Summer of Fob

50 PSI in KeyKeg

50 PSI in KeyKeg

Keg… in summer… in the UK… it is a fucking pain in the backside. Currently I am having a “summer of fob”. (“Fobbing” is what happens when a beer is too foamy to serve, “foam on beer”, there are several ways fobbing can occur – carb level, temp, flow rate…)

Keg is quickly becoming core to my distribution business. In fact I’m slowly moving to less and less cask volume and considering dropping cask entirely so I can focus more on keg and packaged beers. But there’s a problem with keg – I’m getting higher ullage rates, and an ullage is effectively eliminated sales volume, work done for nothing – and that hurts my small business. It strains relationships with pubs and breweries too. I’m sat here as the middle-man copping the flack from either side.

There are key problems that I believe the UK beer industry MUST solve:

  1. Breweries should not be releasing beers that will gain over 1 vol of CO2 outside of the brewery. Let alone 2 or 3 vols! Surely? Is that reasonable? I’ve handled kegs that are up at 6 vol CO2 (in steel thankfully) and had a KeyKeg at 4 vol CO2 recently. That is on the verge of a KeyKeg’s maximum PSI rating at room temperature. If that 6 vol CO2 beer was in KeyKeg it could very well explode at cellar temperature. If breweries do this it’ll only be a matter of time before a serious injury occurs. That could be in the brewery, could be in distribution, could be in the pub…
  2. Distribution should be keeping kegs cool. This is unpasteurised unfiltered beer folks, it _will_ continue to attenuate somewhat. If you leave your kegs lying around for a week at 20C in summer they’ll probably gain some CO2 and thus result in fobbing. Causing issues at the pub, causing bad vibes, ullaged kegs, and hassles for both distribution and the brewery. I have a 10C coldstore and I’m not happy with that, but many “craft” distributors don’t have a coldstore at all. Hell, too many _breweries_ in the UK don’t. My own goal is to have a 4C-max coldstore for keg and packaged beer products. Some think me a fool… perhaps I am. It certainly isn’t currently a competitive advantage in a market where pubs will do anything to save a fiver.
  3. Pubs need to learn more about keg beer. The BII ABCQ is pretty much a waste of time, someone interested in their job & beer quality will already know _more_. We need a UK-tailored equivalent to Cicerone. Not just that – but pubs need to _not_ buy 2+ months worth of keg stock at once and then leave it in their 12C cellar. See above point: it _will_ attenuate further, the CO2 will increase, you _will_ have more issues with fobby beer. Ideally I’d love to see pubs with keg cellars below 6C… I’m dreamin’ now… Not every beer will have it in it to go far enough to cause problems, but some will. Just do not buy and store kegs for this long unless you can keep them cold. That’s just plain good practice regardless.

I don’t think a pub ought to have to worry about knowing how to vent kegs to reduce CO2 levels – but whilst the above 3 problems remain unsolved the best alternative I can think of is that pubs need to learn how to do this. Yet the current status in the UK is that most don’t even know how to manage within-acceptable-bounds cases with pressure and flow control. The highest level of UK cellar training is the BII ABCQ and, frankly, it is barely even what I would consider sufficient as a  “new-joiner briefing” in a serious bar or pub. It’s crap, it’s designed for Wetherspoons and similar bar chains that have standardised products and support contracts.

I have _NEVER_ come across a keg I cannot get pouring. That 60 PSI steel keg I mentioned worked just fine after some venting, and the beer was actually pretty awesome. KeyKegs are even easier to vent.

Now… how do we fix this? <troll>Pasteurise all the keg beer?</troll>

</braindump>

(I have views on the lack of refrigeration in UK beer retail too… that’s one for another time though.)

What Keg?

Keg menagerie in my kitchen

Keg menagerie in my kitchen

OK – so… I’ve been asked about four times by different brewers about what I think of the various sorts of kegs UK breweries are using. Each time my thoughts are expanded and now I have nearly 2000 2500 words worth of blather about kegs. I don’t have time to clean it up much… but I’ve been left with an unexpected gap in a day so… here is is, in pretty raw “brain dump” form.

