Why cask ale matters — sticking up for CAMRA

realalechalkboard

A recent post of ours about the Good Beer Guide set off a wider debate about CAMRA‘s focus on cask ale, at the expense of other good beer, a point which Tim picks up here.

Just after we started blogging, we posted about the use of the word “craft” beer, and why we preferred it to “real ale” as a concept.  Re-reading it, I would still agree with most of the sentiments but I feel the need to stick up for real ale a little more now than I did then.

As a beer lover, I adore the fact that my favourite pints in the pub will rarely taste exactly the same.  I like that the fact that you can get amazing-tasting beer at relatively low strength — I can’t think of many sub 4% “unreal” beers that taste great, whereas I can think of many wonderful cask ales at that strength.

Sometimes we think that the UK could do with a “craft beer revolution”, one that focusses on the quality of the beer, not the way it’s produced.  Certainly beers like Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn Lager which are unreal by the time the hit the UK are fantastic gateway beers for people who aren’t that bothered about beer.

However, if there is less emphasis on cask ale, is there a danger that it will decline again?  As Jeff and Dave and various others point out, looking after and serving real ale is a chore.  Why would you do it unless you loved the stuff?  It would seem to be an obvious thing to get rid of if you run a pub company — as Jeff has pointed out, the margins are often worse, particularly for beer from small breweries.

So why do pub companies bother stocking cask ale (albeit often a limited selection) and how come so many landlords sell it even though they “don’t personally touch the stuff“? Could it be something to do with a national pressure group that rewards you in publicity for stocking the stuff?

I do get frustrated with narrow-minded attitudes towards lager, and what I call the “four legs good, two legs bad” dogma that many CAMRA members seem to subscribe to.  But we’re still members of CAMRA (albeit not active ones) because we would still like to see more cask ale around and a greater choice in the places that do stock it.  And while we hate the “take it to the top” campaign, there is a lot of other grass-roots stuff going on (“LocAle” springs to mind) that is helping to promote good beer in a wider variety of places.

Boak

62 thoughts on “Why cask ale matters — sticking up for CAMRA”

  1. “Craft brewing” in the US is mainly a marketing phenomena. And, of course, marketing works well in the US. Sadly, most of these “craft” beers are remarkable only in their lack of taste that will survive, hence the number of new beers created by “craft” brewers.

    There are two brewpubs in my (college) town that between them do not brew a drinkable beer, not because they cannot, but because they can sell high-alcohol beers with fruit slices at a higher volume. Take a close look at the craft beer market in the US, there is no such beer as a session beer (<5% ABV), almost all are high-alcohol, either a take-off of Belgium beer or some nasty fruit/wheat concoction.

    Even Pale Ales exported to the US rarely have less than 5%; the only exception that comes to mind is Guinness at 4.8%.

    Just my view, but luckily you have cask beer. Sorry for the rant from across the pond.

  2. I don’t really like the term ‘craft’ when applied to beer. I see it as the thin end of the wedge – trying to make keg respectable which is what I suspect is really behind it.

  3. I think it also the distinction between cask ale and keg beer. CAMRA diehards usually frown upon anything that comes from a keg. This may be an over representation, but from comments posted on blogs and the like seems to be a good generalisation. A lot of the US craftbrewers have been successful as they do not have the pressure of a consumer group like CAMRA puting stipulations on packaging. Cask ale costs a lot of money to keep compared to keg, and keg allows the brewery’s to distribute their beer to a larger market and have a realistic chance of making a fair go of the business. There are hundreds of new microbreweries, but they are forced to distribute locally due to the limitations of the cask.
    If CAMRA don’t have a problem with bottling bitter and calling it a pale ale, then whats the problem with kegging it? I notice that a lot of the larger regional breweries (Wychwood, Youngs, Fullers) are now exporting to the US is widget cans. If they pulled that in the UK, CAMRA would be shouting like it’s no ones business.

  4. i’d much rather pubs stocked an interesting selection of bottled ales, (preferably in the fridge – they’ll soon warm up once poured) than half-heartedly keeping a hand pump or two of something boring and badly kept (here in London that usually means something like London Pride, Youngs, Greene King, etc)

  5. “looking after and serving real ale is a chore” – Nope, sorry, it’s a labour of love. Brewing beer is also a labour of love.

