Whichever Keg IPA They Have, Please

Keg fonts at a central London pub.

Last Friday in London I went out for a session with one of my oldest friends, someone I’ve known since we were both 11-years-old, and was frankly a bit startled when he ordered a pint of BrewDog Punk IPA.

The thing is, as long as we’ve been going to the pub togeth­er (about 20 years) I’ve known him as a Guin­ness drinker. He’d nev­er touch cask-con­di­tioned beer, AKA ‘real ale’ – his fall-back was always lager.

Now, it turns out he’s ditched Guin­ness and drinks kegged Amer­i­can-style IPA or, at a push, pale ale. (By the pint, by the way – he’s a big lad, my mate, quite capa­ble of drink­ing ten pints with­out seem­ing much the worse for wear, and he likes that these beers are on the strong side, get­ting him pissed at about the same rate as a lit­tle Hob­bit like me drink­ing bit­ter.)

It’s only one case, of course, but we reck­on it says some­thing about (a) the con­tin­u­ing decline in the sta­tus of Guin­ness as The Alter­na­tive Beer Brand; (b) the rise of aro­mat­ic hop­py beer as a main­stream prod­uct and © the increas­ing avail­abil­i­ty of kegged PA/IPA in non-spe­cial­ist pubs.

Whether this is good news prob­a­bly depends on whether you hate Guin­ness or Brew­Dog more.

23 thoughts on “Whichever Keg IPA They Have, Please”

  1. I can’t help think­ing of the anec­dote on Page 69 of “Called to the Bar” (which I’m sure you have a copy of) where Tim Ams­den reports tak­ing a col­league into a pub around 1970 and, when he asks him what he would like to drink, he replies “Oh, I don’t know. What­ev­er is their keg.”

  2. The same thing has hap­pened here in Nor­way: IPA and pale ale are now becom­ing so main­stream that in a lot of pubs they’re the “default drink”. Inter­est­ing­ly, Nor­we­gian con­sumers seem to have no idea that there is a dif­fer­ence between IPA and pale ale. In fact, main­stream brew­ers have now pret­ty much erod­ed it entire­ly, sell­ing 4.5% mod­est­ly hopped “IPA“s.

    1. His­tor­i­cal­ly they’re pret­ty much cor­rect – it seems that in the 1800s brew­ers might adver­tise the same beer as Pale Ale, IPA or Bit­ter, depend­ing on the cur­rent fash­ion, the tar­get mar­ket, etc. Plus ça change…

  3. Maybe your pal has just realised how ghast­ly Guin­ness has become? The rest I’m not so sure about. You could always have asked him.

    1. Ha. I sort of did but we were in the mid­dle of talk­ing about some­thing more inter­est­ing so I did­n’t get a detailed answer. Maybe I’ll send him a link and ask for a state­ment.

  4. In Ire­land where I am from, it is com­mon enough for die hard guin­ness drinkers to have a back up lager or tip­ple in loca­tions where the guin­ness was ‘bad’. As a kegged prod­uct guin­ness should not have that vari­abil­i­ty, but it does, and Guinness/Diageo have invest­ed a lot in try­ing to elim­i­nate it. Though I think they have killed the beer in the process. It is get­ting much hard­er to find a good pint of it any­where (even in ire­land) and the increas­ing avail­abil­i­ty of decent kegged ales is replac­ing the back­up option too.

    1. Richard: Maybe in that there exper­i­men­tal brew­ery of theirs, they should re-brew Guin­ness from the late sixties/early sev­en­ties?

    2. Richard, can you explain just in your own words of course (no need to strive for lit­er­ary or ‘taste note‘ style) what is a good pint of Guin­ness…


  5. I’ve noticed it with friends who used to drink pre­mi­um lager (for 20+ years). They now drink Brew­Dog / Cam­den / Ker­nel, and if these aren’t avail­able go back to Per­oni / San Miguel. They would nev­er drink cask Land­lord or Jaipur even. Keg IPA has the qual­i­ties they have come to asso­ciate with beer (cold, live­li­ness, refresh­ing) but with a bet­ter flavour.

