Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Cost of Craft Keg


This isn't a rant about the cost of that lovely stuff, but a little anecdote about comparative costs.

 Now it is rare, for me at least, to see the same beer on cask and keg in the same pub. Thus it was on my return home to Manchester after a very good trip, that I nipped into the Euston Tap for a last London pint. Now I like the ET for many reasons and I'll mention them elsewhere. I ordered a Summer Wine Oregon on cask. I love their beers. It was superb and was presented in spot on condition and at the correct temperature, despite I am sure, me being the first to try it that day. It was a very reasonable £3.50 a pint for a 5.5% beer. It was so good that I immediately wished I had ordered a pint of it. Perusing the beer list as I waited for my train, I noticed what appeared to be the same beer on keg. Same name, same strength. Price? £5 a pint.

So there you have it. The cost of having your beer in keg is an extra £1.50 a pint in this very fairly priced establishment. Possibly not typical, as others aren't so decent in their pricing, but maybe the margin of difference remains?

I didn't try it. Why would I bother paying a premium for such a beer, when I already had a perfect beer for less? I ordered another swift half and went off for my train.

Now I am sure that someone will tell me Summer Wine Oregon isn't really cask conditioned etc. etc.  I don't care. It was superb and not freezing and gassy.

74 comments:

Cooking Lager said...

Pity really ‘cos I do like a good rant about prices. As for the price differential. If you take away the subjective arguments of campaigners for either dispense preference you have at play an interesting economic experiment. The same beer brand, what we are lead to believe is the same beer, but a difference in carbonisation & temperature for a price premium. Forget about arguments regarding dispense, the difference to the paying punter is temperature & fizz and the question asked, is that worth more? We know the answer with mainstream keg super chilled lager & stout brands. Customers prefer them colder but do not accept a price premium. I wonder what the price differential for craft keg will be 2 years from now?

Pastey said...

Usually when Port Street get the same beer on cask and keg they seem to sell it at the same price, or as close to it as they can.

That sort of price difference though?! No, I think I'd stick with the cask there.

Mike said...

It's partly down to the cost of the non re-useable container ie Key-Keg which aren't cheap

py0 said...

If the problem is the expensive container, its a situation wide open for someone with a bit of technical nouse to invent a cheaper method and make a killing. That price difference is ultimately unsustainable, there must be some method of providing the same product cheaper, surely?

The other theory is that it is a demand driven price differential. The type of people who prefer keg to cask (in this particular niche) are also happy to pay extra for their pint. Its a clever form of either the brewery or the pub utilising 3rd degree price discrimination. In which case listen up idiots, stop handing over £5 a pint just because its keg, it makes it unaffordable for the rest of us.

StringersBeer said...

But Cookie, mainstream lager and stout brands aren't available in cask, so that tells us nothing. I don't suppose the folks at the E.T. are insane, so I'd guess that they've found that the keg beers sell at that premium price. For whatever reason, their customers must be willing to pay. It'd be bonkers not to charge it if you can get it.

The Beer Nut said...

What py0 said.

Why would I bother paying a premium for such a beer
To lend credibility to your opinions on cask v keg?

Tandleman said...

BN. In that case I'm lending credibility to cask at a discount of £1.50 a pint.

That's a good side of the argument for me.

Cooking Lager said...

@Stringer It does, it tells us whether it is worth 20p more for a colder pint of lager. I gather customers want a colder pint of fosters but are not prepared to pay 20p more and expect the choice to be price neutral.

As for the costs of disposable kegs, that can be resolved. I'm sure someone has invented the reusable keg. I'm sure both have merit and utility but there is little reason to use a disposable keg in a supply chain that can cope with a reusable one if that is a lower cost option.

Outside the world of beery campaigners and beer movement activists are set of people that like a drink. Some of them like this craft stuff and think it better than the mainstream. They are about to tell us at what price they are willing to drink it at. By all means do you best to convince people it is worth paying more. By all means try and convince people one dispense is better than another. It’s part of the game.