    I think you are all right in your own ways. Cask IS special. But kegged beers can be too. Cask beer can be crap and so can keg. CAMRA do a very good job of maintaining cask as a style. But CAMRA also do their bit to turn off some people to cask. Some people actually like a fizzier beer. I think there is room to develop quality beer in the UK that is not cask.

    Marketing can convince people that beer is good when it’s not and bad marketing as Jeff Pickthall points out can also make cask seem quirky. Actually, I like quirky.

  6. Well, here’s my take on the article and the comments so far for what it’s worth. I think the term “real ale” has become somewhat outdated. I have said before that I always use “cask ale” and believe that is helpful in that it tells you what it does on the tin. OK – CAMRA will still be CAMRA and it has to be said the term “real ale” does still strike a chord with those who don’t have the same involvement in beer that most of us here have. It works for CAMRA. I don’t believe that craft ale is a good substitute name in the UK. It is far too difficult to define. Ask any Yankee geek.

    I don’t believe – and I’ve looked after a lot of cask in my time – that it takes that much more effort. It may not have the margin and maybe it should sell for more in some places. There are a lot of variables I agree, but there is nothing at all difficult about it.

    As for the comments, I agree with Paul there is a sort of agenda here. Not that it is such a bad thing to have quality beers wherever they come from. Dave is right in this respect. Mostly. I certainly can’t agree that CAMRA turns people off to cask. Crass stereotyping of the bearded sandal wearer might well do though. I agree entirely with the last sentence of his middle para.

    Tim seems to have some funny ideas about CAMRA, some mistaken and some of the strerotypical kind. Most comments on these kind of blogs seem fairly open on the quality keg beer issue. CAMRA is about choice. The Articles of Association say at 3(c) To campaign for an improvement in the quality and variety of British
    beer; obviously cask ale is the main deal for us though, but I’d say the article referred to is pretty broad.

    So if there is quality keg beer competing with cask, so be it, but there are many other factors in the beer market. At the quality end you can certainly compete one with the other, but at the bottom end and in certain trendy venues, you are always going to have (poor quality) keg because of the environment, customer profile etc etc. It rules out cask because it is unlikely to have the throughput or quality for many reasons. Cask ale does not though cost a lot of money to keep. What makes him think it does? His statement that “There are hundreds of new microbreweries, but they are forced to distribute locally due to the limitations of the cask.”is just nonsense. If small brewers here want to produce keg beer they can, but I’ll tell you this, almost no bugger will buy it. If there was a market for it, they’d be pruducing it.

    Finally if anyone wants to produce beer in a widget can, they can. Nobody will care. Least of all CAMRA, unless of course they try and pass it off as the same as cask. CAMRA is in no position to stipulate packaging.

  7. Real Ale has become an outdated term with so many negative images of beards and bellies. It’s so difficult to overcome that and going to beer festivals does nothing to change that reputation.

    Cask beer is as British as the Queen. It’s an institution. Great cask real ale can be mind-blowing but there are so many more ‘average’ pints than ‘awesome’ ones and that’s possibly where some of the problems begin – it’s an issue of quality. I like cask for the differences in each pint; a fervent lager drinker presumably likes the stuff because it always tastes the same.

    Cask Ale is a fresher term, and thinking about it I don’t think I ever use the words ‘real ale’. I do think the term Craft Beer is a good one. It suggests something made on a smaller scale, based on quality over quantity, something more intimate and possibly unique. The craft beer movement is a US thing, but those who support it seem to be the generation younger than the ones who ‘support’ the real ale ‘movement’ in the UK.

    I want cask beer in pubs but I want to see exciting new UK beers. Real ale is very important but I think it’s under-appreciated because of the image it has. It could do with a sexy make-over.

  8. Interesting read this. If bloggers and their comments are to be believed, it would appear that CAMRA are at a bit of a tipping point right now. Depending on your definition, you could argue that the cask ale (a term I also find preferable to “real ale” – which makes me as queasy as the idea of “real music”) battle has been won. It’s incredibly widely available – both from the nationals/regionals and the inpendents/micros. As other commenters point out – of course, there’s plenty of average stuff along with the excellent stuff.

