the cask project – opinion

Cask ale shouldn’t be Russian roulette

Opinion for the cask project on beer quality for customers

Related tags Cask ale Beer Craft beer

There’s nothing better than seeing a beer on the bar you really want to try rather than the homogenous offer available at almost all pubs.

I know a core lager must be on offer and its sales numbers prove it needs to be stocked because it remains an intrinsic part of the great British pub and popular with so many.

But I like something with a bit of flavour and typically that has been a craft beer during the past 10 years or so, but something else has always been on offer at many pubs – and eschewed in my younger years – and that is cask ale.

But why have I turned it down in the past? Almost certainly because it wasn’t what everyone else my age was drinking in the early ’90s (I’m so easily led by the masses) but, as for more recent times, it has been down to poor quality.

I have no doubt that just about all cask beer is produced well by breweries across the UK but why on earth is going to the bar and ordering a pint like a game of Russian roulette?

That pour could be amazing but it could equally be a festering vinegar-fest.

There have been far too many occasions when I’ve sent a pint back looking like I’ve munched on a wasps’ nest (more so than usual – Ed) and had to default to another beverage.

Retaining and boosting custom

Every licensee knows, when selling cask ale, you have a three-day window to start and end serving it.

Sales of cask ale have dropped in past years and that has been exacerbated by the pandemic so the category needs to cut out any risk of wasted beer and, more importantly, putting customers off choosing cask in the future.

So how can pubs and bars claw back some cask ale sales?

Firstly, get expert help. There’s plenty available and technical knowhow will ensure your cask beer is treated in the best way possible, but there are a multitude of things you can do yourself even if your knowledge is not all-encompassing.

Make sure your cellar is clean because cask ale is a living product and has to be exposed to the air in your cellar so make it the best quality possible.

Cask ale must be kept at between 11-13°C so it may be more difficult to ensure this with the recent hot weather and surging energy costs but this is equally as crucial as all the other aspects.

Go for local

Remember, people go to hospitality to enjoy food and drink they can’t emulate at home – and cask ale is something that can’t be copied at home and neither is it done anywhere else in the world.

Back in my own little world, I find it a real treat to find a local cask beer in a pub, particularly when I’m not on my usual stomping ground.

I remember the first time I tried TEA from Hogs Back Brewery in the Jolly Farmer in Bramley, Surrey, about 10 years ago. A fella I worked with told me this would be good when we got to the bar – and it was. My advice since then would be to go for a local cask ale because it hasn’t travelled far and its freshness is always going to be pretty much unbeatable – so long as the licensee gets it right every time.

The Cask Project, a campaign to designed to re-energise the category and reinstall it in pride of place at the bar of pubs across the UK, has loads of information to help operators on topics such as technical help​, what cask needs to do to capture a younger crowd​ and cellar management​.

Related topics The Cask Project

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