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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two Notes on Newcastle

Seeing Stan's post about Newcastle jogged my memory about another item I forgot to post. First, Stan's news:
Heineken, which owns Scottish & Newcastle, announced it is closing the brewery that currently brews Newcastle Brown Ale and moving production to Tadcaster, North Yorkshire.
(He has more texture, if you are interested in lost, historically-significant breweries.

The item I forgot to post involves a mini-keg of Newcastle the brewery sent me some weeks ago. As you now know, Newcastle is owned by Heineken, and they've been touting the mini-keg ("Draughtkeg" in their parlance) extensively. This is the same tech, and the first minikeg I've used. All in all, I ended up impressed.

The virtues include ease of use and novelty. It comes with a little nozzle that you easily attach; a dispenser tab allows you to pull the pint just by lifting--easy peasy. I received it during the summer, and one day when I had friends over, we put it in the middle of the table and enjoyed the sun. Periodically, someone would reach over and pour a pint, and everyone else seemed to enjoy the spectacle. I also bought a bottle of Newcastle for comparison purposes, and although the bottle was ever so slightly skunked, otherwise the beer was identical. It doesn't really emerge from the keg a superior product--though you get a rich head and a clean, unskunked beer.

Other minor discoveries. 1. The instructions say to refrigerate 12 hours before dispensing, and they're not kidding around. I went about 9 and it poured a tad warm. Not a problem (a preference, really), except that the beer tended to foam as a result. 2. The state of Oregon offers a 5-cent deposit on the keg. This shows remarkable fidelity to the concept of equity: Oregon doesn't care how big a can is, it's all five cents to them. The average person might feel a bit silly trying to return the thing for a nickel, though.

Finally, it's not a bad value at $23 bucks. The keg is 1.33 gallons, or roughly 170 ounces--14.2 bottles of beer. Doing my own six-pack equivalent calculation, I come up with $9.72. Given the enjoyment you get from the container, it's not a bad premium to pay. Apparently, the beer will last 30 days after the first tapping, too, so you don't have to tear through it.

Now, I know a lot of you are not great admirers of Newcastle Brown. Nor am I. It's a sweet and insipid. But the technology is cool, and I know there are other variants out there. Widmer offers Hefeweizen in a similar keg, and I recently saw a spread at Belmont Station of imported German beer--good stuff, I recall. Assuming those are as well-designed as the Draughtkeg, I think we may be onto something here.


  1. have you tried the Widmer Hefeweizen mini keg?

  2. I discovered Newcastle Brown when I arrived in North Yorkshire in August 1977. Having arrived from Coorsland [Colorado] I was entranced by THE flavor. More accurately, I was entranced by FLAVOR. I drank many a bottle. Mega-Imperial pints.

    My Brit neighbors informed me that [at that time] Newky Brown was available only in bottles; not on tap from kegs. Things change; breweries respond to market pressure. I understand Newcastle Brown in available on tap in 'Merica, today.

    Sad to learn the brewery is leave Tyneside. Things change.

  3. Jeff,

    Unfortunately the Heineken family of beers are the only things available in the "draught keg" system, presumabely because they spent a ton of money developing it and want to keep it exclusive (at least for now).

    All the other mini kegs available in Oregon (Warsteiner, Aecht Schlenkerla, Reissdorf, Widmer, etc) use a much simpler "pop the breather valve and open the tap" system, so O2 replaces the beer as you drink it.

    As you can imagine, this pretty much necessitates drinking the whole thing in 24-48 hours max or the beer goes flat and/or oxidizes.