BREAKFAST DEBATE: Is the Cloudwater News the End of the World?

Eggs with sriracha chilli sauce.

The highly-regarded Manchester brewery Cloudwater is to stop producing cask ale – is this a portent of doom, or a drop in the ocean?

The news dropped this morn­ing in a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly open blog post from brew­ery boss Paul Jones:

We wor­ry that cask beer has backed itself into a cor­ner that risks becom­ing unat­trac­tive to mod­ern brew­eries. Where we can just about tol­er­ate today’s mar­ket pric­ing for our keg and bot­tled beer… we see lit­tle sense in con­tin­u­ing to accept the labour of rack­ing, han­dling, and col­lect­ing casks whilst we make insuf­fi­cient mar­gin… When we take into con­sid­er­a­tion the sort of beer the cask mar­ket laps up we see high demands for tra­di­tion­al beer, albeit with a mod­ern twist. In com­par­i­son, the keg and bot­tle mar­ket demands our most inno­v­a­tive and pro­gres­sive beer… There’s anoth­er often encoun­tered set of issues we face with the cask beer mar­ket – if cask beer isn’t bright the qual­i­ty is often ques­tioned (and in some cas­es our slight­ly hazy casks are flat­ly refused, regard­less of flavour), but if casks are still con­di­tion­ing out, and because of that, or because of inad­e­quate VDK re-absorp­tion at the end of fer­men­ta­tion, tast­ing of diacetyl, then it’s all too often good to go.

In oth­er words, for a brew­ery like Cloud­wa­ter, pro­duc­ing cask is fair­ly thank­less task, offer­ing poor finan­cial returns, lit­tle sat­is­fac­tion for the brew­ers, and huge risk to rep­u­ta­tion because of point-of-sale issues beyond their con­trol.

We read it bleary-eyed with our morn­ing tea and then dis­cussed over break­fast with this par­tic­u­lar ques­tion in mind:

Boak: This does wor­ry me. My impres­sion – and it is just an impres­sion – is that younger drinkers are less inter­est­ed in cask than our gen­er­a­tion was, and that this is part of an increas­ing diver­gence in the  mar­ket where­by cask is about price and keg is where the real­ly good beer is. I keep think­ing about that pub in Bolton that was sell­ing some well-kept but pret­ty ter­ri­ble cask ale pure­ly, as the land­lord admit­ted, to reach a price point his cus­tomers demand­ed, while at the same time my broth­er tells me [he works at Tap East] that some cus­tomers won’t drink cask at gun­point even if the beer is bet­ter and cheap­er than the near­est keg alter­na­tive.

Bai­ley: I think there’s some hys­te­ria here, though. How many keg-only craft brew­eries do we actu­al­ly have? Off the top of my head it’s Brew­Dog, Lovi­bonds, Cam­den, Bux­ton (kind of) and now Cloud­wa­ter. Let’s say there are a few more I don’t know about, or even let’s say the top twen­ty coolest craft brew­ers (def­i­n­i­tion 2) go keg-only – that’s still only a hand­ful of the 1,800 total. Most brew­ers are real­ly into it. And I don’t think we can equate the era of the Big Six with what’s going on today. Cloud­wa­ter’s keg beer isn’t Wat­ney’s Red Bar­rel.

Boak: No, although there’s a dif­fer­ent kind of homo­gene­ity in craft beer. And your first point… That sounds com­pla­cent to me. I can eas­i­ly see this being a tip­ping point for some brew­eries that have been con­sid­er­ing going keg-only. Cloud­wa­ter is a role mod­el for a lot of small­er, new­er brew­eries – more so than Brew­Dog who have tend­ed to alien­ate peo­ple. And I reck­on we could quick­ly slip into a sit­u­a­tion where the places that are known for good beer ditch cask alto­geth­er. Or where more dis­trib­u­tors start to find it too much has­sle to han­dle cask when keg is eas­i­er and more prof­itable so that even pubs that want to stock cask can’t get a steady sup­ply of the good stuff.

Bai­ley: But that has­n’t hap­pened! Peo­ple are bor­row­ing trou­ble. Cask ale is every­where and, admit­ted­ly with a bit of research, you can reli­ably get good cask ale almost every­where in the coun­try. Sure, chalk this up as a warn­ing sign and be wary, but do you real­ly think we’re worse off for cask now than around 2005 when we start­ed tak­ing an inter­est?

Boak: I think maybe Lon­don is worse than it was, and I think it’s on the verge of get­ting much worse again. I love Fuller’s but the fact that we can have such a vari­able expe­ri­ence of cask ale in Fuller’s own pubs wor­ries me. Oh, I don’t know… Maybe it’s not worse but cask in Lon­don has­n’t made much progress and I still find it hard to get sat­is­fy­ing pints there which sure­ly can’t be right in the age of the Craft Beer Rev­o­lu­tion.

Bai­leyOK, so if this is one warn­ing sign, what might be some oth­ers?

Boak: If a big region­al went keg-only, I would be very con­cerned – Fuller’s, Adnams, one of the brew­eries that’s been exper­i­ment­ing with craft beer in keg. Or Oakham. Or Thorn­bridge! If they went keg-only, that would real­ly freak me out.

Bai­ley: Me too but I can’t see that hap­pen­ing any time soon. I’d be more wor­ried if Doom Bar or Greene King IPA sud­den­ly became keg-only beers because I bet there are a lot of pubs that would ditch cask alto­geth­er with­out those – would lit­er­al­ly, 1975-style, rip out their beer engines and lose the capac­i­ty to sell cask. The infra­struc­ture would dis­ap­pear.

Boak: If the Craft Beer Com­pa­ny stopped sell­ing cask that would be a real­ly bad sign. They seem pret­ty com­mit­ted to it at the moment – lots of pumps – but who knows? I’d love to know how much they actu­al­ly sell and what the split is with keg.

Bai­ley: That microp­ub in New­ton Abbot sells 60 per cent keg, 40 per cent cask.

Boak: Hmm. Relat­ed to that, I guess microp­ubs might be the coun­ter­bal­ance, because (that one in New­ton Abbot aside) they’re so cask-led, and so flex­i­ble when it comes to pur­chas­ing, that they might give that side of the indus­try a boost. But they’re not, to gen­er­alise, pop­u­lar with young peo­ple, are they? So they don’t do much to win the next gen­er­a­tion over to cask.

Bai­ley: There’s Wether­spoon’s, too – they’re play­ing with craft keg and cans and what have you but there’s no indi­ca­tion that they want to ditch cask. If any­thing, they seem more com­mit­ted to it now than ever. Maybe what we need is a big chart with plus and minus columns for the health of the cask ale mar­ket in the UK.