Phil said...

In which case listen up idiots, stop handing over £5 a pint just because its keg, it makes it unaffordable for the rest of us.

For shame, py0 - those 'idiots' are rational consumers just like you and me. Once you realise that, the answer's straightforward: SWB Oregon on keg is worth £5 a pint. It must be worth £5, or people wouldn't be paying that price - and they must be paying £5 for it, or the pub wouldn't be selling it at that price. God's in his heaven, the market's efficient and all's well with the world.

TBN - I don't know about Tand, but if I had to choose between "a beer which will make my opinions more credible" and "a beer I'm sure I'll enjoy" I hope I'd go for the second one. My own experience of craft keg is a kind of one-person Lou & Andy sketch:

- I'll have that one.
The craft keg? Wouldn't you rather have a real ale?
- Want that one.
Are you sure? Because the last time you had a craft keg you really didn't like it, and you said next time you'd definitely stick with cask beer.
- Want that one.
All right, if you're absolutely sure.
[two minutes later]
- Don't like it.

I do keep trying them, from time to time, and I do find it interesting to compare cask and keg versions of the same thing - but not at £5 a pint.

Cooking Lager said...

"the market's efficient" ?

It's a point of view. I hadn't thought of looking at this from the perspective of the efficient market hypothesis VS behavioural economics. As someone with a bias for the latter over the former I’m not sure I am objective enough in my own reasoning when thinking this market is far from efficient and seeking value “investments” down at the Tesco bargain bin.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure The Rake Bar was recently selling a kegged Otley beer at £6.60 and its cask equiv at £3.60!!

Jim

The Beer Nut said...

Phil, if one holds forthright opinions on the respective merits of various dispense methods, then trying the same beer on different dispense is more than "interesting": it's essential.

Yvan Seth said...

Sounds like the Euston Tap made a mistake putting these two on at once while you were in town ;)

There are probably enough "true believers" in London for this to work out. Probably also enough people who don't pay close attention to price anyway. Maybe people prefer it that way (presumably chilled & with a higher CO2 content) and are happy to pay the price for it? (Like reassuringly expensive Stella...) At any rate, even if the keg version sells slower as a result of price it'll last longer whilst still tasting great.

Personally I don't mind paying more for good beer... but to have the same beer on but pay >40% more for one of them just because of container/dispense does seem ludicrous. That said, I'd probably order a half of each anyway, just to see which I preferred.

Tandleman said...

Anonymous. Argh! Really?

BN: If I had had time, I might have done that comparison. Or asked for a taste. Mind you I was gloriously happy with what I had, so maybe not. I'm not a masochist.

The Beer Nut said...

You have my sympathies on finding beery perfection, knowing that nothing else will ever taste as good. A life sentence, truly.

StringersBeer said...

@cookie, a few degrees colder is a quantitative difference, while (so we're told) cask v. keg is a qualitative one. I'd call extra-cold a dumb marketing gimmick - It doesn't command the premium, it probably doesn't increase sales, and it's likely to cost (the retailer) a fair bit more. It's "choice" for choices sake. And it makes my teeth hurt. Whatever, it's not a good parallel. Bottom line - people won't pay it on mainstream brands (you say), but do (it appears) on niche products - just tells us that we've got a different bunch of consumers. I think we knew that already. So not a dumb marketing gimmick, but arguably still a gimmick - or if it works, perhaps a genuine innovation?

Tandleman said...

BN: Perfection is momentary and fleeting. Given that I had ten minutes, I think it was just a moment in time. I was back on the hunt the moment I left the ET.

Draught Beer Online said...

We have the Ecofass reusable keg - works the same way as a KeyKeg but just the inner bag is disposable. Good for expanding local market for small breweries and of course there's no keg washing which is a bonus!

py0 said...

