The Cask Ale Report 2010 has been published. It will take a fair bit of reading before I have fully absorbed its contents, but suffice to say it is good news that cask continues to outperform the market with 3000 more pubs selling it since the last report, an increase in volume of 5% against a market decline of 2% for other beers and a tendency towards it by younger drinkers. All in all good news.
One or two things caught my eye. I was interested, as I always am in regional variations. The fact that 41.8% of all cask is sold in London and the South East is hardly a surprising one given the increasing move to cask by more affluent ABC1 types as mentioned in the report. Somewhat surprisingly given that backdrop, cask volumes in London fell, though not nearly as much as here in the North West, where a 6.2% decline took place. The London drop is surprising given the claims that London is becoming, according to some, firmly on the UK Beer Map once again. (This, by the way, has seemed to possibly have a basis i wishful thinking and may be the subject of a blog post at a later date.)
It was particularly pleasing too to see a piece in the report on beer quality, which is a pet subject of mine. Some practical and useful advice is offered as is advice about where to go for more help on the subject. Cask beer quality is immensely important if we are to consolidate and make further progress. The report recalls that the last surge in cask foundered on quality concerns. (Given that, I was surprised to see on page 22, that the prospect of warm beer wasn't one of the non cask ales drinker's considerations. Aren't they in for surprise in some places?)
One note of slight displeasure is the assertion that cask ale isn't expensive enough; that publicans are missing out on margin; that most drinkers feel they should pay more for cask than Carling. This is a complex argument which couldn't be readily covered in the report I suppose, but I'd suggest that once you add in other factors which affect the price and quality of the pint, the results may be a little different. It's all in the question you ask. Still, that's just a quibble.
So. Do read the report.* It's positive, well put together, contains a lot of fascinating statistics, puts cask beer firmly in the limelight and is a credit to its author Pete Brown.
*One slight black mark. As I finish this at 9.40, the official website doesn't have the report available, but you can get it from the Publican here.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, CAMRA Chairman and (local) activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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