Kegging Beer vs. Bottle Conditioning

The majority of home brewers will rapidly learn how to put their beer into bottles. However, once they indulge in the world of kegging, it can be easy to forget what makes bottling beer so advantageous. Though kegging beer can be more effective in serving others on a large scale, bottling beer generally has a better list of rewards in the long run. The main issue, however, is to figure out a good balance between the two methods. It can be a satisfying practice to hold a private reserve of bottled beer as remembrances of brews.

With the majority of home brewers starting out using the bottling method, they typically find corkers and bottle cappers to be beneficial in their homebrew toolkit. When some of those tools wind up becoming rusty from disuse, one may find penetrating oil useful in revitalizing their usefulness. When a home brewer puts away a small bit of beer from each batch using the old bottle capper, they retain the ability to taste the changes as the batch ages.

Unlike those on the commercial market, most homebrew batches run unfiltered. This is a good thing, however, as this kind of beer is more likely to taste better with age more than a filtered counterpart, though some commercial beers are not pasteurized. A large number of craft and micro breweries have labels which are bottled conditioned. Leaving the beer alive during its self life enables a home brewer to avoid the more undesired elements that of which will be found in filtered beer after awhile. Bottled conditioned ale has living yeast that will generally consume and alter the aging compounds in a beer, making it evolve instead of degenerate with age. Thus, some bottled conditioned ales could be of over ten years of age, evolving in flavor during that time.

One way to tell if a bottle conditioned ale can be drunk is by looking at the opacity of the batch. When the ale is clear and contains a layer of yeast at the bottom, it is likely ready for drinking. On the other hand, cloudy beer means it is either young or someone decided to shake the bottle before handing it over. However, the cloudiness may also indicate exceptionally old brew, though once it is opened, it will be fairly obvious to determine whether or not it has spoiled over time, by way of the smell.

CAMpaign for Real Ale, or CAMRA, within the United Kingdom, states their support explicitly for real ale in a bottle. In fact, they have even gone as far as to develop a logo for brewers, who manufacture bottle conditioned real ales, with the logo clearly stating that “CAMRA says this is real ale.” Additionally, according to the website, they state they have made this logo in order “to clearly identify products that are the real thing: natural, living, bottle-conditioned beers. It is important to note that some cask-conditioned real ales do not undergo secondary fermentation once bottled.”

Thus, the advantages are made obvious to that of the home brewer: kegging ale makes it much more difficult to result in real ale than it would be to use a bottle. Unless one happens to have a source of casks within for the homebrew, this will likely continue to be the case.

It goes without saying that homebrew differs greatly from that of commercial beer because it is unfiltered and unpasteurized, regardless of whether it is bottle conditioned or kegged. This is just one of the many advantages that a home brewer will have, though the reality of the situation is that keg beer is consumed at a more rapid pace. Though, for the most part, bottle conditioned beer and keg beer generally share the same taste, beers that are bottle conditioned will have a better shot at surviving the next party.