Sunday, 12 June 2011

Beer Circus Coming to London

Brewdog and CAMRA?
Oooooh, Brewdog are going to have a bar at CAMRA's Great British Beer Festival this year. I'm looking forward to it. There's something about these two organisations that seems to get peoples creative juices flowing. It's because one stands for tradition and one stands for progression in whatever form. They are the polar opposites, night and day, Laurel and Hardy, Jay and Silent Bob.
I'm no different, CAMRA can infuriate me like a grumpy old git complaining about the price of beer* and Brewdog can annoy me like a screaming child on the bus to work when I have a bastard behind the eyes.
There's an irony that both of them feed off each other so easily, controversy it seems does create odd bedfellows.

Both have been in our insular beery headlines recently with their respective antics/quotes, not for the first time and certainly not for the last time. Brewdog with their cask ale is boring blah blah blah and CAMRAs Chairman Shirley Valentine getting all upetty about bloggers and our perpetual need to drink only the next beer**. Brewdogs stance is interesting this time though because they have publicly slammed CAMRA and cask conditioned ale whilst at the same time getting a stall at GBBF. The posturing and grandstanding is all getting a bit blurred now with both parties accusing each other of our popular sport of naval gazing. It's all about the beer in the end though, isn't it?

Brewdog will serving kegged beer at GBBF, I believe it's going to be Keykegged which I think suits CAMRAs 'no extraneous CO2 rule as no gas touches the beer. I was half expecting Brewdog to do something stupid like sneak a keg in but now they have clarified the Keykeg issue I'm just expecting Penguin suits and a shit load of Ratebeer fan boys dribbling over the Brewdog bar. We shall see, I'm too old to be a fan-boy and too young to be a beardy so you'll be able to find me watching from the sidelines with interest seeing how this one plays out.
The Beer Monkey has covered this too, you can read his blog here.

*That's a whole other argument though.
** If that was actually true we'd either 1) never drink any beer, or 2) be dead from liver failure.


Sid Boggle said...

If I recall correctly, when you tried to kill your liver in January, you didn't use the "next beer" as your weapon of choice, you used the same beer, over and over... ;-)

beersiveknown said...

I'll probably mosey on over when I get a free minute from working on BSF. Wonder if they'll have much outside of the core range. Probably not as camra order the beers to be sold (see Marc's comment on brewdog blog)

rabidbarfly said...

Sid - The next beer is always my weapon of choice. Now where's my Chemical Brothers CD.
Steve - Agreed, I think it'll just be the core range too.

Unknown said...

"There's an irony that both of them feed off each other so easily, controversy it seems does create odd bedfellows."

From Marc's comment on the BD blog there is evidence that in real life these people get on much better than the on-line kurfuffle would suggest.

My experience of beery people is irrespective of polar views, we all get on jolly well really. Winding people up is the most effective way of gaining publicity, it's that simple. Both BD and CAMRA know this and perhaps they worked on this one behind the scenes in complete agreement?

rabidbarfly said...

Dave, it's a consbeeracy!

John Clarke said...

And of course, the way the Keykeg system is being used here (as indeed it is used as most breweries) means that the beers ISN'T keg (in the industry accepted sense of the term). It's just a fancy way of selling a form of re-racked beer which in itself is no new innovation (and over the years has been the saviour of many a beer festival that has found itself running out of beer).

There does seem to be a continuing misconception that "cask" and "keg" are just means of dispense when I think they are in reality part of the production process. The secondary fermentation that cask conditioned beer undergoes (or at least is supposed to undergo but let's park than one for the moment) is the final stage in its production. It is the method of dispense that determines that whether "cask conditioned" beer is also "real ale". While the two are usually synonymous it isn't always the case (when various forms of aspirator or pressure dispense are used, not to forget the wall mounted 'nitrogenator' which can be used to create 'real smooth').

Ditto with keg. Just because a beer is served out of something that calls itself a keg (or Keykeg) does not make the beer "keg" as most people in the brewing or pub industry would understand it. Keg beer in the widely accepted sense of the word is filtered, sometimes pasteurised, and always force carbonated. Recent developments have seen some of these boundaries blurred. I think perhaps the best way of deciding whether a beer is "real ale" or something pretty damn close, is first to see what has happened to the beer before it gets put in the container from which it is dispensed and then see how it is dispensed. So, whatever the Brewdog bar at GBBF will be selling (and note the beer is being sold at GBBF by CAMRA and not Brewdog) it sure ain't keg.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

John Clarke said "Keg beer in the widely accepted sense of the word is filtered, sometimes pasteurised, and always force carbonated. Recent developments have seen some of these boundaries blurred."

