BEER has been big in the on-trade in recent years; and while much of the focus has undoubtedly been on new craft products, it seems there has been no shortage of activity at the cask end of the spectrum.
Andy Mitchell of Caledonian Brewery said the category continues to attract new drinkers, claiming that 15% of today’s cask ale drinkers tried their first pint within the last three years.
It’s not just cask drinkers that have changed.
Flavours are also reckoned to be changing, influenced by modern beer trends.
Mitchell said American hops are “definitely influencing styles” although he warned that there is a limit to how much hops can be added before the beer becomes unbalanced.
Derek Moore of the Kelburn Brewing Company agreed that there has been a “trend towards big hoppy beers akin to American IPA’s” in recent years but also claimed many drinkers still prefer traditional cask styles.
“Although golden ales were more popular over the past decade, mainly due to lager drinkers changing to real ale, the trend recently is showing a shift back to dark beers by a large number of real ale drinkers,” said Moore.
Stephen Crossland of Loch Ness Brewery said golden ales continue to be the most popular, “but the fans of porter, stout and even mild are still there”.
“More drinkers are now prepared to try something a bit different, especially if they are in a pub where they trust the landlord to serve a good quality pint,” said Crossland.
Whatever the prevailing beer trend, publicans need to strike a balance at the hand pumps, according to Bobb Hogg of the Inveralmond Brewery.
“Publicans need to have a cask beer offer that includes a balance of well known brands and a rotating innovative range,” he said.
“This will appeal to people entering the category for the first time and also attract the more seasoned and experienced drinker.”
Hogg suggested operators aim to offer a “broad scope” of flavours for customers to choose from and ensure they are “not too challenging or extreme in taste”.
“Make sure that the quality of your cask ale is excellent by managing your cellar properly. There are some great cask management courses available and working towards Cask Marque accreditation is a great way to let consumers know that you have great cask ales.
“Also, social media is a great way to let consumers know that you sell cask ale.”
– Andy Mitchell, Caledonian Brewery
“You could offer samples or offer beers in smaller quantities, eg. flights, for people to try and see if they like it.
“‘Meet the brewer’ events are a great way to help promote an outlet’s desire to offer quality cask beer too.
“Ensuring people know the outlet sells cask beer before they even enter the building helps drive footfall, and matching beer and food can help outlets to stand out too.”
– Bobb Hogg, Inveralmond Brewery