Special thanks to our guestwriter Peter Mulville from Kaeru Beer
The public rarely hears about beer and cider industry innovation. Many people have a general idea how beer travels between a brewery and their glass, but most overlook packaging and dispense. Even less understood are technological and sustainability improvements that reduce environmental impact and keep beer fresher.
Seeing a well-established international family business committed to educating and informing visitors at London's Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) is therefore impressive. And unusual. Other commercial businesses pack up and leave after a trade session, seeing no value in speaking with the public. But not the pioneering KeyKeg and UniKeg sustainable keg founder.
How does the public respond to OneCircle?
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), GBBF's organiser, has cleverly taken several bold steps this year. Four unique hop-themed Festival Zones are introduced, each highlighting one of GBBF's many popular and diverse features. OneCircle sponsors the busy Pioneer Pavilion zone, where visitors enjoy contemporary craft beer beneath the much photographed KeyKeg chandelier.
A KeyKeg Wall enclosing the large seating area in Pioneer Pavilion grabs visitors' attention. For many it's their first exposure to lightweight packaging for beer, cider and other drinks. The large, red container that compresses used KeyKegs for recycling watches over GBBF, further increasing visitor fascination.
Everybody has questions. Visitors are keen to learn. What is a KeyKeg or UniKeg? How does it benefit the brewery, pub or drinker? What is the meaning of OneCircle? And how do sustainability and Closed-Loop Recycling create a better environment?
OneCircle staff are thankfully on hand, happily responding to questions throughout the day and evening. Always smiling and cheerful, tirelessly explaining how tapped beer remains fresh. How a KeyKeg gets its strength. How a KeyKeg is recycled. How a UniKeg is similar to a KeyKeg, but functions like a conventional keg.
All beer served in Pioneer Pavilion is freshly dispensed from KeyKeg or UniKeg. Tiny Rebel, Siren Craft Brew, Wild Beer Co and Magic Rock run craft beer bars. CAMRA's Apollo Bar showcases many different styles of beer from 30 craft breweries.
However, it's the up close and personal hands-on experience with KeyKeg that captivates visitors. KeyKeg is a tactile product that people seemingly enjoy holding, touching and examining. One Circle's passionate investment of time and effort in GBBF makes it worthwhile for visitors to come and chat.
KeyKeg and UniKeg's cultural impact on today's beer industry takes another successful step forward.
How is CAMRA Revitalisation helping?
CAMRA has represented Real Ale (traditional cask-conditioned beer) and the importance of British pubs to society since 1971. CAMRA remains focused on Real Ale, alongside Real Cider and Perry, although its aims and direction are experiencing a welcome Revitalisation.
Real Ale is traditionally hand-pumped from wooden or steel casks with a beer-engine, a familiar feature in British pubs. Enjoying Real Ale dispensed through a beer-engine in the time-honoured manner is a British cultural experience. It's as important as a Sunday roast, fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, haggis, and a cup of tea (with milk).
Heritage should never be lost for the sake of progress. Especially if customs and traditions are significantly important to global beer history and culture. Real Ale, the beer engine, the pub and the art of cask-conditioning — CAMRA campaigns to protect them. And Revitalisation will help.
CAMRA's future membership will consist of savvy, informed, socially conscious consumers. Modern drinkers embrace innovation and technology, care about sustainability and the environment, and have an interest in trends and techniques. CAMRA's Revitalisation project aligns it with the next generation of members without losing focus on its core, traditional values.
After organising over 40 Great British Beer Festivals, 2019 sees CAMRA writing the next chapter in its story.
What is KeyKeg and UniKeg's future?
Not everybody is a fan. For now. The old guard remains loyal to traditional and clings tightly to a heritage and culture it fears may be lost. It's an understandable response after decades spent loyally defending and rebuilding a once-unfashionable tradition that almost disappeared.
Time, knowledge and understanding will convince the inconvincible. KeyKeg and UniKeg are not here to replace centuries-old customs and important traditions. Innovation strengthens and supports existing habits and established practices. Innovation introduces fresh, flavoursome beer and cider to new audiences, thereby boosting the whole industry.
Discerning drinkers and diners have diverse tastes and high expectations. It has been challenging to satisfy modern consumers who value extensive selections of high-quality craft beer, cider and Real Ale. Pubs, cafés, bars and restaurants can now offer variety and choice. Serving traditional cask-conditioned beer alongside KeyKeg or UniKeg keeps customers happy, minimises waste and maximises freshness.
The recent emergence of 'KeyKeg Bars' at many local CAMRA beer festivals throughout the UK acknowledges a customer demand. The innovative Pioneer Pavilion at GBBF recognises that demand at a national level. CAMRA has demonstrated how a variety of craft beer sits comfortably alongside Real Ale, Real Cider and Perry.
Serving craft beer and cider from KeyKeg or UniKeg alongside cask-conditioned beer is a successful approach. The opportunities are endless.