Just a note for the readers...keg beer DOES NOT have to be force carbonated and it is far from a recent development.

John Clarke said...

Interesting - care to explain please?

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

It is called Spunding (bunging) and every brewer worth their salt will be doing this. You basically cap the tank nearing the end of fermentation, allowing the CO2 from the residual fermentation to force carbonate the beer.

Brewers do this, not because it is necessarily best, but to save money. CO2 is expensive. In Germany, they may have to do this as part of the purity law (but don't quote me on that).

With a carbonation chart and good knowledge of your fermentation, you can get pretty close to desired dissolved CO2 this way...and top up if necessary from there.

I'm not saying force carbonation is wrong, just trying to dispel some myths.

As a matter of fact I would bet you I could present a bottle conditioned sample next to a shake and bake (force carbonated in a matter of minutes) sample and none of you could tell the difference...maybe your are better than me, because I can't.

John Clarke said...

I admit I had never heard of this process but I am going tom stick my neck out and say that you are probably wrong to say that "every brewer worth their salt" will be doing this. If they were then why would it be necessary to supply licensees with CO2 tanks to force carbonate their keg beer? How many do you know that do this (apart from your own, that it).

I think that some of the newer "craft keg" or whatever you want to call it may be produced this way (the guy at Summer Wine has said they will be force carbonating in the tank and then putting the beer into Keykegs for example).

But I stil say that in the context of the UK brewing industry this is a new development (even though the knowledge may have been around for years). In this country virtually all keg beer has indeed always been filtered (and I don't think you've addressed filtration have you) and force carbonated. Indeed it still is and that it the general industry accepted standard of what "keg beer" is. Hence I also still think it fair to say that in the UK context anyhting that blurs that boundary is quite a recent development.

Like you not sure about Germany - presumably however the tern "ungespondet" is the opposite of what you mean.

I'm pleased you've raised this - always good to have assumptions challenged and knowledge expanded.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Oh John,

The tanks in pub cellars are not for force carbonating the beer, they are there only for pushing the beer to the bar. If a keg beer is changing CO2 levels in the pub cellar it is because the system hasn't been balanced properly.

There is also no prerequisite to filter beer going into a keg. Again, we do no filter any of our beer and do 100% keg beer. Magical, I know.

I am 100% sure that every brewer in Germany will be spunding. Whether it is required by the Purity law, is where I am unsure.

Happy to help expand your knowledge...

rabidbarfly said...

what's this? Sensible comments? I must say guys, thanks for keeping it civilised!
Jeff - I'm not convinced that the German purity law is any more than posturing for the tourists now, I forget where I heard it, someone told me it was all but abolished a while back. Can anyone enlighten?

John Clarke said...


I'm not talking about cellar tanks (in fact I think they are pretty much redundant in the UK these days). What I'm talking about are the sealed kegs that have gas cylinders attached. The beer in those is almost always filtered and often pasteurised and force carbonated - that at any rate is the industry norm. I know you do things differently but I don't think that invalidates my general premise.

Why don't you ask rather larger brewers who make more keg than you and ask them what they do, and what they understand by the term "keg beer"?

John Clarke said...

Jusr re-read my closing comment again and it sounds a bit snide, I think. That wasn't my intention at all - just trying to say that I think that the bigger keg producers may have a different take on this to how you do things.

Ian Cann said...

Glyn, Yeah, the Purity Laws got struck dow by the European Court of Justice in 1987 as a creation of proctectionist trade barriers, see here:

So I think it sticks around out of tradition/marketing and playing to the tourists.

rabidbarfly said...

Cheers Ian!

Jeff Rosenmeier said...


As I said, gas cylinders (tanks, whatever you want to call them) are not for force carbonating beer, they are for pushing beer to the bar.

Large brewers spunding as I stated earlier to save money on CO2.

My whole point is to let you know that your stereotypical CAMRA view doesn't have to be so and that there are many ways to skin the keg cat.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Thanks for the info on the Purity law. I would think most of the non mega German brewers still abide by it cause it tends to make really good beer.

I was wrong in saying 100% German brewers would spunding as I can see some styles and equipment where it might not work.

BTW, I can't wait for the Circus. I wanna see James and Martin flying around GBBF with CO2 packs.

John Clarke said...

Oh - sorry I misunderstood what you meant by tanks there. Anf yes I do know that the purpose of the cylinders is to maintain the pressure in the kegs as the beer is drawn off (as well as help propel it to the bar).

I don't think my view of how keg beer "works" is a stereotypical CAMRA one - it's more the industry accepted norm I believe.

I agree there is more than one way to skin the keg cat - it's just that most brewers don't do it your way;and your way, in the UK, is still a pretty recent development (which is where we came in I think).