Thursday, 6 June 2013

Thin end of the wedge?

Interesting news today that Marston’s have launched a new 4.0% ABV Revisionist Craft Lager, which is to become the first in a new range of “craft keg” beers. The range is to be expanded to include a wheat beer and a saison, will be packaged in smaller 30 litre kegs to ensure freshness, and will be cold conditioned and micro-filtered, but not pasteurised.

For a while, some traditionalists have been painting “craft keg” as some kind of threat to cask beer. While I know it has made inroads in London, and in urban bars outside the capital, I have to say I just haven’t seen this in the regular round of pubs I visit. It hasn’t even made much of an impact in Stockport’s specialist beer pubs.

This move by Marston’s could be seen as an example of it “going mainstream”, but on the other hand it may be more of a case of them trying to get a slice of that particular pie. It’s significant that these beers are not direct equivalents to existing cask beers – they’re styles that you wouldn’t find on cask in the first place.

But it’s certainly true that there is a slow but steady move to see a more interesting range of beers available on keg in a growing number of pubs, with lager leading the way. And I get the impression that craft keg is seen as trendy in a way that something with a sheepdog on the pumpclip is never going to be.

It’s also still the case that a lot of pubs attempt to stock too many cask beers, resulting in inadequate turnover and tired, warm pints. Maybe it would be a good idea for them to replace some of their slower-selling lines with unusual craft kegs which will keep for longer even if the volume isn’t there.

13 comments:

  1. "Stockport’s specialist beer pubs" do such places exist? if so do tell.

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  2. Magnet, Crown, Railway (Portwood), Hope, and to a lesser extent Fairway, Olde Vic and Railway (A6).

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  3. It is a threat to cooking lager, as pubs cannot get away with £3.50 pints of what costs 50p in Tesco.

    CAMRA ought to embrace cooking lager and fight for its survival against this new wave of authentic lager with proper ingredients and lagering. If not we will surely lose Fosters.

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  4. Sam Smiths already do a wheat beer and three types of lager in their pubs. I see Fullers are introducing a "craft" lager as well. Whether it will be a success will be a matter of what it tastes like I should imagine.

    I have often wondered why breweries that owned pubs only supply the cask ales and not the keg beers - always seemed like a missed opportunity for a spot of vertical integration.

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  5. They used to to a much greater extent but reached the conclusion that lager drinkers preferred well-known national brands to own brands. Plus, in the past many own-brand lagers such as Robinson's Einhorn were shite even by Carling standards.

    Both Robinson's and Holt's still do own-brand dark and pale smooth ales, and Holt's have Crystal and Diamond lagers, although they sell branded lagers alongside them at a higher price.

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  6. "Magnet, Crown, Railway (Portwood), Hope, and to a lesser extent Fairway, Olde Vic and Railway (A6)" These are not "specialist beer pubs" they are real ale pubs, if you want "specialist beer pubs" you need to look further afield

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  7. "They used to to a much greater extent but reached the conclusion that lager drinkers preferred well-known national brands to own brands"

    I wonder if this is still the case - and if not, is it a sign of a wider consciousness shift, related in part to the localist, and anti-corporatist movement?

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  8. Real ale was a type of beer last time I looked. They are pubs where having a wide and changing beer range is a key part of their appeal, therefore they are specialist beer pubs. I think you'll find they also tend to have a wide range of unusual bottled beers both BCA and brewery-conditioned.

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  9. So a pub that does not sell Fosters & Carling etc is a "specialist" I think they call that bollocks.

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  10. @Anonymous, I know a pub in Bristol tat sells 10 real ales at any given time (and they shift them), three sorts of Czech Budvar on draught as well as Becks Vier, and a wide selection of bottled continental and American beers. No Fosters, no Carling and no craft keg as it happens. THAT is a specialist beer pub.

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  11. Thank god for the Becks Vier, Bill, or the place would be a cooking lager free zone.

    You can only hope it prospers and the gaffer puts on more cooking lagers and works his way up to Carling.

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  12. Cookie, I always though Becks Vier was a bit of a step up from your normal cooking lager but I bow to your expertise in such matters. If the guvnor were to put Carling on, he'd have to take out a real ale line and then he'd have a riot on his hands.

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