Issues facing Real Ale
Our head brewer’s view on the issues facing real ale.
What I love about beer is that it is an ancient drink some 7,000 years old with evidence of its earliest existence found in an area once called Mesopotamia, today bordering Iran and Iraq. To this day, quality beer is regarded by the vast majority of the drinking community, including myself, a very important and essential beverage. A pertinent question facing beer-drinkers today is whether they wish to be served the purest form of beer; a drink which requires delicate management by a skillful publican, or beer which is subjected to the mainstream dispense method, devised to maximise its shelf-life and allow a more hands-off approach to beer management. This is a debate which appears to pit members of the beer-drinking community against each other, with the thrust of the argument about the use of CO2 in mainstream dispense, primarily because of the impact it has on the quality of the beer. The point, as I consider it, is that technology is being used as a substitute for human skill and talent and it is at the expense of a smooth, quality real beer.
Technological innovation attempts to address the keg dispense issue by way of key kegs, which introduce a barrier between the CO2 and the beer. There is an ecological consequence of key kegs which is the waste packaging created after each use, although I’m confident that with time, the waste packaging element will be addressed. A zero-waste approach to consumerism is being given more and more serious consideration as we become aware of the environmental footprint we are leaving behind, not forgetting the North Pacific garbage patch, estimated to be 3 times the size of the UK. Given that one of Bucks Star Beers core values is about ecology, we believe it is important to invest in zero-waste solutions and therefore devised the Growler Swap scheme, which we recently started to trial at some farmers markets. Growlers are reusable glass vessels and work in the same way as casks, except they involve smaller quantities, so it accommodates the requirements of individual drinkers. The vessels are costly, which means that in order to encourage locals to buy into the scheme, we have to sell the vessels at a small loss. However, I hope that customers of the scheme will appreciate the beer enough to return for a Swap; saving the planet can really start with a beer!
Published in Milton Keynes and North Bucks CAMRA – Beer Moos Issue 41