I have personal memories of the way a long sunny spell hit cask in the mid 1990s. In my diary from 1995, an entry from early August, it reads: ‘went to CAMRA beer festival thing tonight, lots of beers off. Thought not best time for bitter.’ The next night I went again and wrote: ‘It’s bloody too hot to drink bitter but I did my best.’
I would hope that all kinds of beer profit from the warm weather, which should drive greater amounts of people to the pub (this is not about craft keg vs cask, which is a tired old argument that should be bedded down once and for all). Unlike the 1990s, I believe there is a greater awareness in the trade of the need to maintain a constant and correct temperature, but reading here and here resurrected old concerns. Meanwhile in my own experience I can point to the weekend when I did a tasting at my local of Brains’ Three C’s Son, a saison hopped with columbus, citra and centennial. This unfiltered and unpasteurised saison was served from a keg font and went down a storm (especially with the CAMRA members that turned up); when I returned on Sunday looking forward to drinking more, none was there. Cask By the Horns IPA was fine, but I would have preferred a colder, sharper, refreshing beer.
There are caveats, though. Craft keg is a minority taste, mainly available in craft beer bars and saddled with the reputation of being an expensive treat, so Carling drinkers are unlikely to switch over. Craft keg also needs to be looked after with as much dedication as cask; last year I had a beer from Mallinson’s in one of London’s craft beer bars that had all the liveliness and sprightliness of a catatonically-inclined Methodist. On the other hand, Fuller’s has developed a pretty decent craft keg lager with Frontier and in London Camden and Meantime are ubiquitous (ok that’s London, but there are opportunities for craft keg throughout the country). I’ve had good craft keg in Bristol, both at BrewDog and Zero Degrees, while I’m sure others around the country can point to similar experiences.
So could this be the summer of craft keg? I don’t know but if enough noise is made it might be remembered as such — not everyone was a hippy in whenever the summer of love was.
I do know that if I was writing this for the Publican’s Morning Advertiser I would be advising licensees not to go overboard with lots of cask hand pulls and look at trying at least one good craft keg font to keep the cask beer drinkers happy.