As much as I have come to rely on kegs for serving and storing my beer, for I really dislike the inconvenience of bottling, it has become increasingly apparent that force carbonating every beer style is not ideal. And considering that the vast majority of beers I brew are English inspired and designed to showcase some of the flavors you'd find in UK cask ales, it is rather ironic that I serve my beers from the very thing that is the direct opposite of 'cask conditioned.' One common issue I have had with brewing English style beers, is that oftentimes the flavor of the beer out of the fermenter is richer tasting and has more *yeast* character than the same beer that has been sitting in a keg for a few weeks. I would like to find a way to preserve the yeast character of a beer, as it tastes out of the fermenter, while still allowing the other flavors to develop as it sits in the keg. Is this even possible? Preserving the initial yeast character while still allowing the beer's flavor to mature?
From my experiences and what other people have indicated, I can assume that the loss of yeast character from kegging either due to the yeast continuing to cleaning up after fermentation has finished, or that the process of force carbonating does something to change the flavor of the beer; as if that the combination of cold temperature and high pressure (via forced C02) "scrubs out" some of the flavor. Aside, I have also noticed that it typically takes two-three weeks after kegging for the flavor profile of my beers to come around. Going into the keg they taste great, but once in the keg and under pressure they get hazy and sort of 'twangy,' before clearing up and tasting great. Similarly the same can be said for hop character. Often times I've noticed the hop character and flavor of my beers to be temporarily diminished while the beer is carbonating, before everything is back to normal a week or two later.
|when bottled beer goes bad|
Conduct the whole fermentation, start to finish, in a keg that has a shortened liquid-out tube. Three quarters of the way through the fermentation the lid is sealed and the keg is lightly pressurized. This way, the beer is naturally carbonated and the beer can be served directly from the keg and topped up with c02 as necessary. If beer right out the fermenter tastes best, why not serve it from it? I suspect this may work, but I'm hesitant to try. Also, would it might be worthwhile to carbonate the beer via priming sugar in the keg and then serve it via gravity on it's side. Or a cubitaner with a spigot might even work, if you can drink it fast enough before it oxidizes.
Eh, probably just easier to spend the cash and buy a proper cask and handpump. One day...