Here’s my thoughts on a few of the keg types I find amongst the menagerie in my coldstore. Note that my own views are from the handling end – I’m a distributor not a brewer. I’m used to dealing with all these from receipt from brewery through to dispense of beer – helping pubs get beer serving, and serving beer myself at events

With respect to costs I suggest brewing folk talk to other brewing folk as, like I said, I am not a brewer so any vague cost info below is 2nd hand!

[Or skip to bottom for a TL;DR]

Conditioning

First, an aside on conditioning. Some folk simply fill their kegs the same as they fill their casks with final conditioning occurring due to continued fermentation in the keg. This is often a source of pain… venting a cask is usual, venting a keg is something UK pubs no nowt about. So unless you’re accurate with your conditioning in the keg then you’re going to have problems with returned beer. I’m finding more breweries are shifting to getting final condition nailed in CT before filling to keg. Then again folk like Moor seem to keg condition consistently and reliably. YMMV… I’d say it is a subject you’re best off talking about with breweries who use different methods of keg filling/conditioning.

Conditioning in kegs also means you want (IMO) to instruct pubs to let their kegs settle for 48 hours before connecting. (A lot will ignore this unfortunately.) Whereas racking relatively-bright to keg causes less “London Murky” hassle. [KeyKeg is a bit of an exception as it draws beer from the top and not via a spear, so you’ll have brighter beer sooner.]

I know a few folk who rack brightish into keg and then force-carb in keg… but this looks like a right pain. Time consuming and thus unscalable. Get yourself a CT!

Brewery Steel Kegs

Summer Wine Brewery kegs and casksYour very own steel kegs… Easy to handle. Robust. Expensive up front. And as much of a pain to track down and repatriate as your own casks. But breweries are used to handing cask tracking so just the same really. You also obviously need specialist keg cleaning equipment. Although I know at least one brewery de-spears their kegs for cleaning… and so far doesn’t seem to have killed anyone.

Most breweries with their own kegs have them in 30l with Sankey connectors. But I’ve seen a handful about who use A-type connectors, and some 50l kegs – 50l size is great for house lagers, etc… beers that sell in volume.

Summer Wine Brewery are an example of a brewery with a good population of their own kegs. SWB use 50l kegs for the 4.1% Pacer too. Another example is Outstanding brewery in Bury who have 50l A-type kegs – and focus on “house lagers” & Guinness-alternative stout markets – i.e. good quality indy replacements to mainstream “macro” lagers and Guinness.

With respect to keg size think about the market you’re targeting. The “rotational craft beer” market seems to be mainly about 30l keg sizes.

From an environmental PoV I side mainly with reusable steel kegs when it comes to selling beer to the UK market. I don’t trust the effectiveness of the recycling chain to be a great fan of any of the plastic kegs on “eco” grounds (EcoKeg do take reuse/recycle very seriously mind you!). The UK just isn’t big enough for the weight/transport issues to be a major concern. (But by all means use 1-way kegs for export…)

eKegs

eKegs

eKegs

Close Brewery Rentals e-kegs – same as your own, but perhaps a better way to start out for some. I don’t know what the single-fill cost of an eKeg is but I am told it is “about half” that of what most are paying for KeyKegs. (Some breweries list eKeg vs KeyKeg pricing and charge less for beer in eKeg – some just average it out.)

The biggest drawback of eKeg is, I suspect, that you can _ONLY_ shift them to registered distributors such as myself. If you want to sell keg direct to customers you then have a problem. (I see plenty of abuse of the eKeg/Cask situation… which just drives up the cost for everyone so makes little sense. Don’t do it. [And I will report any significant seeming abuse, as per the spirit of my contract with Close Brewery Rentals. Albeit I gather a handful of breweries have some special arrangements with CBR on this front.])

Some breweries who use eKegs: Buxton, Five Points, Hardknott – worth noting that these three entirely, or almost entirely, shift their keg volume through distributors. Five Points & Hardknott also have a population of their own kegs for direct distribution.

