The Difference Between Casks and Kegs

For many beer-lovers around the globe, it's often difficult to keep track of the nuances that make different types of beer unique. Whether it's cask-conditioned or kegged beer, there's no need to worry anymore. The Beer Geek is here to clear up the differences between the two. Learn what makes cask-conditioned beer different than kegged beer, including information about the taste, carbonation, preparation and serving styles, and much more. Don't miss out on the secrets of cask-conditioned and kegged beer - read the full article today!

As the world of beer continues to grow with more types of brews and styles than ever before, one thing is becoming increasingly clear – there is some confusion out there about casks, kegs and cask-conditioned beer. It’s not like other industries – most people know what to expect from a bottle of wine, for example, or a 6-pack of lager. But this isn’t the case with craft beer. It can be hard to understand the differences between cask, kegs, and cask-conditioned beer.

What is Cask Conditioned Beer?

Cask Conditioned Beer is a term used to refer to the traditional way of serving beer. It is also often referred to as real ale. The process involves brewing beer, allowing it to settle and mature in the condition of the casks. The stored beer is then typically tapped into a handpump or similar device, allowing it to be served without the introduction of additional gas (such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen). This gives the beer an impressively smooth and natural flavour, with the taste of hops, malt and other ingredients able to be got naturally. The beer is also served at a slightly warmer temperature than that of the kegged beer, usually around 55F or 13C. This can be helpful if you’re looking to taste out the different nuances of a craft beer.

See also  Brewing with Generations of Purpose: Shaun Hill

Real ales have been traditionally served in ceramic vessels which have been referred to as “stoner”, “real” or “ridged” vessels. The porous nature of these vessels allows beer to breathe, allowing even more flavour and character in the beer. The vessels themselves are often “stacked” and can be quite large, up to 20 liters!

What is Kegged Beer?

Kegged beer, in contrast to cask-conditioned beer, typically involves the beer being stored and served from a stainless steel keg, although other types of containers such as wine barrels can be used. The beer is cooled and pressurised with a gas and pushed out of the keg. This helps to carbonate and preserve the beer and also, in some cases, unlocks additional flavours from the hops.

Kegs are typically stored in three basic sizes; Cornelius kegs (also known as “Corny kegs”) which hold 5 gallons or 19 liters, Sixth Barrels which hold 5.17 gallons or 19.5 liters,and 50 Litre barrels which hold 13.2 gallons or 50 liters. Kegged beer can range from very light in colour and flavour, such as a standard pale ale, to sour and “wild” ales that have been aged in barrels and matured over time.

Key Differences Between Ciated & Kegs


  • Cask conditioned beer is “naturally” carbonated and served without any additional gas.
  • Casks are often stored in ceramic vessels and stacked, which can hold a surprisingly large amount of beer.
  • Cask beer is served at a slightly higher temperature, usually 13C or 55F.


  • Kegs typically require some additional gas to carbonate and preserve the beer.
  • Kegs come in three standard sizes; Cornelius kegs (5 gallons or 19 liters), Sixth Barrels (5.17 gallons or 19.5 liters) and 50 litre barrels (13.2 gallons or 50 liters).
  • Kegged beer can range from light and flavourful such as a standard pale ale, to full-bodied and complex such as a sour or wild ale.
See also  Brews & Buzzcuts: A Winning Combination

Which is better?

When it comes to casks and kegs, the answer to which is better is entirely up to personal preference and beer style. As mentioned above cask conditioned beers are “naturally” carbonated meaning there is no additional gas added, giving them a smoother and naturally fuller flavour. On the other hand, kegged beers often require some additional gas to carbonate them, unlocking additional flavours from the hops which can be quite pleasant.

It’s also important to note that while the difference between cask and keg beers is significant, both styles of beer can be exceptional if

HomeBrewBook ©️ All rights reserved