What’s the difference between a keg and a cask?

Casks and kegs

Kegs and casks are containers commonly used to store, transport and serve beer, cider and other drinks.

While casks were originally wooden, you’re now much more likely to see stainless steel varieties of any brewery containers. Casks have a curved shape designed to help any sediment settle at the bottom, while kegs are normally straighter with a single opening valve and an extractor or spear running through the middle. Both typically have rolling rings to aid movement.

There has been some debate about whether cask beers are better than those in kegs, but today, many agree that they are simply different and that both container types have useful purposes.

What is cask?

Casks have been used for hundreds of years and are usually used to hold non-pressurised, or ‘flat’, drinks.

Conventionally, cask beer is added to the container ‘live’ and goes through a second fermentation in the cask itself as the yeast matures. This type of product usually needs approximately 24 hours to ‘condition’ once opened, and because it is fresh, needs to be used within around three days.

Cask beers are served without the use of added gas as the carbonation is a natural by-product of the fermenting process. They are also usually intended to be consumed at a higher temperature than products from kegs, at around 11-13 degrees Celsius.

Other casks can also hold whisky, brandy, wine and port. However, these are generally wooden, and are normally a different size from beer casks.

At Close Brothers, the majority of casks we have available for hire are 464mm or 484mm 9 gallons (also known a firkin or 72 pints).

What is a keg?

In comparison, kegs have been around since the 1960s, with the containers introduced to provide longer shelf life and more consistent quality of dispense. Generally, kegs hold beer that has finished fermenting in the brewery and is completely ready to drink.

Kegs are frequently used to hold pressurised drinks, such as fizzy lager. These beers have nearly always been filtered and pasteurised to destroy leftover yeast and preserve shelf life. They are kept under pressure in an air tight container so there is less oxygen contact and the product can last a lot longer. The beverage can normally be served as soon as the container is opened.

Keg beer is typically served cold, between three and eight degrees Celsius, and requires food grade CO2, usually provided by your local pub, to carbonate the liquid. Any draught beer you order is likely being pumped up from a keg, using gas and electric pumps for momentum.

Kegs can also be used to hold soft drinks, wine, cocktails and even coffee.

At Close Brothers, the majority of kegs we offer for hire are 30 or 50 litres (52 and ¾ pints and 88 pints respectively) and can be fitted with various extractors.

Ecasks and ekegs

At Close Brothers, we offer a specialist ‘fill and forget’ service for both kegs and casks.

Our ‘easy’ keg (ekeg) and ‘easy’ cask (ecask) service allows businesses to trade with wholesalers more effectively. You deliver your full containers, tell us where they have been sent, and we’ll collect them when they are empty.

With a wide selection of both ecasks and ekegs available, our rental solution can help your business improve efficiency, reduce costs and mitigate risks associated with container fleet management.

To find out how we can help, please contact us today.