I have never had any technical issues with steel kegs with respect to coupler connections, leakage, breakage, or handling. (I have had the odd over-conditioned one, but this isn’t the keg’s fault.) Fifty litre kegs are a hassle to handle, but not too bad, and no trouble compared to kils (which I currently handle an increasing number of).

[I would be happier if Close Brewery Rentals didn’t call them “Craft EKegs” however. Grrrrrr…] 

EcoKegs

EcoKeg - the 30l keg that is the size of a 50l keg.

EcoKeg – the 30l keg that is the size of a 50l keg.

Available in different coupler types, but best to use Sankey as that’s what everyone else uses. The EcoKeg is a 30l top-pressure keg that works effectively the same as steel kegs. The Sankey connector is sturdy and I’ve never had any trouble using them. Breweries can buy these pressurised and ready to be filed as per a normal keg. Alternatively you can buy them with the top loosely screwed on so you can unscrew and rack beer in exactly as you do for cask.

As an added bonus the robust outer on an EcoKeg is opaque to light – and the inner bladder uses an O2 scavenging plastic.

They’re also part-reusable… under the name ReKeg. The inner bladder with connector can be removed and replaced with a new one.

EcoKeg with "Bladder" removed.

EcoKeg with “Bladder” removed.

The kegs can be (and are) collected by EcoKeg to be “ReKegged” at their facility in South Wales. Or EcoKeg can tool up your brewery to do the “ReKegging” yourselves. This way you can just have the bladders shipped to you and reuse your kegs.

I’ve no real handle on the costs of EcoKeg – especially with the ReKegging in mind, and TCO if you’re doing your own ReKegging. Speak to a brewer about this, or EcoKeg themselves.

Manufacturer in Wales can re-use or re-cycle all parts except the rubber washer. (And they're working on that.)

Manufacturer in Wales can re-use or re-cycle all parts except the rubber washer. (And they’re working on that.)

The most well known user of EcoKeg I know is Moor – who also take advantage of how easy it is to condition in EcoKeg. Moor keg is consistent and reliable so in my mind prove both EcoKeg and keg conditioning can be a good thing.

As a distributor I’d be happy to see more EcoKeg about. I also collect EcoKeg empties which can be palletised for collection by EcoKeg. (No cost to me except storage space.)

EcoKegs have the disadvantage of being the size of a 50l keg despite being only 30l. But a storage advantage that they stack – which is nice. But they’re not as space-efficient as KeyKegs.

KeyKegs

Slimline KeyKegs stack nicely.

Slimline KeyKegs stack nicely.

I have written about KeyKeg before. And Magic Rock have an informative post regarding KeyKeg dispense. (I tidied up that flowchart for them!;)

KeyKeg is possibly the most widely used “craft beer” keg packaging – and this is probably why it is possibly also the most discussed, and ranted about. The old cardboard-outer spherical KeyKegs attract a lot of dislike. They melt when wet, degrade rapidly with being moved about, and have a habit of dropping their balls. Unfortunately British weather tends to the damp side and sadly British cellar too… this doesn’t help.

Squashed Beavertown Keg

KeyKegs compact down nicely.

However for the most parts the complaints are about the handling and the outer part of the packaging and this has now been fixed. The new “slimline” KeyKeg is, in my opinion, quite awesome. Easy to handle. Seems to be robust. Stacks beautifully too. Takes up less space in my coldstore than EcoKegs, and even steel kegs in a way. (More vertical, more stackable.)

The next complaint most often heard is that you need a special coupler for them. But folk like myself and breweries who use them tend to stock these. I sell them to customers at near-cost, which is about £38 ex-VAT. Brewfitt stocks them at reasonable prices now too.

Old-Style "Cardboard KeyKegs"

Old-Style “Cardboard KeyKegs”

One note is that pubs using KeyKegs really need regulators with gauges on as the usual 1st-stop to solving fobbing problems with them is to turn up the pressure. (Max rating on a KK is 51psi, mostly they work find at about 20 at cellar temperature, but I tend to run them at 30psi by default.)

