National Cask Ale Week: Savour its success

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Related tags: Cask ale, Beer, Brewers

Every week on the BBC's Saturday Kitchen show, a guest journalist is invited to select a wine to go with that week's featured dish. It's always wine,...

Every week on the BBC's Saturday Kitchen show, a guest journalist is invited to select a wine to go with that week's featured dish.

It's always wine, never cask beer. Recently the chef was preparing a sumptuous-looking Stargazey Pie, a Cornish favourite steeped in local history. The chosen wine? An Italian Soave 2008 - not widely known for its Cornish associations.

This dish is crying out for a traditional Cornish ale such as Tribute from St Austell but Saturday Kitchen programme-makers seem unable to think outside of their wine boxes.

The second Cask Ale Week (Monday, March 29- Monday, April 5) offers brewers and drinkers the chance to get across the message that without looking as far afield as Italy, there is an abundance of quality beer on our own doorstep to suit a cornucopia of occasions.

But for the message to get across, brewers and licensees need to get stuck in.

Try before you buy

Cask ale is the strongest performing pub beer category. The British Beer & Pub Association claims cask is in growth at +0.04 per cent (to December 2009) for the first time since 2004.

As many as 8,000 participating pubs will be hosting beer festivals, food and ale appreciation evenings, offering tasting tips and running 'try before you buy' promotions during Cask Ale Week.

CAMRA chief executive Mike Benner, says: "Following last year's success, 71 new breweries have opened in the UK, taking the total up to 660 - the highest level since 1945."

Wells & Young's (W&Y) will send out Wells Bombardier kits to over 2,000 pubs which will include Cask Ale Week posters to encourage sampling. Its 'I Love Cask Beer' campaign allows consumers to buy three third pints for the price of a pint and will be revitalised for the week.

Jonathan Kirkham, W&Y marketing manager for ales, points out: "Around 65 per cent of the UK drinking public has never tried cask beer but once people try it, 40 per cent will continue to drink it on a regular basis."

A fitting Tribute…

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Truro will visit St Austell Brewery to mark the event and it's hoped he will bless the beer.

Beer writer Roger Protz will also conduct a tutored tasting at the brewery's Visitor Centre. The £5 entrance charge will go to the Cornish Hospices Appeal. And the Rashleigh Arms in Charlestown will hold a ladies-only cask ale event. It held a similar event last year and 80 women attended.

A one-off brew of an old St Austell favourite - Admiral's Ale - will be available to pubs for the week.  

Bring & Beer Day

Hook Norton Brewery is also backing Cask Ale Week. The Oxfordshire brewer will host a Ladies Day at its Visitors Centre under the banner 'Bring & Beer'. Women are encouraged to bring along friends who do not drink cask ale. Concession stands, tutored tastings and nibbles will be among the attractions.

Meanwhile, at popular real ale pub the Falcon in Thame, customers will get a chance to 'Meet the Brewer' and take part in a tutored tasting, and a Q&A session.

Similar events will be held at other pubs through the week, culminating in an open day at the brewery on Saturday, April 2, when the Hook Norton steam engine will be running.

Attractions include tutored tastings, the brewery dray horses and beer and food matching.

SIBA support

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) is getting behind Cask Ale Week with a support package worth £40,000, including free promotional packs worth £30 each for 1,000 pubs on SIBA's Direct Delivery Scheme (DDS).

Packs contain bunting, flags, dripmats, posters and SIBA-branded banners.

Last year, around 8,500 pubs took part in Cask Ale Week. Cask ale sales grew by 27 per cent over the week and total sales in participating pubs grew by five per cent.

SIBA commercial director Nick Stafford says: "Some 85 per cent of the beer brewed by SIBA brewers is cask ale, so we are supportive of anything that encourages people to try our national drink."

Top tips for Cask Ale Week

• Contact your local brewery, large or small, and arrange a tour for customers or a Meet the Brewer session at your pub.

• If you don't sell cask ale, now is the perfect time to start, but make sure you and your staff get the necessary training first.

• Bring in new guest ales, fruit beers and seasonal ales to augment your offer and broaden your customers' tastes.

• Think women - stage a ladies' night and offer cask beer in third-of-a-pint glasses, and stylish glassware. About 30 per cent of women have now tried cask ale, up from 16 per cent 12 months ago. Women account for one in six of all cask ale drinkers.

• Think food - British food goes well with British beer - stage a simple food and ale matching.

• Spread the word - put on a tasting for ale virgins and get customers to bring a friend who has never tasted cask beer.

• Stage competitions with prizes offering customers the chance to name or brew their own beer.

• If you want to get your pub noticed this Cask Ale Week, a £23.50 point-of-sale kit includes posters, bunting, font wobblers, pocket guides and dripmats. Go to http://www.caskaleweek.co.uk​ to order yours.

What brewers are planning

Last year Lincolnshire brewer Bateman's teamed up with Mitchells & Butlers' Ember Inns estate. Ale drinkers competed for a prize of a day's brewing and a night out courtesy of Bateman's. This attracted publicity in 47 publications.

This year, other brewers - Ringwood, Adnams and Thwaites - have been brought on board. Customers will have to name the four main ingredients of cask ale, the correct answers going into a draw.

Each brewer's winning customer will brew their own beer, the four brews going head-to-head in consumer tastings in July. The event will be

publicised on Facebook, Twitter and online through the brewers' websites.

Bateman's sales director Andrew Reed says: "It worked really well last year and we regard this as a development of our relationship with M&B."

Bateman's is also planning a beer tasting for women at the Waggon & Horses in York on FemALE Day (Thursday, April 1) and brewery dinners for publicans and regulars. A further blind tasting will challenge customers to match 15 beers to a list of named products.

Hop Back Brewery will be running a Hop into Summer Lightning competition with local paper the Salisbury Journal to celebrate the start of

British Summer Time and Cask Ale Week. Five readers will have the opportunity to win a summer barbecue.

The brewer will also stage pub events including a beer festival at the Wyndham Arms (the original site for the brewery) on Friday, April 2.

Wadworth is giving customers the chance to try a third of three different brews for the same price as a pint.

On the island of Jersey, Liberation Group has chosen Cask Ale Week for the launch of Ambrée, the first of four new seasonal ales with a 'Jersey French' theme.

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