Thursday, 2 June 2011

Drink keg

Go on. You know we want you to.

Just last week, at a secret blogger coven, we worked out our ten year plan for keg domination.

Go on. Join the Red Revolution. While you still have the choice.


Mike said...

Whenever I hear about Watney's Red I think of two things: Monty Python's sketch about package tourists in Torremolonos and my local pub with the offensive red barrel tap heralding the end of decent beer in Wilson's managed houses.

The Beer Nut said...

Oh dear. Pattinson's broken ranks. Somebody pass the ice pick.

Ed said...

I tried it, but I didn't like it.

Craig said...

But CAMRA told me not to.

Wait a minute, I'm American...Another Coors Light, please.

Thomas Barnes said...

I only know of Watney's Red Barrel from Monty Python. Was the beer that bad?

MrAverage said...

Ya know, it's kinda funny...

Here in the States we "beer snobs" used to kill ourselves trying to find places that served good beer on draft (i.e. from a keg) because that was the best-tasting stuff - far superior to the bottled version.

Today, all of our top end "beer-o-phile" bars boast about and are judged by how many different beers they have on tap (i.e. from a keg) and we all rejoice about how much better keg beer is than the bottles and all of our best microbrews are distributed in kegs and it tastes great to us...and this is the stuff you Brits look down upon with such apparent loathing.

I guess we still have much to learn, but I'm afraid it's not going to happen very quickly. Only a very few places have anything in a cask, although it is catching on slowly. I was at a place not too long ago that had about 20 different draft (keg) beers and one cask pale ale. That's considered to be HEAVEN in these parts.

Is there a difference between your "keg" beer and ours? Or are we just uncouth, uncultured and uneducated?

Martyn Cornell said...

Thomas: yes. Although Watney's Star Light was worse.

Strangely appropriate Word Verification word: merdsmit.

The Professor said...

In the USA, I believe that one of the reasons keg beers were generally a better tasting product than their bottled or canned counterparts is the fact that generally speaking, keg beer was not subject to the pasteurization that the bottled or canned counterparts were given. The heat treatment may have stabilzed the beer somewhat for shelf life, but certainly had an impact on the flavor.

Andrew Elliott said...

Our local micro (now small regional) is Saint Arnold, and they've had a cask program for quite a number of years now. Currently they put the IPA in cask year-round at I-don't-know-how-many-accounts, and Christmas Ale is available in the holiday season. It used to be just four very special accounts got their Amber Ale on cask, back when I first found out about it.

I remember my first taste of that cask Amber Ale, and it totally blew me away. So complex and fantastic, I couldn't believe it, and made it a task to find all of the bars that served it (turned out to be just 4). Everyone I knew who enjoyed good beer, I told them about it and where to try it. Some enjoyed it, but about half of them complained that it was warm. I also learned which wench to ask for the cask, as some didn't pull quite right.

At any rate, Mr. Average, I would say you hit it about right "uncouth, uncultured, and uneducated," but making improvements. To get over it, people need more exposure to different things, and I think eventually we may see taprooms with fewer, better taps and less "overexposure."

I'm Bill Howell. said...

I had a pale ale on cask last night, dry hopped with East Kent Goldings no less, at a brewpub in Soldotna, Alaska.

Cask is making inroads in the US, but it's never going to be as big over here as in Britain. We just don't have the network of pubs designed and built to serve it.

And there are plenty of great "keg" beers out there, too.

Gary Gillman said...

There's a difference, yes. Britain's keg beer traditionally was pasteurized and tended to be low-hopped. So it was kind of like, British bottled beer as imported to the States, a beer in a big bottle.

That has started to change in the U.K. in that a number of craft breweries and brewpubs are selling unpasteurised, filtered keg beer similar to what we get in North America.

And that's all to the good, but none of it approaches the best English real ale.


Barm said...

"Red Revolution" or "craft beer revolution", there's not too much difference in their motivation or effect. Both make life easier for brewers and publicans, while the drinker gets beer that's not as good, makes him burp, and costs much more.

Daniel Warner said...

@gary, The only difference between a cask ale and an unfiltered keg is that the keg probably hasn't been primed and conditioned at cellar temps. If you do that (and many homebrewers do), it's just like a bottle conditioned beer--which fits CAMRAs narrow definition of "real ale."

It has a noticible effect on the beer if you do it at cellar temperatures and use one of those adamantly regional yeast strains, like Ringwood. TONS of diacetyl and acetaldehyde. But it's not the cask doing it, as it should be pitched and more or less neutral. It's the yeast that makes Real Ale Real Ale.

It won't catch on here because the craft beer preference in the US is for a completely stripped down and yeast-free product, no esters, definitely none of those awful "off flavors." We'll make our beer taste like fruit, or a bourbon barrel, or a pine tree, but yeast flavor in our beer? No fucking way (unless it's Belgian, then it's allowed).

