Keg Power!

Back in April, we had a National Cask Ales Week. Apparently. A concerted marketing effort by Cask Marque via (in the main) pubco estates to increase the sales of regionally-brewed beer. So, England expects and all that twaddle - I did what I needed to do. I went out to drink the finest keg beers I could find.

As you may have guessed, I felt ambivalent about National Cask Ales Week. It didn't involve all cask pubs as it was driven by Cask Marque; not all pubs think cold cask beer is the way to go. The marketing gets lost in its own hyperbole (if, as they say, 65% of adults haven't tried cask ale, how can it be our 'national drink'?). And as for the Saturday's world record attempt for the largest number of people giving a toast.... ".. participants don’t have to raise a glass of cask beer but can use any drink, although cask is preferable". WTF?

So I wasn't particularly surprised to see a headline saying lager was a valid part of the week's proceedings. Budvar was being offered at the The Crooked Chimney in Lemsford as a way of 'encouraging lager drinkers to give something more like a real ale a try'. Still with me? It's gets even more mind-bending: up then pops Roger Protz to say, "Not many people realise that Budvar is actually the only craft lager approved by the Campaign For Real Ale", adding that Budvar is "the only lager that's not CAMRA shy!".

I'd noticed that quote cropping up in some more stories.... then realised all the pubs in question were in the Vintage Inn group and part of Protz's quote is featured on their website.

So, let's not worry too much about all those English cask lagers, eh? Or even consider that fine Derbyshire keg lager, Moravka. But anyway - if Rog says its OK to drink keg this week, I'll go with the (smooth)flow. On Wednesday night, then, I took an amble upriver from where I work into Derby to see what non-cask delights I could find.

First stop; the Brunswick Inn. Fourteeen cask beers, half from their on-site brewery, two of them (White Feather and Triple Hop) being two of my favourite beers. But, I had a mission so I was on the Budvar. And you know what? It looked good - even the tap looked good. Clear and sparkly. Tasted refreshing. There I was, in a suit and tie, drinking lager. With out-of-towner cask-ale-drinkers almost looking down their nose at me whilst exclaiming "... they brew *this* one at the end of the corridor, you know. It's lovely and malty!". How the other half drink, dear topers...

Next door to the Alex next where there's always a few continental keg offerings. Indeed, today there was a new addition and a Reluctant Scoop for me, Duvel Groen. Which was OK-ish; dry and spicy, slight creeping sweetness. But every mouthful reminded me of just how great 'full-fat' Duvel is on draft. And at 2.40 GBP a half, I wasn't rushing back to buy another.

Ever onward upriver to the Smithfield. Now, my knowledge of keg beer here is akin to a pair of bridesmaid's knickers - scanty. And so was the selection; Carling, Guinness, Strongbow.... with a fail whale making its way up the Derwent, I had to Reluctantly drink cask. Didn't want to. Vile, living, yeast-ridden stuff. So, with a heavy heart I suffered a pint of Whim Hartington IPA. Every mouthful tasted like the last leper from hell was shitting into my mouth. Obviously.

(for the benefit of my humour-challenged readers who send me incomprehensible post comments, the above paragraph is an example of irony. Have you got your favourite crayon handy? Let's write it together - i-ron-y. Well done!)

Last stop, Royal Standard. Renowned for its generally overpriced continental keg offerings, I plumped for a glass of Schneider Weiss and took to the deserted roof terrace. With the sun slumping over the river and nascent leaves waving in the evening breeze, I sat and slurped the Schneider. And it was damn fine. Refreshing, sippable, mild spices and easy esters. I actually enjoyed it more than nearly all of the usual Derby Brewing cask fayre also on offer.

You know what? I really enjoyed that evening. Yet at the same time there was a tinge of sadness. Where's the quality keg beer brewed in the UK? Apart from Taddington's Moravka, where's the tasty UK keg lager? Where's the experimentation by major micros or regionals? Are they afraid of being accused of selling out? I know CAMRA will gripe about keg... but the queues at the foreign draft bars at the likes of Reading and GBBF tell their own (profitable) tale.

Ask if it's cask? Fair enough, but kegs don't always contain dregs...

1 comment:

  1. Great post - I'm completely with you on this. I love cask ale, but not at the expense of any other beer style or storage/serving method, and some of the wrong-headedness that surrounds cask infuriates and boggles the mind in equal measure.

    As for quality British keg - you make a good point. Moravka is excellent (not tried the unfiltered yet, though). Some of the Meantime keg beers are.. pretty good. Aren't Brewdog giving Keg a try for some of their beers. Fuller's London Porter on Keg is mediocre, but better than a lot of keg out there.

    I tried Duvel Green at The Rake a while back and enjoyed it. It was a sunny afternoon, and it seemed to suit the environment perfectly. Full-fat is a bit of a one-drinker for me, but admittedly excellent.