What’s on tap? Better draft beer.

Ag & Food |  2 min. read

Is there a PET in your pub?  No, we don’t mean the cat that’s been snoozing in the window since 2010.  We mean…

“The biggest change in storing lagers since the 1950s means tap beers taste fresher than ever.”  (That’s the headline of a recent Bloomberg story.)

…THAT “PET.”  Polyethylene terephthalate.  That’s the plastic that water bottles are made from, and now – beer kegs.

(And if you’re wondering what “polyethylene terephthalate” is all about – that would be a polymer, or plastic, made from ethylene glycol and terephthalate acid – made from two petrochemicals, ethylene and xylene.  Now, back to beer.)

The Danish brewery Carlsberg is leading the way here, and it might just be the way of the future.

Bloomberg‘s story covered the case for the plastic keg:  “…the new canisters are recyclable and lighter to transport, cutting fuel consumption [according to Carlsberg] … They also keep beer fresh for about 30 days, compared with about a week for their older steel cousins.  Metal kegs expose the content to external gases as soon as they’re tapped, while the plastic ones seal the brew inside a separate internal container that’s compressed to release beer to the tap.”

Which all sounds pretty good.  But if we make the switch from steel to plastic – that’s not the first time we’ve upped our game when it comes to getting our beer.

In fact, the beer keg has some serious history behind it.  The first kegs were wooden barrels (ask your grandparents about the “Beer Barrel Polka”).   And the barrel itself goes back, they say, to the Celtics (the Europeans, not Boston’s basketball team) and a couple thousand years ago.

But times changed, for beer and for polkas – and in the twentieth century there was a move away from both.  For beer, the move was to steel kegs.  For music, well, for most of us, there probably aren’t ANY polkas on our playlists.

At that time, steel kegs were stronger, more leakproof and easier to keep clean.  So now, change is coming again.  This time, it’s plastic for beer kegs.

And Carlsberg isn’t the only brewer putting plastic in pubs – big brewers, like Heineken and Anheuser – smaller brewers like Firestone Walker and Magic Rock – and maybe your favorite draft will be next to make the switch to plastic.  It’s what’s on tap for 2019.

(Oh, and if you’ve never heard it, here’s the Beer Barrel Polka.  And maybe the polka will make a return to your playlist.)


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