds to the quality of a lager. It’s undeniably a key component, in a lager. Why lagers can be served cooler, because they have no desirable flavours to dull. Best served chilled. Just a refreshing cold one to neck down in the summer really, rather than savour the finer qualities of, like an English ale necked down all year round. 😀 But, to be fair, I think an Altbier has a good chance of working fine, better than a typical lager, served through a beer engine. My advice is condition it down, but not necessarily as low as claimed ‘cask’ level. I’d aim for about 1.6-1.8 vol CO2 in the cask/keg. It can be conditioned down further, if necessary. And serve at cellar temperature (10-13C). Note Angram beer engines have precision-engineered glass beer cylinders and plungers designed to operate optimally at cellar temperature. If the beer being pulled is much cooler, it risks altering the geometry and causing some judder in the pull.
Last edited:
I think it's a great beer, have a rye altbier on tap at the moment.
Traditionally it's served direct from a barrel on the bar, most beers are different tasting beer engine to keg.
Many are awful, an all nectaron hop IPA from Cassels is a bad memory.
Brew some and transfer from keg to mini keg, do transfer in a way to prevent foam in mini keg. Then take lid off mini keg and put beer line into mini keg and pull through beer engine.
Let us know the contrast