Could drinking at home help save the pub?

Could drinking at home help save the pub? The thought came to me on New Year’s Eve, which was also my first payday in six months. After a few post-work drinks with guys and girls from the office, thoughts turned toward the evening’s celebrations. I don’t give a damn for New Year’s Eve: the reality of paying to get into a pub, queue half an hour for a drink and not have anywhere to sit all night hardly lives up to the hype and reputation of New Year’s being A Good Night.

But the beer stock at home was dry – I hadn’t been paid in ages, and with that thought, I remembered I was suddenly payday flush. So, caught in the middle of Cardiff city, unable to drive out to the Cardiff Bottle Shop in Roath, I had one bright and crazy idea – buy a mini-keg from ZeroDegrees!

ZeroDegrees is a small chain (London, Reading, Bristol and Cardiff – the M4 corridor, if you will) of microbrewery/restaurants. They only sell their own beers, brewed onsite.

A not unreasonable sum of money changed hands (£18, so roughly £2 per pint) and I was now the owner of a mini-keg full of dark lager. Returning home to my fiancée, I felt like the modern hunter-gatherer, proudly holding the silver container aloft as I crossed the threshold of the cave-apartment. The mini-keg itself is proven to be a gimmicky concept; it consistently failed to take off in any serious way when Boddington’s, Heineken and Carling have tried to push it over the years (the latter went as far as to make a plastic ‘keg’, and used the 2008 World Cup as a launching platform). Indeed, the roots of failure arguably go as far back as the ill-fated Watney’s Party Seven.

Zerodegrees mini-keg
5 litre mini-keg, with built in dispensing tap and gas.

However, this is large brewers and supermarkets trying to cheat the pub of a customer by selling the consumer a ‘draught-beer at home experience’. Could pubs benefit by reversing the tables and cheating the supermarkets and large brewers out of their customers?

ZeroDegrees sell their own beer to take home in mini-kegs; BrewDog dispense their beer into growlers (an odd name for what is basically a large, reusable beer bottle); and even non-brewery linked bars can make use of tetrapak ‘take-away’ cartons or (brand new) plastic milk cartons. These options exist in many forms. Again, it’s not a new idea. Pubs have sold their beer for take-home probably for as long as there have been pubs. Granted, an Off Premises Licence is required, but if it gets people into the pub more often buying more beer than they would normally, it pays for itself.

The BrewDog ceramic growler, "built for battle" to quote Chris Hall.
The BrewDog ceramic growler, “built for battle” to quote Chris Hall.

So, how often have you been in a pub drinking a great beer that isn’t sold in supermarkets? Wouldn’t it be good to take a few pints home to enjoy the next day, or over the weekend? The idea is catching on in London (BrewDog, Camden Town Brewery, Craft Brew Co all adopting and supporting the practice), so why not everywhere else? Ask the landlord at your local and see what he thinks. It could be something good.


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