Cask is among our finest achievements

By Stephen Oliver

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cask ale, Beer, Public house, Brewers, Britain

Oliver: proud of cask ale
Oliver: proud of cask ale
Cask ale is one of Britain's glorious legacies to the world, says Marston's managing director Stephen Oliver.

Cask ale is one of Britain's glorious legacies to the world.

We have quite a few: the Beatles, the Parliamentary system, Shakespeare, the Industrial Revolution and railways. It still makes Britain almost unique in the way its traditional beer is brewed, cellared and served. Yet, unlike so many things in this country, which we invent and then allow others to improve upon, such as football, we still brew the finest ales in the world.

Cask ale is in rude health now, one of the few sectors of the beer market that's in growth and attracting ever more interest from consumers and the trade alike. Until recently, though, cask ale was declining, ignored and unloved by the major brewers, its future in the hands of key regionals and family brewers.

Recent years have seen a dramatic turnaround in its future, and, according to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), in the past 12 months alone more than 70 breweries have started up, with a total of 711 breweries dotted across the British countryside. There are now a wider variety of styles, flavours and quirky brands than ever before, tapping into the increasing demand for local produce, whether food or drink.

Cask ale differentiates the pub from the off-trade and we know that pubs stocking and serving great cask beer are performing better than their keg-only counterparts. Yet with 65% of people in the UK never having tried cask ale, the opportunity for even further growth is still there, especially as a significant proportion of triallists go on to become converts, at least for part of their repertoire.

It's among younger drinkers in their 20s that cask ale needs to become appealing and relevant. These consumers are the future of the market; cask needs to be on their radar, whether it's by brand proposition, innovative dispense at point-of-sale, "edgy" flavours and appearance, or simply by pubs increasing the opportunities for them to try cask.

CAMRA now has more than 100,000 members, the most in its history and its role in promoting and developing a once-endangered British icon is well documented. The organisation has a huge responsibility to the brewers who have contributed most to the resurgence of cask, who have consistently promoted quality, who have marketed key brands to new consumers and who are the backbone of real ale in this country.

"Be careful what you wish for" is sometimes a very wise motto indeed.

Stephen Oliver is managing director of Marston's Beer Company

Related topics: Beer

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