Pubpaper 827 – Cask Report 2015-2016

Posted: 2nd October 2015 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

This week, I’ll be covering the 2015-2016 Cask Report, the year report written by Pete Brown on the state of health of the cask beer market published a couple of weeks ago.   In summary the demand for cask ale is growing, albeit slowly at 0.2% per year, but this compares to a fall of 1.1% per year across the whole on trade market.   Cask is now accounting for 17% of all on trade sales, with 57% of ales being sold in pubs dispensed from cask rather than keg.  The value of the market has risen from £1.4 billion in 2010 to £1.8 billion in 2015, expected to reach £2.3 billion in 2020.

But let’s dive into the details of report.  Why is the cask ale market growing when the sector as a whole is shrinking.   The report cites the following trends Flavour, Less but Better (Quality not Quantity), Localness and Authenticity and what they call the Experience Economy (offering more than just the product).   The last point I disagree with, the pubs I visit for the best real ale don’t have to wrap it up in shiny paper, they just serve great real ale and that is all they need to do consistently to keep people returning.  But the other three points I broadly agree with.  When drinking I am looking for great new beers, different flavours and good quality.  I’m at an age where I can’t do ten pints any more, I’d rather drink 4 or 5 really good beers in a session than more average ones.  I’m 40 years old and have had 22 years of drinking beer, the taste buds need something stimulating.   The locality thing is certainly something I look for as well, just look at the success of the Vocation Brewery in Cragg Vale at the moment and their amazing beers (I must admit writing about beer while not being able to drink it is immensely annoying).  I always try to drink local beer wherever I visit, it is part of the experience.

The range of beers and brewers helps to grow the market through diversification, we now have over 1700 brewers registered in the UK, making 11,000 different beers each year. Of course the quality of the beer coming out of brewery will not be consistent across the market, but from a purely statistical point of view, the more people who are brewing beer, the more great brewers and beers which are out there and choice of good beer is never a bad thing.  People are bored of big brand beers and that is one of the reasons that small breweries can survive and grow.  I rarely touch mainstream brands now unless the only choice is such as Timothy Taylor, Black Sheep or Copper Dragon nestled into a bar stocked with AB InBev or Molson Coors core products, where it is the least worse option.

Now let’s look at why cask ale drinkers choose the pubs they visit.  In order the report lists these as Atmosphere, Price, Range of Beers, Range of Cask Ales, Decor, Food and Entertainment.   I think the order is pretty much right here, if a pub relies on food and entertainment to drive it’s wet trade then they haven’t got the beer right.  If the pub puts you off as soon as you walk in with its atmosphere then never mind how good the beers are, you are not going to buy them.  Price is important, but not critical and I will pay what I think a good beer is worth at the bar even if other might think it over the odds.   Personally I’d maybe swap Range of Beers and Range of Cask Ales, as that is one of the primary reasons I go to a pub regularly.   Some people put a lot of stock in decor, but as long as it is clean that is what matters.  I’ve been to some proper old school spit and sawdust boozers in my time and have great beer and a great time and not end of paint, fixtures or new furniture would have improved that experience.

To round off this week’s article, an update, I’ve been through my first week of radiotherapy and chemotherapy as I write this at the weekend.  The chemotherapy really takes a toll on your body and the drugs to counter the side effects of it don’t help much either.  Thankfully this has cleared and I’m only on mild irritation internally in my throat from the radiotherapy, but I am assured by the end of the week things won’t be quite as rosy. However the worse thing about the treatment is the mouthwash mix you are given, it would make Carlsberg taste like the best beer in the world and I’m not exaggerating.  It takes the taste of salt water and removes all the pleasant elements leaving one of the rankest flavours I have ever encountered.  The other thing I have learnt is that you are not the first to go through this, and will not be the last.  You know who you are, good luck for everything.