There's a large whiff of the Veblen good about craft keg currently. How long that will last I don't know. I can only hope that when demand for £5 pints (2013 money) does eventually fall away, the brewers will be in a position where their costs are such that they can respond to the market shift with more equitable pricing strategies rather than going bust/giving up on craft keg altogether.

Cooking Lager said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cooking Lager said...

@Stringer I cannot say whether it is gimmick or innovation but I will try to clarify my view point, my point was that people will not pay a premium for colder mainstream brands (the price difference has largely disappeared) and what is now being tested is whether customers will pay a premium for colder, fizzier craft brands. The existence of a premium is not an indication that you can command one unless the vendor tells us it is selling or that premium remains until some point in the future. I think it is being tested in the market and the market will tell us the answer by either retaining the price premium or dropping it. I think the choice of craft & keg will remain even if the price differential doesn’t.

As to whether you have a different set of customers in craft to mainstream. Maybe among enthusiasts but heh, I’m capable of a pint of carling with one group and a pint of cask beer with another, a glass of wine with another. Not sure people really do sit in the boxes some like to put them in.

Velky Al said...

Perhaps I am missing the point here, but if the cause of craft keg is because of the expensive single use kegs then why are breweries using them instead of standard reusable kegs similar to those used by the industry in the US?

Velky Al said...

oops...'cause of craft keg being pricier is because...'

py0 said...

Cookie - I think with the current pricing strategy craft keg will only ever be a niche market, and that may not even last. There is only so much new stuff you can do before even the beer geeks get bored of paying over the odds.

The question is, which current craft breweries will conquer the mainstream, and if so, how much of a premium will they be able to maintain over your standard cask ales/German lagers etc. 50p at very most is my guess, probably less than that.

Cooking Lager said...

If we are agreed on one thing, pyo, it is that time will answer our questions. As for whether craft beer is a Veblen good, I have had similar thoughts. Certainly for some of its strongest advocates there appears the whiff of status regarding considering oneself more discerning than the throng. My problem is how that status is communicated. Most Veblen goods need a way of telling others, through a brand symbol. Whether it be a merc symbol on a car or Lacoste symbol on a shirt. My problem is that in most beer geek bars I’ve been in, they are very weak on branded glassware. How is the drinker informing others they are discerning and not price conscious without a clear symbol of it? I have a bit of a question mark over the Veblen good issue.

Tandleman said...

Who or what is Veblen and why is it or them good?

Tandleman said...

Ah. I have read up on it. A snobs charter.

StringersBeer said...

@cookie, it's indisputable that some people are paying the "craft keg" premium. But I take your point. How much of this premium is down to scarcity value (and will likely evapourate as more producers come into the market), or if it can be sustained when the sector goes mainstream... well I dunno. As a small producer, I don't see it neccessary to put 40% on top for keg (30% looks like more than enough), but you have to charge what you can get.

I'm still wary of your comparison with "mainstream" keg and such. I'd argue that these may be what those economists call "inferior goods" which consumers turn away from as their incomes rise. To "real ale", of course - also wine. What they don't do is pay more for the same thing, colder.

Cooking Lager said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good

you mentioned the s word, not me ;)

Cooking Lager said...

@stringer

Yeh some, as for rising incomes. I gather from the finance pages that real incomes are falling across much of Europe, UK included.

Someone once described to me something he said was the shoes effect. Not sure if that is the legitimate name but he told me at times of recession people pay more for shoes wanting a decent pair that lasts. In prosperity they are happy to buy cheap fashion crap that doesn't.

Could it be that for some drinking less and drinking something they see as a premium better product is occuring? That the stats for falling drink consumption are related to the rise of craft consumption? Dunno whether you can prove that anymore than relating it to prosperity levels but it is interesting.

py0 said...

"I'd argue that these may be what those economists call "inferior goods" which consumers turn away from as their incomes rise. To "real ale", of course - also wine. What they don't do is pay more for the same thing, colder."


