Saturday, September 06, 2014

I think I must be mellowing !!!

It is well known to readers of this blog that my favourite style of beer is not key keg. And before I continue let me confirm that nothing has happened to change my personal opinion. However, I am now prepared to admit that my (hopeful) feeling that it may be a one day wonder seems to be very wide of the mark.

We all know of pubs that will not entertain the stuff on their bar, and of others that are almost entirely all key keg now. It is not my intention to go into the whys and wherefores of this, it has been well covered before, but rather to try and understand why some drinkers - including some of my close friends - are gradually gravitating towards this style of beer.

A bit of historical perspective may help to understand. I was brought up in  the world of beer that was almost entirely fizzy keg. To find a brewery that was local, and still producing cask beer was the exception rather than the rule, and those pubs that served it were treated like the holy grail. So we drank cask. Some of us liked brewery A, others brewery B, and some philistines forsook beer entirely and started drinking that strange stuff allegedly called lager.

This was the situation for quite a few years until in the 1990's I did discover real ale and gave up using pubs that did not dispense it. 

One of the things about real ale was that it was almost always more tasty than the keg stuff. There was a problem in retrospect that this taste was not always necessarily good. There were good brewers and poor brewers, and a lot in between. But whatever type of beer; cask, keykeg, keg, or bottle, if it is brewed well it should be good, if it is bad then it will be poor. Not all keykeg will be superb as we tend to be led to believe.

Lets fast forward to the present day. It not hard to find cask beer, Nor key keg. I do not drink a lot of key keg beer as I have said, and the ones that I drink are always British breweries that produce beers that I could not get except on key keg.  I have noticed in the pubs that supply a quantity of key keg beers are becoming more cosmopolitan in their choice and it is possible to sample plenty of British micros, alongside breweries from Europe and the USA, to give a very rounded picture of the current world beer climate.And plenty of my beer drinking friends enjoy beers from abroad, often in preference to British beers,and it is good too see them have this choice locally. . 

What baffles me a bit is that a lot of the key kegdrinkers champion the style, and the variety, but in plenty of cases the same beers have been available in bottled form for a long time, but they singularly avoided them in that style. 

But as I said at the outset, I feel I may have been a little premature in dissing the keykeg. It looks to be here to stay, I just wish it was a little cheaper. But never fear I will be back championing the cask stuff, I can only do one style change in a lifetime, and I am a well known dinosaur !


Steveg said...

I largely agree with your evaluation of the "Key Keg" (hate that word) scene Timbo and would like to add my fourpenneth!
As a fellow dinosaur I remember one of the driving factors of introducing the dreaded Keg in the 60's was it's ease of dispense and cellar care to produce a uniform product. This reduced the need to provide the necessary training to Landlords and Bar Staff, with the added bonus that premium prices were introduced too! I for one hope that history will not be repeated and the Yankee-fication of our superb pub and ale scene will remain a niche market!


luke said...

I can see the benefit to the brewer of high grav beers or beers for export, and to the drinker of these beers - if they accept the tradeoff of fizz & chill. However, it competes with the throughput of real ale at the bar, whose enemy is time. I prefer the freshness and the potential upside of a pint of real ale in cracking knick. keg/key keg competes with this. It appears to have become a shibboleth for entry to the craft beer world, in attempts to distance it from the camra stereotypes - fair enough - pros & cons

DaveS said...

For me it's a style thing - as in, some beer styles have evolved to work best cold and fizzy and brewery conditioned, some have evolved to work best warmer and flatter and cask conditioned.

Serving a bitter or a mild or a traditional porter on keykeg would be like serving a good malt whisky on ice, but serving a pilsner or an American Pale Ale on cask would be like serving warm, flat champagne.

The important thing is not that all beer is better on cask, it's that cask beer, when it's good, is great in a rather unique and special way.