tonight, or rather significantly earlier, I had the chance to do something I had never had the chance to do before. Now, those of you who know me may well be waiting for me to say "stop it" in a harsh yet condescending voice, but this is a real and quite serious concept. I tried a cask and a Keykeg version of a beer side by side.
Twas at the above venue that I finally "broke my duck" (stop it...) on the keg vs cask tasting event, and I was there in good time around half 6 for the privilege. In order to try and not be biased (hence the unscientific tone of the title) I tried a half of the Keykeg Thornbridge Kipling first, and then the cask.
The Keykeg was obviously different on the basis of its higher carbonation and on being colder. It was also served in a tall rather than half pint glass (making it a girl's drink of course), and was minutely lighter coloured than the cask.
I didn't actually mind the KK. It was hardly an affront to beer, but was noticeably similar to some of the bottled offerings I have tasted. Except, it wasn't as smooth, and given that recently I have been blown away by the drinkability of bottled Welbeck Abbey Portland Black that's not a compliment.
The flavour was very dry and with a lingering bitterness hindered by a fizz that made the sharper drier notes of the hops linger instead of dispersing into the overall taste. There was a hint of tart peach as well.
The cask version had a slight lemony flavour and a barely discernable lychee aroma, and was smoother and heavier, with a much more satisfying mouthfeel for a start. Having said that though there wasn't a huge difference, except that it lasted about a quarter of the time the fizzy cold version did.
Also of course, there is a price difference - the Kipling on cask was £3.20 a pint, and the Keykeg 60p more, and therefore nearly 20% more expensive, using rudimentary and likely not rigid mathematical fact. It seems Steel City Ale's Forum post about the beer being 4/3rds more expensive more or less pans out.
For the next round I had another half of the cask first (eschewing the delights of the bottle) and noticed little change in the flavour or aroma. Trying the Keykeg second this time the main difference was that it seemed thin, overly bitter with an unappetising paracetamol flavour, but had an enchanting aroma and hint of Elderflower.
So, overall, its difficult to say whether or not my preconceptions were at work, although I can confirm that I have not liked cask Kipling as much lately compared with last year's tastings, but in conclusion Keykeg seems to be a colder, less subtle, more carbonated version of a cask ale, served without the characteristic development that a beer would undergo whilst in cask. So not particularly good, unless of course there is no cask available......
Seeing as I was out, and research completed for the night, I reluctantly popped in the Closed Shop across the road. I say reluctantly, because the Landlord/Licensee was so rude last time I went in that I vowed never to return.
On entering I was greeted with an empty pub, a sign outside seeming to suggest that Tanglefoot was on, and only 4 of 6 pumps in use. I realise that four is still a good choice, but it was Landlord and Doom Bar on one end, and Castle Rock Harvest and Kelham Easy Rider. All except the Doom Bar, which I avoid deliberately, are barely even fallback beers.
I asked for a half of the Harvest and it was rancid. I accepted a taste of the Kelham and it was fluffy and tired. The Taylors was overly sweet but OK, and actually quite enjoyable. The lass behind the bar proved good company and it was a good opportunity to have a chat about pubs and music venues in Sheffield, and a change to see a friendly face in there. Yet, bar a chap running in and depositing a glass on the bar then running to the loo and back out (I assume he was drinking out the front, unless there's some kind of odd unwritten lav for receptacle bartering system in the area), I was the only punter for 20 minutes. Not looking good.
My last stop was in the above and I finally got to try the Magic Rock Clown Juice Wit IPA. It was on Keykeg, it was £5.80 a pint but only 7%, and was nowhere near as good as I had hoped. Creamy but Refreshing wheat? No. Dry but complimentary hops? Nope. Balance? Not much. It was basically a wheat beer with an ascorbic then cloying bitterness, that didn't develop through the drink. Humph.
Luckily I had the company of Steph and Emily to wile away my visit, and a truly splendid pint of Pollards Coffee milk stout to accompany it, so this was still an enjoyable riposte before I tackled the trek home.
Roll on Saturday at Nether Edge!