Vertical Stillaging Cask Ales

Ale extractor
Ale extractor with body
Ale extractor body venting

We haven’t really covered vertical extraction on here in any great detail yet. Perhaps if we go through a few pointers please feel free to add anything or if I have missed anything please add your comments below.

Basically you use the same process to stillage vertically as you would with a container lying on its side. How to look after Cask Ales You would try and vent the container within 8 hrs of delivery. This all depends on the brew you are selling; some brews are more volatile than others.

To vent a cask vertically you would get two wedges or scotches, though you can only see one in the picture and place them securely under the keystone side of the container. So they position the keystone and gas pocket at the highest point, making the cask stable. Please always use two, the amount of times I have seen them balanced with just one.

When working with cask ales, hygiene is of the up-most importance to prevent infection, so the recess in the Keystone plug must be wiped with a clean cloth and the ale extractor and body should be clean and sterile.

Ale extractor body diagram

Looking at the diagram of the ale extractor body remove the tube and the compression nut from the body and replace with the blanking plug, making sure the O ring is intact as this supplies the seal.

Using the rubber mallet the body should be knocked firmly into the keystone with one powerful blow (easier said than done). It is also a good idea that the shut off valve should be left partly open, to prevent air being driven into the cask blowing out the shive or keystone though this used to happen more frequently when they were made of wood. Venting can now be controlled by opening and closing the shut off valve.

When you are satisfied that secondary fermentation has taken place.  You can now change the blank plug for the compression nut and very carefully slide the ale extractor tube through the body down to the bottom of the container, then retract about an inch. Tighten up the compression nut this will squeeze down on the rubber seal locking the tube and creating a gas tight seal. Turn off the venting shut off valve.

Vertical stillaged ale ready for sale

So you can get the most out of the container, very carefully so as not to disturb the sediment at the bottom, remove the wedges. Then slowly tilt the container in the opposite direction as shown in the picture positioning the keystone at the lowest point and now replace the wedges on the opposite side.

Now you can connect your cask line to the top of the ale extractor not forgetting to check the rubber seal or the hop strainer is in place otherwise you could suck air into the system causing erratic dispense problems. When your beer is ready for sale open up the venting shut off valve on the ale extractor body and draw through the beer engine and check the smell, taste and clarity of the ale.

You have to know your brews using vertical stillaging, unlike stillaging horizontally where you can turn on the cask tap, to see if it has cleared down and check the quality of the beer. Sometimes installers will have put a bleed valve just after the gas pump, otherwise you will have to draw it straight to the beer engine to check, but 48hrs is usually ok for the secondary fermentation to complete,unless you are unlucky. But this is something you learn to live with, if you use a local brew, the microbrewery, or your service provider will be able to give you a rough idea how long it will take.

To help prolong the life of the ale and improve the quality, the venting shut off valve should be turned off at the end of every session.

I still think the best way to stillage is horizontally, but if you haven’t the room then you haven’t any choice. A lot of people swear by stillaging vertically they say they empty the container every time and they don’t have to remember to tilt the container two thirds of the way down.

Like all good equipment the ale extractor comes apart for cleaning

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Here are a couple of alternative upright extraction solutions


Flexible Ale extractor

Cask widge system



  1. I have heard about a widget thing that goes inside of the beer keg and floats inside. is this better than vertical stillage.

  2. i use vertical systems for my guest ales, last year i switched to cask widge htt>p:// it’s a fabulous system, so easy to keep clean and a far higher yeild..

  3. The widge system is good in principal, however the plastic shut off switches are so brittle I’d managed to break both of mine within three weeks and I was only tapping the unit gently into the keystone with a rubber mallet. Looking to replace them cost something like £14 with post and packing so I haven’t bothered with them since.

  4. I used to use two scotches on the front rib and a piece of three by two at the rear of the cask for horizontal stillaging, this made it very easy to stoop the casks {I was using Barrels (36Gal) at the time}, and,I used a single piece three by two for vertical extraction instead of two wedges, I found this more stable. I used the three by two because I had it, probably one to one and a half inches thick would be better. I was also lucky that the extractors provided by my brewery were walking stick shaped with a shut off tap in the main tube, and, a provision at the side of the “tap” for connection of a cask breather. Does anybody still supply these? I am retired now but help out at my local community centre and could do with them there.

  5. Just one thing, There are two or three different design of the body. Plastic bit not only the look, but what’s inside,
    So, DON’T get them mixed up, when you strip the body down, make Shure that you put the right bits in the right body.

  6. Hope this is an appropriate thread to ask on…. we are moving from direct tapped horizontal (no hand pull) to vertical with cask widge, with flojet lift to tap (moving to a tap wall with perleck taps for everything) – I cant find out what pressure I should set the secondary regulator to the flojet at, anyone help? Cheers, fi (first time cellar constructor 🙂 )

    • Gas pumps start working at 15psi, but sometimes they can stall at that pressure I find the best working pressure to be 25-28psi

      • Thanks Bill. I am slowly getting there! Staggered that NOTHING i have ordered (aspirator, pumps) has come with tech spec – are we just born knowing this stuff ? 😉 Thank goodness for this site and people like you to answer questions!

  7. I have a spring loaded tilted stillage system,anyone got tips for stock taking. I have a dip stick but as the angle increases as the cask empties is there a correct angle to dip?

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