    But I wonder how many CAMRA branches (or even HQ for that matter) are even aware of this? My local branch – Aylesbury Vale & Wycombe – seem perfectly content to have “socials” in the same handful of pubs, attended by the same handful of people, year after year. The branch magazine is admittedly one of the slicker ones I’ve seen, but the website is virtually inactive. People like this don’t seem to be engaging at all with the wider world, and I think this is a significant part of the image problem CAMRA has with the public. It’s not even necessarily a case of needing new blood – I’m sure there’s plenty of diversity of opinion and interest out there in the membership already. I’m a mixed-race guy, working in higher education. My partner works for the NHS and is Australian. We have other friends from many walks of life who are CAMRA members as well, but none of us feel welcome or able to break into those inner circles of the branches. It’s particularly difficult when at branch level they persist in this fantasy of what they euphemistically call the “Community Local, but grudgingly have to award Pub of the Year to a pub which has been refurbished, has a massive cask selection (not to mention a big selection of bottles), which has become more important in the local community than any of their run-down backstreet conscience-easing favourites.

    I realise this comment has turned into a bit of a moan about CAMRA, particularly at the branch level. To bring it back round – yes, cask ale definitely matters. A lot. I’ve never understood the harmful (to non beer-geeks or CAMRA members, at least) branding and marketing that many brewers undertake. Surely the core audience – the stereotype beard and belly brigade – will continue to scoop and tick away whether or not you market your ale with pump clips featuring crap fantasy imagery, sexist crap fantasy imagery, or rotten puns? So why not put some thought into – or get someone else to do it for you – and try to work a bit on that as-yet untapped audience?

  9. PS – obviously I should add that I fully appreciate that not all cask ale is marketed in such an unreconstructed way. It’s only because great cask ale is SO good that the sexist / elf stuff is so disappointing.

  10. To expand a little on keep cask beer, it is true the mechanics are not difficult. I would encourage any licensee to try it regularly. I don’t care much for lager, but I do try it occasionally, just to check it. You don’t have to like a product to test it is still right.

    Managing and planning cask can be more difficult. If, like us, trade fluctuates greatly due to the weather and holidays etc, it can be easy to get it wrong. Getting left with a couple of half empty firkins because the customers wanted to try variety at the weekends can be something of a problem.

    I’m still learning how to manage that bit and we do get it wrong sometimes. Selective deafness when customers comment about the empty handpulls helps.

    Unfortunately, the stereotypical image of CAMRA members might well be wrong, but it’s still there.

  11. I agree with Tandleman on this one. Most people I know use the term “Cask Ale” in general conversation-as in “has it got cask on?” The term “Real Ale” tends only to be used when explaining the differences in beer to a newbie. Like it or not, though, it is in the OED and therefore part of modern language now. It also means it’s a legal term with a very definite meaning and a pub is committing an offence to falsely advertise it. Still, as I say, I prefer “cask.” And, indeed, CAMRA ran a “Ask for Cask” promotion, so they know its broader appeal.

    The term “Craft Beer” is a non-starter for all of the reasons people have given above. Also, I think Mark, in advocating it, has highlighted a weakness. If it does indeed portray an image of small scale brewing, then it’s wrong. A lot of the US “craft” brewers output more than some British regionals-which, is not what most people mean when they talk about “craft” brewing.

  12. @ Tandleman said “If small brewers here want to produce keg beer they can, but I’ll tell you this, almost no bugger will buy it.”

    Is this because the beer is sub-quality or because CAMRA tell them that cask ale is “the real deal”. How many times do I have to hear that this or that brewery’s bers are only kept well in brewery tied houses? This stiff exists – and CAMRA can turn a blind eye if it wants to, but it is certainly a naive way to promote ‘choice’.

  13. Tandleman, I’m going to have to disagree with you on whether there is a market in the UK for real keg beer.

    All the beer I brew goes out the door in kegs and your right, most of the beard and sandals type wouldn’t touch it. But really, this is only 2.5% of the UK market. What we find is that we compete with the big boys on the other side of that 2.5%.

