Real ale in freefall — a reader responds

Rob Walters responds to a post querying whether the method of dispense really matters

Thanks for your article Sales of Real Ale in Freefall. You make many good points and I am very much aware of the restricted choice of ales in Oxford just now. And of course it’s the guest pumps rather than the regular ones that get the chop which must be affecting the smaller breweries disproportionately.

I think in your last sentence you were offering a red rag to a bull: We need to stop any further decline in real ale consumption, but to be realistic craft keg is here to stay. If it’s a quality product, does it matter so much how it is dispensed? And I am that bull.

This could easily turn into a complex debate where all but the beer aficionados quickly lose interest, so let’s keep it simple by comparing bottled and cask ale. I am assured that the beer in a bottle of, let’s choose any brew as an example, Adnams bitter is the same beer that is poured into a cask. But they are not the same to me even if served at the same cellar temperature. Perhaps it’s the venting that takes place when a cask is initially brought into service in the cellar, or perhaps it’s a quantity thing, but the bottled beer is certainly more carbonated than the cask. If two lockdowns have not brought that home to everyone then that’s great – stick to bottled stuff or even keg. I was fortunate in that a local brewery delivered good real ale to my door over that period; it was fresh and certainly less gassy than the identical beer in a bottle.

Rob Walters

In Suffolk in the early days of CAMRA we were certainly fighting carbonation rather then keg. There were plenty of pubs dispensing real ale in the county but all of them except Adnams outlets were using blanket pressure so the beer was gassy – just like bottled beer.  We won that particular battle and we need to keep up the anti. The method of dispense does matter a lot to me and, I believe, to the majority of real ale drinkers. Keg, craft, call it what you will, and bottled beer is more convenient for the entire beer industry from brewery to bar, but convenience should not deny the person on the other side of the bar the pleasure of drinking the beer they love.

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