Boak: That’s our home­work, then. On bal­ance, the reac­tion to this par­tic­u­lar news does seem over the top, but I have to say I’m less con­fi­dent in my view that The Bat­tle has Been Won than I was when we wrote the book. I think it’d be pret­ty cat­a­stroph­ic if the only cask ales you could get any­where were Doom Bar and GK IPA.

Bai­ley: Me too, I sup­pose, although I’m only a tiny bit con­cerned. As I’ve said before, we can’t be on a per­ma­nent war foot­ing–

Boak: But we have to be ready to remo­bilise if the threat re-emerges and, at the risk of invok­ing God­win’s Law, make sure that the next gen­er­a­tion is edu­cat­ed in the dan­ger signs so that they don’t repeat the mis­takes of his­to­ry.

This has been edit­ed to make it vague­ly coher­ent. We actu­al­ly ram­bled a lot more and you don’t need details of our dis­cus­sion about what to have for tea.

80 thoughts on “BREAKFAST DEBATE: Is the Cloudwater News the End of the World?”

    1. We did­n’t! Or, rather, we decid­ed what we usu­al­ly decide: that it’s com­pli­cat­ed and we’ll have to wait and see.

        1. Oh, I see – thought you were demand­ing a res­o­lu­tion to the debate. Chick­en and rice stir fry, prob­a­bly.

  1. We’ve already been there with Brew­Dog, and the point must be made that Cloud­wa­ter are about as far from main­stream as you could get.

    Although I do hear rumours from that Lon­don that a grow­ing num­ber of beer-focused bars are ditch­ing cask entire­ly.

    1. Most of them could­n’t look after it any­way, best that they leave it to venues that know what they’re doing rather than give evey­where a bad name…

      1. I’ve often made that point (that if you’re not going to do cask prop­er­ly, don’t both­er) but I guess I had­n’t up to this point antic­i­pat­ed the mar­ket swing­ing so much for craft keg in urban cen­tres that *good* beer places decide not to both­er with cask. Has­n’t hap­pened yet but per­haps the signs are there.

        1. It’s inter­est­ing though that many of the seri­ous craft out­lets here in Man­ches­ter have a sig­nif­i­cant cask offer which seems to turn over eas­i­ly enough.

        2. It is hap­pen­ing. I don’t know any­one who has dropped cask yet, but I know a cou­ple con­sid­er­ing it.

          Plus new venues are start­ing to open keg-only.

          Not sure how big a trend this will be though.

          1. A lot depends on where you are. I can think of a fair­ly afflu­ent town in Mid­dle Eng­land where the last year has seen two bars try­ing to jump on the band­wag­on and fail­ing with­in months. One was a Shored­itch-style bare-brick keg&burgers joint, the oth­er was a bot­tle shop with small keg bar. The cask places have been more sta­ble.

            Who knows, those places might have sur­vived if they were bet­ter financed, but I sus­pect their tar­get mar­ket were already being pret­ty well served by an exist­ing keg/cask bar which is the tap of a local brew­ery as well as offer­ing the £7 pints from Bermond­sey and beyond. There’s also an estab­lished bot­tle shop that has always been busy and has a good com­mu­ni­ty asso­ci­at­ed with it, although I sus­pect it’s nev­er made huge mon­ey – it has recent­ly been tak­en over by a dif­fer­ent local brew­ery.

            My feel­ing is that out in the sticks, there’s only a fair­ly small per­cent­age of peo­ple at present who want keg ale. That’s not to say they don’t exist, and they are cer­tain­ly enthu­si­as­tic and pre­pared to trav­el, but there’s prob­a­bly only enough of them to sup­port one place in the aver­age mar­ket town, plus the odd fount of Punk IPA or Oakham Cit­ra in the “nor­mal” pubs.

  2. I’ve chat­ted about the cask/keg debate with sev­er­al oth­er brew­ers, and with pub­li­cans and drinkers, quite a lot. And very rarely do peo­ple seem to think it through when it comes to cost.

    They see (or rather hear) that a 30l KeyKeg costs about an extra £18, so a lot of brew­ers send out 30l keg for the price of 40l cask. And that gen­er­al­ly is the main thing. How­ev­er there’s a lot more to it than that as to why prof­it mar­gins are dif­fer­ent (I’m leav­ing qual­i­ty alone here because that’s a whole oth­er issue that needs address­ing).
    It’s not just the price of the cask though, there’s the con­di­tion­ing tanks (if you use them), the spe­cial­ist keg­ging equip­ment and the extra gas. Plus there’s the man-hours need­ed to fill kegs, and check that they’re prop­er­ly car­bon­at­ed. This all leads to extra mon­ey need­ed to pro­duce keg.
    There’s also a lot less keg lines out there than there are cask lines. Keg beer has moved on a lot, and still is, becom­ing far more wide­ly avail­able than it used to be, but it still does­n’t appear to have as much bar space as cask beer. So it’s a small­er mar­ket with few­er drinkers that’s being fought for. But (mod­ern) keg is mar­ket­ed as a pre­mi­um prod­uct, and com­mands a pre­mi­um price, and you can make more per keg than you can per cask because of that.

    But cask does­n’t take as many man-hours or spe­cialised equip­ment to pro­duce. My fer­menters don’t even have auto­mat­ed tem­per­a­ture con­trol, they have me going in fre­quent­ly to check it and turn on the cool­ing as and when it’s need­ed. Fill­ing casks can be done with spe­cial hose-end gun things, or as in my case with a wide pipe. There’s no extra gas or con­di­tion­ing tanks need­ed.

    All told, it’s cheap­er to pro­duce cask than it is to pro­duce keg. And there’s more out­lets for cask than there is for keg. And there’s more drinkers for cask than for keg.

    But because it’s cask, it’s often seen as infe­ri­or. Usu­al­ly because it is often bad­ly looked after (Here’s that qual­i­ty issue again) and because peo­ple are used to not pay­ing much for it. In the mid ’90s you could still eas­i­ly get a pint for £1.50. So we can’t make the mar­gins on cask that we can on keg, because pubs won’t pay that. There are pubs that hap­pi­ly pay £85 for a 30l keg of my 4% porter, but baulk at £65 for a 40l cask of it. The pub in ques­tion then went on to sell the cask at £3.50 a pint and the keg at £4.00 a pint.

    The mar­ket is cur­rent­ly messed up. I do what I can to make bet­ter mar­gins by keep­ing my over­heads as low as pos­si­bly, and diver­si­fy­ing. It’s a busi­ness after all. I don’t employ staff (I’d love to but it’d put my over­heads up and I would­n’t be able to run the busi­ness how I want), and I’ve got a premis­es that will keep me below the rates relief thresh­old. I don’t con­tract for the pop­u­lar, expen­sive hops, but rather use the more shunned one to good effect. And I have a brew­ery tap, in the brew­ery. The over­heads for it are cov­ered by the brew­ery, and I make more mon­ey sell­ing a firkin by the pint than whole to a bar.

