A few years ago cask beer was very much looked down on. A dispense method that’s out of date, old man’s beer, boring brown ale etc. But in my eyes nothing was further from the truth. Yes, some of the big hitters in the UK brewing scene (Cloudwater and Buxton are great examples) stopped producing cask, but this wasn’t due to the reasons I’ve listed, it was due to increased costs of production and pub knowledge of the product in front of them.
A lot of traditional pubs are still stuck in the ideology that they can buy a cask at £60 and sell it on at £3.40 a pint. This brings up the two points I’ve mentioned in one simple synopsis.
Malt, hops etc have inflated in price, thus the brewery has to sell their cask for more, or risk running at a loss (even petrol costs come into this, they are driving the product to you after all). BUT most pub owners didn’t understand this, not really understanding the product. “I can buy at £60 cask and sell at £3.40 a pint, £75 for a cask is stupid money, I’ll have to sell at London prices”. I’m sorry, you get what you pay for. Do you a expect budget supermarket’s own £2.99 wine to taste the same as a £50 Pinot Noir?
Thought not! The other part of pub knowledge is staff, now this is my job and it’s hard work and unsociable hours, but at the very least I try to learn something about the ales that I am selling. How many times have you purchased a beer and thought that it’s off? How many times do you get the staff member behind the bar say, “It’s meant to be like that”. This is a cop out 7 times out of 10. They just don’t know the product….. but what do you remember? Oh I didn’t like that beer, it’s the beer name and pump clip that stick in your mind.
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So I can see why certain breweries stopped the production of cask. They’re proud of the product, but who’s selling it isn’t!
Now on the opposite side of the coin, many breweries (Siren, Tiny Rebel etc) carried on with cask production, but because of this issue with certain pubs they became selective about who they supplied, if they trust that their products are kept well, you can sell them, if not, you don’t get them!
So in the last year more and more breweries have started producing cask again, but selling it based on trust, if they hear it’s not kept well, you stop being supplied!
From this we are getting many weird and wonderful collaborations (Hobsons & Brew By Numbers is a great example) with many different styles and more breweries trusting certain venues which is leading to much more choice for the consumer.
Cask has proved it’s not an old man’s beer.
It’s not socks with sandals.
It has a crown on its head.
Cask is King!