It’s the perfect mix that counts. The Brau Beviale 2011 opened in Nürnberg (Nuremberg) the 9th of November for a three days event during which the 1,381 exhibitors from 49 countries presented innovative technologies, efficient logistics and sparkling marketing ideas. The event, the world’s most important capital goods exhibition for the beverage industry in 2011, focused on the whole technology spectrum with machinery and installations for production, filling and packing of beverages.
Undeniable the German city of Nuremberg itself belongs to the perfect mix. Although Munich with its “Oktober Fest” is coined as the beer capital, it is Nuremberg that lies in the centre of the major beer producing countries. Neighboured by the Czech Republic (said to be the birthplace of pilsener), Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and the UK, Nuremberg is the centre of the beer world, particularly thanks to the Brau Beviale, which attracts ten thousands of beverage professionals. And the whole city radiates the illustrious history of high-quality German beers.
World beer production increased by 29 million hl to 1.85 billion hl in 2010. The growth regions were South America, mainly Brazil, and Asia, headed by China, with a share of 86 % of worldwide growth. China raised its production to almost 448 million hl and thus remains the undisputed number 1 among the brewing nations, followed by the USA, Brazil, which pushed Russia into 4th place, and Germany (95.7 million hl). The five largest brewery groups, Anheuser-Busch Inbev (Belgium), SABMiller (UK), Heineken (Holland), Carlsberg (Denmark) and China Resources Breweries (PRC), continue to control some 50% of the international beer market. In this bulk market the small craft breweries are, however, getting more and more attention.
As beer is a dominating item at the Brau Beviale, the first day of this event, I spent with collecting information about recent developments in beer kegs, primarily party kegs, as a beer keg is a necessity for all draught (or draft) beer lovers and for those who take their home bar seriously.
What is a Beer Keg?
A beer keg, as the name suggests, holds beer, and is a cylindrical hollow container, usually made of stainless steel and less of aluminium or wood, but more recently also from plastic. The beer keg has a single opening at the top end, from where the beer is dispensed. It also has a tube in the middle called a spear that extends from the opening end to the other end. There is a self-closing valve at the top of this spear. Right next to it, is an opening that allows the gas (normally carbon dioxide) to force out beer from the keg into your glass.
As there are literally tens of thousands of breweries and brands of keg draught beer, it’s simply not possible to maintain a listing of the keg sizes.
There are two types of taps available in beer kegs that force the beer out, one being the “party tap” while the other is the “gas tap”. A party tap uses outside air to pump the beer out, hence introducing the outside oxygen, bacteria and other contaminates that reduce the quality of beer. Kegs operating on the party tap mechanism have to be utilized within 18-20 hours. If you want the beer in the keg to last longer, carbon dioxide should be used to create pressure inside the keg. The use of carbon dioxide reduces outside contaminates, hence retaining the taste of the beer. Kegs with gas taps can preserve the beer quality up to 120 days with proper refrigeration.
Party kegs come in different keg sizes. In the USA the corny keg or home brew, is most commonly used to store and dispense beer made at home. Mini kegs are single use, recyclable, small-sized kegs. They are commonly called a “Bubba”. They are used at small parties or get-togethers at home.
In Europe we have seen the introduction of a range of one-way as well as refundable party kegs, from 3 litres to 5 litres.
The simple beginning
I remember that, years ago, I bought my first 5-litre party keg. Just a simple tinplate steel keg. I also needed to buy the tap and a CO2 cartridge. The system wasn’t standardized, as every beer brewer introduced his own type of keg, which required a specific tap and CO2 cartridge. The system wasn’t consumer friendly and consequently not successful in terms of marketing.
With the wave of concentrations in the beer world, the situation became a bit better, as many a large brewer carries a wide variety of brands and tastes. But still you, almost always, have to stick to one brand as there is still no standardization in party kegs. Wisely many brewers have chosen for a version with a tap included. But the old stand-alone non-pressurized ones are still on the market.
Let’s have a look what the Brau Beviale had to offer.
Non-pressurized party kegs
This is the most common 5-litre party keg, made from tinplate with an opening either at the top or at the bottom of the side-wall. The kegs with an opening at the bottom can be used as a stand-alone (see the image of the Kapuziner Weissbier Party-5-litre-keg non-pressurized), tapping beer the way the English do without head. They are stand-alone party kegs and can be used without a tap system. Additionally these kegs are suitable for use with a WunderBar Cooler.
The non-pasteurized party kegs with an opening at the top (like the image of the Franziskaner Weissbier Party non-pressurized 5-litre keg) need some type of tapping system or can be used in WunderBar Cooler.
It was to be expected that someone invented an appliance that dispensed draught beer and keep it fresh indefinitely. The first to do that was Philips with its PerfectDraft, but the company’s development was done in conjunction with brewing giant Interbrew (now Inbev), so only Interbrew beers were available in the kegs it used. This invention was followed by WunderBar, a beer dispenser that is free of exclusive beer company affiliations and uses 4, 5 or 6-litre kegs for around 300 beer brands and can also serve chilled wines and soft drinks.
There are three models in three price categories. The three models can take almost all beer keg brands as well as the Wunderbar unibarrel, which has been specially developed for wines and cold drinks.
The differences are in the cooling. The top model, the “Wunderbar Cooler Professional”, uses extremely fast compressor cooling. The “Wunderbar Cooler Thermo”, has a more common thermoelectric Peltier cooling system, while the “Wunderbar Cooler Party”, keeps already chilled drinks cold for hours and works without a plug on standard AA batteries. So the “Party” is ideal for outdoor use in the garden, camping or on the beach.
