This is a short attack on this post: Should CAMRA embrace craft beer on keg?
I got angry about the word “natural” and wrote this earlier today: What is this “natural” you speak of? A long-winded rant about “natural” when used in the cask-v-keg debate.
But there is more in the “Editor’s comment” I feel compelled to comment on.
[Cask] “is a natural drink that tastes full flavoured as the brewer intended.”
Oh, c’mon. You’re saying that brewers putting beer into anything other than cask are creating beer in some way _not_ as the brewer intended? That they’re somehow compromising perhaps?
Brewers I know putting beer into keg do it for exactly the OPPOSITE reason. To better ensure the beer reaches the consumer with the form/flavour the brewer intends the beer to be drunk in. Without some dodgy cellar work making their beer flat, stale, warm, etc.
“gas is added on dispense to create artificial carbonation.”
a) Fundamental misunderstanding of keg! CO2 is used to *maintain* carbonation, not add to it. The purpose isn’t to add “fizz” to the beer but to maintain the carbonation at the level the brewer intends it to be at.
b) Total ignorance of the currently very common “KeyKeg” – which contains container and/or brewery conditioned beer that CANNOT be carbonated by the CO2 used to push it out of container. At the keg bar I was helping out on at IMBC last weekend nearly all the kegs were of this sort.
Yes, CO2 used to provide top-pressure to push beer out of keg can carbonate that beer above the level it came at. But this would imply that the pub is using too much pressure or an inappropriate gas mix. This is not using keg as intended. (There is a case where an _under_ carbonated keg can be carbed up using the CO2 pressure though. Correcting an error at the brewing end. If only it was possible to do this with casks sometimes!)
In general the Editor’s comment isn’t that bad… there’s a failure to understand “keg” and it is propaganda-tastic in using the word “natural“.
It does show progress is being made! There is no mention of filtration or pasteurisation at least – the word “dead” does not come up. All in all the comment is clearly well-ahead of some CAMRA-folk standpoints and well ahead of where we were at only a couple of years ago. Hurrah!
OK, that’s enough frustrated angry blogging from me today… I’ve gotta go and try selling more keg beer ;) [I do sell a significant amount more cask than keg and love good beers regardless of the container the brewer may have chosen to use.]
This is a comment on both these articles, rounded hopefully into one easy to read piece.
I think the problem comes from the past being so different from the present. In the past, the only things that came in kegs were pretty bad beer. Bland, lifeless and mucked about with, whereas cask was seen as good traditional beer.
But you have to look at that a bit more. Bland? Yes, this was the age of mass-produced fizz. Lagers and bitters were weaker than we’re now used to, it wasn’t until the 90’s when Kronenberg, Stella, Grolsch and Budvar started being seen on tap that the drinking public started veering towards stronger lagers. Cheap day trips to the continent to stock up on a boot full of even cheaper beer introduced people to lagers that were stronger than they were used to. For many years drinks like Carling Black label (4.1%) were the standard lagers on the bar, and were weaker. The big breweries had the market sewn up, and knew they could get away with cutting costs in brewing, and still be able to sell their products.
Lifeless? Definitely, it was all filtered and kegged. You could order it into your cellar when a special offer was on and know it’d still be fine when you got around to selling it, perhaps months later. It wasn’t the brewers that were making these decisions, it was the parent companies, the big business board rooms.
Whereas the competition back when Camra formed was something completely different. It was small breweries putting out the beers they wanted to, in the way that they wanted them, and this was almost exclusively cask or bottles. The equipment to keg beer was out of the financial reach of most of the small breweries even if they wanted to keg their beers, and if they did and could, the idea of a guest keg line was unthinkable until quite recently.
But the present is different, now brewers are able to make the decision themselves about how they want their beer to reach the drinker. Whether that be in bottle, can, cask or all the varieties on keg. These are just a method of transport, with associated methods of dispense. If a beer goes out in a bottle, will the drinker neck it from the neck, or decant it into tulip glasses to share? If it is sold in cans, will it be drunk as soon as it leaves the fridge, or will it sit in a bag with other picnic goodies and drunk warm in the sun? Will the cask be conditioned properly and looked after well by cellar staff? Will it be served from a throw-over tap, or pushed through a swan-neck and sparkler? And will the keg be sat around, hooked up to the CO2 for a few weeks allowing the gas to permeate into the beer and affect its flavour?
All of these methods of distribution and dispense are available to the modern day brewer, and the brewer makes the decision about which best suits their beers. There’s no surprise that getting a cask, bottle and keg version of the same beer shows you differences, because the way the beer is looked after does affect it. Brewers know this, and they make their decisions based on this.
The whole idea of “Keg Bad, Cask Good” is not only outdated, but was based on the limitations of the time. Thankfully Camra is changing, at a grass-roots level a lot of members are seen to be enjoying the beers that brewers are experimenting with, and sending out in kegs. But as with any large organisation, it takes time to change direction.
As for me, I’ll happily drink beer that’s brewed well, kept well and served well. I don’t care about the method of dispense, as long as the beer is good.