Modern styles needed in pubs to change perceptions of cask

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

The Cask Project: more than half of operators feel perceptions of cask are not changing for the better
The Cask Project: more than half of operators feel perceptions of cask are not changing for the better

Related tags Cask Beer Brewing

Pubs must embrace more modern styles to attract a wider demographic to cask as more than half of operators feel perceptions of cask are not changing for the better.

A recent snap poll conducted by the Morning Advertiser (MA)​ found 52% of the 79 respondents felt perceptions of cask were not changing for the better, while 48% said they were.

Owner of the Wonston Arms in Winchester, Matt Todd, told the MA​ there was “great enthusiasm” for cask ale with more mature drinkers, but less so for younger consumers.

However, he added certain things within the segment were “changing for the better” as smaller regional breweries increase their cask production.

This view was also recently voiced by Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) chief executive Andy Slee, who told the MA independent brewers would be the “saviours” of cask.

Moreover, the latest SIBA beer report showed a 10% year-on-year increase in cask production among these brewers.

Though to attract more people, and a younger demographic, to the category, Todd added the more pubs sell more modern styles alongside traditional ales, the more customers could be “enticed” to try more.

Price points 

He continued: “From what I've observed, hazy ales and American-style pale ales and IPAs seem to be drawing younger people towards cask offerings.

“Also, low and no ale might go over well on draught, rather than only lagers and canned varieties.

“There are some great modern breweries using more new world hops and these are getting more popular.

“There is still interest in cask ales and people will travel to get to the good pubs offering non mainline beers.”

In addition, Todd detailed price points had impacted the category, adding while many outlets are “reasonably priced”, pushing the cost could “turn people away” while charging too little could make cask seem “out-dated”.

He said: “I don’t understand why cask is cheaper than high volume big brand lagers on keg, for example.

“This I’m my eye can devalue cask in a consumers mind as an old hat out-dated product, which it is not.”

Consumer desire for hoppier ales with a higher ABV is something Todd has seen “grow” over the past five years.

Positive future 

He explained: “Pale coloured cask ales are now the preferred style in terms of colour rather than the darker more traditional style English ales.

“During Covid, a lot of pubs reduced cask ales in favour of keg as the beer was going off, and regrettably many have not gone back to cask full and proper.

“This means many are now relying on bland ales from the big nationals, I suspect in part due to price, but there needs to be support for small batch breweries and truly independent local pubs supporting local breweries.”

Looking to the future, Todd urged the category needs to shake off the “old-school” look.

He said: “Cask needs to find itself a modern young influencer who can champion the category and drive its ‘coolness’ to bring younger millennials into the segment.

“Introducing a new glassware format would crack this also as the old-school pint look would be not there drink format of choice.”

Though the operator concluded he was “very positive” about the outlook for cask.

He added: “So many small breweries are now producing high quality ales that rival or surpass the well-known ones, which seems to bode well for the future market. Fingers crossed these little breweries are successful and continue to prosper.”

Related topics The Cask Project

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