So far the non-pressurized party kegs, let’s look at the recent developments in pressurized party kegs, which are becoming very popular as most of them have built-in taps.
3.1-litre Pressurized party kegs
The Maxi Can from the Ardagh Group
Ardagh Maxi Can is a 3.1-litre keg that is designed to be kept in the fridge, with easy access, allowing beer to be easily tapped. German beer brand Radeberger has been available in the keg since July 2011. The keg in welded and shaped tinplate is mainly aimed at the beer market, but is also seeing demand from the energy drinks, spirits and wine segments.
The design won Gold in the Can of the Year Awards 2011 in the beverage three-piece category.
4-litre Pressurized party kegs
The most famous in the category of 4-litre party kegs is the “Tapje” introduced last summer by Heineken for its Amstel and Heineken brands.
4-litre “Tapje” PET Keg
The Tapje is a 4-litre take-home keg of beer that is easy to use and more attractive in its appearance than many other kegs currently on the market. In contrast to its predecessors it is made from PET. The rounded PET body makes full use of the green or red colour associated with the Heineken respectively the Amstel brand and ensures that it stands out on the shelf.
The beer remains fresh for up to 30 days after opening and is dispensed under 1 bar of pressure via an aerosol system with a lever-style tap actuator that is very easy to operate and quite intuitive to use. For ultimate consumer friendliness, there is even a thermo-chromic indicator on the label, signalling that the beer has reached the optimum temperature for drinking.
Made by APPE, the PET barrel was created with the barrier technology monoBLOX.
Recuperators of oxygen resulting in a robust container due to the superior strength of the barriers used to protect the beer, not allowing oxygen to enter, while keeping the carbon dioxide.
5-litre party kegs
Continuing with Heineken they earlier developed a 5-litre party keg in cooperation with Impress/Ardagh.
The 5-litre Beer Keg from Heineken/Impress
The Heineken Beer Keg, manufactured by Impress, won Metal Pack of the Year at the 2010 UK Packaging News Awards in London, on 3 November.
The Beer Keg which typifies the modernity and convenience of metal packaging, pushes the technical boundaries of innovation to limits which are unrivalled by any other packaging substrate. Impress has improved the consumer experience with Heineken by creating the world’s first 3-piece can to use thermo-chromic printing on the design. Through this innovation, Heineken has been able to add a “cold indicator” to the packaging (label) which changes colour when the beer has reached the correct temperature for consumption.
Developed in conjunction with the brand owner and incorporating Heineken’s patented integrated pressure system, the eye-catching design provides a convenient format for the customer that keeps the beer fresh for a month after opening.
As Impress is a division of Ardagh, Ardagh markets the 5-litre beer keg as Top Keg Plus.
Zapfstar, 5-litre party keg with built-in tap on top
Huber Packaging Group GmbH in Öhringen (Germany) is said to have developed the world’s first party keg in the year 1972. In 1998, Huber Packaging was the pioneer of the integrated tap (easyKEG IT). The party keg with an integrated CO2 fresh cartridge (easyKEG IPS) was another innovative development in 2008.
In 2010 Huber anew presented a world first: the new 5-litre party keg called DraftKing. With DraftKing, the tap has been redesigned to go on top of the keg.
These developments have made the Huber Packaging Group to claim that they are the undisputed market leader for party kegs.
The Zapfstar or DraftKing keg is a further development of the 5-litre party keg which enables a tapping of contents similar to beer on tap at a bar. Instead of being in the body of the party keg, the draft system is integrated at the top end and has the shape and feel of a classic tap. As in the bar, the tap is operated from above by pulling. It offers space on the handle for a brand logo. The body of the keg with an area of almost 1,500 cm² is completely free to accommodate printing with an undisturbed brand identity.
It appears that breweries appreciate possibilities to use emotional brand staging as well as the possibility to offer consumers attractive added value, such as the clever, hygienically safe and ready-to-hand supply of their favourite beer brand. The decision in favour of using the DraftKing does not lead to any additional costs during filling: the keg is designed so that the filling device and the conveyor facilities match previous 5-litre party kegs.
The DraftKing is based on the Huber easyKeg IPS with a CO2 pressure system. The regulated delivery of CO2 in the head room of the keg means that the correct draft pressure will be maintained. This ensures a fast flow of beer and that a controlled head is formed. As the CO2 pressure system ensures an equilibrium pressure in the keg, the opened keg can be stored for up to 30 days in a refrigerator without any loss of quality.
The tapping device is integrated. The consumer activates the pressure regulator and pulls out the tap with a flap. The ergonomically shaped tapping lever can be easily operated. The initial hissing sound each time beer is withdrawn makes the act of tapping an emotionally fresh experience. If the consumer folds the tapping device together, the party keg is completely closed and can be stored standing upright or on its side. All hygienically sensitive parts are located inside the keg. They have no contact with oxygen and do not have to be cleaned.
This 5-litre party keg in welded and shaped tinplate using the CO2 Draftking system for Kronenbourg 1664 from Brasseries Kronenbourg in France, received Bronze at the Can of the Year 2011 Awards.
What is left?
There are two developments in the professional sector I like to highlight in a next article.
For professional beer kegs, steel have been the mainstay of draft beer for over 50 years. Steel kegs go to bars and liquor stores and are returned, sterilized, and filled again. Since steel kegs are expensive and scrap metal can be lucrative, deposits are needed to make sure kegs are returned to their original owners. The Wall Street Journal published an article a couple of years ago, stating that USD 50 million worth of steel kegs are lost or stolen in the US each year.
Recent developments show alternatives. I like to detail the self-chilling CoolKeg and the disposable KeyKeg. For who is interested in professional kegs just wait a few days.