Thursday 11 November 2010


In the last week I’ve drunk beer from bottles, cans, casks and kegs. Some were good, some not so good, some fantastic, but one thing connected them all: they were served in a glass.

And a glass is the only way I want my beer to be served to me ready to drink it. Where it comes from before that doesn’t make a difference as long as the beer tastes good.

Glass bottle (bottle-conditioned or not), plastic bottle, cask, keg, key keg, wooden barrel or can, I don’t care – I really don’t care – as long as the beer tastes good (and preferably tastes really good). Does anything matter beyond the taste?

If a beer benefits from keg then put it in a keg; if the fizz and chill of a keg will kill the subtle flavour then use a cask; if a beer will suffer in a bottle then don’t put it in one (that’s mostly aimed at any British beer below 4% - how many of those are actually good in a bottle…?); if it works in a can and the brewery can can it, then do it.

Good beer is good beer and that’s all that matters, right?

For more on this see: Pete, Glyn (and again), Martyn (the first paragraph nails it) and Robbie. Picture from here.


  1. That is the same way I feel, as a consumer, about the whole "craft beer" designation. Is it good? Ok, it's craft beer.

  2. If a beer is put in a keg it's likely to be filtered and pasteurised. If a beer is put in a clear or green glass bottle it's likely to be light struck. If a beer is put in a cask it needs to be looked after properly. I could go on...
    It's also worth bearing in mind that the level of carbonation in a beer (which is of course related to how it's dispensed)has a huge effect on the flavour.
    Saying 'good beer is good beer and that's all that matters' is missing the point if you ask me.

  3. Missing what point? If you enjoy a beer, you enjoy it.

  4. Ed - I think you are missing the point. If the beer is good when it gets to the glass then does it matter what processes it went through to get there?! In my opinion it doesn't.

    There's nothing wrong with filtered and pasteurised beer and there's nothing wrong with clear or green glass as long as it's stored ok. And if a beer is put in cask then it needs to be looked after, of course, but if the beer is no good when it goes in then it's lost before it's started. Yes it needs to be looked after ok but if it's no good to begin then we might as well all give up because no matter whether you can, cask, keg or bottle it's still not going to taste good.

  5. If there's nothing wrong with filtered and pasteurised beer then there can't be anything wrong with head-retention additives either. Doesn't do any harm. Bit of adjunct in the grist doesn't hurt either. Shorten the lagering time for a bit, won't damage the beer, not so much that anyone will notice. Hop extract is just as good as real hops and much easier. You can make good beer with these new enzymes to convert raw barley too. Well, good enough. As long as it tastes alright none of that matters, does it?

  6. Barm - Exactly. Why should that stuff matter? What harm does filtering and pasteurising do? An additive for head retention makes it look better and we drink with the eyes. Nothing wrong with rice or corn - the biggest selling beers in the world use them. Why lager for 90 days if you can get success in 45 or 30 or 20. Hop extract? Pliny uses that, so I believe, and that's pretty good. None of that matters as long as the beer in the glass tastes good.

    But this isn't about the brewing. This is about the dispense. Still, it works, right?

  7. I am not missing the point, and again I agree it is the quality of the beer in the glass that matters, we could go down the path that the type of glass matters but that is not a debate I really want to start.

    My only issue AGAIN is why do people assume that just because the beer is in a keg it has been pasteurised or filtered??? Who started this myth we do neither, and guess what our beer is in a keg!!!

    Jason Stevenson
    Lovibonds Brewery

  8. Good beer is good beer and that’s all that matters, right?

    What's "good beer", other than beer that you happen to like? And if you like something I don't, is it "good beer" or not?

    "Real ale" means something that we can all agree on, and I think we can all agree it's a form of beer that should continue to be produced. If there's any campaigning to be done, it should be around getting real ale back into the pubs of Britain, not promoting the idiosyncratic taste preferences of a group of beer connoisseurs.

  9. An additive for head retention makes it look better and we drink with the eyes. Nothing wrong with rice or corn - the biggest selling beers in the world use them. Why lager for 90 days if you can get success in 45 or 30 or 20.

    I honestly couldn't believe my eyes when I read this.

    Nothing wrong with adding sugar to bread - the best-selling brands in the world use sugar. Vitamin C added to the mix makes the loaf look nicer, and we eat with our eyes. Why let the dough rise twice when you can get success in 15 minutes flat?

    Why not take shortcuts? Why not use cheaper ingredients and chemical additives? Because it's a good thing to do it properly, that's why not.

  10. "There's nothing wrong with filtered and pasteurised beer."


    "What harm does filtering and pasteurising do?"
    If it does nothing, why is Jason from Lovibonds (great beer we all agree, yes?) so keen to point out that they do neither?

