Mario, from Brewed for Thought, and I have a semi-regular collaborative blog post called Hopinions. In each of these posts, we take turn picking a topic to discuss. We usually discuss whatever craft beer/brewing topic that is on our minds at the time and last week, we discussed the containers craft beer is shipped/sold in. One of the containers we spoke about was the DraughtKeg. I’m sure you’ve seen these before, they’re like mini-kegs that hold 5 L of beer that you can tap and serve at parties. For the most part, they’re single serving but my local brewpub, Faultline Brewing, uses a slightly modified version as growlers.
A few weeks prior, I received an unsolicited email from the PR firm that markets Newcastle Brown Ale here in the United States. They offered to send me a DraughtKeg and Geordie Schooner glass for review. Being a sucker for free beer, I said yes. Coincidentally, I received this email just after attending the Morland Beer Dinner at the British Bankers Club. It would seem the fates had conspired to bring me English ale to drink.
A package arrived for me a few, swift days later; two packages actually. Within I found a few door hanger thingies, a “Walk the Dog” t-shirt (that seems to have shrunk en route to me at it was a wee bit snug), a single bottle of Newcastle (chilled and drunk soon thereafter), their nifty new glassware called the Geordie Schooner, a CD about the Geordie Schooner (which I have seem to have misplaced) and a 5 L DraughtKeg of Newcastle. Obviously 5 L is a lot of Newcastle to drink (5 L is a lot for any beer, really) for any single person, so it took me a while to find the proper opportunity to tap that keg. Fortunately for me, my good friends held a bonfire and BBQ party at their place over the weekend and I brought the DraughtKeg to share.
I chilled the DraughtKeg in my refrigerator first, and then in the refrigerator at the party, to try and get the beer at the proper serving temperature; which, according to their website, is about 38° – 40° F. Their website also mentions not serving their beer in frosted mugs (score for them, at least they’re trying). The DraughtKeg has all the components necessary to serve the beer once it’s chilled: there’s a rounded handle of sorts that is connected to a support/adapter that clicks into place atop the center of the DraughtKeg. You then rinse out the plastic faucet (I use that term very loosely) in running water before you press it into place. You don’t have to really press it into place as it sort of slides in; in fact, if you press the faucet in too much, beer will start to pour. To serve the beer, simply position your glass below the faucet and lift up the rounded handle. In case you forget to print out this paragraph, the DraughtKeg comes with easy to follow graphical instructions.
Newcastle Brown Ale, 4.7% ABV
Newcastle pours out a clear, brown color with a tan head. Roasted malts dominate the aroma with a hint of caramel sweetness. The flavor echoes the aroma; roasted malt flavors with a light malt sweetness and low hop bitterness and flavor. Newcastle is medium-low bodied with a creamy, medium-low carbonation and has a slightly dry finish.
This is a beer I drank to excess in my youth. I’ve avoided it in recent years because I discovered hops. Still, what goes around comes around and I find myself gravitating towards this beer again. There are so many big beers and hop bombs in my stash that I need a nice, easy drinking, low hopped, sessionable beer and this one fit the bill quite nicely during the party.
Custom beer glasses seem to be all the rage now (nevermind that the Belgians have had custom glassware for a long, long time already). Sam Adams came out with their own glass, New Belgium came out with one soon thereafter and now, Newcastle has one of their own: the Geordie Schooner. According to the Newcastle website:
Originally called the Wellington, the glass was popular with the locals of Newcastle, England (nicknamed Geordies). In fact, the glass was such a common sight among the thirsty residents, it quickly became known as the Geordie Schooner. While this glass has always been admired around Newcastle, it’s newer to the States. So be on the lookout at your local watering hole for this esteemed drinking vessel.
The Geordie can hold one bottle’s worth of Newcastle, or about 500 mL. If you look closely at the bottom of the glass, you’ll see the Newcastle star etched in the bottom; this allows for nucleation to occur. In simpler terms, the etched star is a place for bubbles to form. The theory is that a beer that is slowly, constantly bubbling is releasing more aromatics into the air thus enhancing the flavor of the beer.
I tried to take a shot of a beer in the Geordie Schooner illustrating nucleation forming right on the etching but was unable. I used (drank) two homebrews and split a bottle of Belgian ale with Mrs. BetterBeerBlog (all in the name of science) to try and capture this phenomenon but was unable.
At the end of the day, I though the Newcastle served out of the DraughtKeg tasted as it should; I didn’t detect any noticeable off flavors. If you plan on drinking 5 L worth of beer, picking up a DraughtKeg of Newcastle (or whatever beer really) is the way to go. The solid metal container assures you that your beer will not be lightstruck. Also, because the keg is metal, your beer will actually chill faster than if it were in glass. The novel pouring mechanism is easy to install and use and because you control the pour, you can pour yourself as little, or as much of the beer as you want.
What I am unsure of is once tapped, does the DraughtKeg expose the beer within to the atmosphere? If so, then this you’ll need to drink all the beer within a single session as exposure to the air will oxidize it. If not, you can potentially tap this keg and the beer will stay fresh for as long as you are able to keep it cold. I am also unsure as to how the beer gets poured out. The DraughtKeg growlers pictured above rely on gravity to pour the beer out, which is why the spout is at the bottom. The Newcastle DraughtKeg has its faucet above, which leads me to believe the DraughtKeg is either under enough pressure to continually pour 5 L worth of beer or there’s a widget-like contraption within that supplies the pressure needed to pour the beer out.
In any event, I find the DraughtKeg delivery system to be just as interesting as the beer itself, if not more so. Hopefully more craft breweries will adopt this system as there are a lot of positives to the product. Besides, who wouldn’t want 5 L worth of Utopia (that would be a $1200 draughkeg, approximately)?