The best beer casks and kegs: taste tested

With a summer of entertaining coming up, beer expert Mark Dredge is rolling out the barrel and ordering a mini cask or two for his guests. Mark explains the difference between casks and kegs, and shares his current favourites…

Check out Mark’s pick of the best strong beers, too…

The best beer casks and kegs: taste tested

I’ve long imagined how wonderful it’d be to have a beer tap in my house. Hot tap, cold tap, IPA tap. Alas, that dream has yet to come true. So instead, on special occasions when I’ve got friends over, I’ll go with the next best thing: a mini-cask of beer from a local brewery, filled with just over eight fresh pints of ale a few days earlier.

I take it home and leave it in a cool place while I try to figure out if it’ll fit in the fridge – knowing full well it won’t – then spend ages watching YouTube videos about how to cool a mini-cask quickly (sit it in a bucket of ice until ready to open, put ice on top, wrap in a cold wet towel, keep out of the sun).

It’s the satisfaction of being able to pour draught beer at home that makes mini-casks and mini-kegs so appealing, and it brings me an intangible joy each time I hear the psst of the tap opening and see the beer bursting out into my glass. I’ll rarely walk past the cask without giving myself a little top-up. They’re good fun, especially if you’re entertaining or cooking for a crowd. After all, who doesn’t want to pour their own pints at home?

Cask or keg?

Mini-casks contain live yeast, so let them sit for 24 hours when you get them home to ensure the yeast settles and leaves the beer clear. Mini-kegs have carbonated beer inside and are more forgiving, so they don’t need to settle,
though it’s still good to let them sit for 24 hours before opening. Keg or cask, it will taste best on the day you open it.

5 of the best mini casks…

Adnams Mosaic Pale Ale, England, 4.1%
Mosaic hops give this Suffolkbrewed golden beer a juicy aroma of mango, gooseberry and stone fruit, and it’s a go-to all-rounder for a barbecue. Available from Adnams ( £23.99 for 5 litres (mini-keg)).


Long Man Best Bitter, England, 4%
This classic bitter-sweet Sussex best bitter has flavours of toasted malt, caramel, dried fruit and peppery hops. Ideal with your Sunday roast or a big sharing pie. Available from Long Man Brewery (£25 for 8 pints (mini-cask)).

Long Man
Fyne Ales Avalanche, Scotland, 4.5%
A crowd-pleasing pale ale with gentle bready malts and a refreshing citrus hop aroma. Great with grilled seafood or summer salads. Available from Fyne Ales (£23 for 5 litres (mini-cask)).


Cellar Head Session Pale Ale, England, 3.8%
Brewed near Kentish hop country with modern English hops, this easy-going ale has lush aromas of gooseberry and tropical fruit. Great with Thai salads or curries. £27/5 litres (mini-cask), Available from Cellar Head Brewing (£27).

Cellar head

Rothaus Pils, Germany, 5.1%
One of Germany’s finest pilsners, this brilliant golden beer has a quenching carbonation, a light toasty malt flavour, and lasting herbal hop bitterness. Perfect with herby sausages. Available from German Drinks (£27.50/5l (mini-keg)).


More to discover

Subscribe to our magazine

Food stories, skills and tested recipes, straight to your door... Enjoy 5 issues for just £5 with our special introductory offer.


Unleash your inner chef

Looking for inspiration? Receive the latest recipes with our newsletter

We treat your data with care. See our privacy policy. By signing up, you are agreeing to delicious.’ terms and conditions. Unsubscribe at any time.