Recently I got the chance to try the new Driftwood Cuvee D’Hiver in bottle and draught form, which got me thinking about the character that emerges from the use of different packaging.
Draught, or draft, ale is beer from a cask or keg that is generally unpasteurized i.e. not sterilized using heat like the majority of bottled mass-market beer. Keg beer is served from a pressurized container of beer connected to a tap through a beer line coupled with a bottle of high-pressure dispensing gas (typically CO²). Keg beer is most commonly packaged in straight-sided stainless steel kegs called Sankey; however, the craft beer industry has revived the use of the older, barrel-shaped kegs known as Hoff-Stevens. Cask beer is unfiltered and unpastuerized beer served unpressurized from a wooden barrel –the way draught beer was traditionally served prior to the introduction of sterilization and refrigeration processes.
Interestingly the consumer organization Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was founded in 1971 to protect the manufacture of unpressurized beers. CAMRA uses the term ‘real ale’ to differentiate beer served from a cask and beer served under pressure. In terms of taste, given the option most beer drinkers would most likely choose draught because it retains most of the flavour the ale had when brewed.
Bottled and/or canned beers come in several different forms: Bottled, then pasteurized (see above), Flash-pasteurized, a shorter process that uses higher temperatures than the regular pasteurization process, Micro (cold) filtered, which is supposed to retain the ‘draft character’ by eliminating the heat (a Miller trademark), and finally, Bottle-conditioned, beer with live yeast and sugar remaining in the bottle to ferment.
Canned beer undergoes a similar process to its bottled cousin and some brewers favour the can for it’s light weight, quick-chilling and unbreakability. The middle-of-the-road in this debate is the draught in a bottle which eliminates the purported negative effects of the pasteurization process. This beer is kept refrigerated right through to the point of sale. Dissenters reckon there is no discernable difference in the taste between bottled and canned beer.
But most importantly how does ‘confined’ beer taste when compared with draught? Some believe that the sterilization process, hot or cold, removes much of the flavour from the ale and canned beer in particular can pick up and retain the unpleasant flavours from the environment where they were packaged. FYI the taste of sealed beers can be improved by pouring the ale into a glass before drinking. So let’s put this to the test…
Cuvée d’Hiver (cuvée to vat or tank and Hiver winter) from Driftwood Brewery is brewed entirely with barley grown and malted on the Saanich Peninsula. This winter version of farmhouse ale is brewed using a unique Belgian yeast strain resulting in a flavour described as “the sun, the rain, and the earth of Vancouver Island.” First the bottled version, Cuvée d’Hiver pours a beautiful straw gold, hazy with minimal head. The nose is quite malty and the mouthfeel is effervescent but slightly creamy at the same time due to sweetness. Initially I was surprised to see this labelled winter ale, which typically conjures up notions of strength and darkness, as this beer tasted more like a farmhouse or saison light. The Cuvée d’Hiver on tap was much the same in appearance aside from more substantial head and lingering lacing on the glass. There was a real crispness to the draught version and I felt that the fruit element came through to challenge the bready maltiness. The carbonation in the ale seemed to outlast it’s bottled counterpart.
Overall I would give this beer a 4 out 5 in the bottle and a 4.5 out of 5 on tap.