Sunday, 8 June 2014

Natural Soda Water

I admit it. I work in a shop. And, surprisingly, we sell drinks. And even mixers.  Two types of soda water. One Schweppes, one the cheap brand. The former is £1.35, the latter 50p. I don't suppose I have to educate you about what soda water consists of, but here we go.  It's water. With added Carbon Dioxide and Sodium Bicarbonate. Since these are fairly simple chemical formulas (H2O, CO2 and H2CO4), there doesn't seem to be much justification for premiumisation as far as the ingredients. But there you go.

Carbon Dioxide is Carbon Dioxide. It's the same whether it's created by natural means by yeast or by simply burning the black stuff. So, is there any difference between a cask ale and a force carbonated beer through a keg?

Of course, the Keg will be "fizzier", and usually colder ( CO2 being more soluble in cold water), but would there really be any difference in taste? I'm guessing the taste differences that occur in cask ale are mostly mythical, and the products of the imaginations of the more hirsute of CAMRA members. Would not, I ask, the flavour potential of any beer be best fully developed by the brewery concerned rather than leaving it to pubs to take "care" of it as they see fit?

I'm not saying the whole concept of cask ale is a fallacy. If nothing else, the sight of most keg-only pubs gives me some idea of what to avoid as far as fellow clientele goes. But is the whole mystique of the  allegedly vastly superior flavour of cask over craft keg a complete myth?

Cask is not crap, by any means. But it does seem to be the flavour equivalent of going the long way round because the view is prettier.


  1. I had a half-formed blogpost about this a while back which suggested the line should really have been drawn at pasteurisation. But it's all a continuum, really.

  2. There's pure natural god given cask conditioned enlightenment and then there's chemical fizz. That's the way it is. I didn't make the rules.

  3. Having begun drinking in the early 1970s, I have experienced a world where precisely that kind of argument had won. There was no smoothflow apart from Guinness, but in most pubs we had keg beer or tank beer. Real ale was on the way out, like Morris Minors and Brown Windsor Soup. Most people look back to their youth as the good old days, but I can assure you that everything CAMRA has said about 1970s beers was completely true. Even predictable real ales in pubs today, such as London Pride or Spitfire, would have seemed wonderful in the 70s.

    As for taking the long way round because the view is prettier, that makes a lot of sense if you set out to enjoy the view.