    Yes, I’m not on the scale of oth­er brew­eries, but I too am look­ing to make mon­ey. But it isn’t just about alter­ing one thing to make bet­ter mar­gins, it’s about the busi­ness as a whole. This is why super­mar­kets (love them or hate them) use loss-lead­ers. They may lose mon­ey on a few lines, but over all they make a lot more on oth­ers. I may just break even on a cou­ple of casks that go out, but I con­sid­er that “mar­ket­ing bud­get” to get my name out, and get peo­ple drink­ing my kegs and com­ing out to the brew­ery tap.

    I don’t agree or dis­agree with what Cloud­wa­ter have decid­ed, it’s their busi­ness and it’s up to them how they want to do it. But I don’t see a sud­den rush to ditch cask com­ing any time soon.
    Unless we can’t sort out that qual­i­ty issue.

    1. Thanks for that inter­est­ing reply. And thanks to B&B for the like­wise inter­est­ing thoughts.

    2. Thanks for that per­spec­tive, Steve.

      I thought the most inter­est­ing point in the Cloud­wa­ter state­ment was the ref­er­ence to try­ing to sell every­thing at a stan­dard price per litre & get­ting feed­back that the cask was too dear and the keg too cheap. You’d think a brew­er pre­pared to under­cut oth­er peo­ple’s keg prices would clean up, but appar­ent­ly not. Just as there’s a per­cep­tion that cask should nev­er cost more than £X*, there seems to be a def­i­nite expec­ta­tion that keg should nev­er cost less than £Y. I don’t see that bub­ble burst­ing, though, or not until the car­a­van of fash­ion moves on from ‘craft beer’ alto­geth­er – and even when that hap­pens it’ll take an awful long time for any effect on pric­ing to mate­ri­alise. (That exot­ic import­ed elixir ‘Heineken “lager“ ‘ is still sold at a pre­mi­um rel­a­tive to bor­ing old Eng­lish beer.)

      *NB the val­ue of X varies from place to place as well as chang­ing over time. Bars near me sell cask beer at £4 and up with­out any prob­lems, and £3.50 is pret­ty much rock bot­tom. Half an hour on the bus and you can find pret­ty much the same beers for £2.50-£3.00. (I’m not talk­ing about JDW or Sam’s pubs here.) When beer com­mu­ni­ca­tors say that we should get used to pay­ing more for cask, I always won­der who ‘we’ are – and why they think we aren’t pay­ing more already.

    3. Cheers for that, Steve. Very grate­ful to you for tak­ing the time.

      When we spoke to Alas­tair Hook the first time a few years back he made the point that, in the 1990s, a cask brew­ery cost about £12k to set up while a decent keg set w. refrig­er­a­tion etc. required more like £250k. Seems you’re say­ing that’s still broad­ly true.

      We were won­der­ing whether one issue with cask pric­ing is that it’s a prod­uct that’s always been around so peo­ple have a sense of what it ought to cost where­as lager was intro­duced (many foot­notes apply) as an essen­tial­ly brand new prod­uct which has only ever been expen­sive, and keg IPA/pale ale is sim­i­lar in that regard.

      A side thought: one of the things that you might say did for mild is that peo­ple had a fixed idea of what a pint ought to cost which the brew­ers brewed down to for years until the beer was essen­tial­ly unap­peal­ing to a mass of drinkers who sud­den­ly had a few more pen­nies in their pock­ets. There’s a risk that could hap­pen to cask bit­ter, per­haps. (Most­ly the oth­er half’s thought, that one.)

      1. Oh dear lord. No, a (decent, small, bare­ly eco­nom­i­cal­ly viable) cask brew­ery can­not be set up for mere­ly 20% of what a com­pa­ra­ble keg brew­ery would cost. You can put either togeth­er for about the same price nowa­days. Don’t believe me. Check with Dave Porter:

        Once you’ve sort­ed out your con­tain­ers, a van and some build­ing work, £100k might do it. Pos­si­bly some­what *less* for keg only. Par­tic­u­lar­ly if you go with sin­gle-trip kegs.

      2. Sus­pect you were talk­ing about the addi­tion­al costs for doing lager ver­sus ale, which prob­a­bly does take you into six fig­ures to do prop­er­ly, from mem­o­ry PBC charge an extra £30k just for basic ves­sels let alone extra space need­ed for lager­ing.

        Keg does cost a bit more than cask, but not a lot more.

    4. As a one man band micro (plus part time helpers), based in a fair­ly busy North York­shire town, I forsee cask as the main way of sup­ply­ing my beer over the next few years. BUT in order to be prof­itable I don’t sup­ply fur­ther than 20 miles, I don’t sup­ply to pub co’s who dic­tate the price (that’s my job), and I make sure I make some prof­it out of every sin­gle cask. I do sup­ply keg for 6% abv and above because I think it tastes bet­ter, and I still believe a well kept 4% ish cask ale is supe­ri­or to an equiv­a­lent abv keg. There is a qual­i­ty / con­sis­ten­cy prob­lem in the indus­try and I’m con­stant­ly amazed how my beers from the same batch can vary so much depend­ing on the pub. But I’m small and I can check these things out, so sim­ply don’t sell to the bad ones. I am mak­ing a prof­it (albeit mod­est) so maybe ditch­ing cask is the most suc­cess­ful busi­ness mod­el if you want a decent return from a mas­sive invest­ment… if you’re hap­py keep­ing the busi­ness rel­a­tive­ly small and local, I think cask still has many years left in it.

    5. If you’re com­par­ing keykeg with cask the Cloud­wa­ter piece makes the point that you also have to include the man­hours spent wash­ing casks, chas­ing after emp­ties, replac­ing damaged/losses etc.

      As for pubs sell­ing cask at £3.50 ver­sus keg at £4 – I can believe it, and you can’t real­ly blame the pubs, they’re just fol­low­ing the cus­tomers. I recall the hor­ror years ago when a Kiwi win­ery had the gall to charge 5% more for the same wine bot­tled under “infe­ri­or” screw­cap ver­sus “real drinker’s” cork – their argu­ment was that the qual­i­ty was sim­i­lar, but screw­cap was more reli­able so deserved a pre­mi­um.

      Although peo­ple like to make a big thing of the qual­i­ty argu­ments, I’m not sure that’s the real rea­son. Far too many peo­ple (includ­ing many card-car­ry­ing CAMRA mem­bers) would­n’t recog­nise an iffy pint if it bit them on the back­side – and the abil­i­ty of some new brew­eries to charge £7/pint for Bretty/sour beers hard­ly helps.….. I think £3.50 vs £4 is more of a cul­tur­al and gen­er­a­tional thing. £4+ keg ale is the teen’s ver­sion of the 80’s pre­mi­um pil­sner or the 50’s pale ale, it’s not real­ly com­pet­ing against cask as many of its fans would­n’t drink cask and vice ver­sa. I know there is some crossover, but per­haps less than one might think.

