The Value of A Cask

Whitbread beer keg.

Call us naive (“You’re naive!”) but we had­n’t giv­en a momen­t’s thought to where a brew­ery gets its casks and how it keeps hold of them until the last year or so. Maybe we thought there was a cask fairy?

Twit­ter gives an insight into what valu­able assets they are. Brew­ers coo over their new acqui­si­tions and show off pho­tos of casks with cus­tom colour schemes. They beg for casks to be returned safe­ly as if they were kid­napped chil­dren. They rage at pub chains who return casks months late cov­ered in bird drop­pings or paint­ed to dec­o­rate a beer fes­ti­val. It’s an emo­tion­al busi­ness.

Roger Ryman, head brew­er at St Austell, told us that casks are a con­stant headache: fetch­ing them back from the cor­ners of the coun­try is an expen­sive and time-con­sum­ing busi­ness. The last we heard, St Austell weren’t send­ing any of their own casks out of Corn­wall, instead using rent­ed casks for UK-wide dis­tri­b­u­tion, at a small addi­tion­al cost.

That’s a keg in the pic­ture. At least we think it is. Hmmm: we need to do some bar work.

9 thoughts on “The Value of A Cask”

  1. Fun­ny you men­tion casks; I popped along to Gold­en Tri­an­gle brew­ery on Sat­ur­day with Kev and com­ment­ed on the love­ly casks. The ones he has were adver­tised as gold but they look more bronze. Still love­ly, but not blin­ga­li­cious.

  2. Guin­ness in Dublin used to employ an army of men to log each (num­bered) cask out and back in again. Until some­one worked out that the cost of the odd lost cask was much less than the com­pa­ny was pay­ing to track them all …

  3. At any time over the last few cen­turies, get 2 or 3 brew­ers togeth­er and they’ll soon start talk­ing about how dif­fi­cult it is to get trade cus­tomers to return emp­ty casks prompt­ly.….….

  4. I was once at a func­tion at a beer comp where it sud­den­ly got tense when one brew­er eyed one of his kegs with anoth­er brew­ers beer in it.

  5. I recent­ly inter­viewed Wold Top Brew­ery for a project I’m involved in, and they have an inter­est­ing take on this.
    Ear­ly on, they invest­ed in their own bot­tling line because they felt that by send­ing bot­tles around the coun­try for pubs/bars to sell was cheap­er, more effi­cient than ‘chas­ing casks’ around the coun­try. I asked them whether they felt that dilut­ed their cask pro­file in the UK, to which they said they would rather peo­ple come to them (ie York­shire) for their cask, which will inevitably taste bet­ter. so, cask at home, not­tles fur­ther afield. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense when start­ing out.
    They now also con­tract bot­tle – which cre­ates anoth­er rev­enue stream. Hur­rah!

  6. The land­lord of the pub I live next door to is always whing­ing about the amount of casks that are fill­ing up his (extreme­ly small) car park, because the dis­trib­u­tors aren’t pick­ing them up!

  7. When a less-than-hon­est licensee of a cer­tain free­hold I freuqent­ed did a run­ner with­out pay­ing rent or set­tling mon­ey owed to small UK brew­eries, it was­n’t their lost beer mon­ey the brew­ers were con­cerned about, it was their pre­cious casks, which had been dumped in the pub­’s gar­den.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly the land­lord of the prop­er­ty was equal­ly flip­pant and called in Keg­watch with­out even attempt­ing to get said casks to their right­ful homes. Keg­watch are, from what I can gath­er, effec­tive­ly an ‘impound’ for dis­card­ed casks and kegs and the cost for brew­eries to reclaim lost units from these crooks is eye-water­ing.

  8. Easy to tell the dif­fer­ence. Kegs are cylin­dri­cal and have one ori­fice placed cen­tral­ly at one end. Casks are, well, bar­rel-shaped and have an ori­fice on the side for fill­ing and anoth­er for ham­mer­ing a tap into on the end, off-cen­tre and near the edge.

    That’s except for the real­ly big kegs which are the same shape as casks but hold a dif­fer­ent amount.

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