Great British Beer Festival

Threats and trends: the future of cask ale

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Sour times: Tiny Rebel owner Bradley Cummings will push cask sour beers this year
Sour times: Tiny Rebel owner Bradley Cummings will push cask sour beers this year

Related tags Cask beer Beer

Increased competition from craft keg beer, a poor quality of serve in the pub and too much choice on the bar are all threats to the future of cask ale, brewers at the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) have told The Morning Advertiser.

Pub operators are the gatekeepers of cask ale quality, but too few were looking after the product properly, which was detrimental to brands, said Doreen Joy Barber, marketing manager of Five Points Brewing, Hackney, east London.

The cask challenges:

  • Not enough new drinkers
  • Poor quality serve at the bar
  • Too much choice at the bar
  • Sold too cheaply

“The biggest threat for cask in general is poorly kept cask beer,” said Barber. “At the end of the day, pub managers and cellar managers are the gatekeepers and it’s in their hands to keep it alive.

“Having poorly kept cask beer is a huge detriment and it is discouraging for brewers to brew cask ale when they know it’s so reliant on people looking after it. That is one of the things that is heart-breaking to me as a drinker.”

For Leeds-based North Brewing Co director Christian Townsley, cask is in the middle of a challenge with the biggest problem being price.

The production of cask

There isn’t enough acknowledgement from consumers or even pubs of the amount of work that goes into the production of cask.

“Everybody in the chain needs to acknowledge that it’s hard work producing cask beer and that should be reflected in the price,” said Townsley.

“Unfortunately, consumers are led by the bar prices, and bar prices suggest that cask should be a cheaper product but it’s absolute nonsense and its should be a bit more expensive than keg if anything. There’s a lot of work that goes into cask."

Great British Beer Festival 2017 from Nicholas Robinson on Vimeo.

However, brewers are hopeful for the future of the sector and point to a swathe of innovation.

Bradley Cummings, owner of Welsh craft brewery Tiny Rebel, said: “Early this year, we started putting sours into cask.

‘Sours into cask’

“We started putting sours into cask at the CAMRA [Campaign for Real Ale] Manchester beer festival. We put Cherry Bomb, which is a cherry sour, into cask and we didn’t think it would go down well in terms of CAMRA public not understanding what a sour beer in cask should be, but it went down massively [well] and we’ve now got a mojito sour.

“That’s what we’re going to focus on for the next year, just putting sour beer into cask.”

Find out what other brewers at the GBBF believe will be the biggest cask trends over the next 12 months, and which threats they will be careful to avoid, by watching the video above.

Meanwhile, Nuneaton-based Church End Brewery’s Goat's Milk was crowned the Champion Beer of Britain​ at the GBBF opening day yesterday (8 August).

Breweries from across the country competed to win a gold, silver or bronze medal in eight categories, before fighting it out to take the overall champion beer title.

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