      There’s cer­tain­ly a mas­sive resis­tance to pay­ing more than £x for cask – x may vary from place to place, but there’s not much pubs can do about it oth­er than a long slow process of edu­ca­tion, and bin­ning many part-used casks along the way. Wether­spoons are def­i­nite­ly part of the prob­lem in set­ting expec­ta­tions for the val­ue of cask – but then again you could say the same of £2.50 on a Monday/Tuesday night to clear the stil­lages of the week­end beer. That may be a nec­es­sary evil relat­ing to the short life of cask beer, but it still helps set a mind­set of what a pint of cask is worth.

      1. The whole rea­son peo­ple buy cask beer in such large quan­ti­ties is because it’s so rel­a­tive­ly cheap. Order a ran­dom cask beer at a pub and you know it’s going to cost been three and four pounds, order a ran­dom keg beer and you might get a nasty shock. So a lot of peo­ple go for a cask option in a pub despite there being sev­er­al keg beers avail­able that they would pre­fer.

        It’s the same rea­son peo­ple eat at spoons in ran­dom towns. You know it’s going to be mediocre, but the effort involved in find­ing a nice, good val­ue place is just too much effort.

        1. a lot of peo­ple go for a cask option in a pub despite there being sev­er­al keg beers avail­able that they would pre­fer”

          Actu­al­ly I sus­pect it’s not a lot. I can only speak for myself, but a lot of the time I don’t want some­thing fan­cy and 7%, in the same way I love wine but tend not to drink it when I’m “drink­ing”, dit­to whisky. It’s just a dif­fer­ent thing. Plus I’m capa­ble of ask­ing the price – and in most places I know they do dou­ble check with the stu­pid­ly ££££ beer, if there isn’t a price vis­i­ble.

          I could also point you to lots of peo­ple I know who are so spe­cif­ic in their beer choic­es, there would be a riot if you expect­ed them to drink keg Black Sheep rather than keg Smiths. Most of the peo­ple who are as price-sen­si­tive as you sug­gest have already been lost to pubs, or are drink­ing Smooth­flow in the booz­er round the cor­ner from the craft bar.

          That’s not to say price is nev­er a fac­tor, but if it was as dom­i­nant as you sug­gest then we would all be get­ting leg­less on Yates Orig­i­nal (did that ever get down south or is it just a north­ern thing?). And keg has its own way of com­pen­sat­ing – I recent­ly found myself tak­ing longer to sup a half of world-dom­i­na­tion keg stout (for those who think impe­r­i­al shows a lack of ambi­tion – it was >9% any­way) than my com­pan­ion took to drink a pint of cask, and the two drinks cost with­in 10p of each oth­er. Some­times those beers slip down scar­i­ly eas­i­ly, but I strug­gle with most of them to be hon­est.

          1. I’m talk­ing in gen­er­al­i­ties, about pun­ters in gen­er­al, you’re talk­ing anec­do­tal­ly about your own expe­ri­ences, which gen­er­al­ly aren’t reflec­tive of con­sumers in gen­er­al.

            Most peo­ple ARE price sen­si­tive, and often don’t like to have to specif­i­cal­ly ask the price of all the beers before order­ing at a crowd­ed bar. Keg beer is, sad­ly, often ludi­crous­ly over­priced, often due to the greed and incom­pe­tence of both brew­ers and pub­li­cans, and peo­ple are there­fore ret­i­cent to order it in case they get stung.

            You make some sim­plis­tic errors of log­ic in the rest of your post, and a few false assump­tions, for exam­ple that all craft keg is high ABV, and that all pub drinkers are com­plete­ly obliv­i­ous to pric­ing because “oth­er­wise they would be drink­ing in the super­mar­ket”. Both com­plete non­sense, of course.

  3. This is a real­ly enjoy­able read for some­one quite new to beer and it helps clar­i­fy some thoughts I’ve had.
    I pre­fer both keg and cask but I know lit­tle of cask as where I drink in Lon­don it’s more focused on keg.
    I will keep learn­ing.
    Thank you.

    1. Lay­la – cheers! A use­ful exer­cise (not that you asked for one…) is to make a point of drink­ing the same beer in lots of dif­fer­ent pubs for a month or two. Lon­don Pride is a good test sub­ject, for exam­ple. By the end of that, you should real­ly start to have a sense of its moods and the ways in which pubs can influ­ence the end prod­uct.

  4. It’s a shame. The one pub in St Albans that sells Cloud­wa­ter on cask has actu­al­ly made a framed plaque with the pump clip badges. I think the small local brew­eries will remain cask-ori­ent­ed while the nation­al ones go keg. I agree that if Fullers decid­ed to ditch cask I’d freak out too. What would the Harp be for?

    1. Fuller’s is a good ‘les­son from his­to­ry’, too, because they were *this* close to ditch­ing cask in the 1970s but CAMRA turned them round by boost­ing the mar­ket for cask ale and mak­ing their beers cult prod­ucts.

  5. How many brew­ers can antic­i­pate, and pre­sum­ably bud­get for, a 1200% pro­duc­tion increase in their third year? How much can the high end keg mar­ket expand; how many peo­ple can afford to drink a sig­nif­i­cant amount at stan­dard craft beer prices? It’s all very well for the chat­ter­ing class­es to srtick with an anti-cask ide­ol­o­gy, but that isn’t the same as a nor­mal main street bar sell­ing in huge vol­ume. I’d love to see where Cloud­wa­ter expect to increase sales, UK or inter­na­tion­al expan­sion.
    There will always be a mar­ket for rea­son­ably priced beer (does any­one real­ly see the end of the super­mar­ket mul­ti­pack of lager any­time soon?).
    The more sig­nif­i­cant and wor­ry­ing trend has been the almost silent removal of cask beer from estate pubs across sub­ur­ban UK for the last 20 odd years, that real­ly hits cask sales.

    1. A sub­ject that I blogged about here. Although I’d say the rea­sons behind it are wider and more com­plex than sim­ply “brewery/pubco pol­i­cy”. A lot of it is cul­tur­al, and CAMRA has to bear part of the blame for delib­er­ate­ly pre­sent­ing real ale as a dis­tinct type of beer for the “dis­cern­ing con­sumer”.

      Maybe there is a bit of a squeeze, with cask dis­ap­pear­ing from both bot­tom-end work­ing-class booz­ers and top-end spe­cial­ist bars.