Breweries who chose to use KeyKeg include much of the cream of the UK “craft beer” crop: the likes of Beavertown, Magic Rock, Thornbridge…

Old-style cardboard KeyKegs are flimsy and their balls escape.

Old-style cardboard KeyKegs are flimsy and their balls escape.

And I believe they choose them on the basis of beer quality. With KeyKeg the brewery gets the beer exactly how they want it and then packages it in a format that makes it harder for someone else to bugger it up. No CO2 top-pressure means no probs with the pub messing with the carb, or being cheap and using air top-pressure to dispense beer (it does happen). In fact KeyKeg makes dispensing with compressed air a perfectly reasonable thing to do. KeyKeg also reduces risk of contamination of the beer. I’ve seen CO2 lines in pubs that don’t look like they’ve been replaced for over a decade. I’ve seen some that seem have had beer backed up the lines even (and presumably never cleaned/replaced). Not to mention the sad state of coupler cleanliness I’ve spotted in places too. Line-cleaning via your coupler is great – but is not where coupler maintenance ends!

The new SlimLine KeyKegs are easy to break down to toss in the recycling too. Just how recycling-friendly they are I do not currently know however.

Dolium

Dolium: the keg that falls apart and leaks beer

Dolium: the keg that falls apart and leaks beer

I don’t like these. I’ve had more trouble with them than any other form of keg.

Technically they’re the same as a steel keg, or an EcoKeg… top-pressure with spear. Folk can and do condition in them.

My problem with them is they’re not robust. I picked one up the other day and the whole top handle part fell off, and then it started leaking.

Another one that arrived recently was leaking from the connector.

Leaky Dolium

Leaky Dolium

I’ve had endless problems with the coupler seating on Sankey type ones – finding no way to get the coupler connected without having a leaky seal and thus losing (a little) beer over time and making a mess.

From another PoV I know brewers who will not use them simply because they do not trust putting their beer into anything they can see through. No matter how brown it is.

The brown plastic is another matter – apparently the recycling chain pretty much isn’t interested in this stuff and its recycle value is low to zero.

One plus of Dolium: they stack. They use about as much storage space as KeyKeg but aren’t quite as stable/sturdy when stacked.

Apparently they are cheap. They definitely seem it.

PETainers

Just don’t. Really. NO!

Only reason I’ve had less trouble with them than Doliums is that nobody uses them any more. Last time I used a PETainer the spear actually fell out internally and I had to prop the keg up upside-down in order to dispense beer from it. Every PETainer I have used (about 4) has given me trouble of some sort. Their Sankey connectors seem to be even worse than Dolium.

A note on Sankey

Brewers: Put a fucking cap on it...

Brewers: Put a fucking cap on it…

For what it is worth I actually really dislike Sankey connectors. And doubly dislike breweries who ship Sankey type kegs without caps on the connectors! (Too many do this! They’re cheap… BUY. SOME. FFS.) I’ve had some that don’t even seem to have been post-fill sanitised by the brewery. The sankey connector is a grime-trap and a pain to clean. By comparison sanitizing an A or G type coupler in the cellar is trivial and quick.

But Sankey seems to be the defacto “craft keg” standard… so on those grounds perhaps the best choice for your kegs if you’re not going the KeyKeg route.

A-Type keg connector, so much more sanitary!

A-Type keg connector, so much more sanitary!

A Sankey/S-type coupler

A Sankey/S-type coupler

There are other kegs out there…

Not often seen, I’ve had some foreign beers in various forms of 1-way keg I can’t recall the names of. There are also EcoFass kegs that are a bit like KeyKegs (beer-in-bag) and a new entrant to the UK market is Emmerald. I expect we shall see more takes on the 1-way & plastic keg over the coming years.

In conclusion, the TL;DR:

The answer is not so simple. I’m happy to work with steel kegs, KeyKegs, and EcoKegs… they each have different properties and advantages. It is up to the individual brewer/brewery to determine what works best for them from the options available. I like the sheer robustness and handling of steel kegs, I like that EcoKegs are light as well as robust and highly reusable, I like the technology of KeyKegs as well as their compact and stackable form-factor.