    We are finding a much younger group of people drinking our beer as they realise that they (people that like a colder, slightly fizzier pint) too have a flavourful (and just as real) local option. And, they are willing to pay as much or more for it than the mega beers on the bar.

    Please don’t believe or promote the CAMRA mantra that all keg beer is bad. It is just a container!

    Craft beer is the best descriptor for what we do.

  14. Jeff – You are (not I hope deliberately) misrepresenting what I said. For a start I regard “beer and sandals” as a pejorative and unhelpful stereotype. When I said there is no market for keg craft beer it was in the specific context of a rebuttal of what Tim said: “There are hundreds of new microbreweries, but they are forced to distribute locally due to the limitations of the cask is just nonsense. If small brewers here want to produce keg beer they can, but I’ll tell you this, almost no bugger will buy it. If there was a market for it, they’d be producing it.”

    If you have found a niche, good for you. Your beer isn’t pasteurised, good for you. Will your way of doing things spark a revolution in craft keg beer brewing? I doubt it and truthfully, I bet you don’t either, though I don’t doubt that there is a small niche for what you do in certain locations.

    I take your point also about (some) younger people liking colder and fizzier beer. That is why I have been banging on for years that cask ale needs to be served cooler and in peak condition. (I would though be interested to know how much CO2 as volume per millilitre your beer is dispensed at.)

    And lastly I don’t, haven’t and won’t say that all keg beer is bad. Read my bloody blog if you doubt that.

  15. Tandleman, the “please don’t promote” statement was meant for others reading the blog, I didn’t mean to aim that one at you specifically – I do read your blog or I wouldn’t be here.

    There is a market for this side of craft beer and I’d argue that it exists everywhere on this island. Will it cause a revolution…quietly, yes, I think it will, but hey I have to, don’t I.

    Our Henley Gold we try to hit 2.8 vols and Henley Dark and Henley Amber 1.8.

  16. Sorry Jeff. I like to think I am open minded about these things and was slightly peed off that wasn’t coming across.

    1.8 vols is a fair bit higher than what you’d get out of the bright beer / conditioning tank – well at best probably – so not hugely gassy, but when you get around 3 that’s pretty gassy stuff.

  17. I think there is definetely a market for keg beer. Guinness (well Diageo) sell more ‘not real’ keg stout everyday than all real ale producers put together. Regardless of what myths may be around, it is a quality product that sells to an international market.

    It will be interesting to see which direction BrewDog’s expansion will take. They are smart chaps and are releasing Punk IPA in both Keg and Cask form. They realise that cask only offers a limited distribution area. I bet they sell more kegs than they do casks, especially on the international market (ie where the money is).

    Would CAMRA exist if regional brewers sold quality ale from kegs rather than the crap they were passing off in the 70’s?

  18. BTW Tandleman – I respect your views, but I think from more of a practical business persepctive rather than an idealistic one.

    I don’t have a problem with CAMRA per se, just that CAMRA’s definitions of beer are so limited and maybe slightly outdated.

  19. Agreed, nearing 3.0 volumes is pretty gassy, but it is a wheat beer, it is supposed to be…

    Whatever you call it, real ale or cask ale as a dispense mechanism is very limiting to the brewer. There are only so many beer styles that can successfully be served what I call flat (okay 1.0 volumes). This is why we have 100000 versions of Bitter and the biggest innovation to come out of UK brewing in years is the Golden Ale.

    Go easy on me, I know some of my friends and heroes here are innovating, but generally it is just a lot of pale malt with fuggles and goldings – I am actually blown away at the number of permutations of this drink we have here.

    I think one core CAMRA problem for me is their definition of ‘real ale’. I get sick to my stomach as a brewer when I see them pumping O2 (yes, typically from an oily air compressor) into the Continental keg beers to dispense them at festivals (including GBBF). No one that has ever brewed a batch of beer will agree with you that O2 is good for beer at any part of the process, except just prior to fermentation. O2 is the enemy in the brewery and in most food processing.

