Friday, February 4, 2011

The Session: Cask, Keg, Can, Bottle: Does dispense matter?

This week's session is hosted by Reluctant Scooper. I haven't been blogging for the Session as much as I had anticipated. This subject, though, piqued my interest. This seems to be a much more hotly debated subject in England than it is here in the US regarding real ale, casks, and kegs. Real ale doesn't really exist here, aside from some small producers, and where you can find it, it's a premium product. Certainly not the working man's drink. So while I enjoy cask, I can't even really speak on it.

On to the question: does it matter? No not really. But this is the internet, for god's sake, so I sure as hell have an opinion about it. Mostly in regard to my hate for beer in cans. I enjoy some canned beers, Dale's Pale Ale is one of my favorites, but it's good in spite of its can. This is probably snobbery on my part, and there are practical arguments for beer in a can, but that's sort of the problem with it: if I'm going out of my way to pay a premium for beer, I want to be able to see it; I want to pop the top with a bottle opener (not with a twist); and I want a package that makes the beer look good and not one that's purpose built for people who don't know how to handle beer. Does beer served from a plastic grocery bag taste any different than beer served from a bottle? Maybe not, but I don't really care. More importantly, canning beer is the fastest way to reduce any impression among consumers that craft beer, or small batch beer, is something special. Aesthetically, from a design perspective, cans are ugly. The full-wrap labeling that cans require make them look more like NASCAR than good beer. Looks matter. Tastefulness matters. Putting beer in a can says to the consumer: "Here you go. Guzzle this beer. Even we don't expect anyone to care for it". Which brings me to my last point: drinking beer from a glass. Canned beer encourages people to drink directly from a can. I have tried this and I'm thoroughly convinced that you can't fully appreciate beer from a can. There is no visual aspect, and minimal aroma from a can. Beer, regardless of dispense, needs to be drunk from a glass. Part of the reason I chose the name for this blog that I did, is because even before the advent of refrigeration and canning/bottling, drinking beer from a container was a luxury people enjoyed, and ever should it be so. Somewhere along the way, we lost this idea, and you can see people drinking terrible beer directly from the bottle or can at every bar in America. Some will even say no if offered a glass. Beer was practically invented to be drunk from a flagon, mug, glass, or pint. If I have my pick, a full pint, filled to the rim, in a clean glass is the best way to drink a beer. Cask, Keg, or bottle are all fine with me, so long as they end up in the right glass.


  1. I never thought I would have opinions about glassware and such, and yet, as my love of beer grows I find that having the right glass for it really does matter. I know drinking beer from cans has some ironic cache, but I don't get it. Brewdog has taken to selling some canned craft beer on its site. This is could be fuel for another session-- what benefit, if any, is there to canned beer?

  2. I have to restrain myself from getting new types of beer glassware. It's out of hand.

    I may just volunteer to host the session yet. I suspect that canning will be an even hotter topic as canning becomes more popular. There are some benefits from a production stand point, so I think we'll see more of them.

  3. Thanks for the post. The Session round-up is now live: