When I took over The Rake, it had two hand pumps and was doing approximately 8 firkins a week. A little over two years later and Cask sales have more than doubled to the point where on average The Rake goes through 17 casks a week and I’ve had to add a third Handpump and some extra stillaging in the cellar!
So what do I put this down to? Well, for starters, I’ll put it down to the customer. My average punters are not old guys who sit at the bar all day and drink the same thing day in day out, they are a lot more curious than that. Whilst I do get some of the older generation coming in, they are also genuinely after something new, probably more adventurous than a lot of the younger guys. I’m not saying that the younger folks aren’t curious or adventurous, that’s the nature of youth and I am extremely thankful for that, it makes my job more rewarding if I can recommend a beer to someone and they come back and say that was fantastic!
It’s helped also by the fact that the British craft beer scene is so vibrant at the moment, breweries such as Otley, Thornbridge, Dark Star and Moor, to name just a few, are taking their inspiration from the USA. They have the personalities to give cask ale the hype that it deserves, they are giving their beer a personality too, something that has to be applauded and celebrated. What craft brewers and bar managers such as myself are trying to do is spread the word that it’s not just about necking 10 pints of lager on a Friday night and writing off your Saturday, it’s more about experiencing the flavours and enjoying the craft that goes into making the beer that goes into your glass.
For years the beer scene in Britain was bland and one dimensional, it made working in pubs a bit dull really and gave us the feeling of working in a factory environment, dishing out the same beers to the same people day after day. That in turn gave credence to the generalisation that anyone could work in a pub and those that do are thick and should be treated like second class citizens. With the amount of different beers coming into pubs, bars and restaurants nowadays the staff are more than just mindless robots dishing out tasteless fizzy rubbish and there is a genuine lack of respect for these human beings. It’s a mindset that is still to be gotten rid of in these enlightened days of craft brewing and growing choice for the consumer but we do what we can and we’ll keep shouting about it.
The recently published Cask Report states that cask beers sell better when they are more expensive than the regular or ‘house’ lager. I generally agree with that sort of pricing, after all, from the first mash-in to racking the beer into barrels, delivering it to the outlet, stillaging, venting and tapping to the final moments up to when the customer takes their first sip of the pint, it’s a labour of love from brewer to cellar man. Cask ale you see is a live product if it‘s not handled correctly it will lose its flavour, its body, its condition or life, it needs to be loved. One of the stigma’s of cask ale you see is that it’s warm and flat. Not so if you pay attention to it, treat it like a baby. It needs to be nurtured and more than anything it needs to be respected.