Cask -v- Keg Motion

Les Bayton and John Arguile proposed a motion which the branch has considered. The final part of this process will be the vote at The Brunswick, 8pm 30th November 2017.

This will be a single issue meeting, no other issues will be discussed at this meeting. Martyn Reek will chair the event. If you want to cast your vote you will need to turn up for this event. One member/One Vote! Please bring your membership card.

Members went on two brewery tours. One to Marstons and one to Thornbridge. Here are write ups from two of the members.

"From Malc Newton

Thornbridge Trip

On Saturday 28th October eighteen intrepid CAMRA members visited the Thornbridge brewery just outside Bakewell for a brewery tour and social event. Apart from having a good time our mission, which we bravely accepted, was to learn a little more about a brewery which produces high quality, innovative beers for sale in cask, keg and bottle.

On arrival we received a warm welcome from Thornbridge staff and after paying a generously discounted price we were issued with three half pint vouchers for use at the bar and a 10% discount card to use at the shop. Before leaving we were also presented with half pint, stemmed Thornbridge glasses. Many thanks go to the staff at Thornbridge.

We sat in the reception area which had ample seating, a well stocked bar on one side and the shop with beer and Thornbridge merchandise on the other. The bar had two beers on handpull and around eight on keg taps. It was an eclectic mix with beers ranging from the more traditional Lord Marples in cask and Jaipur in keg through to some more unusual keg drinks like Bang Saray Thai Pale flavoured with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and Secale Imperial Rye ESB at a deceptive 7.4%. There was definitively something for everyone. Some members took the opportunity to club together and sample the more expensive bottles. At £10 for the bottle, Days Of Creation, a 7% raspberry sour beer was a pleasantly memorable example.

For the tour and talk we split into two groups to keep the numbers manageable. We donned our hi viz vests and were escorted into the brewery meeting room with a view into the control room/laboratory and across the brewery with its nine 30 barrel and twenty three 20 barrel stainless steel fermentation vessels.

We were given a talk and a sample of Jaipur by Richard Noble, Technical Sales Manager. Richard explained the history of Thornbridge and how it all started up at Thornbridge Hall just a few miles away. The small brewery there was where Jaipur was conceived and its success was what led to the development of the large modern brewery we were sat in. The old brewery is still used for special short length and development brews, in fact I was part of a small team which brewed the Ouroboros DIPA there around a year ago.

Modernisation and expansion has not meant compromise, far from it. Thornbridge have stayed true to their roots. They have two huge hoppers each containing 25 tonnes of whole Marris Otter malt which is milled to order when required. Typically they use about 15 tonnes per week. There is also a cold store full of top quality whole and pellet hops. No shortcuts.

Beers are produced for cask, keg and bottle. Some of the beers, Jaipur for example, are fermented with different yeasts dependant on whether they are destined for cask or keg. None are filtered nor pasteurised though some bottle and keg beers pass through a centrifuge to remove solid matter. This process does leave some residual live yeast in the beer though it is not actually necessary in keg or bottle. Loss of flavour and aroma is minimal with this technique.

Thornbridge cask beers contain viable yeast and residual sugars which result in them being traditionally conditioned in their cask in a pub cellar which does requires a skilled landlord or cellarman. The keg beers are optimally conditioned for several weeks in the stainless tanks at the brewery under carbon dioxide top pressure. The beer is then put into KeyKegs and is ready for consumption. It is important to note here that all the beers are conditioned it's just where it happens that varies.

Casks are typically dispensed by gravity or handpull with the consumed beer being replaced by air which gradually reacts with the beer. The kegs use gas pressure (air or carbon dioxide) to squeeze the bag inside the KeyKeg and force beer out. As beer is consumed, the bag collapses allowing nothing to contact the beer, not even the gas used to squeeze the bag.

Like most breweries Thornbridge is a business. They have to make a quality product and make money. As their beers are shipped in cask, keg or bottle they have the flexibility to distribute to markets all over the world currently around forty five countries. All this said they are still committed to, and growing, their cask beer brewing.

After the talk we went to look at the recently installed German made bottling line which typically runs at 7,500 bottles an hour limited only by how fast staff can remove and pack the bottles.

Finally we went to the barrel room which was stacked high with oak barrels. These are used to store and mature some of the more innovative beers such as fruit sours.

At this point we sampled Serpent which was a collaboration between Thornbridge and Brooklyn breweries. It started out life as a Belgian blond beer which was then put into oak barrels on top of British cider lees and left for over a year. It was then blended and bottled in champagne bottles and sells for around £15. The result is a very smooth sparkling drink with apple flavours and little or no sourness. A stunning drink.

Then it was back to the bar, the rest is history.


Malc Newton


From Les Bayton

An education in two breweries

Social Secretary Anne organised two excellent brewery visits in October to help us get a broad view prior to our Cask/Keg debate and motion. The first of these was MARSTONS and we were fortunate to have Head Brewer Pat McGuinty as our guide. I gazed again in wonder at the fabulous Union System, unfortunately not in action that evening. We were also shown the 'nano brewery'-E14, used to develop small scale new brews. We tasted two of the E14 brews, a Saison and an IPA, both strong, full of life and character. Head Brewer Pat was generous with his time and answered any questions. He affirmed his enthusiasm for cask beer and felt it would never be eclipsed at this brewery by craft keg. The never ending lines of bottles and the stacks of mini-kegs made me a little anxious about our local pubs and the increase of drinking at home.

THORNBRIDGE  was quite different with its huge Visitors Centre and numerous brewery trips on this Saturday. Our Guide explained how the prize-winning Jaipur beer had been at the heart of the brewery expansion from Thornbridge Hall to the Riverside Industrial Estate. He also felt that cask beer would  always be a big part of Thornbridge production but they were into craft keg beer in a big way as the stacks of key-keg containers suggested. After the tour we settled down to taste the beers. There were four cask beers and six keg beers on offer. I tried the first Thornbridge cask brew Lord Marples-4% and the Secale Imperial Rye- Keg-7.4%. They were of course both in top condition, but the cask beer at the modest 4% had more flavour and less chill. The biggest surprise was a room full of French Oak casks room full of French oak casks, where they were experimenting with oak-aged beer, a particular interest of founder Jim.

So there we have it, my anxieties about cask beer being sunk by a sea of craft keg are still there, but it Is obvious that modern keg is here to stay. Those of us therefore who enthuse about our traditional cask beer with its associated cellarmanship, must fight hard to preserve it.

Cheers, Les Baynton 



<< Back to Articles
Published on 30/11/2017