It is not very often that one gets the chance to sample, side by side, the same beer dispensed both on draught and from key keg at the same time in the same pub. Yesterday was one of those occasions, so in a totally non scientific experiment, I set about doing it; these are my non scientific results.
The beer I chose was Magic Rock 'High Wire', not difficult to choose since it was the only one available in both forms in the Grove. I have had it several times before on draught but never on key keg, and I must say the draught version was on form. It is a 5.5% American style IPA, bitter yet with a subtle malt base and crammed with tropical fruit flavours. The draught version did not disappoint, living up to everything I expected. But what of the key keg ?
The first thing I noticed was it was considerably colder that the draught, obviously from the method of dispense, and that seemed more carbonated, with a slight fizz on the tongue when I drank. To make sure that the test was as fair as possible I let it warm up as much as I could, but even then it was cooler. The problem with that seemed to be that it killed the taste to a certain degree. Whereas it was easy to taste the subtle notes in the beer in the draught version, the key keg version seemed to mask them, none of the hops came to the fore, and the background seemed almost non existent. Worryingly though, it did not drink like its strength, more like a 4% beer than a 5.5%. In short, it could have been anything, certainly not the classic I expected.
I am not averse to drinking key keg, and I understand there is a certain market for it, but on this small experiment (and it is one I hope to repeat with other beers to confirm, or negate my findings) I have to say that the draught version is a far superior beast, and slightly cheaper too.
This is not a criticism of Magic Rock, nor their brewing methods, but merely that it was their beer that allowed me the chance to contrast the styles, and I thank them and the Grove for the opportunity to do so.