I do not accept PETainers from breweries, and I think I’m resolved now to no longer buy beer that is packaged in Dolium. After one broke, dropped on my foot, and then leaked everywhere the other day I’m doubly unhappy with the things. (I was wearing steel-cap shoes thankfully!)

Broken Dolium

Broken Dolium

Beer “sommelier”… pffffttttttt…

In which I spit all the dummies and throw all the toys out of all the prams…

A comment I made on this article here, just now, no idea if it will be published.

Makes the whole “beer sommelier” thing look a bit daft really.

I was aiming to go for the “sommelier” qualification, but TBH it smells a bit like poo after this bit of mis-counted “journalism”. I’ll rejig back to the US Cicerone path now I think. It seems to have better standards. Some actual values regarding the quality of beer.

Clear glass bottles.. in two cases… FFS… we discussed the evil of these when I did the Beer Academy ‘Advanced’ course. The whole Beer Academy “Sommelier” clearly worth little of any value in addition to this if this list is picked as a “best of Britain” with their brand attached to it. Automatic assumption is “so, they paid for these product placements”.

The publication of this article with the Beer Academy’s “Beer Sommelier” very thoroughly attached to it totally devalues the concept I would hope that they’re hoping to build. What does “beer sommelier” actually mean with this in front of us…???

Very little, very little at all. “Travesty” comes to mind.

It is grim. Very grim.

[UPDATE] See also: Ed Wray (in the comments below) has a response of sorts regarding Shep’s beer here: The Hops in Shepherd Neame Beers

The impact of duty/excise on the price of a pint

Captain’s log, additional… 

OK – yesterday I posted about gross profit, what it it means and how it compares between beers and pubs.

@YeastieBoys remarked that it is worth noting the impact of excise (duty) on the cost of beer. A definite factor, and one to be aware of – even if it is unlikely to change and thus a bit futile to worry about too much. But definitely worth having a good grump about from time to time…

In the UK at the moment the full rate of duty is £18.37 per-hectolitre-%… (a hectolitre is 100 litres, or 176 pints) i.e. on a hectolitre of 5% beer you’d pay £91.85 in duty. But only if you’re a “big brewer” – one that brews 60,000 hectolitres or more. A “small brewer” who brews no more than 5000 hectolitres pays half the duty rate. And there is a “progressive” rate between these two sizes. This is due to the progressive-beer-duty scheme which is intended to give start-up breweries a boost to counter the economies-of-scale unlocked by being bigger. (There is debate over whether or not this discount is right, too much, or too little…) I’ve illustrated the progressive beer duty scale previously.

At the end of the day duty is a part of the production cost of beer. Breweries pay it and factor it into their price. Then pubs calculate their GP on this price, typically as a %, then VAT is added also as a %. So duty gets amplified such that it can have a significant impact on final price.

Regardless of the price of a firkin of beer (ignoring economies of scale) the difference between half duty rate and full after amplification by a typical 65% GP* and 20% VAT is always 74p on the cost of you pint. (The reality is that large breweries economies of scale allow them to sell firkins at the same price as small breweries so this difference hits the brewery books but not the consumer.) And between a zero duty rate and the current full duty rate the difference in price is amplified such that the difference to the consumer can be seen as a whopping £1.48… £1.96 at no-duty versus £3.43 at full-duty. I.e. £1.48 of your 4% ABV pint from a big brewery is added purely as a result of duty.

So if duty was scrapped entirely we could probably enjoy more than a quid off the price of a pint. Wouldn’t that be nice!

 

It isn’t so simple of course – if the taxman had to lose the huge pile of £ made out of the duty and amplified VAT he’d have to tax us in other ways. Perhaps more equitible ways though? Do we really think the cost of alcohol to society is equal to the amount of £ raised by the level to which it is taxed? (I really don’t know – the beer industry would likely say ‘no’, but the schmucks at ‘alcohol concern’ probably think it needs even higher taxation!)