      1. Maybe there is a bit of a squeeze, with cask dis­ap­pear­ing from both bot­tom-end work­ing-class booz­ers and top-end spe­cial­ist bars.”

        This is a real­ly sharp obser­va­tion.

        1. We estab­lished years ago that thanks to the ongo­ing efforts of CAMRA to ostracise any­one who did­n’t look like them, drink­ing cask ale is now large­ly a white, male, mid­dle class, mid­dle aged affec­ta­tion, and its hard­ly a sur­prise that the pubs that sell it are the ones aim­ing at those clien­tele. Work­ing class booz­ers, and bars aim­ing at young peo­ple are going to sell some­thing that those groups are inter­est­ed in.

    2. How many could bud­get for that? I don’t know. But you’d expect a well-fund­ed start­up with the best part of half a mil­lion quid cash to man­age. That said, if you burn that cash too fast, you’re going to be under some pres­sure to switch to prof­it soon­er rather than lat­er. There’s no point in build­ing the brand if you go bust before you can cash out. It’s nev­er easy is it? Poor lambs.

  6. There’s also Chorl­ton, whose own­er told me “cask is basi­cal­ly shite” when I spent a few hours with him on his vis­it here this last autumn. (His young brew­er cor­rect­ed him on that each time though, bless him.)

    1. Well Chorl­ton is tiny, very niche and gen­er­al­ly mak­ing beers that aren’t real­ly suit­able for cask. The own­er is also a famous con­trar­i­an.

    2. Nev­er met the guy, but he is a friend of a friend, so I want to go easy on that basis alone (and because I’ve real­ly liked some of his beer). But he seems to have been off the week they did “How Best to Catch Flies: Hon­ey or Vine­gar?”. It does at least mean every­one knows who he is, which is more than I could say for a lot of small­er brew­ers.

  7. Cheap cask ale is keep­ing some pubs in busi­ness, either because they make a big­ger mar­gin on a stan­dard retail price, or they sell high vol­umes of cheap beer. Pubs trad­ing on a more secure prof­it base will be more like­ly to pay a rea­son­able price, but it is hard work for a brew­ery find­ing them and then elbow­ing their beer onto the bar. There is no longer an “easy sale” any­where in the UK’s pub estate. A brew­er with a renowned name and cachet may sell keg beer on a nation­al basis, but for small brew­eries away from city cen­tres, out­lets sup­port­ing small keg beer are few and already well sup­plied. This argu­ment may come up again in a few years as over­sup­ply floods all areas of the mar­ket. It is inter­est­ing that you men­tion Wether­spoons in the con­text of pric­ing. A great many start up brew­eries sell cask beer to JDW and regard their buy in price as a thresh­old – the very low­est price pos­si­ble. In fact, for low vol­umes of direct deliv­ered beer the JDW price is unsus­tain­able for most small brew­ers. It will be inter­est­ing to see if the new HMRC reg­is­ter for alco­hol whole­salers removes some of the mad­den­ing­ly cheap cask beer from the mar­ket. I sus­pect there is a lot of beer sold with­out any duty being paid, it seems the only expla­na­tion for some of the prices on offer.

  8. One fac­tor mil­i­tat­ing against a gen­er­al shift from cask to keg for main­stream quaffing beers is that non-nitro keg is sim­ply a lot more hard work to drink in quan­ti­ty than cask because of its gassi­ness. This was always pre­sent­ed as a major plus point for real ale in the ear­ly days of CAMRA, and I’d say is broad­ly true. You sim­ply can’t sink pints of keg like you can cask.

    But there is maybe a seri­ous con­cern that pre­mi­um draught beers in the on-trade aimed at enthu­si­asts will increas­ing­ly shift to keg. And a lot few­er peo­ple quaff mul­ti­ple pints in the pub than they used to.

    1. Or, to look at that anoth­er way, if the price of a drink is real­ly the way you rent space in a pub for a ses­sion then three halves of keg IPA ought to cost about the same as five pints of bit­ter…

      1. Only if you drink keg beer bizarrely slow­ly. This sup­posed gassi­ness appears to be a prob­lem that only affects elder­ly cam­ra mem­bers. Per­haps they should con­sult a physi­cian?

    1. The Tap­house. It’s what was the old Malt­ings beer shop. Sub­ject of our next Devon Life col­umn.

      1. Cheers.
        I’ll com­bine it with my annu­al vis­it to The Olde Cider Bar this sum­mer which always pro­duces a leg­endary two-day hang­over.

  9. I think it’s time to inject a much need­ed touch of real­ism to this debate. There are now around 1,500 brew­eries in the UK (far too many, but that debate’s for anoth­er time), and one has decid­ed to stop sell­ing its beers in cask and switch all pro­duc­tion to keg. Blogs are sud­den­ly spring­ing into life all over the web, pro­claim­ing it’s the end of life as we know it. Come on peo­ple, get real, get a grip – and get a life!

    The brew­ery con­cerned is a small elit­ist micro, loved by the craft glit­terati, but vir­tu­al­ly unknown to your aver­age beer lover; and total­ly unknown to most pub-goers. The dis­tri­b­u­tion of its prod­ucts is almost entire­ly con­fined to big cities such as Lon­don, Man­ches­ter and Leeds, where the beers are drooled over by an urban elite, light years removed from real­i­ty.

    I’ve nev­er seen Cloud­wa­ter beers in Kent, and I strong­ly sus­pect Boak and Bai­ley will rarely see them in Corn­wall, and yet all sorts of peo­ple are get­ting their knick­ers in a twist over this.

    I’ve drunk cask ale for vir­tu­al­ly all of my drink­ing life, and am not in the slight­est bit con­cerned by this piece of non-news. As Cur­mud­geon says, we’ve seen this before with Brew­Dog, and the world didn’t exact­ly come to an end then.

    To put things in per­spec­tive, Cloud­wa­ter have made a com­mer­cial deci­sion to stop doing cask. Their busi­ness, their deci­sion, end of!!

    1. Light years from real­i­ty” isn’t a great way of putting this – I mean, the Port Street Beer House is as much a part of real­i­ty as any­where else – and I do think that peo­ple who like “craft cask” have rea­son to wor­ry if sev­er­al of the UKs most influ­en­tial craft brew­eries can no longer be both­ered with the stuff.

      On the oth­er hand I do agree that this is more a “craft” thing than a “beer in gen­er­al” thing. Region­als and tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly brew­ers have tied estates and hence don’t have such a need to com­pete on price, while free­hous­es that thrive on bar­gain base­ment casks can con­tin­ue to do so, just with some­what shon­ki­er beer than they’d have if they thought it was worth pay­ing a bit more.

