Without banging endlessly on about my love of receiving free beer, I do feel an obligation to proffer an opinion on the grog nice people are kind enough to send me. I was going to save opening my 10-pint keg until the big football game on Sunday, but I could wait. It was like it called to me “cookie, open me, open me” So I did. It was chilled cold beer and I simply couldn’t resist.
The instructions for opening were clear and cracking open the first pretty simple. The box fitted in the fridge nicely, a feature arguably not present in other home keg products. By storing the keg on its side in a box with an easily accessible tap it was already beating other similar products on the market. I’d never tried Carlsberg’s home draught product which since appears to have left the market as it appeared that you had to fill up your entire fridge with a big plastic keg, then load it into a dispenser that would then purport to keep it cool like a thermos. Making an interesting feature for parties, but finicky for drinking over a period of time as you took it out to re chill. Likewise the Heineken keg appeared a tad unwieldy for the fridge, and refrigerator keg dispensers unstandard, expensive and not widely available. This Home Draught System appears to have had a bit of thought put into it and maybe I’d have tried one with my own money had I not got given one. It ticks the boxes of being practical. In the kitchen fridge there was also room for other things.
You are a beer geek. A work mate invites you to a party. You like your work mate and wouldn’t mind an evening in his company or for that matter a party. You accept the invite. You turn up with the obligatory bottle of cheap wine as a gesture to find a busy house and party in full flow. You know no one, your mate shows you where the booze is and invites you to help yourself all night rather than him spend his evening playing host. You pour the missus a glass of plonk and open the fridge looking for a beer. You see the fridge is full of Carling or any other regular lout. Not a craft beer or bottle of pong in sight. Do you turn around and leave and go to an old mans pub for a pint of bitter? Do you crack open a lout and mingle, introducing yourself to people and enjoy the party? You might not have a squeeze. There might be ladies there. Ladies with no one to dance with. A can of lout will put you in the mood to talk to them.
I don’t think any beer geek is that much of a beer twat, you’d crack one open and say “Hi ya” and talk to any stranger that didn’t look weird (like someone that wasn't a beer geek). You’d probably have the thought “actually this isn’t bad, there is nothing unpleasant about it, its okay” And you’d be right and not being at all unfaithful to the Campaign for Pong. It’s okay to have a pint of lout. It is not a crime. It’s also okay to dance with ladies. So long as the lady is single and you are. If you have a squeeze and get pissed and start dancing with a lass whilst your squeeze is girl talking in the other room expect to be in the dog house all the way home.
Swigging the lout, the beer is less fizzy than a can and pretty much as you would buy it in a pub. Lovely. No better than a can, no worse, just slightly different in a draught kinda way. I don’t get what is not to like about a gorgeous pint of Carling. I understand those that prefer a more full on hop flavour and consider Carling bland, but I find it a quality product I quite enjoy. It’s a nice uncomplicated consistent drink of loveliness. I was only going to have the one. Just to try. But I had two. Lout is like that, consistently beckoning you into its realm of delight. I resisted the third. Some friends were coming round to watch the game on Sunday and I thought it would be something the chaps would like so better leave some.
Carling is the product that does appear to polarise opinion among beer geeks and represents something to be deeply disliked. A mass-produced product of a global brewer and the ubitiquous national favourite brand available everywhere. For some it represents a lack of discernment among “the masses”. All of this I find to be a combination of snobbery and ill thought out opinion. Stick your snobbery, the people of Britain are discerning people and what is popular is popular because actually it’s pretty good and fair value.
As for what the chaps thought of the keg. A couple of my mates and some chaps dating friends of the squeeze, and even those ladies all saw it and thought it the dogs bollocks. Given the choice of various wines, beers & louts all wanted a pint of Carling and all wanted to “have a go and pour one themselves” Novelty value maybe but the overall verdict was “pretty cool” As a result it ran out pretty quickly and when it ran out the last one to squeeze the last bit out seemed disappointed to be opening a regular common or garden can of lout to top it up. A metaphor for the disappointment of the game perhaps. We were crap. That is the only insightful football opinion I have. We were crap and they were quite good. But with lout to go at, you cannot be disappointed for long. The time for despair is not losing a football game, but when the last drop of lout has been drunk dry.
So would I buy one? Well I like cheap grog. The last Carling I bought was a 15 pack with other louts in a 3 for £20 offer. 44p a can or 59p a pint. I saw one of these kegs in Sainsburys at £18.99. £1.89 a pint. It’s a fair mark up for “draught”. Still cheaper than the near £3 you find it in pubs, and a popular novelty for a party but the can is the perfect home system. Each unit is a portion and you can put as many or as little in the fridge. The use by date for cans is a year in advance and opening one doesn’t mean necking all of them within the month. A can of Carling is just as gorgeous. There is so much right with this draught keg making it better than previous attempts to sell draught products for the home, getting right the practical shape and size. Unlike other products that hang around for a year or two and disappear, it ought to succeed and have as they say “legs”. The price is the only factor that hampers it. If I were stocking up for a party and saw a 3 for £20 offer I’d buy 3 boxes of different beer, one of them Carling. I might buy more depending on guest numbers. Would I spend near £20 on one 10-pint keg of Carling? Sorry, I doubt it. I accept the challenge of marketing is to convince the customer to pay more for the same thing, and even that it might cost more to package these kegs than the canning line.
However the correct price comparison is the special offer Carling. Lout is only ever full price for a short period of time to allow the supermarkets to claim the cheaper price as a “discount”. I never buy it at full price. When it’s on full price I drink my stock. When it’s cheap I stock up. Therefore the product price is the cheaper discounted price. Therefore the keg looks expensive. It is a new product, you’ve gotta convince people it’s worth a price before discounting and creating a bargain. Maybe it will go on special offer. When it’s on half price special offer I might buy one for a party more than regular home boozing. A few buttons more per pint, but I liked the novelty.