Yes, there's this, there's also the idea that people get when they hit their mid-20s, that they should drink something more "sophisticated" than the generic lager they enjoyed in their student days. Kind of like a drinking makeover. Doesn't happen to everyone of course.

...and as you say, generally this currently leads to real ale, or wine, or whisky etc.

But there are (in my experience) a section who never really quite gel with either of those. They still prefer beer to wine and spirits, but find real ale a bit warm. They end up drifting around the "premium" continental lagers, never really entirely satisfied.

HERE is a perfect market for a more mainstream craft keg producer. Completely different from the beer geek demographic, and probably not willing to pay such a premium. But a market nonetheless.

Tandleman said...

Is it a coincidence that where you have thd warmest cask beer - London that is - you have the biggest growth in keg craft? And for that matter where they have the most money to pay the top dollar prices.

py0 said...

I'm not a fan of pubs sticking to a set GP margin like glue. From the comments on twitter, assuming 60%GP, Euston Tap are charging you £3 for the cost of them pouring you a pint of keg and £2.10 for the cost of them pouring you a pint of cask.

Is it really that much harder to use a keg font that it requires getting an extra 90p off the customer?

If instead they charged a flat service cost per pint the keg would be a far more sensible £4.10 per pint. Still expensive but no worse than a lager in the majority of London pubs.

Still as we said, if enough people are willing to pay £5...

Yvan Seth said...

"you mentioned the s word, not me ;)"

I have a badge that says "Beer Snob"... it came from... BrewDog! Colin, the squid, wears it.

There is obviously a snobbish market for beer out there - BrewDog tap into it & encourage it. Better than "pathetic mainstream lager", better than "bland cask ales" granddad drinks... no idea what the growth potential is, but BrewDog bars popping up all over the shop like some sort of craft fungus seem to indicate they're pretty damn confident in it. (But... are all, or even most, BrewDog bar regulars beer snobs?)

Cooking Lager said...

@Yvan I want one of them badges ;), where are they on sale?

py0 said...

Yvan - Brewdog are successful because they recognise that the particular market they're trying to tap into isn't the same hipster beer geek market that a lot of the other craft beer producers rely on.

Hence the reason a pint in their bars costs £3.95 and not £4.95. Its actually quite nice to go to a brewdog bar and not have to pay £4.30 for a San Miguel. Not only is the beer better, its cheaper.

I'm just waiting to see who the next big craft producer to follow them is. Bigger brewery, better returns to scale, lower costs allow them to charge slightly lower prices, larger potential markets open up = larger profits.

Rob said...

The price difference is interesting. The craft centric article that sparked this off last time pointed to a difference of 80p a pint if GP was added at the same rate. In percentage terms I think the wholesale cost difference between keg and cask was 20%, but in this example it is more like a 40% difference. What gives? Different producers being able to do it cheaper, or the wholesale cost not reflecting actual costs at the brewery?

Tandleman said...

py0

The cheapest pint in Shoreditch was £3.95 for One Trick Pony. After that £4.50 and on ad astra.

Curmudgeon said...

"But there are (in my experience) a section who never really quite gel with either of those. They still prefer beer to wine and spirits, but find real ale a bit warm. They end up drifting around the "premium" continental lagers, never really entirely satisfied.

"HERE is a perfect market for a more mainstream craft keg producer. Completely different from the beer geek demographic, and probably not willing to pay such a premium. But a market nonetheless."


I think you're spot-on there. It's the people currently drinking Peroni, San Miguel, Budvar, Staropramen, Krombacher, even a bit of Hoegaarden.

For a lot of people, although they might have the odd pint, real ale basically is just too flat and too warm.

Once the market settles down, I'd say "premium keg" will command the same premium over real ales of the same strength that the top end of premium lagers do now.



StringersBeer said...

"The craft centric article that sparked this off last time"

Cooking Lager said...

That was an interesting link stringer. Nice one.

