Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Mini-Keg Party

When I was growing up and too young to drink beer - legally, at least - one of the big products on the market was the Coors party ball. It was portable, it held a lot of beer, it cost less than a keg. All in all it was great - except for the fact that it typically was full of lukewarm Coors Light.

The mini-keg isn't a product that many breweries have since tried to reproduce. But Newcastle Brown Ale thinks the concept could be a winner. And so, it is rolling its DraughtKeg out across the U.S. this summer after trial runs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago with it. And Denver, naturally, is on the list of places it will be available.

The DraughtKeg holds five liters (1.32 gallons) and comes with a two-part tap system so simple that it makes tapping a full keg look like rocket science. Directions say you need to chill it for 10 hours before serving, though I found that a six-hour respite in ice will do it just fine. And the keg, which fits without problem into an average-sized cooler, is guaranteed to remain fresh for 30 days.

To test out this new product, I took it for a recent weekend at a friend's cabin where the Fearless Tasting Crew was happy to help me out. The results were fairly positive.

The beer remained cold and fresh. It was easy to pump. It was light to carry, even when full. And while I admit a bit of a prejudice against brown ales in general because I find them to be dull and looking to please a mass audience without unique flavors, the idea of bringing a mini-keg of the ever popular Newcastle turned out to be a good one when you're trying to meet the taste needs of a large and diverse group of drinkers.

On the down side, I found that the farther the DraughtKeg got drained, the foamier it became - not unlike a full-sized keg, but the foam seemed a bit more excessive here at the end.

Suggested retail price for the draughtkeg is $22.99, and it is set to become a full-time product for Newcastle. It may not be the dream thing to bring to a picnic of hop heads and beer snobs, but I'm betting this would make you some friends at an office barbecue or family reunion.

Also, Newcastle has put out what it calls its Geordie Schooner, a special glass that aims to maintain the head of its beers while using a laser-etched star on the bottom of the glass to create a continuous stream of bubbles. The product - which, true to its billing, seemed to maintain the head of the beer well - is available at select bars across the country.


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