Thursday 23 August 2012

Kegs Without Extraneous CO2

We quite like KeyKegs. We wish they cost a little less, or at least that we could find a more cost effective way of getting them transported from Germany. But still, the bag-in-a-ball type of thing is handy and the non-returnable nature cuts costs in other areas.

We can put the beer into KeyKeg with minimal filtering, after carbonating by secondary fermentation in our tanks. It's difficult to find a reason, from this brewers point of view, why the beer in KeyKegs is any different from that in cask. The only disadvantage I can see is that it is difficult to vent off a KeyKeg if the beer is more fizzy than desired1.

In just about 2 weeks from today we'll be pitching up at Leeds to serve beer from KeyKeg. I hope, if I get it all sorted, I may, just for the novelty, seve some of it through handpull.

Meanwhile, here is Jules and I messing around with various human powered compressed air generators.

KeyKeg dispense using foot-pump from Hardknott Brewery on Vimeo.


1However, it is not impossible to reduce carbonation levels by venting. I'm planning a tutorial video on dealing with Craft Keg when it gets too carbonated.


Yvan Seth said...

"Knowing" from trusted, but not 100% guaranteed, sources that some larger CAMRA-chummy "real ale" breweries secondary in vat, and rack off virtually bright to casks, ale that is pretty much ready to go as soon as it hits the cellar... I can't see how this use of KeyKeg poses a problem by comparison. [Any further confirmation of this practice?]

But some people are probably going to get narky about the non-definite existence of secondary fermentation in that final vessel I expect.

I'm hoping to try and use a couple of KeyKegs - possibly Hardknott at this rate - at our Letchworth festival. They'll be hooked up to beer engines. Still working on cooling ideas, but the old air-con & bubble-wrap method can surely be adapted to work under-bar. Will be an interesting experiment in trying to determine if this format works for our style of beer festival. [All advice welcome!]

StringersBeer said...

You can buy a nice little mains powered compressor new for about £100 y'know. Or a tyre inflator and battery would probably work, if you need to be off grid.

Unknown said...


Many pubs DEMAND beer that can be ready to serve within hours of being dropped into the cellar.

You work out what most commercial breweries do, CAMRA pally or not.

Of course, we are very happy to help out with any KeyKeg plans you have.


Of course I could buy a compressor, but that wouldn't have been half as much fun.

In fact, I think I have one of them 12v things somewhere.......

Yvan Seth said...

Hm, interesting point about "DEMAND" - I didn't expect this would be the case with pubs serving decent beer? By "decent" I mean a variety of cask ale, because outside of the big cities cask is really the only chance you have of finding something decent IMO. I had thought, perhaps incorrectly, that most cask micros were producing beer that still needed at least a day to drop bright? You are, of course, far more qualified to know about this ;)

The scenario I was referring to involves breweries with tied estates, where the simpler & faster approach is an advantage they can offer that helps maintain the image/"quality" of their beer... probably due to the fact that most of their managers don't care/know how to look after cask ale well enough. (Cynicism alert!)

As for compressors... you could have a tube at the front of the bar. When someone asks for a pint: "Certainly sir, now if you'd just blow into that tube for me..."

Sid Boggle said...

Think I read BSF at GBBF this year had some key kegs on either USA/RoW or Belgium/Ned bar, and used beer engines to get the beer out, with limited success. Tandie might have some technical advice.

MattD said...

The nearest ive seen to this is in the US. They have hand pumps attached to regular kegs.

Yvan Seth said...

@Sid There were some Dutch/Belgian beers on handpump at GBBF, I was interested in them but it was always too busy to ask. The one beer I watched them try to pull through one was entirely too lively - foam foam foam - they were pulling it into jugs in order to pour it. Looked like the wrong beer for the dispense to me. Hope would be that an appropriately vented UK sourced beer is less likely to have this problem...

Gadds' seems to have some experience in these matters, I'm meaning to get in touch when I have an appropriate moment during normal hours:

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

I think you need a skilled American around once every year to show you how this "craft keg" thing is done. Cask beer really is not very practical.

Nice t-shirt, by the way. And what room are you in? It looks clean and rather unencumbered by bits and bobs of brewing paraphernalia.

Tandleman said...

I don't know about what they did on the Belgian bar at GBBF as when I called to see my mates there I was served a couple of very good lambics/krieks from handpump without the hint of excess foam. Maybe when the one that was observed was being served it was just new on? I didn't see any keykegs either.

Of course by the nature of keykegs, if the beer is over carbonated and live you are going to have excessively gassy beer, no matter how you extract it.

As for Dave's efforts? Fun. But I'd use a compressor.

By the way, dropping beer as bright as possible is fine provided you retain enough viable yeast. Just ask my favourites Hawkshead how to do it properly.

Unknown said...


I think a trip for me over to that small country just south of Canada would be a a very useful thing.

The room is unit b. The one next to where all the brewing paraphernalia is. Before long we will have filled the space with bottling contraptions, once the Italians have finished their extended August holiday, that is.

From the point of view of KeyKeg and handpulls, as Tandy says, if it's over carbonated in keg, it'll be a problem - a problem I'm working on.

Mike said...

You can easily dispense beer from a keykeg using a handpump, but you need something to replace the liquid. That is either air or CO2. So as Dave has done with a hand pump or a Compressor, or a CO2 cylinder. With a keykeg the CO2 does not come into contact with the beer so still meets CAMRA definitions of "Real Ale"

StringersBeer said...

@Tandleman How much yeast is "enough"?

Tandleman said...

There is a CAMRA definition in ppm, but I can't remember what it is. I recall Hawkshead confirming they are "in".

Yvan Seth said...

I'm quite happy with a definition that is based entirely on the lack of "extraneous CO2" to carbonate beer - but I'm very much a "moderate" and even think evil cask breathers aren't such a bad thing. There's a vast gulf of difference between pasteurised, super-filtered, big-brand "lager" and a cask of ale with a cask breather in use.

However, I've had this discussion with CAMRA folk who feel very strongly that secondary must occur in cask. Some are shocked to hear that the practice of seconary in vat may exist as they don't think their favourite old-time big-cask-breweries would "let the side down" like that! [I sometimes suggest to them that no ale is traditional since breweries stopped using wooden vessels ;) ]

I cannot really find a scientifically/practically satisfactory definition on on the CAMRA website. The "What makes real ale 'real'?" page seems to support the "must be in cask" folk, no mention of yeast PPM.

Unknown said...

If you've ever been to The Grove in Huddersfield, they have a kegykeg via the handpull on the front corner of the left-hand bar. De Molen Op and Top coming out of it.

Could get in touch with the guys at The Grove for advice though. Or, alternatively, just go drink with them.

Tandleman said...

Blogger Yvan Seth: I couldn't find it either, but it exists. The secondary fermentation must happen in the container from which it is dispensed, but there's plenty of wiggle room in terms of what reaches the container.

I'm not a purist on the matter.

Anonymous said...

In the early days of "keg" Guinness in Ireland, in the 1950s (that is, before the system as developed by the early 1960s and rolled out in the UK) barmen in Dublin would increase the pressure in the keg to ensure a good creamy head with the judicious use of a bicycle pump - air, after all, being approx 80% nitrogen ...

Oh, and also in the 1950s (and probably both earlier and later), cask mild would regularly have been sent out effectively bright, and with no opportunity for any "secondary" fermentation in the cask - the entire basis of "mild" as a type being its swift throughput and speedy consumption, with no desire for, and no time for the development of "mature" flavours in the beer.

Sat In A Pub said...


I don't think that detail is available online. If you're interested, I'd suggest contacting someone on the Technical Committee as that comes under their remit.