St Austell Experiment With Kegs

Admiral's Ale keg font.

We were interested to see this Tweet from St Austell, the most dominant of our local breweries: “Admirals and Smugglers craft keg ale on sale at St Austell visitor centre”.

For some, that phrase ‘craft keg ale’ will cause consternation but, terminology aside, this is an interesting development. Admiral’s and Smuggler’s are two of St Austell’s stronger bottled beers, the latter having been brewed in one form or another for at least fifty-six years as a strong special. They’re currently seen in shops more often than in pubs, which is a shame, because Admiral’s in particular is a favourite of ours.

If breweries start kegging their bottled beers and thus increase the variety of draught beer on offer to British drinkers, without reducing the number of cask ales, isn’t that something most people could live with?

The St Austell beer that would suit kegging best, though, is surely their Clouded Yellow wheat beer — one which calls for high levels of carbonation and low temperatures.

And if Proper Job turns up in kegs… well, then we might start to get worried.

Picture nicked from the St Austell Twitter feed and edited. Hope they don’t mind.

19 thoughts on “St Austell Experiment With Kegs”

  1. I think it’s a great idea as long (pretty much as you’ve said) as they choose beers carefully because keg would make them more appealing rather than just to appear “crafty”.

    Take Titanic as an example my most local larger scale brewery. I’m not a massive fan generally apart from the odd gem, I’m not putting them down as lots of people love them, I suppose it’s a familiarity thing you know. But there are a couple of beers that I think “I’d love to try that on keg, I’d drink that”.

    I could see this going either way

  2. Keg as well as bottle: hurrah!
    Keg instead of bottle: not sure.
    Keg instead of cask: boo!
    Keg as well as cask: not sure.

    Interesting times!

  3. I’m quite happy with that. As you say, if the terminology is too trite (craft keg etc) then it can leave a little of a sour taste, but I would agree that I’d make a beeline to try Proper Job and Clouded Yellow on Keg. Why not? (shrugs shoulders)

    1. If keg is so hard to make a profit from as we’ve been hearing lately, presumably that’s not a problem. (What were Watney’s and the rest were thinking of back in the 1970s, taking on such an expensive line of technology in preference to the cheapo cask option?)

  4. A very good thing in my opinion, if it makes decent draught beer more easily available in places where cask will never appear (restaurants, nightclubs, concert venues, etc.

    1. Thing is, in my experience keg beers are never as good as the same beer on cask, or for that matter as good as cask beers from the same brewery. Too often you can get a superb beer for £3 or a pleasant thirst-quencher for £5 – that’s surely not going to be s sustainable, while the cask alternative is available. Where the beer in question isn’t on cask (like this one) that’s not an issue, but if it were Proper Job I’d be worried.

      1. “in my experience keg beers are never as good as the same beer on cask”
        It’s not at all my experience, though it seems to be truer for English beers that are brewed primarily for cask with other versions as an afterthought.

        1. Too right TBN. If you simply change dispense rather than thinking how your beer will be affected (and change the recipe accordingly) then you’re unlikely to make something suitable to that dispense method. Most kegged bitter is bloody awful, and I’m pretty sure if you bunged most commercial lager in a cask it’d be awful too.

          Dispense method is not, and never will be, a guarantee of quality.

          1. Agreed (with Phil rather than myself, even if the reply button’s gone AWOL) but if you apply the same standards to most cask beer then it doesn’t come out any better. Bland, mass produced, barely looked after on site… etc. etc.

  5. I’m not convinced that in the general run of pubs the customer base who go for cask would be interested in “craft keg”, especially one produced by a family brewer rather than a micro.

  6. We’re pretty sure they’re doing this to test whether there is an additional market they’re failing to tap, i.e. people who’ve been put off by bad cask ale and younger drinkers to whom it doesn’t appeal. (Overheard some chaps in the pub discussing this the other day: all in their fifties, and all said that bad pints in their twenties put them off for life, hence they were on Stella Artois.)

    Also possibly to get a piece of the craft beer bar action ‘up country’.

    We hear from a brewery spokesperson via Twitter that they’re already kegging quite a bit of Proper Black for the Scandinavian market.

  7. if this gets good beer into st austells tied pubs this should be cause for celebration but it will all probably be shipped out off the region.is Cornwall ready for the £5/£6 a pint craft keg. i doubt it. cheers

  8. Proper Job has been around for a while on KeyKeg now(about a year I think). I think it’s a decent beer on keg, nothing amazing but certainly not bad. My only real problem with beer in Keykegs is the price that the KK adds to the beer. As a disposable Keg the breweries need to recoup that money somehow and the price of the pint will naturally go up.

    1. …which is a particular problem where there’s a widely available cask version which is (arguably) better.

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