      From the out­side, it looks like the dif­fi­cul­ty in sell­ing “pre­mi­um” cask isn’t so much that it’s too expen­sive, it’s that from a pub­’s point of view, sell­ing Cloud­wa­ter ESB rather than Bogshed Bit­ter does­n’t actu­al­ly get many more bums on seats. I sus­pect that there’s a large mar­ket for which “no cask” is a deal-break­er on where to go for a night out, and a small­er but still sig­nif­i­cant one for which “loads of rotat­ing cask beers from small brew­eries” is a strong fac­tor, but still very few peo­ple in the gen­er­al scheme of things will go to spe­cif­ic pubs because they have (what I’d con­sid­er to be) “world class” cask beer. Hence pay­ing the extra cost for a cask from Cloud­wa­ter or Bux­ton (or St Austell or Tim­o­thy Tay­lor, come to that) just isn’t good busi­ness when you can buy some­thing a lot cheap­er and sell about as much of it at the same price.

      1. Well put, Dave. Think that’s about right. No-one seems to active­ly like (to give one real world exam­ple) Cot­tage Brew­ing’s beers but they can be *OK* if looked after prop­er­ly; ful­fil the need to have *some­thing* on cask; and can be knocked out, some­how, at well under £3 a pint even in areas where the aver­age is more like £3.40.

        1. As an aside, Cot­tage would actu­al­ly be quite an inter­est­ing brew­ery to pro­file / inter­view if you were still look­ing out for pos­si­ble sub­jects? They’re total­ly out of step with the sort of thing that peo­ple cur­rent­ly get excit­ed about, but are appar­ent­ly fill­ing their cho­sen niche extreme­ly suc­cess­ful­ly…

          1. We have had that thought but, if I remem­ber right­ly, could­n’t get any­one there to respond to our emails when we tried a year or so back.

          2. They’re a fun­ny old one… so reviled in most beer forums I know. (Be they social media, mail­ing groups, or real life.) But beer out all over the coun­try from the south to the far north. Yet com­plete­ly low pro­file… they just knuck­le down and sell lots of beer all over the place.

            As an aside they’re a lit­tle late fil­ing with com­pa­nies house (not that that is ter­ri­bly unusu­al) but are his­tor­i­cal­ly rat­ed rather bad­ly on cred­it… “very high risk”.

            Aside the aside that prompt­ed me to eye­ball one of my usu­al indus­try-checks I’ve noticed I missed Penpont/Firebrand going invol­vent:

            But phoenix-like is ris­ing from the ash­es as Altar­nun Brew­ing:

      2. The cus­tomers of spe­cial­ist beer pubs like the Mag­net in Stock­port would quick­ly com­plain if they were seen to be sell­ing beer from what were per­ceived as “cheap” brew­eries. Their mar­ket is more inde­pen­dent­ly-run free hous­es in small towns and vil­lages that may be strug­gling a bit finan­cial­ly.

        Inci­den­tal­ly the Mag­net has (or had) a sign say­ing that they had to charge over the odds for Thorn­bridge beers because of their high whole­sale price. Not sure if they have ever done the same for Cloud­wa­ter, but in pubs like that the cus­tomers *would* be pre­pared to pay a bit extra for beers from a brew­ery with a strong rep­u­ta­tion.

        1. I’ve not real­ly been to Stock­port, but pre­sum­ably that’s the excep­tion rather than the rule, though?

          Most places that I go, I tend to see a load of pubs with a megabrand-only cask offer, quite a few sell­ing cask from small-ish local-ish brew­eries of poten­tial­ly vari­able qual­i­ty, and very few that mix in respect­ed or sought-after stuff from around the coun­try. Now the rel­a­tive sizes of the last two cat­e­gories might just be down to a com­mend­able ded­i­ca­tion to sup­port­ing local small busi­ness­es, but I can’t help sus­pect­ing that it has a lot to do with price ver­sus inter­est from the gen­er­al pub­lic.

          (NB as some­one who lives in an area where the local brew­eries are most­ly very aver­age, I’ll admit that I have a bit of a chip on my shoul­der about “Locale” and relat­ed bumf.)

      3. from a pub’s point of view, sell­ing Cloud­wa­ter ESB rather than Bogshed Bit­ter doesn’t actu­al­ly get many more bums on seats

        Is that real­ly true, though? There are thou­sands of pubs around the coun­try whose pop­u­lar­i­ty relies on their rep­u­ta­tion for great beer, and plen­ty of pub­li­cans scratch­ing their head as to why no-one comes in through the door to drink their fine range of shite beers.

        I would say beer range and qual­i­ty is prob­a­bly the num­ber 1 fac­tor that pre­dicts the suc­cess of a pub.

    2. Paul – I’m not sure from your com­ment if you actu­al­ly read what we wrote above. Through­out, I was argu­ing that the reac­tion was a bit hys­ter­i­cal, and Boak’s final posi­tion was:

      ’ On bal­ance, the reac­tion to this par­tic­u­lar news does seem over the top, but I have to say I’m less con­fi­dent in my view that The Bat­tle has Been Won than I was when we wrote the book.’

      Which sure­ly hard­ly qual­i­fies as twist­ed knick­ers!

      And, to be fair, it was a bit much of us to imply that John West in par­tic­u­lar was being hys­ter­i­cal. A brew­ery that claims a large share of the dis­cus­sion does some­thing inter­est­ing and peo­ple won­der if it means any­thing – quite nat­ur­al, real­ly.

      1. I did read your post from end to end Bai­ley, so I’m sor­ry if my com­ments came across as hav­ing a pop at you two in par­tic­u­lar.

        I want­ed to high­light the gen­er­al hys­te­ria which was erupt­ing all over the blo­gos­phere about a deci­sion tak­en by a rel­a­tive­ly small, but much hyped brew­ery.

        There are things hap­pen­ing in the world right now which are of far greater con­cern, so sto­ries like this need to be viewed in per­spec­tive.

        Wish­ing you both all the best for the New Year.

        ps. First day back at work, so mes­sage sent from my phone dur­ing tea-break.

        1. There are things hap­pen­ing in the world right now which are of far greater con­cern, so sto­ries like this need to be viewed in per­spec­tive.’

          This argu­ment is one that gets my hack­les up I’m afraid. Life would be unbear­able if we were only ever allowed to direct our atten­tion to Big Impor­tant Things. We wrote a short blog post about that once, actu­al­ly:

          Does any­one else get fed up of being told “it’s only beer” and not to take it too seri­ous­ly?

          Most peo­ple with hob­bies know that the sub­ject of their inter­est isn’t that impor­tant in the great scheme of things. Glob­al finan­cial cri­sis, cli­mate change, careers, fam­i­ly — those are seri­ous.

