Pete Brown on the Cask Report

By Pete Brown

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cask ale Craft beer Keg Beer The cask report

Pete Brown
Pete Brown
Working in beer often feels like living in a busy, hyperactive bubble - less so now that beer is finally enjoying the mainstream media attention it deserves.

But when we talk to each other in ‘the beer community’ - brewers, publicans, beer bloggers, writers and CAMRA activists - we often give ourselves a distorted view of the market.

This is the most exciting time in beer for at least a generation. The number of breweries in Britain continues to rocket. We have an array of styles and flavours at our fingertips. Cask ale continues to grow and diversify, as does consumer interest in it.

We now also have the relatively new concept of craft beer, which is helping to take interesting, lavourful beer into a mainstream consumer arena that has been dominated by bland, multi-national lager for decades.

This last point causes some confusion in beer circles. Some in the industry think craft beer needs a precise technical definition, which it lacks. Some see it as a threat, others as just another glib marketing term.

There is a view that craft beer is entirely separate from cask ale - a challenging, US-inspired, modern explosion of flavour served in kegs, bottles, cans, anything but a cask - or an unbalanced, over-hyped hipster fad, depending on your point of view.

This is nonsense. It helps no one.

Our research does not strictly define craft beer, but does highlight its most meaningful characteristics. It shows that for most, craft beer is not related to format, style or origin - it’s more about beer brewed by small brewers or beer brewed in small batches. That’s a description that applies equally to most of the cask ales brewed in the UK.

Four years ago, the foreword to The Cask Report was written by Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver - one of the highest-profile craft brewers in the world. He spoke of being inspired to become a brewer by drinking cask ale in British pubs, and described British cask ale as ‘an inspirational thread that runs through a worldwide artisanal brewing movement’.

Cask ale and craft beer are not the same, but they are joined at the hip, inseparable and overlapping. The price differential between cask ale and ‘craft keg’ beer damages both the image of the former and the sales of the latter.

The sooner the trade realises that most cask ale is craft beer, and vice versa, and prices, promotes and talks about them accordingly, the more drinkers will understand and enjoy flavourful beer in all formats, and the more pubs will bene it from it.

But they will only see real benefit if they meet expectations of higher quality by making sure their staff are knowledgeable about beer, that they keep it well, serve it correctly, and engage with drinkers who are increasingly thirsty - both for great beer and the story behind it. Then, Britain’s national drink, in all its many guises, can truly be the saviour of the British pub.

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