Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Keg v's Cask

Ahhhh yes, here we go again..... Except, no we don't. I won't bang on about the relative merits of keg and cask beer or cite a specific preference for either. It's a non arguement perpetuated by a bunch of terminally boring individuals, almost exclusively on the cask side of things. Yes we (BrewDog) have managed to rile up a few of the beardies by saying keg is the future, but we don't argue the point. We just say 'we make this and we think keg is the best way to dispense it'. Thats not an arguement for keg, that is just a statement of intent.

Nor am I going to make this an anti-CAMRA rant. I'll save my loathing for CAMRA for another time.

Today on the BrewDog blog a storm brewed on the intention of opening the new bar in Edinburgh without the addition of hand pulls. Why this caused such a furore I don't really know. Its has always been made quite clear that the BrewDog bars would be a showcase for kegged beers, BrewDog and otherwise.

Equally I'm not really sure why the cask ale brigade are quite so upset about it. If you want cask beer, drink in one of Edinburghs many many great cask beer bars. It seems a few people have take the decision to exclude cask beers from the bars as a personal affront.

Again, I don't really understand why cask beer fans are quite so aggressive in their stance on cask beer over kegged beer. I am tempted to say its down to a fundamental lack of knowledge about the beers and beer production, but thats possibly a little uncharitable. It does concern me that many amateur beer fans first contact with the beer world comes in the form of a CAMRA membership and they are therefore subjected to the CAMRA agenda, which is beer is best served live and from a cask.

However, some beers work better on keg. Big Imperial Stouts for a start, and hop heavy IPA's (especially big dry hopped beers). The carbonation, especially on big stouts helps thin the liquid out and provide a more drinkable beer, less viscous and more palatable.The higher the abv the better the beer works on keg too, the chill and carbonation balances the alcohol far better. Drink a warm, flat 9% IPA.... its not great.

Equally a classic best bitter, like Adnams for example will work far better on cask. The lower the abv and the fewer ingredients (because weaker beers have a lower volume of ingredients) means these beers become too thin with carbonation and lose their flavour and balance.

This isn't my primary concern however, I don't really give a toss about the petty 'cask is better' nonsense. It isn't better, its different. Now shut up.

No, my concern is with the impending proliferation of piss poor kegged beers in to the UK market. Who in the UK makes craft kegged beer? BrewDog, Meantime, Lovibonds, Camden, Freedom..... yeah, and now I'm struggling.

However, recently some other brewers have been taking their cask recipes and putting them in to kegs and they just don't work. At BrewDog we don't keg Trashy Blonde (very often) because the recipe as it stands doesn't translate all that well to keg. There are a few breweries out their who should adopt that same policy. If it doesn't work, make something else that does.

I really hope that more breweries begin to experiment with kegging and taking on the Americans in the craft beer market because with the exception of BrewDog, Marble, Gadds, Lovibonds, The Kernel, DarkStar, Moor, Meantime and a handful of others, the UK brewing industry isn't really all that exciting.

What I don't wish for is for brewers lazily filling kegs with beer that was never designed to go on keg and trying to cynically jump on the bandwagon. What kegged beer can do is create a bridge for the lager drinkers to access craft beer, and they won't cross that bridge if the kegged craft beer they get is poorly thought out and lazily produced.


  1. Well that explains why we don't see Trashy Blonde on in the Brewdog Bar.

  2. Something I did think about last night is that Lovibonds do actually produce great kegged beer which is below 4% abv.... In fact they make 3 of them. So it can be done, you just a very good recipe and a talented brewer