    If I was really cynical I might even blame CAMRA for causing millions and millions of rancid pints of ‘real ale’ to be sold since their inception….come on guys, CO2 is CO2.

  20. Tim. I am a practical man. Idealism is for the young or for those who walk about with their eyes closed. I agree there is a niche for quality keg products.

    Jeff. You say “come on guys, CO2 is CO2.” I am reminded of the old campaigner who wrote to a brewery complaining about their excessively gassy beer. They wrote back to say that “CO2 is a natural by-product of the brewing process”. He responded by writing to say that “manure is a natural by product of the pig, but he had no wish to have it served with his roast pork.”

    I too have my doubts about serving beer by 02 in some cases and though your general point about O2 has some merit, no 02 in contact with the beer, would preclude all cask ale by its current definition. Maybe that’s where you want to head, but we have been there before and know where it leads That’s why we needed CAMRA in the first place.

    Oh and your point about “oily” air compressors is just plain wrong, but your general point about dispense is a fair one in some respects. I think personally we should only serve German beers that have been prepared in the brewery for dispense without external CO2. A lot are, but I think a lot are not. Mind you, I doubt if you’d find a problem other, than on an philosophical basis, with the taste or condition of the beers. They rarely last more than an hour.

    And they are not real ales and we don’t claim that they are.

    It’s a good thread this. I’m enjoying it.

  21. Hmmm we have a couple air compressors in the brewery and they all produce oily air – maybe you are filtering it out.

    I struggle to understand why you are against dispensing a German or Belgian beer as it was designed to be dispensed…with CO2? I would suggest that CAMRA may even be violating Rheinheitsgebot with the practice of using O2 as dispense.

    My comments are from experience, not purely philosophical. I wouldn’t touch one of the foreign keg beers at the GBBF after the few I tasted two years ago…the bottles are great, but something needs to be done about the draught beer.

    To me pushing beer with O2 is a blatent lack of respect for the brewers craft, full stop.

  22. We’re enjoying it too! We’ll chip in at some point but, for now, we’re listening and learning.

  23. Tim

    Guinness is “a is a quality product that sells to an international market.” It’s a bit early for April Fools. A quality product? By what definition? It’s a mass produced, heavily marketed product. Hardly an example of “craft brewing” that this thread is about.

  24. Jeff – “My comments are from experience, not purely philosophical. I wouldn’t touch one of the foreign keg beers at the GBBF after the few I tasted two years ago…the bottles are great, but something needs to be done about the draught beer.”

    I hope you complained to the Bar Manager. Funnily enough I work on that bar and apart from fobbing which is a problem at times, the beer is always good. As I say I do have my reservations though, but your idea that it somehow contravenes the Rheinheitsgebot is fanciful.That is about ingredients, not dispense. In any event the only argument against air is staling or flatness. Neither occurs in the short time we have a keg on. That of course is the principle the Germans use when serving “vom holzfass”or gravity in the better beer places in Germany.

  25. I did complain, it was the Friday and the beers were not in good form, as you say flat and oxidised. I have had similar experiences at a local festival.

    Fanciful, yes maybe, I am trying to make my point. In my mind you are adding an ingredient to the beer that isn’t supposed to be there.

    Gravity dispense is one thing as the O2/beer exchange is going to be lessened. But pressurising a warm keg with O2 is a whole different situation…I suggest some could detect oxidation in a matter of hours under these conditions. Perhaps the beers we tried were in this state overnight.

    This is a prime example where CAMRA take the ‘real ale’ definition too far – to the point of ruining great beer. I would love to see you guys do these beers justice in the Bières Sans Frontières. If you need help with sorting out the dispense, happy to help, we are experts, but I’m sorry the solution will require CO2.

  26. @Tyson said “A quality product? By what definition?”
    Just because Guinness is mass produced and heavily marketed does not make it a sub-standard or poor quality product. The market has an expectation and the product meets this expectation with consistancy. That defines a quality product and it has nothing to do with ‘craft’ beer or ‘real’ ale. I think you are confusing the word quality with premium. if a product is not a quality one, it will not sell.

    It’s that kind of elistism and bull$h1t that I dislike about CAMRA. I agree with Tandleman that it is not all members, but it’s certainly you Tyson.