I expect I’d personally be in favour of scrapping or massively scaling-back beer duty and increasing VAT to 25%… but I’ve done no sums to support the total economic impact of such a change. This is just wild, and probably pointless, speculation at this point.

It is worth noting that across the EU beer duty varies… the UK is one of the highest.

There is very detailed comparative information in a PDF right here, this is from 2014 and is the pre-reduction rate of UK duty. Here’s a quick summary of how my £45-quid firkin would fare in a few different countries – all other things being equal. This is making all manner of assumptions… also I’m totally unsure of my translation of the German/etc hectolitre-degree-Plato duty to a roughly equivalent UK hectolitre-% rate. Think of it more as: were taxes from <country> applied within the UK context:

I’ve included both the pre-2015-budget “penny off a pint” rate and the current UK rate. At 4% it really is about a penny off a pint, which is then amplified to 3 pennies by VAT & GP. Woohooo…

So… there you go. Google tells me the average price of a pint in Germany is £2.12 so the above seems not too far off. Time to move to Germany!


* typical 65% GP – I say this as my observation here in Cambridgeshire. Across the country this varies. Rents and wages are higher in Cambridge than, say, Hull – so where I pay £3.50 for a pint of a given type of beer I know some folk up north are paying £3.00 or even less. All the numbers above scale with the change in GP. If you want to play here’s the spreadsheet.

Gross Profit – why £6 is a good price for a pint of Gamma Ray

Ich habe Pläne große Pläne” – Rammstein, Stein um Stein

No no, wrong take on “gross” – this is definitely not about making an obscene amount of profit… I’m writing about “gross profit” as in “GP” – a term often heard when industry folk are talking about beer prices. I have written about GP before, with a focus on the role of the distributor in pricing – in this post I focus more on the pub and the beer. The motivation comes from recently having had £4.50 pints of Beavertown Gamma Ray being compared to £3.00 pints of £60-per-firkin bitter as if the Beavertown ought to be closer to the £3.00. As it stands £4.50 for a pint of Gamma Ray is near unheard of as that is pretty heavily discounted for promotional purposes.

GP is the “gross profit” made on goods sold. That is the margin made by the business in ex-VAT terms. If I sell pints of beer for a bargain £3.20 per pint I have a revenue of£2.67 per pint once the 20% VAT is scraped off. If that pint comes from a cask that costs me £60 (about normal for a local “boring brown bitter”) then each pint is costing me 86p (assuming a 70 pint yield per cask). So my gross profit on a pint is about £1.81… typically GP is expressed as percentage – this is the percentage the gross profit is of the revenue and in this case is 67.9%. This would be considered “pretty healthy” by most pubs.

When pubs talk GP they’re generally speaking of the average for the beer they sell. They’ll be targeting some specific figure that suits their overall business plan. This can be anything from as low as 40% in a countryside tied pub that probably survives only on profits from non-drinks sales to 70% in a city-slicker freehouse which might get away with being pretty much “wet-led” (most income is based on drinks). Two extremes of the pub spectrum.

All business situations are different – tie, location, rent, staff costs, etc. There’s a good breakdown of the costs of running various sorts of pubs available from the BBPA. There isn’t a one-size-fits all when it comes to GP. Yet customer expectations set a pretty narrow band for acceptable pricing of a pint, a trend now being a little broken out of by the “craft beer” scene. Still – a tied pub next door to a freehouse can hardly sell equivalent beer for a quid more per pint than the freehouse… so it typically makes a significantly lower GP on beer.

Let us look at a well known brown bitter as an example, a “20th century IPA” style of thing at about 3.6%. I’m talking about Greene King IPA of course. This is available on the open market at pretty low prices, I’ve heard of pricing as low as £55 from one reliable source. Meanwhile I know one Greene King landlord who pays £99. These prices are all ex-VAT, as is the way of these things. The problem is both pubs have to sell this beer for about the same price… in Cambridge let us say this is £3.20 in the freehouse and £3.40 in the Greene King place. The Greene King place isn’t going over the top on the price and there are plenty of drinkers in Cambridge who won’t be at all fussed by 20p if the pub is otherwise pretty good.