If we accept that a price discrepancy is not going to disappear because it cannot, then it is up to the customer to decide whether the keg version is worth it. But to do that they have to try it.

Therefore the most interesting part of this post is that even a self-confessed beer enthusiast, and an open minded one at that and not an anti-keg jihadist by a long shot saw the price difference and thought “nah”. Didn’t even try it. Who if an actual beer enthusiast declines to pay up, will? Or who does? The discerning? The mugs? Each answer carries with it a pejorative perspective on someone.

py0 said...

In Notts Brewdog (the only one I've been in), you can normally get a pint of Punk and one other beer (Zeitgeist perhaps) for under £4.

Compared to some of the other bars in Hockley/Lace Market that its competing against, thats actually excellent value.

Coxy said...

I wonder on monday the price will be the same on monday for this event in Thr Craft?

This coming Monday we’re playing host to a very special cask vs keg tasting event with the fantastic The Evening Brews and four superb guest judges from the beery world.

It’s going to be a beery showdown between four versions of the same beer by Thornbridge, Darkstar, Siren and Magic Rock and you’re the judge.

Tyson said...

Interesting. I must admit that two things struck me when I saw it on Sunday.

(1) It was a great opportunity to once more put the cask and keg up against one another. This validated my belief that the cask version is superior and that I would pay a premium for it, rather than the other way round.

(2) You could, of course, look at it that the cask is simply too cheap. I wouldn’t, but we have had that argument put before. What has to be said is that the ET is cheap for cask-those are Manchester prices. Indeed, some places here charge more than that. So one should perhaps factor that into the equation of differences?

And it can’t all be about Veblen or any common factor amongst British keg as the prices varied incomprehensibly. Buxton Jaw-Gate was stronger at 5.6% but was only £4 a pint. On the other hand, Kernel Mosaic was 5.1% and £6 a pint. As an aside, I noticed that all the foreign keg was reasonably and structurally priced.

Oh, and although the Oregon was great, the cask winner was Arbor Yakima. Not only a great pint, but a great bargain at £4 for 7%.

py0 said...

In a competitive market the only way something can theoretically be "too cheap" is if it is being sold below cost. That argument is stupid. Craft keg is too expensive, both subjectively (ie I would prefer it were a similar price to cask then I could afford more of it) and objectively ( the current price differential is unstustainable)

StringersBeer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StringersBeer said...

@py0 No, "too cheap" is not less than cost, but rather, less than profit maximising. That's capitalism innit. Anyhoo, can't argue with yr personal choice not to pay, but saying the differential is unsustainable is objectively pure futurology - You can't possibly know that. Chris Mair did a good job of explaining why these price differentials exist - if the market won't stand it then the sector will shrivel up and die. That won't happen just because it's bemoaned on the Interwebs. There's some genuinely great beer being sold cold, fizzy and (some say) pricey out there. And if that's what it costs to make, and make a living, that's how it's going to be priced.

py0 said...

It doesn't cost that much to make a living though; by their own admission the Euston Tap take home 90p more in operating profit from selling a pint of keg beer to selling a pint of cask beer.

At the moment, keykegs are extremely expensive and add extra cost. But it won't be long before someone finds a way round this, even if it means gearing up and investing in a big kegging facility.

As supply of craft keg increases, so will competition, and as that happens, prices will only go one way. Its not futurology, its basic microeconomics.

py0 said...

For profit maximising price not to be the same as average cost, you're assuming a monopolistic competition market structure, but that requires you successfully and continuously differentiate yourself from your competitors - which is itself a costly enterprise.

It might be worth it: the extra 20p contribution you get per pint may outweigh your extra marketing and development costs needed to sustain it, on the other hand it may not.

geordiemanc said...

The Knott, Manchester has Magic Rock High Wire in both forms at the weekend. If I recall correctly the prices were £3.30 & £4.50 or thereabouts.

The manager gave us a sample of each for a quick taste test. They were clearly the same beer - one had more flavour than the other, one was warmer than the other, one was more rounded, less sharp than the other.

