Cellar is key to cask

Steam Packet Inn named one of top 16 pubs in Britain by CAMRA

• CAMRA has named The Steam Packet Inn, Isle of Whithorn, as one of Britain’s top 16 beer pubs.

THEY take cellar management seriously at the Steam Packet Inn.

So seriously, in fact, that the Isle of Whithorn venue was named one of the top 16 pubs in Britain in the Good Beer Guide 2015 as selected by CAMRA.
Alastair Scoular, owner of the Steam Packet Inn, told SLTN that work in the cellar has a major bearing on the business as a whole.
“Beer quality, considering we’re cask ale-led, is absolutely crucial to the wet side of the business,” said Scoular.
“Looking at bar sales, we’re 65% cask ales. Beer sales are 55%-60% of our overall wet sales.”
With cask ale such an intrinsic part of the Steam Packet Inn business, Scoular makes sure that only staff that “know it backwards” handle the cask side of cellar management.
“Because they’re more difficult to look after, there’s three of us qualified to look after them to make sure no one makes a mistake,” he said.
The “live product” aspect of cask ale makes it more difficult to manage than keg, according to Scoular, but he doesn’t think publicans should be put off by the work, especially since it’s been such a hit for the Steam Packet Inn.
“Without cask beer, the wet side [of our business] wouldn’t be half as viable,” he said.
“Cask is a big draw, people will travel for cask ale whether it’s people coming in for a pint or to have it with a nice meal. Cask ale will draw people on lots of different levels.”
For licensees looking to move into cask, Scoular said there are several things to consider.
“Firstly get in touch with tech services and make sure you get a proper installation: good cellar equipment, refrigeration, lines set up correctly and [make sure] you know how to look after [cask],” he said.
“You need to get it right first time.”
And it’s not just those new to managing cask in the cellar that should seek out advice.
Scoular said that asking for help can be “crucial”, no matter how experienced the publican.
“I’ve been in the pub trade 30-odd years and there’s always something to learn,” he said. “I’ve just put real cider on and that’s new to me.”