Tuesday 26 October 2010

Why Cask Ale Rocks!

Cask Ale is important to each of us in very different ways. In this collaborative blogging effort me(Bar Manager), Kelly(Brewer), Mark(Homebrewer), Mark(Beer Writer) and Shea(Young Female Drinker) say why it's important to us.

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.


Cooking Lager said...

When you say beer needs to be loved, you don't mean physically do you? You haven't "loved" the beer in my glass to that degree? please?

rabidbarfly said...

Do you not Love your beer Cookie?

Professor Pie-Tin said...

Nicely put, Glyn.
Of all the blogs in the series I've read yours comes from the heart as the feller at the sharp end who has to sell the stuff.
The trouble is, of course, you're all preaching to the converted as well as each other in the bloggosphere.
The harder part is getting the message over to the outside world.
And what won't help is people trying to outdo each other in ever more ridiculous ways of describing the aroma and taste of beer as at least one writer in the series has.
Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke made twats of themselves doing that about wine years ago and some beer bloggers are making the same mistake today.
The punter wants to know two things - does it taste good and how much does it cost.
And he couldn't give a toss about hops,finings or even whether the yeast gives off the aroma of a barmaid's minge.
It really is that simple.

rabidbarfly said...

Thanks for the comment PPT, it was most certainly from the heart, I post these on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites to get as much coverage as possible. The same goes for the people that come into The Rake, yes most of them do already know about the place but enough of them don't that we do pick up new custom! Try and convert from the first visit and you sometimes get a customer for life!

Anonymous said...

the reason you are selling more cask is because you are getting beer from some of the best brewers in Britain.Previously the cask beer was mundane stuff and it was all about bottled beer.Its noticable that the condition of the beers have improved as well. cheers john

rabidbarfly said...

Cheers for the comment john, I agree that we're getting beers from some exciting brewers but once the beer is in it still needs to be looked after properly or even good beer will be wasted.

Bailey said...

I haven't been to the Rake for a bit and have to admit that, in the past, I've tended to come for the bottled beer and the US imports. But I feel chastened. We'll definitely try to the cask ale next time we're in, given the effort you're putting in.

rabidbarfly said...

Bailey - South West Beer Fest starts today, perfect opportunity to try some cracking cask condtioned ales!