Craft focus in granite city

Family-owned Aberdeen bar has beer fans in its sights, as Graeme Murray reports

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• Casc was opened in Aberdeen’s Merchant Quarter last December by the West family.

PAUL West admits he has “beers coming out of his ears” at one of Aberdeen’s newest bars.

Paul is owner of Casc (cigars, ales, Scotch and coffee), a recent addition to the city’s Merchant Quarter which stocks more than 240 bottled beers.
The family-run bar opened in December after Paul, his father Bill and mother Brenda decided to tap into a growing demand for craft beer in the city.
Now it has an ever-growing selection of beers and ales, including 24 draught lines which are constantly on rotation.
Despite the bar’s name, though, none of its 24 beer lines feature cask ale, with the focus instead on keg and bottled beers. Examples of ales the bar has sold recently include Siren Craft’s Limoncello IPA; Burning Sky’s Devil’s Rest IPA; Moor Beer Co’s Old Freddy Walker; Lagunitas IPA; Salopian’s Sentinel; Redchurch’s Great Eastern IPA; and Kernel’s Citra Centenial Amarillo IPA.
The business, which also has a walk-in cigar humidor, was quick to recognise the explosion in craft beers and has, according to Paul, been reaping the benefits of the renewed interest in ale.

Kegs are better for practical reasons. Cask ales require a lot more attention.

Keg ales were the clear focus when launching the bar and were also Paul’s own personal taste.
“My preference is definitely for keg beers,” he said.
“Cask beers are much flatter and both my dad and I prefer beer with a bit of carbonation.
“Kegs are also better for practical reasons; cask beers require a lot more attention, although even with kegs we don’t tend to have them on for more than a week.
“My dad and I are very similar and we both really like good beer, but over the years our preference has been for kegs over cask and overall when we were launching the business we thought keg was a safer bet.”
When a draught line is finished it is immediately replenished with a different beer to ensure a constant variety of different beers is offered to the customer.
And it’s not all about draught beer and ales at Casc.

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• On board: the vast range of bottled and keg beers Casc stocks are written on a chalkboard.

The venue’s fridges are packed with a wide variety of bottled beers, with the German beers said to be a particular favourite among Casc’s customers.
American craft beers are also hugely popular among craft aficionados exploring the drink’s origins, said Paul.
Others from different continents have been introduced by Paul and his father after sampling them during their travels.
“We’ve got about 240 bottled beers and we keep adding more every week,” said Paul.
The sheer range of beers now on the market – both in packaged and draught format – is testament to the growing number of new breweries springing up every week.
But Paul reckons the growth in the number of producers will begin to tail off.
“Craft beer has mainly been a good thing, but there have been negatives too,” he said.
“There have been more producers popping up and calling themselves breweries. But in the long run there will not be the same number and only the strong will survive.”
It’s not all about beer and ale at Casc, however.
In addition to the walk-in cigar humidor, Casc also has a vast array of single malt whiskies.
The two will soon be able to be enjoyed in an outside smoking shack specifically created for cigar smokers.
The popularity of the basement bar’s beers shows no signs of waning, however.
In addition to the German ales, Paul said blonde and wheat beers along with pale ales also attract a lot of attention.
“We’ve got the biggest German beer selection in Aberdeen and that is very popular,” said Paul.

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There’s a lot of excellent Scottish breweries that have opened up.

“But if the staff recommend something we know customers will come back and order it again.
“American beers are popular because the craft scene started there and people know they are going to get good quality if they pick one.
“There’s a lot of new Scottish breweries which have opened up which have proved themselves to be excellent.
“We find that there’s a lot of interest in one-off beers.
“With some customers it doesn’t really matter what style it is, if people see that it’s limited edition, it will sell.”
Creating and expanding the bar’s vast selection of ales and whiskies, however, has not been cheap.
“We knew we had to spend a lot of money initially,” added Paul.
“Let’s just say we will be penniless for a while.”