  6. * slight­ly off top­ic rant about how a lot of “weird, chal­leng­ing” craft beers are often actu­al­ly pret­ty acces­si­ble entry-lev­el drinks com­pared to (eg) best bit­ter and how peo­ple who tell you the oppo­site is true are nor­mal­ly peo­ple who have spent thir­ty years accli­ma­tiz­ing them­selves to best bit­ter *

    1. I think that’s true Dav­eS – I am amazed by the amount of peo­ple who describe GKIPA as “acces­si­ble”.

      Its not acces­si­ble at all, it has this weird mouth­ful-of-soil flavour to it and any­one who isn’t accus­tomed to it is like­ly to find absolute­ly fuck­ing foul. A com­plete­ly new beer drinker is much more like­ly to find a sweet, juicy pint of Sier­ra Neva­da an enjoy­able and eye-open­ing intro­duc­tion to beer.

      1. Its not acces­si­ble at all, it has this weird mouth­ful-of-soil flavour to it ”

        To you.

        GK’s own research (or so they told me) sug­gests novice drinkers do indeed like it a lot.

        Per­son­al­ly I find that when it starts OK, by about halfway down it’s decid­ed­ly meh, but I’d nev­er call it “unac­ces­si­ble”

          1. When I was a novice drinker, I liked it – tast­ed ‘beerier’ and more bit­ter than the Fos­ter’s I’d been on before but not so much that I could­n’t han­dle it.

    2. Actu­al­ly I got the taste for best bit­ter the first time I drank it (which was in 1976). But it’s cer­tain­ly true that some beers have been labelled as ‘chal­leng­ing’ when all they are is ‘very unlike best bit­ter’. My light­bulb moment came a few years ago, when I offered my OH – who rarely drinks beer – a taste of my Pic­tish Cit­ra, warn­ing her before­hand that it was pret­ty extreme stuff. She, of course, thought it was deli­cious & high­ly drink­able – she had­n’t been expect­ing it not to taste of grape­fruit. It took me a while to re-edu­cate my taste­buds to catch up, but I did it in the end.

      1. There are plen­ty of peo­ple out there who thor­ough­ly dis­like beer (prob­a­bly because they’ve only been exposed to the real low qual­i­ty stuff like fos­ters and GK), but enjoy cider. Some­thing like a sai­son or a sour might be a great intro­duc­tion to them, but to more “I know what I like” tra­di­tion­al­ist palates may seem “chal­leng­ing”.

        1. My son start­ed on cider, grad­u­at­ed to Guin­ness and thence to wine, cock­tails and vod­ka – and don’t say not on the same night I hope, because when he went out with his work­mates from the place he worked on his gap year it gen­er­al­ly was.

          Any­way, I could nev­er inter­est him in bor­ing brown bit­ter, or excit­ing yel­low bit­ter either. But the young scamp has final­ly found his way to beer – Bel­gian beer. Tripels all round!

        2. I’m not real­ly both­ered about GK IPA vs any oth­er tra­di­tion­al bit­ter. More about the point that most peo­ple who
          a) got into real ale at a time when it was large­ly wall-to-wall tra­di­tion­al bit­ter and weren’t put off by that and
          b) have spent a lot of the time since then drink­ing tra­di­tion­al bit­ter
          are going to have a slight­ly skewed per­spec­tive on what’s straight­for­ward and unchal­leng­ing ver­sus what’s weird and dif­fi­cult.

          And yeah, as per py’s sug­ges­tion, we’ve actu­al­ly got a friend who did­n’t like beer because he’d tried any num­ber of tra­di­tion­al ales and not real­ly got on with them, but when we’ve sub­se­quent­ly tried him on some sup­pos­ed­ly weird shit we hap­pen to be drink­ing – impe­r­i­al stout, gueze, dou­ble IPA, what­ev­er – he’s found a lot of it more palat­able.

  7. The age pro­file of GKIPA drinkers is prob­a­bly high­er than any oth­er beer. GK rep informs me that its main­ly drunk by the 60 ‑80 age group, as its the beer that is most rem­i­nis­cent of the dou­ble diamond/old rat both­er­er of their youth.

    You could prob­a­bly count the num­ber of U40s who drink GKIPA in each pub on one hand. The ubiq­ui­ty of this and oth­er sim­i­lar­ly unpleas­ant beers is prob­a­bly one of the lead­ing caus­es of the steady decline of cask beer sales from the 90’s onwards.

      1. Inter­est­ing – will be become big­ger than Sier­ra Neva­da at that point and thus no longer qual­i­fy as a craft brew­ery?

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