Why Cask Ale Week is a highlight on the pub calendar

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Cask Ale Week must remain a highlight on pub calendars

Related tags Cask ale The Cask Project Cellar management Cask marque Multi-site pub operators

Plenty has happened in recent times when it comes to the world of cask ale – not least Cask Ale Week, which was, as usual, a huge success.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) hails cask as the freshest type of beer any pub or bar can put on sale and led the crusade for Cask Ale Week, which ran between Thursday 21 September and Sunday 1 October.

CAMRA national chairman Nik Antona​ said at the time: “Cask Ale Week is a great opportunity for pubs and brewers to promote their cask ale ranges.

“It is important this style of drink is in the forefront of the public’s mind when they frequent their local as it’s the freshest and potentially most locally sourced beverage behind the bar.

“Brewers can organise events which promote their cask products such as tap takeovers or meet-the-brewer nights at local pubs.

“Hosting a Cask Ale Week event is a win-win for both publicans and brewers because it can both advertise and highlight a brewer’s portfolio while driving much-needed custom to a pub or venue.”

Cask Ale week Shepherd neame for sunday session 261123

Brewers and pubcos Greene King and Shepherd Neame​ were keen to focus on ensuring Cask Ale Week was a success across the UK.

Suffolk-based Greene King stated: “Like any artisanal product, cask beer is best served at its freshest, however, due to various circumstances not all pubs can still get through the same volumes of cask that they once did. This has led to pubs either taking cask off the bar, losing on sales with waste or selling beer that’s quality has deteriorated, and this is something we really need to change as brewers.

“Greene King has launched a way to tackle this via the 4.5-gallon pin so pubs can manage a lower throughput at quieter times. This investment means that by offering a smaller unit for operators, cask can have its rightful place on the bar even at quieter drinking periods.”

The Bury St Edmunds brewer launched seasonal cask Fresh Legs, a golden 4% ABV ale that was available during the Rugby World Cup while returning beer, Bonkers Conkers, which uses five hop varieties, was on sale for September.

Meanwhile, Shepherd Neame celebrated Cask Ale Week and Kent Green Hop Season with a free pint of its cask ale for customers who signed up to the company’s database.

It launched limited-edition green hop ale Hop Pocket (4.5% ABV) with hops from the fresh harvest and brands marketing manager Rose Davis said: “We really wanted to do something special to mark this year’s Cask Ale Week event, and also to encourage drinkers to join in the Kent Green Hop Season celebrations.

“We are passionate advocates for cask ale, which is why we launched our Cask Club range of experimental, innovative ales back in 2019 to encourage people to enjoy what we believe is one of the best drinks in the world.”

Cask drinkers spend more

Fuller’s, Wadworth and Cheshire Cat Pubs & Inns​ also backed Cask Ale Week with Fuller’s drinks marketing manager Ed Fryer claiming cask ale drinkers spend more so it makes financial sense to back celebrations.

He said: “Although we no longer own a brewery, we are synonymous with great beer and with the excellent cask ale still brewed at the Griffin Brewery under Asahi’s stewardship.

“It really is at the heart of a classic Fuller’s pub and will always be. We see cask ale as fundamental to our offer – which is why we spend time and money in sourcing, keeping and serving a first-class range of delicious beers in excellent condition.”

Wiltshire-based Wadworth was offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal on paddles of beer. The paddles had 3 x 1/3 pints of Wadworth cask ales throughout the week so guests who were not sure which beer to go to have the chance to test the range available.

The brewer said: “Cask ales are at the core of our business and ensuring each and every pint is top quality is our mission.”

Meanwhile, Cheshire Cat Pubs & Inns co-owner Tim Bird said: “Cask Ale week is always celebrated in our pubs. All our ales come from local microbrewers from within a 35-mile radius of each pub.

“Supporting local beer makers has always been very important to us. We are strong supporters of Cask Marque too and all our pubs are put through their paces each year to ensure our ale is consistently good. There is nothing better than the sound of a hand-pump being pulled and the ale hitting the glass. It is unique to a pub and a key reason for beer enthusiasts to visit our pubs.

“With international lager prices going through the roof, it is time for pubgoers to move on from the fizzy stuff and have a great pint of ale instead… they will enjoy the experience as well as make a tremendous saving while supporting local business at the same time.”

Purest form

Arkell’s brewery was also keen to shout about the celebratory week​ too.

Head brewer and sixth generation family member Alex Arkell said: “I’ve drunk beer all over the world and cask is easily my favourite; it’s beer in its purest form, complex, unadulterated and delicious.

“Cask Ale Week is the perfect opportunity to shout about it and we’re very proud to do so.”

Sharp’s Brewery​, located in Cornwall, launched a new beer called New Zingland to celebrate. It was a limited-edition 5.4% ABV hazy pale ale, created as part of the brewers annual in-house cross-brewery team challenge.

Described by Sharp’s as having a “creamy mouthfeel” with flavours of stone and citrus fruit, the new serve was made of Motueka, Talus and Nelson Sauvin hops, all grown in New Zealand, alongside a Kveik Yeast.

Sharp’s technical brewer Jonathan Wide said: “We love working in cask. It is incredible to witness the development of flavour and aroma as the yeast carries on interacting in the cask.”

Meanwhile, Timothy Taylor’s chief executive Tim Dewey​ said: “Despite developments in bottled and kegged ale, cask remains at the heart of Timothy Taylor’s brewery and accounts for over 85% of our current sales, with Landlord the second best-selling cask, by value, in the country.

“We have noted, with concern, the decline in cask sales in recent years. Through a focus on quality and a highly skilled sales force, that works closely with pubs, we are doing our utmost to help the category, by ensuring our brands reach the consumer in excellent condition.”

Nicholson’s Pub Collection partnered with Gipsy Hill Brewing Co​ to revive the brewer’s original session IPA Hepcat for the first time in more than five years to celebrate Cask Ale Week.

Nicholson’s Pub Collection operations director Will Prideaux said: “We are staunch supporters of cask ale – a drink that sometimes sadly gets overlooked by punters in favour of lagers and IPAs.”

Gipsy Hill Brewing Co managing director and co-founder Sam Meekin added: “Joining Nicholson’s Pubs in this celebration of cask ale for Cask Ale Week is our way of supporting this much-loved but sometimes overlooked type of beer and share it nationwide.”

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