There is much talked these days about the "new wave" of craft brewing and brewers and how keg beer isn't like the bad old days when CAMRA was formed in response to its pervasiveness. This new wave of beers we are assured hasn't got the old faults of the keg of yore, where cheap and nasty ingredients were thrown together and pasteurised to within in inch of their existence and zombie like, brought back to life with copious amounts of CO2 and served cold to disguise their sheer nastiness. "Oh no" we are advised, "it's all different now", with carefully brewed, unpasteurised beer, lovingly dispensed without the previous faults. Well I have news Folks. Not exactly so.
When the keg of the sixties and 70's was served, it was undoubtedly vile, but rarely ice cold. Refrigerated dispense has come a long way since then though and now, it seems that there is little being done to serve these beers other than very cold indeed. CO2 dispense for ale also came very discredited along the way, being replaced by mixed gases and sold as smoothflow.The new wave though is proudly dispensed it seems by CO2. Lots of C02 if my recent experiences have been anything to go by.
On Friday in Glasgow in pissing rain I trekked to the Blackfriars. After a pint of (well kept but indifferent) cask I thought I'd try Brew Dog 5 am Saint. Here's what I tweeted "5 am Saint freezing cold and hugely gassy but the hops are there under a massive carbonic bite". My previous experience of Kipling in the Euston Tap was similar. People argue that CAMRA should move on, but you know, the same old problems exist in a new format. Too cold and too gassy. It is instructive to this writer at least, that the siren calls for more keg come mostly from young bottled beer drinkers who grab chilled exotics from their fridge and from some brewers that push them not as an alternative, but a replacement for the same cask product for reasons best known to themselves. ( I can speculate but that's for another post.) Now that's fine and dandy if you want your beer chilled to around 4C and gassed to three atmospheres, but don't promote it as a fantastic new development. They are there for the same old reasons as brewery conditioned beer (keg) has always been. Longevity and ease of "handling".
Don't get me wrong. Choice is good and I for one am happy to see "decent" British keg beer on a bar as an extension of choice and if it gets young people into pubs. Call it entry level beer for bottled beer drinkers if you like. If people enjoy them and it suits certain (mostly young) drinkers better, well and good and good luck to those that produce them, but please don't try and tell me for example, that keg Jaipur is better than cask . I'll stick to cask wherever possible and promote that. At its best, with all its subtleties and faults, it's just a better way to drink beer.
And one other thing I will continue to bang on about and highlight, is bad beer, bad serving practice, bad service and poor cellarmanship. These more than anything are the enemy of good beer and pubs, not a few fizzy kegs on the bar.
The little quote at the top of this posting is from Brew Dog whose cask beer is actually rather better than their keg.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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