I don't know about you, but when I walk into a bar or a pub, I'm instantly drawn towards the taps on the bar, as opposed to the bottles in the fridge. The array of taps with their colourful badges, tempting you in. There's just nothing quite like a proper pint when you've clocked out for the weekend.
Which is why I'm pondering the fact that a number of our clients opt to have bottled beers at their parties. You've gone to the trouble of hiring in some of our great bartenders, chosen a stunning mobile bar, and taken careful time selecting the cocktail menu, why would you want to have the same supermarket bottled beers you could have anytime?
The argument for real beer
Draft beer tastes better. It's as simple as that. Draft is fresher, more fragrant, and comes in pints. With the masses learning towards a more Belgian style serve in a short-stemmed glass, draft beer also looks better. Given that we'll be pouring it from a tap, even the process of service looks better. There is definitely a wow factor when seeing beer on draft outside of a pub or festival - especially if it's in your back garden!
Bottled beer is a weekly shop staple for some, with supermarkets now offering an array of craft beers from some well and lesser known brands alike. Shelves are dedicated to the big brands; Heineken, Estrella Damm, Stella Artois, and Fosters. None of which I can see as offering the wow-factor.
Logistics & sustainability
Bottles need to be chilled. You can either dunk them into a bucket of water and ice, but this might not be easy when you've got 150 thirsty guests. A chiller trailer is a good option too, but quite costly. Fridges behind the bar are OK, but need to be replenished often, and can take time to get a tepid beer down to drinking temperature.
You'll also need to think about the waste aspect. Even though there's no plastic involved, glass beer bottles are a single-use product, and after your event they'll need to be taken to a recycling centre, where they'll undergo an energy-intensive process, producing CO2 all over again.
To pour decent beer from a keg, you'll need a chiller & dispensing unit. We researched the market and tested a number of options before settling on the Lindr range of machines.
These compact bits of kit house an air-compressor cooling unit, using the power input for direct transfer to chilling, which guarantees minimum energy usage. Perfectly chilled beer is ready within a few minutes after switching the cooler on. It also doesn't require an external gas source, relying on the air-compressor to pressurise the kegs.
In terms of sustainability, draft beer is delivered in a steel keg, which when returned, is washed out and refilled over 100 times, before the metal is taken to be recycled. The beer is served in glassware, which too will be washed and re-used 100s of times before needing to be recycled.
Bottles can vary enormously from 0.75 for a 330ml bottle to 5.00 for a 568ml can, and it all depends on the brand and the retailer. This is not a complete cost however.
The cost of chilling the beers and recycling the bottles also needs to be taken into account. Depending on how many you're serving, this could be a very large expense. I would estimate with all this included, you'll be looking at around £2.50 per 330ml bottle.
Draft is a much easier product to price, as the cost of recycling and chilling is built into how we charge. If we take our favourite Lost & Grounded Keller Pils, or Helles lagers, these cost £3 for a 568ml pint, including glassware and chilling equipment.
Our recommended beers
I decided to venture out to our local brewery, Lost & Grounded to try some of their award-winning beers, and take a tour of the facility.
Established in 2016, Lost & Grounded have taken their enthusiasm for German and Belgian brewing, along with a history at other breweries in both the UK and overseas, to create some truly fantastic lagers and ales.
I was given the full tour by regional account manager Alex Hartley, which involved gawping at enormous vessels and learning more about the brewing process all the way from from malt to can.
Malt is delivered monthly, filling a massive silo at the front of the building. The malt is then soaked in water and heated to different levels, in order to convert the grain starches into maltose sugars, whilst also dissolving essential nutrients.
Undissolved spent grain is removed (and used on local farms for animal feed) leaving dissolved particles, sugars, and other nutrients to create a wort. This can greatly affect the end flavour of the beer. Heavenly hops are added and further cooking takes place. More hops = a hoppier beer.
Further particles are removed, and brewers yeast is added to convert the maltose sugars into alcohol and CO2.
Beer is then rested whilst the yeast continues to ferment from 2 to 6 weeks, depending upon the desired flavour. Then, it's ready to be filled into cans and barrels.
Although their biggest sellers are the incredible Keller Pils (listed in CAMRA's top 250 beers) and Helles lagers, both of which are steeped in German tradition, they also produce some amazing ales, including the delicious pale 'Wanna Go To The Sun' and award-winning IPA 'Running With Sceptres', recently voted by Independent Newspapers as the Best British Beer 2022.
We've chosen Lost & Grounded not only for their incredible beers, but also their approach to sustainability, which is at the core of their business model. Previously, malt would have been delivered in huge plastic sacks, on pallets, which would then be wrapped in plastic. In order to reduce this waste, the company invested in a malt silo at the front of the building which can receive malt delivery direct. No plastics are used on site for packaging or shipping,
For your next event, think carefully about the drinks experience you want to give your guests; put your trust in us to take care of both the cocktails and the beers. Come down to our tasting room and we can go through each of these beers in turn, whilst also trying our amazing cocktails. You can book in a session with Lewis here.