Camden Town Brewery launched a nitro-keg stout late last year. Although cask-conditioned stout is a great thing, this is a clever move in commercial terms as well as striking a much more effective blow against the ubiquity of Guinness in London’s pubs than cask stout could ever realistically hope to achieve.
First, in commercial terms, like many of Camden’s beers, it sits only just over the conceptual line from the usual suspects. It looks pretty much like Guinness; it feels a bit like Guinness in the mouth; and, although considerably more flavourful than recent pints of Guinness we’ve had, isn’t “imperialised”, flavoured with chocolate/espresso/whisky/etc., or full of flowery US hops. Many people who normally drink Guinness (not beer geeks) will order this and go on to drink more than one pint, probably without grumbling. It’ll sell.
And, secondly, there’s why they deserve a medal: this beer might start to wean people off their automatic, go-to brands. It starts to send the message that there are stouts other than Guinness and that it is possible to stray from your usual brand without being struck down by lightning.
If we want to see choice in pubs, we just can’t have gigantic, monolithic brands stealing all the oxygen in a given space, as Guinness currently does, and Camden are doing something about it.
Fuller’s cask-conditioned Black Cab Stout is a marvellous development, too, but, we suspect, a step too far for many Guinness drinkers, lacking the familiar creamy head. And let’s not forget that Sam Smith’s nitro-keg stout has been around for years…