When was the final time you had a extremely good pint of draught cask ale? Satisfying but refreshing, filled with flavour, topped with a carpet of clean hoppy bubbles singing of heat autumn evenings – a pint that represents “the most effective of what beer has to supply”?
Not too long ago, I hope – however perhaps not lately sufficient. Maybe, whether or not you contemplate your self a cask drinker or not, the final time you ordered a hand-pull it was somewhat bit “meh”.
When business accreditation physique Cask Marque launched its annual report final 12 months (its 20th anniversary) it marked a step down from a extra bullish place. One thing, it mentioned, has gone mistaken.
Sure, editor Matt Eley opened, when it’s good it’s very, excellent. However after one other 12 months of declining gross sales – 6.eight per cent throughout the class – denial is now not an possibility.
That hefty piece of research titled Cask Reconsidered discovered an business dogged by points round notion, high quality and consistency. And follow-up analysis launched simply earlier than Easter weekend (NB – it was scorching) confirmed the most important difficulty for shoppers: temperature.
I get it. I’d prefer to drink extra cask. However notably in summer time when London’s (comparatively) excessive warmth proves an excessive amount of for this Scottish Highlander, considerations about temperature and refreshment sway me in direction of one thing acquainted and, sadly generally, boring.
My considerations aren’t unfounded. The beneficial serving temperature for cask beer is 11-13C. If the cellar is just too heat or chilly it should have an effect on the conditioning of the beer, which continues to be an unfinished product on arrival. However Cask Marque’s analysis discovered one in three pints had been served over 14C final summer time – even in January one in 5 had been nonetheless too heat.
On prime of this, though the “preferrred” temperature satisfies most common drinkers, of these surveyed 64 per cent mentioned they wish to strive cask served under 11C – hotter than lager however colder than what they’re used to.
Compounding all of that is the truth that 90 per cent of cask ales find yourself hanging round past their three-day shelf life, in line with CGA meals and drinks researchers, additional detracting from the flavour.
So what to do? Do shoppers know what they’re speaking about? Analysis suggests they don’t – however that is the issue. With regards to temperature, telling individuals they’re mistaken isn’t a very good enterprise technique. And when a beer will not be contemporary or has a fault, it’s extra prone to be deserted than introduced again to the bar and swapped for an additional. The drinker merely assumes it’s to not their style.
Nadia Murray of Sharp’s brewery in Cornwall says understanding, or lack thereof, is likely one of the principal hurdles brewers and publicans come up towards. The market has modified, and shoppers don’t at all times know the distinction between cask and keg beer (see under). Although in some ways they’re two sides of the identical coin, cask beer is perceived as an old school drink in comparison with trendier kegged craft beers.
Sharp’s, which produces the UK’s greatest promoting cask ale, Doom Bar, is meticulous about high quality and consistency, as I discovered on a current go to to the brewery in windswept Rock. In addition to working with Cask Marque – which visits 20,000 pubs a 12 months to carry out high quality checks and coaching – Sharp’s offers separate training programmes for stockists and its personal “High quality Assured” accreditation for pubs that don’t have a Cask Marque subscription.
Murray says there are greater than 100 parameters to be checked from the start to the top of the method, from the malt to the pH, microbiological exams within the lab and eventually on the provider finish – and batches don’t make it out till they’ve been tasted for high quality by the brewery’s panel of consultants, a few of whom have been evaluating pints of Doom Bar for over 12 years.
“It’s as much as us as a cask beer model chief to vary the misconceptions younger individuals have and to seek out options to encourage them to strive cask ale,” Murray says.
“This contains creating extra up to date model designs and experimenting with the serving temperature of cask ale.” Because of this, the brewery is at present trialling a calming model of its prize product at chosen retailers, with an extension of this anticipated later this 12 months.
Sharp’s is nicely resourced in comparison with many smaller brewers, however coaching for stockists by bigger producers and our bodies like Cask Marque will certainly have a knock-on impact for high quality throughout the board. And ensuing the beer is being taken care of correctly, in addition to responsive strikes like colder serves, might be key to preserving a heritage product with out letting it’s held again by traditionalism.
The thought of a Doom Bar Chilled may be heretical in some circles. Then once more, it may be a gateway product.
Scratching your head at “the distinction between cask beer, actual ale and keg beer”? Listed here are the fundamentals.
Conventional cask-conditioned beer undergoes a second fermentation within the cask itself, because it nonetheless carries an quantity of reside yeast when added to the container. It should end conditioning and maturing at its vacation spot venue, and is served with out the usage of gasoline; pulled by hand or by gravity, with all carbonation (often a lightweight fizz) a pure product of fermentation. It’s a contemporary product and as soon as a cask is tapped it ought to be used inside three days.
Keg beer in the meantime finishes fermenting on the brewery, could also be pasteurised to kill off leftover yeast and protect shelf life, and is propelled to the bar utilizing gasoline – usually CO2. It’s served colder than cask beer, round 2-8C.
There’s extra talent and energy required to take care of cask beer, with various steps to be taken over a number of days when it arrives at its vacation spot venue earlier than it may be tapped and served. When a keg arrives you may stand it within the cellar, join a coupler and also you’re able to go.
Actual ale is a time period coined by Camra (Marketing campaign for Actual Ale) within the early 1970s to tell apart conventional draught cask beers from the mass-produced, processed and extremely carbonated beers (predominantly lagers) which had develop into ubiquitous. It requires that the beer be produced and saved within the conventional approach; be unpasteurised and unfiltered; ferments within the dispense container and is served with out including gasoline. It’s price noting that Camra’s definition now encompasses bottles and cans too, so whereas cask-conditioned beer is actual ale, not all actual ale is cask beer.