  11. To answer Jason's question, it is CAMRA who have perpetuated this myth.

    This myth gets regurgitated by many, including Pete Brown's Cask Beer Report. Sorry Pete.

    A keg is just a container, full stop. CAMRA definitions are overly simplistic and out of date.

    I understand there was a time where trust in the brewer was lost, though I believe we are finally headed towards an era where drinkers will trust that craft brewers are doing their damnedest to consistently bring them the best pint possible to the glass...whatever the container or dispense method.

  12. Jeff, I haven't tried your beers but I'd love to. But what percentage of keg beer produced in Britain would you estimate isn't filtered and pasteruised?

  13. Jeff and Jason, it may be out of date, but it's not just CAMRA using that definition of keg. That's what the whole brewing industry in this country has understood by 'keg beer' for the last thirty years. It might be an idea to differentiate yourself by using a different term like 'proper real keg' or 'new keg' or whatever. As I keep saying, if new keg proponents had any sense they'd point out that this stuff is much closer to real ale than it is to the keg muck that CAMRA was formed to fight against.

  14. Sorry if that sounds a bit like teaching granny to suck eggs — Jeff has been around long enough that he surely knows what keg has historically meant here.

  15. Jason - Good comment. I have no idea where that came from but it's an assumption that threatens UK keg. It must have come from the big guys.

    Phil - 'Good' is an individual thing, yes. If I like something you don't then it's still a good beer (and if you like something I don't then you think it's a good beer, right?). And I disagree: yes, we need real ale around, but the bigger priority is actually making that beer great before we start selling it. Give someone who drinks lager a bad pint of real ale and they'll never try it again; give them a good one...

    As for your other comment - what's wrong with using these if the beer works out ok and no harm is done? Breweries do it and it works. Yes, it's better if they don't and I'm all for the slow food movement, but to just completely dismiss any brewery which does that is to be narrow-minded in my opinion. What matters is how it tastes when it gets to my glass.

    Tyson - why is it bollocks? A lot of good beers are filtered and pasteurised.

  16. Fullers Chiswick bitter. 3.6% and spot on from a bottle. Like drinking a little brother of ESB and not in a bad way.

  17. Says the man who likes Desperados(Sorry, cheap shot, I know). I have to disagree with you on this Mark. I DO want some level of craft in my beer, I DO care how it's made, I DON'T care how it's poured. For too long now the big boys in this industry have had everything their own way, this cannot be allowed to continue. The Consumer is demanding change and choice in their beer and who am I to argue?

  18. Tom - good call! Fuller's know what they are doing. The trouble comes when breweries try and put their flagship session beers in bottles and they don't work.

    Rabidbarfly - I get that (and this post has gone off on a strange and wonderful tangent!) and I do personally believe what you are saying in my own drinking - I want craft in my beer too and I do care how it's made, of course, but ultimately if it doesn't taste good then EVERYTHING else is completely irrelevant. That's my line, anyway. Plus, a bacon sandwich made with cheap bacon and white sliced bread can be just as good as one made with a bakery fresh loaf and bacon from pigs fed on the best acorns, just like a pint of macro lager can be as good as a small-produced 'craft' beer! As long as it tastes good... :)

  19. If I like something you don't then it's still a good beer (and if you like something I don't then you think it's a good beer, right?).

    Right. So follow it through: you say Thornbridge Bracia is the future of beer on tap and a lot of cask ale is bland and mediocre; I say* Timothy Taylor's Best is the queen of beers and BrewDog sell overpriced piss; then Cookie comes along and says that good beer is cheap Stella and bad beer is anything more expensive than cheap Stella. Where's "good beer" now?

    The only way "good" is going to have any consistent meaning is if it's defined by someone, or a group of someones, who everyone else listens to. "Cask ale" isn't the be-all and end-all, but at least we all know what it means, and we don't have to defer to anyone else's taste in order to buy into it.

    I do care how it's made, of course

    You should have a word with that Mark Dredge character, he's been going around saying he doesn't care how it's made as long as he likes the taste...

    *I don't actually say this - I've had some amazing BrewDog beers (on cask).

  20. Barm, it's a completely false argument – the Slippery Slope fallacy, in fact – to say 'if you allow X then you must allow Y' - and Mark, you're wrong to agree with him. But ultimately you're always free to do what you already do – not drink beer you don't like.

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  22. Martyn, that's not what I'm arguing. What I am trying to say, and what I tried to say in on my blog the other day, but evidently without success, is that there are any number of compromises you can make in making and serving beer, and if your beer is good enough it can still shine. But why make compromises if you don't have to?

  23. Great picture. Do you know where I might find a copy or print?