The new Cask Report, launched today, and compiled for the first time by beer sommelier Sophie Atherton, examines the role of conversation in the buying and selling of cask ale in the pub.
“People are starting to talk about cask ale — Britain’s national drink — with more passion than was once thought possible,” said Sophie.
According to the research contained in the report, 92% of consumers want to know more about the different styles of beer now available. Sixty per cent said pubs don’t offer sufficient tasting notes on how beer looks, tastes and smells, and only 36% feel that bar staff have an understanding of cask.
Sophie said: “It is clear that it’s no longer enough to be able to pour a decent pint. Bar staff need to understand how cask ales are different from other beers. They need to be able to describe them, they need to be the ones starting the cask conversation.”
This should be made easier with the CaskFinder app and its pumpclip recognition system, which has been launched alongside today’s Cask Report.
Paul Nunny, of Cask Marque, explained: “All you do is grab a picture of a particular beer’s pumpclip and the app provides you with information about the beer. You’ll see the brewer’s tasting notes and description. These may include details about ingredients, and certainly tell you about colour and flavour. You can also see how other drinkers have rated it.
“The instant access to information allows bar staff to sell intelligently and consumers to buy knowledgeably. If licensees want to stay ahead in their game, they can use CaskFinder to supplement workforce training. Otherwise, they’ll find their staff being outflanked by customers when it comes to knowledge about their beers on their bar. That can’t be acceptable for anyone who takes retailing seriously.
He added: “From a consumer point of view, there’s no doubt about it: it’s a hugely more satisfying experience to buy from people who understand and care about what they are selling. Nowhere is more pertinent than the pub and nothing is more fitting than cask ale when it comes to conversation about British food and drink.”
This is the tenth edition of the Cask Report. In 2007, when the first edition was published, there were just 23,300 pubs (42% of pubs) selling cask ale. There are now 36,600 (72% of pubs) where seekers of Britain’s national drink can find it. During this time, there’s also been massive focus on quality. The number of Cask Marque accredited pubs has increased 160% from 3,690 in 2005 to 9,670 in 2015.
The report shows 81% of Cask Marque pubs to be growing sales, which, when set in the context of the overall cask market, indicate a direct correlation between quality and sales, says Cask Marque. According to the research, 90% of consumers say beer quality is very important or essential when choosing where to drink. Additionally, cask drinkers spend on average £967 a year in pubs — nearly twice the amount other drinkers spend.
The publication of the Cask Report signals the start of Cask Ale Week. Between September 22 and October 2, more than 10,000 pints of ale will be given away, with a view to bringing more people into pubs and to persuading drinkers to try something new.
According to new figures from the British Beer and Pub Association, cask ale is responsible for: 94,000 jobs; £1.1 bn in wages; the addition of £2.2 bn in gross value; and the generation of £1.3 bn in tax revenue.