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.....