GPS Feature in the Brewers Guardian

An article by Tara Craig in November's edition of the Brewers Guardian explores the contentious issue of kegs.

Old school fans of stainless steel find themselves at loggerheads with modern-minded supporters of plastic kegs, while the plastic fans are busy debating the relative merits of one way kegs and their reusable counterparts. Global Polymer Solutions casks and kegs feature in the article, which can be read in part below. Please see the PDF link at the bottom of this article to read the full editorial.


Plastic Fantastic?

Beer is an emotive issue; everyone has an opinion on how to make it, how to handle it and even how to store it. And beer kegs, those most unglamorous of containers, have become almost as contentious an issue. Old school fans of stainless steel find themselves at loggerheads with modern-minded supporters of plastic kegs, while the plastic fans are busy debating the relative merits of one way kegs and their reusable counterparts.

As catnip is to cats, so stainless steel kegs are to scrap metal thieves. Some 650,000 kegs are stolen in the UK alone each year, costing the industry in the region of £50m a year according to the British Beer and Pub Association. Investing in stainless steel kegs is expensive and there are both cost and logistical issues when it comes to export. How long will it take to get your kegs back from, say, Japan, and what do you do in the meantime?

Plastic containers are significantly cheaper, and in the case of one way kegs, brewers can send them out without worrying about paying to have the empty containers shipped back. It’s a case of out of sight, out of mind, but in a good way. And it means that breweries that hadn’t previously been in a financial position to export their beers are now able to market further afield.

Plastic containers are gaining on traditional metal kegs in another way, too. They are available in an ever growing range of capacities, a trend that lends itself particularly well to the burgeoning craft beer sector, and to the ever more adventurous beer drinker. With plastic containers it’s also easier to differentiate. Clients can pick the colour combination they want and while the end result may err on the lurid side, it means that containers are a lot less likely to be scooped up and mistakenly returned to another brewers’ yards.

Makers of plastic kegs may be divided over the benefits of their relative products, but they do agree about one thing, plastic does not have a negative impact on the taste of beer they insist. Acceptance of plastic containers varies according to industry segment and geography. The US craft beer movement has been especially receptive to the use of plastic containers, with Russia and certain other Eastern European countries latching on to the idea of beer in PET much more readily than their counterparts.


How Do Brewers Feel?

Brewers, particularly those at the start-up stage, will be counting the pennies. Plastic casks and kegs clearly offer a cheaper initial alternative to traditional containers. The benefits of plastic containers, as laid out above, are evident. To gauge the degree to which plastic will supersede stainless steel, it is important to look more closely at the beer market and how it is developing.

Some experts feel that brewers will stick with stainless steel but predict that we will see the emergence of new one way keg markets, driven both by micro brewers and by larger brewers in regions which have bypassed the use of stainless steel. Some brewers, of course, will mix and match depending on where they are sending their beer and who the end user is. At this stage, it looks very much as if both the stainless steel and the plastic keg are here to stay.

Source: Brewers Guardian


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