Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Oak-aged keg

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the rise of “craft keg”. However, despite the assertions of BrewDog, realistically it is not going to mount any kind of head-on challenge to cask beer – it will be confined either to venues that don’t have the facilities or turnover to sell cask, or to specialist low-volume beers. You can drink BrewDog Zeitgeist on keg in the Magnet in Stockport, but it doesn’t exactly threaten the fourteen or so cask beers on sale there.

In the past, the vast majority of British keg ales have simply been inferior equivalents of beers also available on cask, or brews at the bottom end of the market that never even made it to cask. No beer enthusiast would really be inclined to bother with them. However, in an interesting development, Innis & Gunn have decided to launch their 6.6% ABV oak-aged beer in keg form, to be sold only in halves and one would expect at a hefty price.

I can’t say I’ve enjoyed this when I’ve tried it in bottle, but it does seem to have built up a following which justifies its launch on draught. The presence on bars of a distinctive, British-brewed ale with a “connoisseur” image that isn’t available in cask form is something entirely new – it will be interesting to see how it does. And, if it succeeds it will reinforce the perception of keg, not cask, as the high-quality, carefully presented product commanding a price premium.

13 comments:

  1. I thought Freedom brewery had some nice keg lagers and pilsners. They were interesting enough, but trying to persuade your average punter to pay twice as much instead of buying your average fizz will always be a real problem.

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  2. Key difference is that Innis & Gunn is an ale, not a lager, and I would imagine they're aiming to distribute it beyond the "usual suspects" beer enthusiast pubs.

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  3. Are you sure you've got this right? I read on the Director Magazine's website that "the company plans to launch its beer on draught and in keg".

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  4. Just another variation of Proper Real.

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  5. Nice post Mudgie - the voice of reason is evident in your first paragraph. And, like you, I've never been that enthusiastic about the I&G bottles. OK, but nothing that exciting.

    Lovibonds have beaten I&G to it in terms of barrel-aged beer in a keg. They've aged some of their Henley Dark in Jack Daniels barrels and called it Dark Reserve. It works very well with the additional carbonation - the beer was quite easy drinking for over 7%.

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  6. "And, if it succeeds it will reinforce the perception of keg, not cask, as the high-quality, carefully presented product commanding a price premium"

    Care to elaborate or explain this statement Mudgie? Not sure I see your logic here.

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  7. In a supermarket, this beer sits on the premium lager shelf, alongside Czech Pilsners, Weissbiers and Belgian ales and not with the premium British ales. Odd.

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  8. @Tandy: It's strong, it's sold at a premium price, it's intended to appeal to mature, discerning drinkers, it's only sold in halves, it has a distinctive branded glass, you're very unlikely to get a duff one. All the features of a premium product, and most of which do not apply to cask as such. I'm not saying it will succeed, I'm not saying it's something I would like, but its appeal and positioning on the bar will be very carefully worked out.

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  9. I actually bought a bottle of this in Tesco today to give it another try. It was 20% off, which helped (along with a lot of other beers and ciders, including the excellent Hawkshead Lakeland Gold).

    Still not very impressed - it's basically fairly sweet, but with a kind of musty, woody edge to it which would be entirely appropriate in a spirit but doesn't seem right in a beer.

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  10. This has something of the night about it.

    Frankly, I'm chilled.

    As will it be, no doubt.

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  11. The interesting thing with I&G is that it's THE beer non-beer drinkers (especially women) like when they try it. So it's useful for breaking down someone's prejudices against beer, and it can be used to move them on to other, better things. But I would agree that, for me, it's not that great - though this may be because I don't like, and never have done, very oaky tastes - I dislike oak-aged chardonnay, as well. So on the plus side, keg I&G could become a "gateway beer". On the minus side, it may push something better off the bar.

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  12. What it tastes like, now I think about it, is a beery version of an American Bourbon-style whiskey. It has pronounced oak, vanilla and toffee notes to its flavour. Although Scottish-brewed, it's not remotely like Scotch whisky as there's no peaty or smoky character.

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  13. There's another report about this here in the Morning Advertiser, with a picture of the font. I don't think there's any suggestion it will be available as a cask beer, but it is described as a "craft" beer. Interesting that it is going to be served in branded LINED half-pint glasses - another "premium" differentiator.

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