  27. Jeff – and this is my last post on this aspect as it will bore others; the beers are always taken directly from a chill room to the point of dispense, so they are not warm kegs. I have already pointed out they are not kept for hours. We tend to regulate it so this doesn’t happen and if there is any left in a keg, it is supped by the staff. I am not saying it couldn’t be kept overnight, just that it isn’t supposed to be and rarely is as far as I know. And I do wish you’d stop banging on about CAMRA saying these are real ales. We don’t and I have said so.

    I am sure that your offer of help is tongue in cheek, but this isn’t a matter of expertise. We have plenty of that/ It is one of philosophy and preference.

    And I’m glad you complained, though you don’t say what the outcome was. You always should if you feel badly done to. As for ruining great beer? I’ll trust my palate on that one I reckon.

  28. Cool, I think I’m done as well…

    I didn’t say that CAMRA calls these beer ‘real ales’.

    It is CAMRA’s definition of ‘real ale’ that causes your philosophy and preference to dispense beer with compressed air, isn’t it?

    If you have already broken the rules by bringing non real ale to the GBBF, why can’t you just use CO2?

    I’m sorry, I haven’t seen a single argument for why compressed air dispense is a good thing…maybe you need to put me in touch with one of these experts…

  29. Tim

    Wrong, as usual, on every front. Interesting to see that with your anti CAMRA fixation,you bring every arguement round to them-I thought we were discussing Guinness. And it follows that everyone who dares disagrees with you therefore is a memeber of this elitist organisation. I think David Icke suffers from a similar paranoia. Just to be clear, I’ve nothing to do with CAMRA. All my thoughts, ideas, and, indeed, flaws are purely mine own.

    I wonder if you live in the real world? “If a product is not quality, it will not sell.” Really? So in the beer world, Carling is a quality product? Because that sells really well. And all those Chinese imports are quality? Quality means “character with regard to fineness, or grade of excellence.” Hardly the interpretation you ascribe it.

    It’s you who doesn’t know the difference between “quality” and “premium.” Guinness sells so it must be quality seems to be your belief. People expect to get Guinness and they get Guinness: simple as that. Quality doesn’t come into it-otherwise they wouldn’t buy it.

  30. Tyson,
    If Carling sells and the people who buy it are pleased then it’s a quality product. How can you argue with that? Are you saying that Carling is rubbish but people buy it anyway? umm, I think it sells well because people like it. Consumers vote with their wallets. The fact that you turn your nose down on these products (and most likely their consumers) is indeed elitist. The point I was trying to make.
    I don’t have an anti-CAMRA fixation, I just don’t like the myths. I have stated many times that CAMRA have done a good job at reviving cask ale. I don’t like the all keg beer is crap mantra. I don’t like the all beer besides cask ale is inferior type mindset – which it seems that you are pushing here attacking Guinness and Carling. (It’s the same argument that my CAMRA member ‘mates’ use). Consumer choice is simple: If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.
    Beer is a product. If it delivered on specification and recognises revenue and consistently does so, then that is quality.

    I personally wouldn’t buy Carling as I prefer other beers which are usually on offer, but I am partial to a pint of Guinness every now and again. In my regards this is still an ale, weather it is real, cask, keg, bottle, nitrocan or not. I don’t need a consumer group to educate me on beer, but I appreciate the work that one did to give me the choice.

    I can’t comment on Chinese imports as I have not had any. Just because it comes from China does not mean that it is not a quality product either. That is just ignorant and racist. I wonder what your position on Polish lagers is?

  31. Looking after real ale isn’t difficult, nor is it a chore for someone who enjoys selling the stuff like I do. Yes, It’s more time consuming on a day to day basis than keg beer, but on the other hand there’s less chance of an equipment failure that can stop you dispensing the stuff, so it balances out.

    There’s inevitably more wastage – pulling through what’s in the lines before you open for the day accounts for most of that, although there can be (potentially significant) incidental loss if you tap a cask clumsily and/or a keystone fails on you. That has to be considered.

