The Heineken Draught Keg: Fresh as Ever

Draft keg beer is a living thing. It stays fresh for 30-45 days and must be kept cold at all times. It is quite delicious.

Most domestically produced bottled/canned beer is pasteurized. (Exceptions include microbrewed bottle conditioned beers.) Pasteurization involves passing filled, capped bottles (or sealed cans) through a 140 degree water rinse for several minutes to kill bacteria and therefore stabilize the beer. This is what allows it to sit at room temperature for months at a time. Many imported kegs also undergo pasteurization to survive the much longer journey from brewery to distant bar glass. Unfortunately, this process often ruins a beer's flavor profile.

Heineken seemingly turned these accepted truths upside down with its 2007 release of the Draught Keg. How, you may wonder, were they able to design a keg that doesn't need to be kept cold, has no apparent shelf life, but can dispense brewery fresh beer for thirty consecutive days after opening?

Well, they didn't. The Heineken Draught Keg contains the same pasteurized beer as Heineken cans and bottles. However, this 5 liter keg features a built-in pressurized carbon dioxide pump that creates the same perfectly foamy head that you'd get from a bar keg. (The pressure is also what allows the beer to remain crisply pasteurized for 30 days after opening.)

It's important to note that Heineken has virtually no keg heritage here in the U.S. Not only is it a no-show at college keggers, Heineken is rarely, if ever, on tap at the local bar. It's the perfect beer to offer in pseudo fresh-keg form, since it has no readily fresh tap for comparison.

Why are consumers so crazy about this item? (It's a heavily stocked item in my area.) I think the associative brilliance of this innovation is that it pretends to be a beer snob solution (think Guinness draught can/bottle nitrogen widgets) while really tapping into the needs of the post-grad keg reminiscers and present day party-goers seeking to bring something kitschy/different through the front door. It's a keg (and a "cute" one at that), but it doesn't weigh 75 lbs. Mini keg. Case closed.

It's fascinating that Heineken is the only brand offering a faux-fresh keg at liquor and convenience stores nationwide. What's next, the Corona keg? Budweiser, are you paying attention?

Photo Credit: Flickr - nicnbill


Anonymous said...

Have you seen the $200 Krups BeerTender to "free up space in your refrigerator" and keep your Heineken "keg" "fresh" (umm - its pasteurized) for 30 days.

Frank Booth said it best in "Blue Velvet."

Jennifer said...

I left you a shoutout on my blog today!

Sarah L. said...

Interesting post! It seems like the people who actually buy the Heineken keg are probably doing it more for some of the reasons you suggest - the kitschy/novelty factor and the reminiscence about college - than about its apparent freshness. I feel like the few people who would know about beer pasteurization probably would also know that this is not pasteurized. or maybe that just shows my ignorance about beer pasteurization until this weekend??

Anonymous said...

Newcastle is next with the draughtkeg. Somehow, I now think it's an okay product.

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