After extensive research, The Cask Report 2018/19 explains there is a huge amount of love for cask beer but this is not being reflected in the declining sales. Although this has been directly impacted by the number of pub closures and increasing industry challenges, there are still concerns that sales are worse than they should be.

So where is it going wrong?  Consistency and quality of the product, guest perceptions, failure to recruit new drinkers, and product knowledge are some of the key areas of concern. However, its not all bad news. Golden ale is in growth and the craft beer movement could be used as an opportunity and not a challenge.

The Cask Report 2018/19 is the broadest research project undertaken in the 12 year history of the Cask Report. We have summarised some of the key learnings:

The Pub Experience and Cask Occasions

Guests are generally visiting the pub less due to a number of reasons including; ‘having less money’ and ‘pubs being less welcoming than they used to be’. However, when guests do visit the pub they are often looking for events and experiences such as a planned meal with friends and family, key date celebrations, or special occasions.

Pubs should use this as an opportunity to hold events to attract a wider audience and turn this into a ‘cask occasion’. Consider making cask serving suggestions with meals, holding beer festivals or tasting evenings. Think about offering a range of ABV’s and styles to suit the event, the time of day and the season.

Recruit new drinkers

Generally, the older the guest the more likely they are to be loyal to cask. However, the frequency of visits is quite the opposite.  According to the report 65% of those aged between 35 and 44 are likely to drink cask on a pub visit but only 25% of that age group go to the pub as often as once a fortnight. Whereas, those aged between 18 – 24 are likely to visit the pub every couple of weeks but two thirds have never tried cask ale.

This makes it clear that more needs to be done to widen the guest base and change the perception of cask.  As well as offering experiences, pubs could offer ‘try before you buy’ samples, showcase smaller half-pint glassware and recommend products from a well-trained and enthusiastic team.

Craft vs Cask

The craft trend potentially repositions cask ale as ‘old fashioned’. However, it shouldn’t be difficult to turn keg and craft drinkers into cask drinkers by finding their common ground. According to consumer research guests are more interested in the characteristics of beer rather than the definition. They can also identify common features of craft and cask: quality over quantity, handmade, diverse, different and local.

Pubs should celebrate this overlap rather than seeing it as a challenge. After all, cask is the ‘godfather’ of craft beer and pubs should tell the story of cask as the continuing inspiration for craft beer and promote its sessionable strength.

Quality Awareness and Knowledge

Quality is important to consumers with 40% saying they would never return to a pub after a bad pint. To the guest, quality goes beyond technical standards which highlights the importance of knowledge and awareness.

Technical Quality 

Although 90% of publicans say they are aware of beer quality advice, this is not always followed consistently. For example 7 in 10 pints of cask were served warmer than the recommended temperature of 11- 13 degrees.

By maintaining high cellar standards, you can benefit from cask ale’s resilience and stability to increase profit. We asked John Meakin, our Beer Quality Ambassador, for his top three tips for looking after cask beer:

  1. Only sell cask ale that can be sold within three days, whatever the container size.
  2. Sterilize cask taps, ale lines and beer engines for great quality ale, ideally clean lines between casks to cut down any wastage.
  3. It is better to reduce the amount of ale in your cellar when sales are slow, it is better to sell 2 good quality ales than 4 mediocre ones, which can have impact on your profit

Knowledge and Awareness

Knowledge and awareness are important drivers that will affect a guest’s experience of cask.  It is reported that two thirds of drinkers don’t complain if they have been served a bad pint. Most commonly this is because they are unsure whether they have been served a poor quality pint or they just don’t like the taste.

Therefore it is important to keep your team well trained and enthusiastic about the beer they are selling so they can offer the guest genuine advice based on their taste preferences. Three common team initiated cask conversation are:

  1. What beers are on/coming on
  2. Telling customers they can try before they buy
  3. Explaining what beers taste, smell or look like

For more information on the Cask Report 2018/19, download the full report here

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