Thursday, 3 January 2013

Clear, but not as mud.


              aside from my exotic purchase of a beer that didn't meet my expectations (as covered in my previous post) I have seen a couple of other bloggers mention strong beers and prices recently - but in contrasting ways. Whilst Steve at the Beer Meisters blog here recorded the prices of Dark Star Imperial Stout in the Hastings area, Timbo at A Swift One made a plea here for 2013 to be a year when prices were fairer, and expressed his frustration at the high price of Keykeg "craft" beer in, "craft beer" establishments. Whatever Craft beer is.... (only joking!)

Given that Steve has seen, albeit locally brewed 10.5% beer on sale on cask for less than £5.00 a pint in two pubs in Sussex, yer know, in the Saaaaarf, where everything is expensive, it seems odd to me that supping in the North I have somehow sleepwalked into a mindset where anything above the idiotic beer duty punishment threshold gets to be acceptably £7.00 a pint. Which throws up a few questions..

Firstly - am I going soft? Wibble. And when the hell did this happen? Could it be that endless sessions in Thornbridge pubs and the Sheffield Tap plus my visits to North Bar and Port Street Beer House and the like has led me to form a skewed picture of how much beer should cost? The Keykeg Arbor Ales beer at 12% was on at below a fiver a pint at the White Swan in Chesterfield as was the Keg Anchor Old Foghorn (what a coup by the way!) at Shakespeares in Sheffield. If the excuse for Keykeg costing more is that the container is single use then why is that not always the case?

Also, why are some brewers forging ahead with putting everything into Keykeg dispense? Where is the justification for supplying locally in Keykegs, and for putting much lower strength beer in them? One of the things about Keykeg as a dispense method is that its usually used for stronger beers, indeed, it pains me to concede that often they are suited better to that dispense (eeeurrgh, that feels icky). But is this a smokescreen? Because take off the alleged 80p difference per pint from cask, and it still ends up being 2 or 3 quid more!

Having taken a much needed breath and sought an oft missing "grip" I can now provide the start of an explanation, if not something as radical as a defence.

We don't know what pricing/purchasing arrangements the pubs in Hastings have with Dark Star. And we don't know for sciencertain that those quoted are correct (sorry Steve - assume every one is as lapse with the detail as I am!). Also, in the Shakespeares example, I don't know if the keg used was a trad or Keykeg - since its an American beer. I readily admit that I have come to associate all exotic none cask dispensed draught beer with Keykeg, and I'm not sure that's very helpful.

The final puzzle is, last year, I virtually popped a lung in apoplectic derision at Thornbridge Bracia selling for £9.60 a pint on cask at the Hallamshire House. Now, a year later, its the same price*, but its on Keykeg. I don't understand!

I know many beer bloggers have had this same disorientating sensation that their "pain barrier" of unacceptable expense has been withered away by a seamless procession of ever rarer, more exclusive and more preposterously expensive ingredient featuring beers from the darlings of UK and world brewing. So I don't expect any sympathy.

What I and all fellow sufferers could really do with is some inside knowledge. A brewer. Or a brewery owner. Or a bar owner. Someone who cares about beer, profit and customer experience (and there are thousands of you lets make that clear) who can honestly explain, counter or confirm any of the above points to me. I promise to share the results with erm, well, this blog. Too long for a tweet, one would hope.

Holding my breath now brewfolk...

Wee Beefy

*Mr Ash - I can't read your chalk board writing. Hence I couldn't work out if a half pint was £4.60 or £4.80. So if £9.60 is wrong, its your fault, basically....


  1. Arbor use ecokeg, a cheaper new single use keg which is basically a big PET bottle in a plastic container.

    1. Interesting, a cheaper alternative might catch on, I'd like to hear the ardent Keykeg fans take on the comparable merits of both.