Many moons ago on these very pages, I mentioned that in the States, one could drink cask ale every day of the week. We lived in Columbus, Ohio at that time and things certainly haven't changed since moving to San Diego. I wrote those notes at the height of the cask ales .vs. craft beers debate; indeed, the reason I left CAMRA because I was fed up defending "craft" beers against a tirade of anti-craft beers comments (especially from the then CAMRA hierarchy). I was a member of CAMRA because I supported their efforts back home, but the constant notion that American craft beer was rubbish because it wasn't cask was frankly bizarre. Several years on and my wife and I find ourselves taking our first trip home since 2011. The ridiculously low air fares to Blighty combined with a ridiculously strong dollar told us this was our moment. On September 28th our three-week journey begins, with our four bases being in Bath, Chipping Norton, Norwich (first time to the fenlands) and finally London. So, even though I'm armed with the 2019 Good Beer Guide (I see "craft" beer is now listed alongside cask ales), I thought I'd better get back into tasting cask ales. Hence, Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA (7.2%) and AleSmith Birdrock Speedway Stout (12%). The first realization about Torpedo IPA was the fact it was cellar-temperature and it took some getting used to. I'm used to cold IPA's packed full of flavour and this was cask and packed full of flavour; piney, resiny with distinctive herbal notes in the finish. Sierra Nevada delights in dry-hopping this IPA to the power of ten, so it was a little beauty. AleSmith (boasting the largest tap room on the west coast - it is absolutely HUGE and cavernous) have made their name on their 12% ABV Speedway Coffee Stout series. Birdrock Speedway Stout was totally rare in that it's only ever been a cask ale. It's named after Birdrock Roasters & Coffee, an artisanal enterprise who always seem able to get their hands on the rarest (and expensive) coffees. Thus, Birdrock coffee was used in this stout. Thick, creamy and packed full of coffee, caramel and nutty notes, thus was a delight. Unlike most craft stouts that I have to warm up for about 10-15 minutes, I didn't have to do this with Birdrock Speedway Stout: it was poured at the perfect temperature! A couple of good cask beers to begin with as we prepare for our long-awaited return to the English beer culture.