          In our case, beer is some­thing in which we’ve cho­sen to indulge our inter­est just seri­ous­ly enough to occu­py a few of the spare hours when we’re not wor­ry­ing about all that oth­er stuff.

          We take lots of oth­er things just as seri­ous­ly, too — Bub­ble Bob­ble, the Bea­t­les, cur­ry, spaghet­ti west­erns….

          What’s the point of a hob­by if you don’t thrown your­self into it?

          1. One thing you learn as you grow old­er, Bai­ley is not to take any­thing too seri­ous­ly. This applies to life in gen­er­al, as well as to hob­bies. Light­en up, no-one is crit­i­cis­ing you for your pas­sion; least of all me!

    3. Paul – agree with 99% of what you say, as always. Issue here is that Cloud­wa­ter cask, served at its best, has been sen­sa­tion­al. Prob­lem is I could­n’t tell you where to try it, oth­er than prob­a­bly in the Tap pubs, and even then you’d still prob­a­bly not find the Bit­ter or the Pale. With­out pubs of their own (like say Mar­ble or Ossett), they can’t guar­an­tee qual­i­ty as their beers reach a wider audi­ence. And a poor­ly kept or slow-sell­ing pint of Cloud­wa­ter is no bet­ter than a dull pint of Mas­ter Brew.

      So I can see their busi­ness ratio­nale, and to be fair their keg and bot­tles are equal­ly good. Ask my wife.

      1. To be fair their (Cloud­wa­ter) keg and bot­tles are equal­ly good.” I don’t doubt this for one minute Mar­tin, and the wel­come news that Cloud­wa­ter beers are avail­able in bot­tles, may now enable me to taste them for myself.

        I real­ly don’t under­stand all the fuss about them giv­ing up on cask; and I say this as a long stand­ing CAMRA mem­ber, with over 40 years mem­ber­ship behind me.

    4. @Paul Bai­ley – not all brew­eries are equal. If this was Coach House, few peo­ple out­side War­ring­ton would bat an eye­lid. To draw a more Ken­tish anal­o­gy – well, anal­o­gy of Kent – imag­ine if Eddie Gadd said “No more green hops for me, it’s pel­lets all the way from now on”.

      99% of beer drinkers out­side Kent have not heard of Eddie Gadd or drunk his beer, over 95% have nev­er had green hop beer – yet that would be some­thing that had nation­al ripp­ples. Eddie may be just one brew­er but he’s a huge­ly influ­en­tial fig­ure with­in one of the impor­tant region­al beer scenes, which has been invig­o­rat­ed in no small part by his activ­i­ties. The nation­al scene is the sum of those region­al scenes and would be weak­ened by Eddie pulling back on some­thing that is such a dis­tinc­tive part of the Kent scene. You also can’t ignore the effect that big region­al fig­ures have on the nation­al scene – even peo­ple that have nev­er heard of Eddie may have enjoyed green hop beers from out­side Kent that owe their exis­tence to the rip­ples that come out of Rams­gate.

      So just like Eddie pulling back from green hops would be of nation­al sig­nif­i­cance even for peo­ple who have nev­er drunk his beer – so it is with Cloud­wa­ter.

      1. An inter­est­ing anal­o­gy qq, but Eddie Gadd is far more than green hops, just as Cloud­wa­ter is far more than cask. Cloud­wa­ter may even be bet­ter in keg than it is in cask (it is like­ly to be more con­sis­tent), but not hav­ing tried it, I wouldn’t know.

        I take your point, but Cloud­wa­ter are NOT giv­ing up on brew­ing. I also am writ­ing this as a long stand­ing CAMRA mem­ber; but one who is not blind­ed by dog­ma over meth­ods of stor­age and dis­pense.

        1. Well that’s why the anal­o­gy works – it’s just a part of what they both do, it’s not like Waen clos­ing down com­plete­ly. The specifics are less impor­tant than the trends behind them – which also played their part in the Waen sto­ry. And dozens of less her­ald­ed brew­eries who are less well fund­ed and mak­ing beers that are less desired/hyped.

          Hope­ful­ly this will start a con­ver­sa­tion about price expec­ta­tions of cask beer, which are heav­i­ly dis­tort­ed by Spoons in a way that is less true of keg. At the moment you can bare­ly see CAM­RA’s toe­nails they are so far up Tim Mar­t­in’s back­side, yet at the same time they nev­er hes­i­tate to bring up the gazil­lion pubs are clos­ing per minute thing. There’s lots of rea­sons why pubs close – some are just bad ones, some expe­ri­ence exter­nal shocks, some are brought down by greedy pub­cos – but dis­count­ing and the expec­ta­tions it cre­ates in con­sumer are just as destruc­tive to pub eco­nom­ics. Not that brew­eries aren’t capa­ble of doing that to them­selves – my heart sinks when I see local micros’ pre­mi­um brews in super­mar­kets or even Bar­gain Booze at 3‑for-£5. They’re mak­ing pen­nies on the deal, but it’s destroy­ing their brand.

          But when you read things like this :
          you do have to won­der about CAM­RA’s rela­tion­ship with Wether­spoons. At the very least CAMRA should be neu­tral on Wether­spoons – treat them in the same way as cask breathers, a nec­es­sary evil to get cask ale out to a cer­tain sec­tor of the mar­ket rather than a core part of what CAMRA does.

  10. Add Four­pure and Mad Hat­ter to the list of UK brew­eries who only pro­duce keg and not cask beer (both of whom I’ve brewed for – per­haps I am the Har­bin­ger Of Cask Doom per­son­i­fied?).

    1. Cheers, Paul. Though of sev­er­al more after we’d post­ed but there were quite a few we had no idea did­n’t do cask. I was absolute­ly cer­tain I’d had some­thing on cask from Mad Hat­ter but must have imag­ined it.

    1. And when we inter­viewed the folk there back in 2013 they all said the same thing – they’re cask folk, they love it too much to stop, etc. But you could tell they keep it under review!

  11. If this was Hawk­shead or Thorn­bridge, I’d sit up and lis­ten. But Cloud­wa­ter – a very small (though ambi­tious) brew­ery with a dis­tinc­tive vision and MO mak­ing a sen­si­ble com­mer­cial deci­sion to focus on dispense/distribution that best serves their prod­uct isn’t real­ly that big a deal, and cer­tain­ly not a tip­ping point (on the con­trary, in fact – I expect high-qual­i­ty cask bit­ters to be a trend from craft brew­ers this year).

  12. It’s near­ly 3 in the morn­ing and I can’t be read­ing through all the com­ments. So if some­one has already said this. I apol­o­gise.

    (I main­ly drink cask).