With both the price differential and the inferior taste, it's no surprise that the cask will have sold out within a day. The keg will probably still be there this weekend.

Phil said...

Is it a coincidence that where you have the warmest cask beer - London that is - you have the biggest growth in keg craft?

Not to mention the flattest. And beer in the south-east generally has a tendency to be brown, un-hoppy, not particularly malty and generally rather dull. (Inland, at least - things do perk up when you approach the coast, be it Southwold or Lewes.) And Scotland has many fine qualities, but exciting cask ale hasn't historically been one of them.

Could it be that craft keg only took hold because people outside the North-West weren't getting enough of the good stuff?

Tandleman said...

geordiemanc Sorry. Which had the inferior taste?

Stono said...

yikes, talkative subject. IME the ET is reasonably priced for cask, so Im always wary using it for London price comparisons as its nearer the mean Im used to paying in the SE, whereas most places in London add a your drinking in London tax of at least 50p extra,+ another 50p if your in some craft bars ;)

the thing is if you were the atypical casketeer looking for a drink youd probably have gone to the Bree Louise instead, the cask choice is wider and its as near the station. So are the prices more about who the ET are competing with than a price difference in keg and cask so much, I mean I always note Im the only one drinking cask in there, everyone else is on bottles or keg. and I say that also bearing in mind theres a Fullers pub not that far away down the Euston Road where I think I paid £4.50 for a Bengal Lancer once as well.(shrugs shoulders) thats London for you !!(/shrugs)

Tandleman said...

Stono. You are, I fear, missing the point. It isnt about London prices ss such. And why anyone would prefer the Bree Louise for cask is beyond me.

StringersBeer said...

@py0 Yes I'm assuming non-perfect competition. Product differentiation is what it's all about. That's entirely what makes this possible.

Brother Logic said...

The price discrepency, to me, is secondary but any craft brewery releasing both a keg and a cask version of the same beer is doing it wrong - i.e. if the keg version is supposed to be superior, why are they releasing an inferior (cask) version too. And vice versa. Once again - you have to demonstrate craft to play the craft card.

py0 said...

Ok, but my point was/is that monopolistic competition is notoriously difficult to sustain in the long run. As long as you are making supernormal profits, there will always be someone willing to come along and just slightly undercut you. Its one thing being able to charge £5 for a pint of 5.5% keg IPA made with new world hops now when the only competition is a sweetcorn flavoured lager and a warm pint of brown bitter, but in a few years time when 100s of breweries are pumping out near identical beer, you might find it a bit tougher persuading the punters that your pint is still worth £1.50 more than that near identical Punk-alike beer on the next font.

Presumably you can simply move on to flogging Saisons or Smoked Porters or Oak Aged Imperial Stouts to make the difference stick, but that will only last for so long.

Birkonian said...

Stringers has explained in numerous posts on this thread why many people are wary of 'craft beer'. He states that he charges the 'what the market will stand' or 'the most he can' rather than setting a price based on cost of production plus a readonable profit margin. He may call it capitalism, I call it fleecing the gullible/unwary. I'll happily pay a premium for a superior product, but most craft keg beers are just a bit fizzier and colder, not better. I'm also now that bit less inclined to buy a pint of Stringer's cask beers during my summer visits to Cumbria.

py0 said...

Ah come on we'd all do the same. You'd be stupid not to maximise your profits.

Its up to consumers to demand lower prices and other competitors to cater to our demands and bring down the costs.

realalemike said...

why would you buy a keg version of a perfectly served cask version-someone please answer the simple question "which beers are better in keg form than their cask version?". It appears to be about gimmickry and trendiness with the associated hike in price that goes with such trendiness. If I drink beer abroad I'll enjoy it and accept that it's keg as that's how it's served there-in this country cask is the best method of dispense-if you try a beer in keg form and like it imagine how much better a cask version would be.