Pricing: Tied vs Untied

The freehouse GP here is a very healthy 70.5%… but the poor old Greene King pub is only at 50%. Keep in mind that these are pretty much extremes and there is a range between them, and then things differ again per beer and per pub.

The GP as a % versus “margin” in £ is important because punters generally only go out with so much £ in their pocket. Most people are living within a finite budget when it comes to luxuries like having a pint. The freehouse is making more per average customer. If the tied pub want to achieve similar profits it has to sell more volume (be larger, be in a better location) and/or shift other products – i.e. turn into a gastropub. Or maybe it can get by just fine as a wet-led pub simply making less profit… like I said before, every business situation is unique.

So that’s GP – and GP compared for tied and untied pubs. Now I get to the next core point of this blog-post: what does this mean for “craft beer” and why does my pint of Beavertown Gamma Ray cost me six bloody quid?!

Great tasty beer costs more. I won’t try to explain why – there are plenty of debates about how reasonably, or not, it is priced. All I’ll say is the brewers I know brewing what I think of as awesome craft beer are mostly working at capacity and expanding. Textbook supply-vs-demand means they can command a higher price for their product – within reason. Flavour is a factor, ingredients, and quality – but big factors are also fashion and brand… the best have all of these right. These folk haven’t founded a brewery with the aim of competing in the lowest-common-denominator end of the market. If this craft beer also happens to be in keg it’ll cost even more per pint, another debate to be had (and has been had) elsewhere.

In my opinion Beavertown stuff is reasonably priced, in the grand scheme of mid-5%s kegged craft beers. A pub will be typically paying anything between £85 and £100 for 30 litres of this lush 5.4% beer – depending on location, volume, and supply chain. For some calculations below we’ll pick £95 for a 1-off keg purchase in a very craft-keg-rotation-happy bar. This is to compare to the same bar buying any one of a dozen mid-3%s local bitters at £60 for a firkin.

We’ll say you get 52 pints out of a Gamma Ray keg, so a pint is costing £1.83 – more even than the pint of *tied* Greene King IPA (£1.42). But at £6 per pint the GP the pub is making on this beer is 63.5%. Most freehouse crafty places I know are aiming for the 65-70% GP range. They’ll cut a bit from target GP selling Gamma Ray at around £6 but balance this out by selling a “craft lager” at £4.50-£5.00 and higher GP (in the 70-75% range).

But, the punter says, a 70% GP pub selling a 3.6% 20th-century-IPA (brown bitter) is only making £1.88 from my pint – but this craft beer bar is making £3.18 from my 5.4% new-wave IPA… the profiteering SCUM! Fuck’em!

It doesn’t work like that. Going back to my point of punters with only so much £ in their pocket. Their limited beer cash might get them 4 pints of bitter or 3 two-third glasses of modern-IPA. Either way your business needs its target cut of their precious limited £… and in the above numbers a freehouse will make £7.24 out of the £12.80 worth of bitter and £6.36 out of the £12 worth of modern-IPA. (In the graphic below we’ve assumed the lowest brewery duty rate, but it isn’t really going to make a lot of difference which rate is involved.)

Pricing: Keg vs Cask

So, at £6 per-pint the pub has just given you a discount on some pretty lush IPA.

That’s GP for you. And why you really cannot think a £60 firkin of 3.6% brown bitter ought to sell for a very similar per-pint price as a £95 keg of 5.4% hoppy modern IPA.

Check my working… hopefully I’ve got all the above correct. Here’s the spreadsheet to go with this post.

Whether the keg of modern hoppy IPA ought to be £95 is a trickier debate… but that’s the price and your choice is to have that beer at that price, or some other beer at a lower price. My experience of “cheap” keg IPAs so far has not been excellent, but there is some good stuff on the market at prices down to around £85 I think. Below that it mostly starts to get a bit suspect.