Saturday 5 February 2011

Cask, Keg, Bottle or Can

The great and the good of the beer blogging world were posting on this subject yesterday. In the main they've waxed lyrical about the benefits of each of the four containers. Those that have expressed a preference chose kegs and cans, which any discerning drinker will recognise as being simply wrong.

But do not panic, I'm here to put you straight. Cask is where it's at.

Now don't get me wrong, as a piss artists as well as a beer nerd I accept that each container has its place. Like bottles for when I'm at home, keg for when there's nothing else on and cans for when I can't find anything else. Sometimes you just have to make do. But unlike my fence sitting fellow beer nerds I have no hesitation in stating my preference. And more importantly it's the right one.

The flavour of beer is determined by much more than its ingredients. If it has been filtered or pasteurised will affect the flavour, as will the serving temperature and level of carbonation. Which container the beer will be served from will have a direct effect on all of these things, so saying that the container is unimportant is undoubtedly wrong.

Some have argued that provided a beer is well made it doesn't matter how it is dispensed. This is mistaken. I mean, you wouldn't say you don't care how your food's cooked so long as it's made from good ingredients would you?

I don't like beer that's too cold or too fizzy. I don't think it does beer any favours to filter out some of the flavour or apply heat treatment to it. In my wide and varied drinking career I can honestly say that the best beers I've ever drunk have been on cask, and beers from other containers just can't match it.


  1. If this is what you genuinely believe then, as a brewer, why do you put your beers in bottles?

  2. As I've said bottles have their uses but is the beer as good as it is on cask? I'd say that of the beers we bottle some come close, some are definitely worse and none are better.

  3. I don't know about you Ed, but I find it hard to sell much cask beer to home drinkers. Very few houses have a decent cellar nowadays, and I can't think of many households that'll get through even a pin in a short enough time to enjoy it at the peak. Personally, I blame the rise in tea-drinking we've seen over the last few hundred years. That and cheap blown glass bottles. It'll be tinned ales next, you mark my words - pass me my chisel and I'll crack one open? 'Ridiculous' you say? I'll wager a guinea I'm right.

  4. The container makes a surprisingly large difference. I am a homebrewer and always package my beer using natural carbonation. I have packaged beer in Cornelius kegs, bottles, and pins.

    The bottle conditioned beer is always very different to the same beer in a Cornie keg or a cask. I have never put the same beer into a cask and a Cornie (at least not the same batch) but I am pretty confident that the result would be quite different.

    Cask beer, of these three, seems to clear more quicky, but I am not sure why.

    Anyway my preference is:
    1. Cask (using a cask breather)
    2. Cornie keg (at low pressure, about 3 psi)
    3. Bottles

    In fact I prefer cask beer so much that I have a garge full of unused Cornelius kegs.

  5. I may have to invest in a cask breather then. I have a couple of cornie kegs for home use, and the beer is better that from bottles, but cask with cask breather could be the way to go.

  6. Ed, I think the cask breather is an excellent device. The one complication with it is that it lets condition OUT of the cask. If you leave it permanently connected the beer will go absolutely flat. I overcome this by fitting a valve between the breather and the spile (a bit like putting the hard spile back in overnight).

    Oh...and I have been known to bypass the breather and put 5psi of top pressure onto the cask overnight to restore condition (although if I remember to close the stop valve every night I don't need to do that!). The purist in me doesn't like doing this but flat beer is pretty horrid.