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The problems of craft beer

February 17, 2015

New Zealand brewer Luke Nicholas wrote the following piece on his Luke’s Beer blog. It’s an interesting comment and rare for a brewer – who relies on good will with the trade – to make. But it’s an important issue to raise, the phenomenon even now has a name…kegstipation.

Kegstipation: The condition wherein an on-premise retailer, under pressure to offer customers ever changing and highest quality options, finds itself overburdened by a large number of slow-moving and/or mostly empty kegs. This condition may be created or exacerbated by tap takeovers.

It’s an increasingly common occurrence, where half kegs are taken off tap to be resurrected a few weeks or more later. Brewers are also reporting kegs being returned with significant amounts of beer in them, attributing it to bars not waiting til a keg is sold before taking it off for the next ‘hot’ arrival. Luke’s piece covers a number of issues that are set to become bigger over the next few years.

Do you own or work in a bar, are you a brewer with similar experiences? Share your experiences in the comments, or email the editor at [email protected]. [Ed.]

The problems of craft beer

IMG_3086Last week I got a notification of a liquor store that put on a keg of Epic Apocalypse. I was shocked, as we had last brewed that in May 2014. I check into when we had shipped it, and found out that it was June 2014. This beer was in an EcoKeg which generally is best in the first six months. Therefore I wasn’t very happy that this beer was now being sold to beer drinkers excited to try something new. This beer was not intended to be stored or aged for this extended period. It is a Black IPA, and the hops would have seriously diminished. I’m not saying the beer would have been bad but it definitely would not have tasted like I had intended it to.

I had a discussion about why this beer had been sitting around for so long, and I got the following points from the explanation I was given:

  • many outlets order beers for special events, tastings and festivals (not being used straight away)
  • sometimes less popular beers hold up taps which adds time to the kegs waiting to be tapped
  • outlets will stockpile or panic buy because they don’t know when the next batch will be available, if ever

My learnings from this would have to be focused on the wholesalers/retailers. It has become a pet peeve of mine about outlets pouring beers that are obviously poorly made, faulted and that their customers don’t want to drink. Yes they probably have enough customers to buy it once, but over an extended period?

These bad beers aren’t good for anyone.

  1. they don’t taste good, so customers won’t buy it again
  2. they reflect badly on the bar manager/beer purchaser as they made the decision to buy, and then to put on tap (why would you put crappy beer on tap, customers lose respect)
  3. they tie up a tap that you could put a more popular beer on. Wouldn’t you rather have a beer on tap that you can sell two kegs a week of VS a beer that takes 3 weeks to sell a keg of? Not only are you making more money, your customers are actually happy too, as they are drinking more beer, and staying longer.

Here’s to a decrease in the number of taps that have the next new beer going on. New does not always equal good. I just want to drink a good beer. It should be the role of the bar to curate the quality of the beers it sells. Selling crap beer just shows either lack of knowledge of the beer you are selling or total disregard for your customers.

So what do you think the problem with craft beer is…?


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4 Responses to The problems of craft beer

  1. Rick O on February 24, 2015 at 8:32 am

    I love beer and variety and suffer from a similar problem in my basement nano-brewery. There are probably 8 different tap beers that I will purchase: high hop something, Mild, Brown, standard pale ale, Kölsch, Porter, Lager or Pilsner, and Stout. I really dislike returning to a pub and not recognizing any tap handles. A guy can only enjoy so much beer especially when the beer enjoys hanging around the waist. Possibly less is actually better. Fewer choices of better beer selected by a professional should equal greater sales. A few lines for the regulars and a few lines for standard styles, and one or two for the newly found wonders. My favorite kegs are 12 (small quarts) and my standard size is 20.

  2. Colin on February 20, 2015 at 5:57 am

    In theory, smaller kegs would be ideal, but many freight companies charge the same price to move a 20/25/30/50 litre keg if it’s a smaller order. Say it’s $20 freight for a keg- that adds 40cents per litre to a 50lt keg, but a whopping $1 a litre to a 20lt keg! This in turn jacks up the retail price – maybe a worthy cost for fresher beer?

    I’d love to think so, but there is a limit to what consumers will readily pay without it just becoming a slow moving and expensive small keg…

  3. Adam on February 19, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    I don’t think the problem relates solely to keg beer.

    Plenty of bottle shops have beers sitting on their shelves which are way past their prime. Unfortunately this seems to be especially the case with so called beer specialist where the emphasis sometimes seems to be on how many beers you have in stock rather than if they are actually being looked after properly.

    The average punter has no way of know what sort of condition the beer is in and how it has been treated.

  4. Steve on February 18, 2015 at 7:15 am

    I think keg size would help. Instead of dumping a 50 litte keg to venue start doing 15 or 20s.

    Just got back from Japan and most their legs are anything from 10l to 20. Stale beer would be rare.

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