Beer quality scheme Cask Marque is launching a major new initiative to boost declining sales of cask ale.
The scheme, supported by the 26 brewers and pub operators that support Cask Marque, will focus on improving awareness of cask ale among both bar staff and customers as well as improving the quality of the product from brewery to glass.
The scheme will initially be piloted in 60 pubs from January 2001 with a view to rolling it out later in the spring. The trial pubs have been selected as a cross-section of the industry so that the impact can be assessed in managed, tenanted and freehold outlets.
Cask Marque will also be working on a beer grading system, similar to that already used for wines, which will give some guidance to licensees and their staff on the colour and taste of the ale.
This will also enable staff to give customers advice on trying new products and licensees will be able to assess customer preferences and choose new guest ales for their pub accordingly.
The new initiative is the result of discussions and research by a "cask ale think tank" made up of representatives of the Cask Marque member companies. It is hoped that it will encourage younger drinkers to sample real ales and improve the quality of the product, so attracting back drinkers who were put off by past inconsistency.
Paul Nunny, chief executive of Cask Marque, said: "Quality is the key issue and that has been established by the think tank but there are other areas that need to be put in order. I think together these initiatives will contribute to the revival of real ale as a major factor in the British pub."
The Cask Marque scheme itself, which rewards licensees for serving top quality ales, was launched a couple of years ago.