Name: Coniston Old Man Ale
Bottled/ Draft: Both!
Colour: Deep gold, almost ruby – draft a little darker
Head on draft: Utterly flat
Head in bottle: Slightly over fizzy but short-lived
Mouthfeel on draft: Positively watery
Mouthfeel in bottle: Pleasantly firm body
Draft Taste: A hoppy nose yields a pleasantly hoppy start, with some good underlying maltiness. Very light and watery, though, and lacking any real body – age may not have helped here (see below).
Bottled Taste: A yeasty tang to the nose, thanks to the bottle conditioning. The surprising fizziness overwhelms the initial hoppiness of the draft, but oddly yields a more bitter tail. All round firmer body and fuller flavour, but needs to stand for a while to lose some of the bubbles.
Comment: One of my automatic assumptions about beer is that draft beer is innately better than bottled, even the most perfectly crafted, bottle conditioned beer. On our visit to Coniston Brewery, I had the opportunity to test this theory properly because their on-site pub (The Black Bull Inn) not only does an excellent lunch, but also sells draft beer to take away. In the name of science, therefore, I bought both a bottle of Old Man Ale (happily bottle conditioned), and a plastic pot of the same beer on draft, to take home and compare directly.
As things worked out, it was 24 hours or so before I got the chance to sit down and compare the two, which undoubtedly harmed the draft beer a great deal more than the bottle. Visually they’re very similar looking (as you would expect) although the draft is clearly flat besides the bottled, and a little darker in colour.
On tasting, however, it’s like drinking two completely different beers. The draft is flat (due to age) but also watery and lacking in body – while the bottled version has a decent body, and better balanced bitterness even if it is fighting a little against the bubbles.
I’d expected them to be different, but I was unprepared for just *how* different they were. And the worst part was, I preferred the bottled version by a mile.
This experiment has been revealing, and I’m determined to repeat it with some other beers in the future to see if this is an exception rather than the rule!
That's very interesting indeed. Like you, I would have assumed the draft to be better. Mind you, it entirely depends on how the draft has been kept, the state of the pipes etc. I think you're right that the age would effect the draft quite a lot, beyond just the fizz because wouldn't exposure to air and plastic have an effect? That said, it shouldn't affect the body. Don't some Youngs pubs sell both bottled and draft version of the same beer? Certainly, the last time I went into the Lamb on Lamb's Conduit St, they did.
Yes, I'm sure the draft suffered more than a loss of fizz by sitting in a plastic bottle for 24 hours – but, as you say, it shouldn't have affected it that badly.I don't have a Young's very close to me, but I do have a Fuller's, and I'm pretty sure they sell bottled Pride as well as on draft – that should be a fairer experiment and hopefully I'll get the right result that time 🙂