Sunday, 7 August 2011

Keg debate?

You know me, I like my beer fresh. It's tastier that way. Luckily I own a brewery and have 24/7 access to as much of the stuff as I could drink in a lifetime. That's me sorted then, but what about you? I want you too to enjoy the daily experience of bright, gorgeous flavours. But you don't work here, so how do I get it to you without it turning old, oxidised and stale?

Well, if we keep live yeast in the beer it will keep it in good nick for a few weeks, so long as we exclude oxygen from every part of the process (saving, of course, at the very beginning of fermentation when the yeast uses the stuff the create sterols for growth). Oxygen, you see, is my arch enemy: it forms the precursors to staling and thus shortens the time I have available to get my lovely fresh ale to you, for you to enjoy.

Keep yeast in, keep oxygen out. That's about it. Oh, except keeping the light out. Well, certain wavelengths of light. But that's another story and not strictly relevant to this discussion. So, no oxygen, plenty of lovely yeast. That's pretty much all. And I can rely on packaging to provide these. Doesn't matter what packaging, so long as it does the business.

As it happens, for economic reasons, I use stainless steel casks. They can be cleaned and sterilised with ease, filled quickly, sealed up and rolled down the road to the pub, where the landlord recognises the format and knows how to get the beer out. Great.

There are other options available. There are kegs. These are no different to casks, within our terms of reference as explained above. They keep oxygen out and let me include yeast with my beer.

But, for some reason, they have the added, and unusual, ability to make people angry.

I don't understand.

Can anyone explain?

14 comments:

HardKnott Dave said...

Sorry, no. I've tried to explain many times, but seem to have failed.

StringersBeer said...

I suspect it's because some people use the term "keg" as shorthand, meaning cold (colder than say, 10C), highly (> 1.5vol) carbonated beverages. That being how beer (and cider) packaged in that way is typically dispensed.

But then, those same people use the term "real ale" when referring to tank conditioned beer which is merely transported to the outlet (and served from) casks.

But y'all know how I feel about it.

Ed said...

... and don't forget the filtration and pasteurisation.

Ozaru said...

Keeping oxygen out is fine, but what then replaces the beer that has been extracted from the keg? Bottled CO2/Nitro? Anyway, the proof is definitely in the drinking so make us a keg beer that tastes as good as your cask ales (e.g. for Easter? assuming you could persuade Thanet CAMRA to let it in) and you might convince some of the open-minded... although there's also the risk that you'd undermine the "cask good, keg bad" argument that's helping the real ale revival.

Gadds Beers Hop said...

Ozaru - we haven't mentioned dispense but, FYI, a cask can be used as a keg and a keg can be used as a cask. I can put the same beer in both and you couldn't tell the difference, because there wouldn't be one. They are stainless steel vessels, that's all. They are not responsible for the beer inside them.

*sigh*

Gadds Beers Hop said...

Ed - they are stainless steel vessels, they do not filter beer, nor do they pasteurise it. I can put pasteurised beer in a cask and unpasteurised beer in a keg.

*sigh*

StringersBeer said...

I suspect Ed was referring to some other negative(?) process features which are implied in the common usage of the word "keg".

I don't believe he was suggesting that simply putting beer in a particular form of container did bad things to the contents by magic.

This shorthand is less valuable nowadays than it was. But we're all prone to attachment to simplifications and very often cherish them past the point of genuine usefulness.

The whole process/product/package thing is quite confused - often deliberately. As in " 'cask good, keg bad' argument that's helping the real ale revival"

Brock said...

I like live beer, I like the way it sparkles and tingles a day or two after it's vented, and I like the fact it dies off relatively quickly. I like the fact that if I time it right and an ale is in perfect condition it's the finest, freshest way to experience flavour in the world.
I like local ale, I think ale should be a flavour of the locality. I want to drink Kentish beer in Kent, Sussex beer in Sussex and Belgian beer in Belgium. I like the idea of tasting 'foreign' beers (from say.. 70 miles or more away) at beer festivals or the odd bottle conditioned treat, otherwise I would like to see nothing but local ales in our pubs. I like to have my ale served by gravity directly from the cask rather than squirted through pipes so any head is natural and so that none of the life is knocked out of the body into a top-froth.

I know little of the technicalities but it seems to me that the release of pressure and introduction of a little oxygen when a cask is vented is what kicks the yeast into a final albeit short lived rallying effort that produces the absolute pinnacle of condition after a day or so?

I'm not sure how keg would help me, but as long as I can recreate those perfect Dogbolter and Number 3 moments where the ale is at its absolute nadir of potential... you can pack it in a plastic dinosaur if you want.

Brock said...

I think I meant 'zenith'. Damn your beer!

Gadds Beers Hop said...

How eloquent Brock, though you did come close to letting the side down at the end there.

Ozaru said...

Not knowing an awful lot about brewing, I'm confused now. If "kegs ... are no different to casks" and "a cask can be used as a keg and a keg can be used as a cask" then what *is* the essential difference in your view? Just that one's a cylinder with a central hole and the other tapered with the hole off-centre? Or that one has a spear and the other a spline? [That's as far as I got with Wikipedia.] If you say any difference is simply a superficial matter of form, and merely dependent on the method of use, then obviously you can use either for whatever purpose you like (and just about any other airtight / pressure-resistant container too), but in that case there's no argument so I don't follow what point you're trying to prove. Sorry, I must be missing something.

Gadds Beers Hop said...

Ozaru,

Indeed, there is no argument. But the 'cask good - keg bad' debate is raging through the letters page of What's Brewing. I merely make the point that you can't define the contents by the package.

Ozaru said...

I don't think the WB debate(?) is really about the package. As StringersBeer said, keg is shorthand for a type of beer that is often served via kegs: were keg beer served via casks, the WB ranters would still dislike it (and vice versa). Surely most people understand this, and do not define the content by the package? But there may be some unenlightened souls out there, so I look forward to trying some Seasider from a plastic dinosaur-shaped keg (or indeed, a KeyKeg: sounds interesting) at the next beerfest.

Gadds Beers Hop said...

Ozaru,

The WB debate is pointless, which is my point. Some of us are using 'kegs' for real ale, it's getting labelled 'craft' and all manner of misunderstanding pervades.

There's is more to follow....