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Cask vs keg

November 2023

Cask vs Keg

One question we often hear is about the differences between cask and keg beer. And it’s a fair question to ask – especially when many of your favourite names are sold in both styles.

The reality is that there are big differences between the two.

Here, James Ramm at Woodforde’s Brewery gives an insight into the world of cask and keg. 

What is cask ale?

Cask ale is beer in its purest form – brewed and stored using traditional methods honed over hundreds of years. It is a method that creates a beer of unmistakable character, greatly affecting the look, taste and feel of your pint.

Put simply, cask beer is a living product. It is an unpasteurised and unfiltered beer that is naturally conditioned and goes through a secondary stage of fermentation inside the barrel.

That means it isn’t ready to be sold when it arrives from our brewery to the pub. Two to three days are needed to make sure the beer has reached its optimal condition.

All of this means cask has a relatively short shelf life compared to its keg alternatives but has a distinct flavour profile that can’t be replicated – which makes it such a popular choice among beer drinkers.

The name cask comes from the barrel it is stored in – a large, cylindrical container often kept in the cellar or a cask room. These used to be wooden, but now are mostly made of steel.

When you order your pint, it is poured directly from a tap fitted to the cask itself, or pulled through the beer line via a pump. Cask beer has no added gas, with its light sparkle coming from carbon dioxide naturally produced during the fermentation process.

Beers most commonly found in cask include bitters, golden ales and amber ales – but you can also find other styles too.

Some of our favourite cask ales include our multi-award-winning beers such as Wherry, Nog and Nelson’s.

What about keg?

If you’re more of a lager fan, then you’ll be much more familiar with keg beer.

Unlike cask, these beers are usually filtered and don’t contain live ingredients. This means they have a much longer shelf life – but they still require the same level of care and attention to produce the perfect pint.

The kegs are stored in pressurised, stainless-steel barrels. The beer inside travels to the bar via top pressure and through a chiller unit, giving its unmistakable colder and fizzier character.

The type of gas used can affect the taste and feel of your beer. Kegs with carbon dioxide are often fizzier, while nitrogen can give the creamier head commonly associated with stouts.

That means it isn’t just lagers you’ll find sold in kegs. You’ll find a wide array of different styles, including those also sold in cask.

Woodforde’s keg beers you can find at the bar include our Albion stout and our full FiftyTwo° North range, including Voltage session IPA, Conquest lager and Norada pale ale – but you can also find our Supreme Champion Beer of Britain, Wherry, in a keg too. Woodforde’s keg beers also happen to be vegan.

So which is better?

There is no correct answer over which makes for the best pint – especially considering that cask isn’t a universal method fit for every style of beer.

For ale drinkers, cask is often considered king – but a lager or craft IPA drinker will tell you keg takes the crown.

It all comes down to what type of beer you prefer. But the one thing everything can agree on is that both styles make for a cracking pint when done right.

Indeed, many cask ale drinkers will switch to keg beer on a summer’s day because of its colder, refreshing taste. But a cask ale can be just as refreshing at any time of year, particularly with winter warmer festive ales like Tinsel Toes.

We offer a range of ales, lagers, IPAs and cyders at Woodforde’s to cater for every taste. We even make some of our more popular keg beers available on cask as seasonal specials.

Make sure to keep an eye on our specials every month – you might have the chance to try your favourite and taste the difference for yourself.

Likewise, we also offer a range of our core ales, lagers and IPAs in mini kegs for you to enjoy at home.

Visit our online shop or visit your local Woodforde’s pub to try some for yourself.


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