BrewLabBlox said...

@realalemike Why is a cask version always better? In my opinion there are plenty of beers that are far superior served from a cask however there are just as many that I believe suit being served from a keg. Imperial IPA's generally as a style suit the slightly higher carbonation and cooler temperature.

What many people on this thread have not discussed is the fact that many of these breweries who are releasing KeyKegs cannot afford to sink the money in to re-usable stainless steel kegs (a huge investment), a keg filler and the infrastructure to distribute and then return them.

I agree with @Brother Logic that if these breweries believe that their beer is better in keg they shouldn't be releasing casks. However you can also argue that in order to sell enough beer they have to sell casks and for that I blame CAMRA. I know a lot of microbrewers who would prefer to serve their beer keg-conditioned in a KeyKeg or similar device. (I'd like to remind everyone that there is no direct gas-beer interaction with KeyKegs and that they protect against oxidation unlike a cask) However they are unable to do so as they would not be able to get their beer into CAMRA beer festivals.

Ultimately the price difference between keg and cask is unsustainable and as the successful breweries grow they will be able to drop their prices.

Tandleman said...

Brewlabblox

" However you can also argue that in order to sell enough beer they have to sell casks and for that I blame CAMRA."

You blame CAMRA for forcing breweries to sell enough beer? Odd. It strikes me that if you can't afford the technology, you shouldn't be in the game. If you aren't in that game, you sell as good cask beer as you can.

We all wish we could do things beyond our means, but to blame CAMRA for that inability is illogical.

I do agree though that cask isn't the best thing for some beers, but my reasons are probably a lot different to yours.

Curmudgeon said...

why would you buy a keg version of a perfectly served cask version?

As has been said before, a lot of people prefer beer that is cooler and fizzier than standard real ale. You may disagree, especially if the real ale is in perfect condition, but that demand is undoubtedly there.

The Beer Nut said...

"which beers are better in keg form than their cask version?"
Clotworthy Dobbin is the one that always springs to mind for me. It has a subtle Cascade finish that just gets buried when served from the cask. Galway Hooker is another: lots of lovely Saaz and Cascade on keg; just sweet and worty on cask.

if you try a beer in keg form and like it imagine how much better a cask version would be.
Or... if you have the opportunity to try a beer on keg and cask, taste them both and put some empiricism behind your imaginings.

BrewLabBlox said...

Tandleman

I dont blame CAMRA for forcing people to sell enough beer. I blame CAMRA for rejecting a perfectly legitimate dispensing method which they allow for breweries outside teh UK but not within.

The thing is to fill KeyKegs you don't need a whole heap of technology but why buy them in bulk (which would save money and drive down costs) when they are viewed with such suspision which is mainly driven by CAMRA.

Believe it or not our reasoning behind casks not being always being the best thing for beer probably isn't that different.

py0 said...

"What many people on this thread have not discussed is the fact that many of these breweries who are releasing KeyKegs cannot afford to sink the money in to re-usable stainless steel kegs (a huge investment), a keg filler and the infrastructure to distribute and then return them."

Thats an interesting point, and one which backs up my assertion that a 1000 strong microbrewery market structure might be appropriate for cask beer, its not sustainable for craft keg.

The breweries that do take the plunge and invest in proper kegging kit will be able to sell their beer 20% cheaper than a brewery relying on keykeg - and if the beer is otherwise similar in style and quality, 20% lower distribution costs is a massive competitive advantage.

I predict the market will settle down into the multiple cask ale and bottled beer breweries we have now, plus a mixture of 5-10 of the bigger craft keg breweries (Brewdog, Thornbridge, ?) who have invested in a kegging faciltity and got distribution rights to a variety of pubs and bars, and probably a load of pseudo-craft from MNCs jumping on the bandwagon that may or may not be any good but will definitely make Pete Brown flip his lid.

Tandleman said...

Keykegs aren't a panacea. I think Dave Bailey wrote about that in his blog. He knows more about them them me and they ain't trouble free.

