The Early Days of ‘Craft Keg’

In October 2007, in an article in the Financial Times (13/10, p5), journalist Andrew Jefford considered an exciting new development in British beer: ‘craft keg’.

OK, so he did­n’t use that exact phrase, but he did say this:

Spindrift keg font.Any­one who has ever sat and sipped the day away in a craft brew­ery in the US will have tast­ed the answer [to poor­ly kept ale]. Brew­eries such as Sier­ra Neva­da… pro­duce great ale in keg rather than cask-con­di­tioned for­mat… Keg ales have a tat­ty rep­u­ta­tion in Britain. Why? They have usu­al­ly been the work of big brew­ers who have pro­duced timid, bland recipes using cheap ingre­di­ents.. The vision­ary Alas­tair Hook of the Mean­time Brew­ing Com­pa­ny in Lon­don’s Green­wich is the only seri­ous British small brew­er to spe­cialise in beers of this sort…

Jef­ford’s arti­cle was­n’t about Mean­time, how­ev­er, but a new beer from the rather con­ser­v­a­tive and revered Adnams’ of South­wold in Suf­folk.

Adnams’ Spin­drift hit the mar­ket when this blog was about six months old (we don’t recall ever tast­ing it) and when Brew­Dog, in oper­a­tion for less than a year, was still pro­duc­ing ‘real ale’ and bot­tled beer.

It was trum­pet­ed as a clean-tast­ing ale for those who pre­ferred lager, with 28 bit­ter­ness units, First Gold and Boadicea hops, and pale and wheat malts. It was unpas­teurised but ster­ile-fil­tered, with 1.8 vol­umes of CO2 – more than most cask ales, but less than most lagers. Its ABV was 5%, and it sold at £3.50 a pint. (About £4.20 in today’s mon­ey.)

Mr Jef­ford con­clud­ed as fol­lows:

I think it could be one of the most sig­nif­i­cant British beer launch­es of the new mil­len­ni­um… So bring on the Spin­drift. And bring on more com­peti­tors, too.

Spin­drift did not, in the end, have a huge impact. It almost cer­tain­ly suf­fered because, in Jef­ford’s words, ‘its hereti­cal keg nature means that Spin­drift is off the radar for cask-ale fun­da­men­tal­ists’, while the nascent ‘crafterati’ prob­a­bly found it too timid – more Fuller’s Dis­cov­ery than Anchor Lib­er­ty.

In around 2010 Adnams’ yanked Spin­drift from their keg lines and rein­vent­ed as a bot­tled beer in dis­tinc­tive blue glass, but there are now plen­ty of ‘posh keg’ beers from all kinds of British brew­eries, includ­ing Adnams’ them­selves.

UPDATE: Spin­drift is appar­ent­ly still avail­able on keg but now at 4%.