Pete Brown: 'If you’re not proud of cask beer, don’t stock it'

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Pride of place: Pete Brown says poor quality cask does the style a disservice
Pride of place: Pete Brown says poor quality cask does the style a disservice

Related tags: Cask ale, Beer

Pubs unwilling to treat cask beer with care and respect should stop serving the product entirely, according to award-winning beer writer and author Pete Brown.

In an interview with The Morning Advertiser ​(MA​), Brown told pubs that they were doing cask beer a disservice by selling it in poor condition.

“There are publicans out there who are desperately proud of their cask beer,” Brown said. “But I think if you’re not proud then don’t stock it. If you’re not genuinely proud of it, just don’t serve it because you’re doing it a disservice by serving it below par, which is what most pubs do.”

Brown admitted he had almost stopped drinking cask ale in a column for MA​ earlier this year, unless it was kept and served properly.

“There are plenty of pubs that serve good cask and I’d rather just see it in them,” he continued. “When I was writing The Cask Report​, the message was always to try and improve and increase distribution and I just don’t think that’s the right thing to do anymore.”

The three-time winner of Guild of Beer Writers' Beer Writer of the Year award also said the UK beer industry ought to take a greater pride in its output as a whole.

“British drinkers think that cask ale is a bit old and dull, but you go anywhere else in the world and people say how amazing it is,” he said. “Maris Otter malt gets exported across the entire world and is regarded as the best malt from Japan to America, and we don’t take that much pride in it.”

“We just don’t take a genuine pride in our styles and our ingredients and products in the way that other countries do.”

Changing social patterns

The MA​ columnist warned that pubs must to do more to continue to attract customers in an environment with changing social patterns.

“Pubs have got more competition than ever before, beer is spreading outside the pub and the pub is no longer the default,” he said.

“There are so many other places that serve beer now. Look at festivals, pop-ups, supermarkets. My local barber's offers craft beer when you go in for a haircut!

“Whether it’s great food, the pub quiz, the best-conditioned cask beers, the greatest range of craft beer, pubs have got to have a USP.”

Brown is currently promoting his eighth book – Miracle Brew​ – that was released last month (May). The book was inspired by the ignorance about the ingredients that go into making beer. 

“Beer is the most popular drink in the world after water, tea and coffee,” he said. “Everybody knows that wine comes from grapes and cider comes from apples, but when you talk to people about beer they go ‘it’s made from hops isn’t it?’ They don’t know what hops are or what they do, they just think that beer is made out of them, which isn’t exactly true.

“I just thought it was so weird that everyone is so into food and drink, and where it comes from, yet most beer drinkers don’t know that much about what they’re drinking.”

'Beer is tied with location'

When asked if beer was underappreciated when compared with the likes of wine, Brown said: “Definitely. When people talk about wine they talk about terroir all the time, but terroir is in beer more than it is in wine. Take the water that is used in beer, for example; it falls as rain and then soaks into the ground and runs through rock or shale.

“It is a product of that land, which is the very definition of terroir. The water in Burton-on-Trent is totally different from the water in Pilsen, and hence beer is really tied with place and with location.”

Last month, Brown argued the growth of craft beer would drive the development of better quality low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers.​ He now believes that growth is taking place.

“I would never drink it until about six months ago,” he said. “What’s the point in having a low-alcohol beer that doesn’t taste like a good beer? But now all of a sudden they do.

“When you drink a pint of lime and soda, you don’t want a second one, whereas when you drink a good beer you want four or five, so that’s the challenge for low-alcohol beers.

“It’s about the ritual of having something in your hand that you enjoy doing, so if I could do that with low-alcohol beer, I’d be quite happy to have two or three days off [alcoholic beers] a week.”

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) head of communications Tom Stainer echoed Brown's comments that pubs should only serve cask ale that has been kept well.

He said: "Serving cask ale that has not been adequately kept does the whole industry a disservice, and even worse, can put people off from drinking real ale in the future."

Stainer called on brewers to help pubs serve their product in the very best condition and said CAMRA would like to see greater training on keeping cask ale across the industry.

Pete Brown’s latest book, Miracle Brew, is out now.

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