I don't mind either way, but my point about gazing longingly in the window at things you can't afford stands.

Cooking Lager said...

It's running this one so I'll ask a question. I understand the beer geeks will buy both to compare and pay any amount to do so. That's your choice and I get what you get out of it. A completeness similar to a collector and belief you better understand beer. Understood.

I'm not that bothered about the difference and if I was waiting for a train I would have done what Tandy did and bought the cheaper one and I like chill & fizz.

If you don't like chill and fizz I guess you'd buy the cheaper one too.

Anyone that likes chill and fizz that would buy it at £1.50 a pint more, or would you say buggar it and buy the cheaper one?

I know producers can justify the cost but I want to know whether any drinker thinks it is worth the extra £1.50


py0 said...

Its like supermarket policy where they randomly put the prices up on a selection of goods and see if anyone notices. Most of the time, no-one does because we don't all walk around with a reference point in our head for how much a 300g bag of walnuts etc should cost.

I guess a lot of people order a pint in a large round and never even notice how extortionate it was, and if they do, its too late anyway.

I'd probably pay 50p extra for craft keg just for the novelty factor seeing as you don't get that kind of thing round these parts. Limited supply = higher prices.

Rob Derbyshire said...

I'll buy kegged beer if its from a brewery who know how to keg beer. Thornbridge and Brewdog seem to have it cracked Magic Rock, Kernel, Brodies and Dark Star get it right most of the time. But I have had some British kegged beer that is pretty lifeless. One in particular is Red Willow, I really enjoy their beer from cask and I've known Toby since before he started the brewery but his kegged beer is usually rather flat. I get the impression small breweries are racking to key-kegs the same as they would a cask and not fully understanding the difference in the pressure required. I'm not expert but I resent buying keg beer for more that isn't correctly conditioned over a superior cask.

I do think that keg works better for certain beers and in particular big IPAs. Keg are also good for places that either have too many beers on and don't turn them over or maybe a bit quiet in the week. To many times I've found a stronger beer on cask to be old and tired because it been sat on the bar for a week or two. Sadly this is the casual beer drinker is a bit fearful of a beer over 5%. I see this first hand in my local pub all the time. Lots of commuters and 28 draught beers, people rarely stray from a close match to their regular pint. The other day a bloke at the bar said:
"Is Lord Marples on?"
Barman: "No"
"What have you got that's like Lord Marples?"
"Buxton Moor Top?" (nothing like it)
"Go on I'll have a pint".

StringersBeer said...

@birkonian ! I did not say say I charge the 'what the market will stand' or 'the most [I] can'

I was merely remarking on the logic of those that do. And surprised at the surprise shown by some commentors.

I suggest you re-read above.

All our pricing is based on a cost plus model. Plus we refer to the prices offered by our near competitors. This generally means our beers are pretty much competitive with most of our neighbours.

Other brewers use other pricing strategies - even valuing their "talent" as some kinda ethical justification for what some would call gouging.

We don't do that. But that's up to them.

It's business, and when one has investors or shareholders it's a likely a requirement that you should maximise their return. Thats's the way it is. Don't like it? Don't pay it.

Our delicious, sensibly priced beers are available locally and (somewhat) nationally

Thank you.

Tandleman said...

Delicious and sensibly priced is a winning formula for me. In fact what more could one ask?

Tandleman said...

Delicious and sensibly priced is a winning formula for me. In fact what more could one ask?

steve thack said...

The keg mark up is interesting, from other blogs key keg costs about 20p a pint. Pub mark up on that round here results in 60p to a pound. That said my local would have probably had swb cask on at a premium in first place, their price structure it could be closer to 4 cask, 460 keg which seems fairer. Certainly if both available id try together. Though in a world where magic rock dark arts or hawkshead nzpa on cask cost under 4 im not paying over a fiver for anything on keg (ok anything that's under 7%)