Thursday, 21 June 2012

I really loved a KeyKeg beer - should I kill myself now?

Now then,

      I posted a few days ago about one of the best beers I've ever had, Magic Rock Bourbon cask Bearded Lady, on KeyKeg. Since that day, as well as dreaming about finding myself back there drinking it, I have been puzzling over my relationship with the weird expensive cold stuff. Why did I like a beer so much that was served by a method of dispense I don't rate, and crucially, would the beer have tasted as good in cask?

Before I answer that I should point out that me and cask go way back. I started drinking around 1991 and apart from parties, or occasional pubs with no cask when I defaulted to Guinness, I always drank real ale. Its brilliant. Gravity, hand pump, air pressure, electric font but from cask, I love it all. And this statement is still true, even after Saturdays eye opener.

However, over the last few years I've had a few beers on KeyKeg. I still haven't had chance to compare the cask version and the KK version side by side but in most cases I have had both versions at different times, which is a start, at least, in making a comparison.

Like Thornbridge Kipling and Jaipur  I didn't like the Kipling on KK because it lacked the depth of the cask and the hops were prominent, but in a way that just made the aftertaste bitter instead of lending citrus flavours to the whole taste. I didn't like Jaipur for similar reasons on KK (and it seemed to take away some of the sweeter balancing flavours, leaving it harsh).

Clearly, these are strong bitter pale beers, and they don't seem to be suited to KK. So these are examples of beers that would have tasted as good, indeed better, in cask.

I have also tried High Wire, Dark Arts, Rapture, Magic 8 Ball and Bearded Lady from Magic Rock on KK. I wasn't mad keen on the High Wire, but that was late in the evening at the Grove for the brewery launch night, the Dark Arts was alright on KK, but the Rapture was the unfiltered version and was brilliant, the Magic 8 Ball was fantastic and the Bearded Lady was unparallelled.

So, these are also stronger beers but mainly darker and the last three that I had have been really good. And heres the contentious bit : I actually don't think the Bearded Lady would have been as good on cask,
because it was too damned heavy and strong and wouldn't have retained sufficient condition in the time it took to drink it.

Yet the 8 Ball and Rapture would be, and in the case of Rapture are better on cask, and definitely so the Dark Arts....

So do I now have a proven formula which will guarantee the KeyKeg beer I'm buying is as good as the cask? No. All this demonstrates is that whilst the old style 1970's and 1980's keg beers were crap because the beer itself was crap, KeyKeg proves that really good beer can taste equally crap or excellent in that format.

I dunno, this KeyKeg stuff is as inconsitent as real ale.....

Wee Beefy


  1. Having had a few beers from Thornbridge, Brewdog & Magic Rock on both cask & keg I've concluded that it's much like real ale but cold & fizzy.

    I haven't gone for the Bearded Lady as I find the cost prohibitive and also I'm not generally a fan of that style of beer. (last Imperial Stout I had was St Petersburg on cask and it was better then the keykeg as it happens, but I'd still plump for a normal strength stout anyway).

    I will however happily order a half of Human Cannonball from time to time. That's much more my sort of thing & it's enjoyable enough to justify some of the cost.

    1. That's what's infuriating about KK, you can find versions of excellent cask beers and they are naff, and to be fair its rarely the other way round.

      I think brewers have decided that all beer works on KeyKeg but it plainly doesn't. Given the extra costs to the consumer they should be using their knowledge of beer to figure out what is best suited to KK.

      Camden went all keg because they were brewing more lagers, so that makes sense. But if Spire put their Deepdale Pale in KK it wouldn't improve the beer. At least if its continental beer its being served by its natural method of dispense.

    2. I think brewer's have actually decided for themselves that certain beers do not work well on keg. I have yet to see a bitter on keykeg and to be fair I wouldn't be in any rush to drink a best bitter on keykeg either!

      The beers that "craft" breweries are kegging most right now tend to be stronger and/or hoppier beers.

    3. That's true, but I am still drawn to dark beers more on KK. If I was ever without cask in a pub years ago and they had a keg mild (the more ancient or obscure the better) I would always have that. The darker malt seems to stay true in C02 but hops can be more temermental.

  2. We would like to add to this discussion that worldwide more and more ales/beers in KeyKegs are winning awards. An English example are the recent awards for the Thornbridge brewery. All these award winning beers were dispensed out of in KeyKegs. The opinion of these juries count as well.

    Brewing Industry International Awards 2011 - JAIPUR Champion Keg Ale,
    SIBA March 2012 JAIPUR Supreme Champion Keg Beer Silver
    SIBA February 2012 CHIRON Gold - Champion Premium Bitters, Pale and Golden Ales
    SIBA February 2012 JAIPUR Gold - Champion Strong Bitters and IPA
    SIBA February 2012 VERSA Silver Champion Speciality Beer

    1. Interesting, one assumes the above competitions were open to all dispense methods? If so it's a sign of the times, certainly, and obviously quite a coup for Thornbridge.

      Perhaps as more KeyKeg beers attract praise someone could explain to me why they cost twice as much as cask, since, despite the perhaps mardy tone of my comment, I genuinely don't know why that is! Anyone?