    What I’ve learned in my nine month career as a publican (short, I know, but this whole thing isn’t rocket science so I feel I know what I’m talking about now) is that cask ale can lead your business in a way that other things can’t, even if it only makes up a fraction of your sales. If you get a great rep for serving good real ale you’ll gain lots of loyal customers who know they can rely on you for a good pint every time, where rival pubs might fail them. When they’re out in a group they’ll insist their friends go to the pub of their choice, and those friends aren’t likely to be as choosy if they’re lager or spirits drinkers (wine is more difficult, but then there are few genuine wine enthusiasts about in this country, whatever people might like to think).

    The fact that ale drinkers are more likely to belong to a demographic most publicans want to attract is another factor to consider. But I expect I’ll get shouted at by idiots if I expand on that fairly obvious point, so I won’t.

  32. PS. Jeff Rosenmeier’s beer is absolutely lovely. I’d advise him to get back to brewing it and not waste his time with pointless arguments online!

  33. Very well observed and well made point Jeffrey. I must have brought thousands of pounds to decent cask ale pubs in my time by bringing my non cask mates to cask pubs. If most of my mates weren’t cask types, it’d be even more dammit.

    We are solid gold to a publican us!

  34. Blimey. Where to start? Some very interesting stuff here (although try not to make it personal, chaps).

    Ennislaw – views from across the pond very welcome! It was actually reading American blogs that made me appreciate the cask ale / low alcohol norms in the UK all the more. Not that I don’t appreciate a crazy Xtreme hopbomb from time to time…

    Ant – welcome. We can relate to what you’ve written. While we’re CAMRA members, and will continue to be, it’s not something we tend to shout about and we’ve had no desire to take our membership any further. And I think there is a massive untapped audience for cask ale – all it takes is a bit of enthusiasm and a bit less crass marketing.

    I’ll have to think about the gas thing tomorrow when I’m sober.

  35. Fascinating reading that lot! Agree with Jeff (Stonch) that the Lovibonds beers are lovely – if they are as good out of the keg as they are out of the bottle then happy days all round. It would be interesting if the few ale producers in the Czech Republic decided to try their beers as cask ales, though I doubt it would ever happen – though I believe Kocour is planning to bottle condition their ales.

  36. Velky Al, this is getting way off topic now, but Atlas package their Latitude Pilsner in cask. I don’t think the cask does the beer any favours though.

  37. Ed,

    It depends on:

    1) How much CO2 was in the beer after it has conditioned in the cask. Most ‘real ale’ breweries don’t actually cask condition, but simply rack from bright tank, some rack with residual gravity left, and some still do a proper refermentation (rare). Regardless, you end up with a certain amount of CO2 in solution.

    2) When the publican vents the cask the CO2 is going to come to equilibrium with the atmosphere. In most cases the CO2 is going to lessen once tapped and where it stops is dependant on the temperature of the beer in the cellar. CO2 wants to stay in solution the colder the beer is.

    If we assume that most cellars are at 13C (55F), I believe equilibrium is close to 1.0-1.1 volumes. If the beer were kept colder, there would be more CO2 left in the beer…

    Hope that helps.

  38. Ed. It varies of course, being a live ale, but around 1.7 would be a decent aiming point. You will probably get around 1.2 to 1.7 in the bright beer/ conditioning tank, so it will depend on the secondary fermentation I’d say.

  39. Wow – you can’t beat arriving late into a conversation! Yes, CAMRA have done sterling work in raising the profile of cask beer but they’re in danger of becoming a campaign with no clear agenda.

    A Campaign for Good Beer – regardless of production method and dispense – would be something I’d sign up to.

  40. “A Campaign for Good Beer – regardless of production method and dispense – would be something I’d sign up to.”

    That’s what we were trying to say, with the caveat that live/cask-conditioned/real ale should be part of the mix and mustn’t be allowed to disappear.

  41. If you were blindfolded and couldn’t see what type of container it came in or how it actually got out of the cellar, and you tasted the malt and the hops, felt the love of the brewer, what would you call it?

    I still think Craft Beer is the most inclusive of the bunch…

  42. You are, seemingly, in the wrong job mate. Being “CAMRA’s Regional Director for Greater London” and not campaigning is an odd juxtaposition. Unless you think cask ale is not good beer.