Gary Gillman said...

Understood. But also I am referring to particular flavours associated with English real ale, notably based on malts and hops originating in that country. Those beers have a unique taste I have not encountered outside England. However, once in a blue moon you do. Recently in Pratt Street Ale House I had a superb best bitter, this is in Baltimore (in the former Wharf Rat). Oliver Breweries makes i, pure England in flavours.



Gary Gillman said...

Actually, just to give an example of a bottle-conditioned beer that can taste English but isn't, I opened a Chimay Blue recently. (I find the Red Capsule diminished in recent times with a strong, off-putting flavour I don't recall from the 80's but I still like the Blue).

I drank some of it, then put on one of those temporary closures to keep it a while, and put it on the shelf (warm).

In a couple of hours or so as I later saw, the pressure blew the temporary stopper off, but I only found this out the next day. I re-stoppered it and tasted it a day later. It was identical to many draft old ales I've had in England. Firmly bitter but malty, with a pleasant winy taste (i.e., some oxidation) but not that raw Belgian yeast taste that can be overwhelming because, i) the beer had clarified naturally over this short time, and ii) the wininess from the multiple ferments covered over I think, or "converted", that raw taste. Finally, it had a cask ale carbonation, accidentally really.

So I'm with you on bottle-conditioning, but still I feel that is a side-issue for CAMRA and these beers never will be huge anywhere due to the sediment issue and the usual fizziness that characterizes these beers.

I plan to get more Chimay BLue though and use it in the way I mentioned, make my own Anglo-Belgo old ale from it cask beer-style. Voila.


P.S. The more I think about it, the more I believe Chimay probably was designed based on an 1800's mild ale lines, i.e., not an IPA but an ale that could be drunk young or was allowed to mature through multiple ferments, in the bottle in this case. I believe what I drank from that bottle was probably what Alton Ale was like and incidentally Director's Bitter from Courage was originally made in Alton by a concern there. Director's, still made by Wells Young, was one of the best beers in England in its day, and I hope it is still as good. My Chimay Blue "cask style" reminded me of that Director's, but stronger. The circle comes round.. I think Alton may be the brewing counterpart to Bolton's fame as a centre of pub observation, given too its lore in 1800's writings on ale brewing excellence.

Daniel Warner said...

Right, as am I, but my point is that those uniquely "British" characteristics don't really come from a cask. Or terrior, really. Certainly, hop type plays an important role, but you can transplant a hop and grow it elsewhere; CAMRA winner Timothy Taylor uses Styrian Goldings, an Austrian planting of Fuggle (don't ask). The same applies to barley, though the malting process itself determines much of the malt flavor; American maltsters do not often make overmodified, pale ale malt, and American micros rarely import it (because they are, for the most part, cheapskates). Combine that with the total dominance of neutral, malt-suppressing strains like Chico (the sierra nevada strain), and you have a brewing culture that is wholly unsuitable to British style ale no matter how it's served.

Those are the aspects of brewing culture in England that make "real ale," not some asinine insistence upon casks and beer engines and banning serving on gas and rebreathers. CAMRA is focusing on entirely the wrong damn thing if they want to preserve a specific regional character.

Gary Gillman said...

I think it's all those things: English materials or primarily so, cask-conditioning; and the influence of some English yeasts. (Never been a fan of certain yeasts there e.g., the sulphury tendencies of some Burton yeasts, but I am speaking generally).

I believe Maris Otter pale malt and other high quality English malts as well as home-grown, classic hop varieties but also some newer ones, do contribute to the essential English palate. I don't say it can't be done here using their hops and malt, or highly modified malt made here, but for whatever reason, again you mentioned some, the tendencies go elsewhere.

The closest I've tasted here to the classic English taste was from Oliver Breweries in Baltimore as served at Pratt Street Ale House and also at Magnolia, the brew pub in San Francisco. But the general approach again in North America is quite different and APA, usually in keg form, seems the predominant craft ale style in North America with its very citrussy, piny and fizzy taste. It's great with a burger but not in the league of the classic pale ales in England IMO.

I've had the odd English beer over the years where I was almost certain the hop was European, and didn't like it. It seemed chalk and cheese to me. I like the Goldings taste, or the flowery taste so characteristic of classic English beers.

CAMRA exists I believe to promote the classic versions of English beer and should continue its mission.


Gary Gillman said...

Short addendum: I am not saying of course APA is only good with food, that is not what I meant. It's an example of where APA shines IMO, as it does when consumed (cold and fizzy again) in hot regions, or when having just one.

I do feel though that traditional English bitter, mild, old ale and now (i.e., since its revival) porter and stout, made from mostly English materials especially hops, are an unbeatable drink for the English pub.