Shepherd Neame to ‘update cask's old-fashioned image’

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

New brews: Britain's oldest brewer Shepherd Neame will kick off its new cask initiative in March
New brews: Britain's oldest brewer Shepherd Neame will kick off its new cask initiative in March
Kent-based brewer and pub operator Shepherd Neame has unveiled a new initiative to modernise its cask offer and clear away the category’s cobwebs.

Kicking off in March, Shepherd Neame’s Cask Club will see a new cask ale supplied to participating pubs on a monthly basis.

The new brews will incorporate modern styles and flavours through international collaboration with new partners as well as staying true to its more traditional seasonal beers.

Cask Club member pubs can look forward to seeing Hop County Hopping Mad Pale Ale in March, the arrival of Samuel Adams Blonde Ambition – brewed to a recipe devised with the Boston Beer Company and the club’s first international collaboration – in April, and New Dawn Citrus Ale in May.

Further beers will then follow approximately every four weeks – among them collaborations with brewers from Finland, Italy, Sweden and, in 2020, the US.

As part of the initiative, drinkers will be able to pick up a Cask Club passport at participating pubs, collecting a sticker each time they try a new ale.

Shepherd Neame (1)

State of cask

As reported by The Morning Advertiser ​in September 2018, sales of cask beer fell faster quicker than overall beer sales​ in the on-trade, according to figures compiled by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and featured in The Cask Report 2018-2019​.

The BBPA also found the cask beer market is down 6.8% in volume, according to moving annual total figures to July 2018, although CGA data found that cask is still a large part of the market, accounting for 55% of the overall on-trade ale category, which comprises one quarter of all UK on-trade beer sales.

Moreover, Molson Coors-owned Sharp's Doom Bar was unveiled as the country’s best-selling cask ale​ in The Morning Advertiser​'s 2019 Drinks List.

Is cask ‘old-fashioned’?

“We are looking to bring out a range of beers that will excite the consumer and introduce them to some new flavours and beer styles,” Shepherd Neame head brewer Mike Unsworth explained.

“We want to shake off the old-fashioned image that cask ale sometimes projects, bringing more people to what we believe is one of the best drinks in the world, at the same time celebrating some seasonal classics.”

A number of other brewers have attempted to innovate in the cask category in order to appeal to the modern consumer, with Molson Coors-owned Sharp’s Brewery trialling its iconic Doom Bar brew as an extra-chilled variant in October 2018 after the brewer claimed more consumers prefer cooler pints.

In addition, Manchester-based craft brewer Cloudwater unveiled plans to bring back cask​ in October 2018 having dropped it less than two years prior hailing cask as “an important part of our cultural and brewing heritage”.

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