    If this is just careless context, then fine. Perhaps you could let us know?

  43. I think my problem with the “Craft” label is that it renders the larger brewers who actually brew decent quality beer – Fuller’s would be a good example, I’d say – a bit of an anomaly. I love most of their beers (especially the seasonals, and *especially* London Porter), but they’re certainly not a “craft” brewer. I’m also more than happy to accept that a national brewer could quite easily brew something of quality – it just seems that in these times of international megaswill, the easy profit is just too hard to resist – so again, the “craft” name doesn’t really seem appropriate.

  44. Ant — that’s interesting. I think Fullers’s are what I have in mind when I think of English craft brewers. They’re big and industrial, but obviously still put lots of care and attention into their products. And they stuck with cask ale through the period when it would have been easy to go “all keg”.

  45. Fullers are definately a craft brewer…I don’t think size matters, it is the beer that matters…back to my blindfold comment.

    I would still consider Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams craft brewers despite both of them being massive.

  46. Gosh, I haven’t looked here for a couple of days.

    Do CAMRA really dispense keg with compressed air? That doesn’t seem quite right to me. Sounds as bad as putting artificial CO2 into casks.

    I think it’s OK for a CAMRA member to question the role of the organisation irrespective of his position. Actually, I think it should be done more.

    Great discussion, I do hope everyone is still friends.

  47. Ha ha – definitely wrong job which is why I stand down next month. I’m just demob happy. I’ll be very glad to go back to drinking good beer for enjoyment sake rather than forever banging on about some campaiging goal of one sort or another.

  48. Hmm I’ve had time to read a few of the posts I didn’t pay attention to before…so for the record.

    ennislaw says that ““Craft brewing” in the US is mainly a marketing phenomena. ”

    Really, I’m going to have to argue this one. Craft brewing in the US is more movement than marketing…I’d suggest you need to learn a bit more about the history of craft brewing in the US…craft brewers tend not to be able to afford marketing. Have a read about the roots of craft brewing, Fred Eckhardt, Charlie Papazian and a few of our other heroes.

  49. Dave asks, “Do CAMRA really used compressed air to dispense beer”

    Well, yes, believe it or not.

    Please note, there is no such thing as ‘artificial CO2’. CO2 is CO2. It is a pure, inert gas (which happens to be the result of fermentation) that doesn’t spoil beer!

  50. Tim

    Carling IS rubbish. And yes people buy it. There are many reasons why people buy a product, only one of which is because they like it. It is not elitist to say that products such as Guinness are inferior-it’s a fact. Not everything in life is equal. Actually, in most spheres, from sport to manufacturing, there are degrees of quality, with some better than others. I don’t “look down” at people who buy it. However, nor do I share your delusion that it’s a “quality” product that people buy because it’s so great.

    You do like pigeon holing people and putting words in their mouth, don’t you? I never mentioned real ale, so can hardly be accused of the “all non real is crap” mantra that you seem to believe is so prevalent. It happens that the two products you mention ARE pretty poor-it has nothing to with the dispense method.

    If I had said a product was poor simply because it was made by someone who was Chinese, THAT would be racist. However, to say mass produced Chinese goods aren’t quality is a fact, not racist. And that’s without going into the ethical side. We import their goods because they are cheap, not because they’re so good.

    Polish lagers? Hmmm. Nope, overall not a fan.

  51. Tyson, its futile to argue that successful products are crap. They are examples of good well brewed products that happen to taste bland. Its actually hard to brew a beer with so little flavour.

    I don’t pigeon hole anybody, but you seem to have no problem categorizing all Chinese beer as low quality. Hmm kind of hypocritical How can such absurd, ignorant, racist comments be based fact??

    You explicitly implied that Chinese beer was crap. For it to be Chinese it would have to be brewed by someone who was Chinese, in China. You singled it out based upon race and then said that all Chinese goods are poor quality, which makes you racist. But then your mate Peter is apparently a Nazi, so I should have figured.

  52. Order, order! Tandleman isn’t a Nazi. Tyson’s not a racist. Let’s leave it there.

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