The Cask Report 2018

Consumers willing to pay more for quality cask beer

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Premium: cask drinkers will pay more if the price is right
Premium: cask drinkers will pay more if the price is right

Related tags Cask beer Beer Cask marque The cask report

Four in five customers (81%) would be willing to pay up to 20% more for a quality pint of real ale, according to The Cask Report 2018.

Two thirds of cask ale drinkers also said they would pay more for a pint that had been well-kept and looked after by staff, showing the link between investing in staff training and higher margins on cask beer.

Data from the report, compiled by Cask Marque, showed that the national average price of cask beer in pubs that provide 'a quality cask offer' was £3.31 a pint, as opposed to £3.48 a pint for a standard lager and £3.88 for a pint of craft keg beer.

The report’s author, Rosie Davenport, said that the higher price commanded by craft keg “demonstrates the scale of opportunity for the cask sector.”

“Well-respected, premium strength cask ales should bear a price point at least equivalent to a premium lager,” Davenport added.

Pricing challenge ‘ongoing’

Darron Anley, owner of Siren Craft Brew in Berkshire welcomed the news, but warned that the challenge of pricing was still “ongoing”.

“Where we tend to sell our cask products, we are already preaching generally to the converted (in terms of price),” he said. “Where I would like to be able to sell a bit more cask is to our local market and there the challenge of price is certainly ongoing.

“In the local market, price is key and whether that is a consumer issue or if it is a publican issue I'm not so certain. I think it is more of the latter. The publicans get themselves in a very fixed mindset about what they have paid in the past and what they are prepared to pay.”

On the subject of why cask beer tended to have a lower price point than keg beer or lager, Anley added: “The discounting culture that exists in cask is definitely a massive problem in our eyes, and it lowers people's expectation of the value of the product they are buying.

“If you look at more local breweries and the beers that they put out in cask, a lot of them wouldn't be dry hopped or use anywhere near the levels of high-cost ingredients such as hops that we do,” he continued. “That will have a huge impact on cost.

“If you can turn a tank around in three times the time we can that is three times the turnover we have, so they can go out and sell a cask for £60 and maybe do buy four and get one free.

“In cask, we charge prices we are comfortable with, but it is a blended margin. If I turned over the whole brewery to cask, with what we have got here and what we can produce we wouldn't be breaking even.”

Quality is key

The Cask Report​ also highlighted the importance of consistency and quality in the production and serving of cask beer, with 40% of drinkers saying they would avoid a pint where they had been served a bad or off pint of ale.

Last week, Fourpure Brewing Co’s head of operations said that focusing on the dispense method used in brewing beer “divides drinkers instead of uniting them”​, and that more emphasis ought to be placed on “better quality beer of all types”.

Elsewhere in the report, it was revealed that overall cask sales were down by 5%, ​although this was less than the declines reported in sales of lager and kegged beer.

Davenport said that this demonstrated “cask ale has weathered the on-trade’s tough trading conditions more robustly than other beer sectors”.

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