Sunday, 2 January 2011

Deja vu

Last week I had a pint of this "craft keg" stuff that everyone's talking about.

I know the beer in question very well in its cask-conditioned form. It's very good. The keg version was dire.

To cut a long story short, the taste and aroma of an excellent beer was completely destroyed, it made me burp a lot and it was much more expensive than the real version.

Haven't we been here before?

10 comments:

  1. < irony > Of course, good keg beer is as hard to look after as cask ale < /irony >

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  2. Wouldn't be fair to name names, but you can probably guess if you read other posts on here.

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  3. another case of if it aint broke, dont fix it. Always sad when someone messes with a good beer

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  4. Why *is* it so expensive if it's easier to keep? If the overheads are less, pass the savings on to the punter, surely? Or is the extra cost just a sort of designer premium payable for a trendy product?

    I'm reserving judgement on the taste until I can have a pint in the summer, when it might be nice and refreshing. But it's probably worth noting that after the pint of Meantime keg I had in the Florence in south London, I was pissing like a racehorse.

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  5. Why are these breweriers promoting keg versions of excellent real ales? We're aware of Brewdog's agenda but others should know better. It certainly colours my opinion of said breweries.

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  6. Because plenty of pubs and other venues just will not be able to turn over a cask quickly enough. Others (music venues for instance) aren't open every night. Others (and their customers) are new to beer as a genuinely high-quality product, and may be put off with certain associations of cask beer. Others might lack (or believe they lack) cellarcraft skills. Others don't have an appropriate celler-space.

    My parents' pub is in a small working-class town on the west coast of Scotland; there, real ale represents a tiny fraction of the market, with the vast majority of drinkers unwilling to try anything that they're not already familiar with. On top of that, trade is generally very quiet in the winter months, and, with the pub having been built on reclaimed land, the celler is the space underneath the stairs. Cask-conditioned ale isn't really an option, and keg versions of decent beers would offer a real way to offer more choice to the relatively small numbers of drinkers who want it. That, however, brings me to Pete's point: the trade prices tend to be ludicrously high. This is a problem with distributors and/or brewers, not with pubs.

    I neither entirely agree nor disagree with Barm on this issue. I've tried the keg versions of two B***D** beers, almost certainly at the same pub as himself: I thought one was superb (although I've never had it on cask) and the other was disappointingly thin tasting (though at 3.2% only what I would have expected had I not already tried the surprisingly full-bodied cask version). I've also tried keg versions of Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted, and Meantime Stout. Both were lovely beers, though not up the standards of their cask counterpart. Here's the point: "craft keg" isn't, in my experience, as good as cask, all things being equal. But it can represent an absolute oasis when the alternative is poorly-kept and/or unimaginatively chosen real ale, or, for whatever reason, Interbrew-produced bilge. A good quality beer still (usually) tastes pretty good on keg: secondary conditioning is the icing on the cake. A shit beer is a shit beer, even in perfect cask condition.

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  7. Though on the price front, I notice the keg version of Williams Bros. Céilidh is £2.50 a pint in the 78 on Argyle Street in Glasgow. (Williams Bros. on cask usually £2.95, guests more.)

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  8. I understand why pubs want a more convenient product, and I understand why brewers want to be in a more profitable segment of the market. I'd do the same if I were them. What I can't get my head round is why either of them imagine that I should pay a premium for the privilege of burping a lot.

    Zak has a point, that's if I understand him correctly to be saying that keg beer needs proper pouring. I've heard Velky Al argue this point — that in the Czech Republic pouring beer is seen as an art form. We are light years away from that level of skill here. It vitiates the idea that keg gives a more consistent product, if bar staff who don't know what they're doing can ruin it.

    I want to believe in Keg 2.0. But it seems in practice to be much worse that it should be in theory.

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