    Cask is not cool. Cask is only cool for 50’s beardies. Keg is cool for 20/30 beardies. Cam­ra is the cham­pi­on for cask, and it seems to me that they are sooooooo out of touch. Grey.……very grey. So fking bor­ing. The hip­sters are a sht­storm of pun­ters, only inter­est­ed in the
    Biggest hop slag, with no cen­tral gov­ern­ing body. We need HIPRA.

    (This post has tak­en me an hour to write. I apol­o­gise. I’m drunk on my home­brew dou­bleipaim­pe­ri­al­rus­sian­brow­nalepalealegosepil­sner­scun­thor­pe­porter­stout­bit­ter cor­dial)

  13. I mean I just pre­fer cask beer and thought Cloud­wa­ter’s cask beer some of the very best (the brew­ery’s 2016 Spring/Summer Bit­ter was my beer of the year).

    For the (admit­ted­ly small – but please can we drop “elite” until I get my swim­ming pool and heli­pad?) Venn dia­gram slith­er of us that pre­fer cask from nu wave brew­eries (i.e. Plateau or Auro­ra from Burn­ing Sky, Cloud­wa­ter’s out­put, Mag­ic Rock, Five Points, Bux­ton’s cask (RIP), etc.), this is just bad news.

    What makes it inter­est­ing to the wider mar­ket is what Mudgie has said: this is the onward march of cask dis­ap­pear­ing in a pin­cer move­ment from both work­ing class, wet-led pubs and also spe­cial­ist beer pubs. Non-cask craft beer bars are pop­ping up in Lon­don (Moth­er Kel­ly’s, The Mer­maid E5, Mason & Com­pa­ny – the lat­ter mak­ing me ask whether Five Points will at some point also drop cask…) – and despite the eye-rolling in the provinces, what hap­pens here does tend even­tu­al­ly to have impact else­where.

    If mid­dling, mid­dle class booz­ers are the only ones doing cask, the like­li­hood of com­ing across any­thing – for­give me, for I am about to sin… – *pro­gres­sive* will dimin­ish. If the new, well-cap­i­talised, suc­cess­ful and inno­v­a­tive brew­eries are increas­ing in num­ber *and side­step­ping cask*, this is an issue.

    Not sure any­one has their “knick­ers in a twist” or has been OTT.

    I gen­er­al­ly agree it would take an Oakham or a Thorn­bridge to drop cask to real­ly make peo­ple sit up.

    But it strikes me this is the canary sway­ing a lit­tle on his perch in the coalmine. We should be alert to the fact some of our most excit­ing brew­eries are drop­ping cask.

  14. I do wor­ry a lit­tle bit about whether this is a trend. I’d be pret­ty gut­ted if Mag­ic Rock for instance went keg only, and I imag­ine they think about it quite a lot. Best pint I’ve ever had was cask Dark Arts. The world would just have a bit less joy in it if these brew­eries went keg only.

    Can’t see there being mas­sive dan­ger to cask in gen­er­al though. There is also a def­i­nite mid­dle ground between the ‘cook­ing bit­ter from who­ev­er’ and ‘pub must have at least 10 dif­fer­ent rotat­ing casks’. Land­lord for instance is a ‘pre­mi­um bit­ter’ that is pret­ty wide­ly dis­trib­uted to non-spe­cial­ist pubs.

  15. Also, we’ve had a new micro-pub type place open in my sub­urb and that is keg only, which I would­n’t have expect­ed even a cou­ple of years ago.

  16. There are a lot of com­ments here, and I have lit­tle time to read them all. Inter­est­ing stuff though.

    From my posi­tion the price-point of cask makes it almost stu­pid to brew, sim­ple as that. We still do it, but we lose more mon­ey on it than any­thing else. It costs us more mon­ey to make, sell, deliv­er, fund the hor­ren­dous cash­flow lag cre­at­ed by huge amounts of poor pay­ing pubs and col­lect back the emp­ties than we get paid for it.

    I sim­ply do not know why we pro­duce cask, except for the fact some peo­ple expect us to do so.

    1. One rea­son to pro­duce cask is to get on the CAMRA radar, of course. Espe­cial­ly for a start-up brew­ery, that can make a big dif­fer­ence and pro­duce a lot of free pub­lic­i­ty.

      1. Cloud­wa­ter were nev­er going to win any CAMRA awards though, for the tech­ni­cal rea­son that they don’t have any year-round beers. For most awards only beers avail­able all year round are eli­gi­ble.

  17. Well that was a long inter­est­ing read. Every year a whole new batch of 18 year-olds enter the mar­ket and for those of us who thought cask was best, we knew that it would be nec­es­sary to present the rea­sons why we con­sid­ered it to be best to these new entrants. We could not just assume it a giv­en fact that new drinkers would know all about the var­i­ous offer­ings. That in many ways what CAMRA was try­ing to be all about, edu­ca­tion, infor­ma­tion and so on. To “extol the virtues of cask”.
    The Cask Report makes it clear that there are still sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits of cask to most pub oper­a­tors. Clear­ly there will always be a num­ber who have carved a dif­fer­ent niche. And feel they don’t need cask. And so some brew­eries can just serve that need and/or com­pete against the more main­stream non-cask offer­ings that will always be on a bar. Eg Mean­time Lon­don Lager dis­plac­ing more “stan­dard lagers”.
    On price, I am told that every pub­li­can knows or thinks they know what the price of cask beer should be. Hence, brew­ers are more like­ly to be chal­lenged on the price they are seek­ing for cask than for oth­er pack­ag­ing types.
    I do not think I have ever drunk Cloud­wa­ter. No doubt shame on me.

    1. Cam­ra have spent the past forty years doing a real­ly excel­lent job of putting pret­ty much every­one except elder­ly white mid­dle class men off cask ale. The best thing to ever hap­pen to the cask ale indus­try would be if cam­ra dis­ap­peared overnight.

    2. every pub­li­can knows or thinks they know what the price of cask beer should be”

      Try every punter. That’s why most free hous­es try pret­ty hard to get away from stuff that the pun­ters can find in a super­mar­ket, to get away from the “How much? It’s £10 a slab across the road” thing. But there’s a thou­sand brew­eries in the UK pro­duc­ing a 4% gold­en ale in cask, so com­pe­ti­tion is fierce and there’s lit­tle scope for pric­ing pow­er. So yes, the mar­ket has a pret­ty good idea of what the price for a 4% gold­en ale should be, with some region­al vari­a­tions for prop­er­ty prices/rent etc.

      Com­pare that with the mar­ket for Irish stout, where there’s only one brand that is accept­able to 90% of drinkers, and that brand can dic­tate the price. It’s no coin­ci­dence that Guin­ness has tra­di­tion­al­ly been the most expen­sive pint on the bar.

      I do not think I have ever drunk Cloud­wa­ter. No doubt shame on me.”

      It deserves the hype, it’s great stuff (if you like that sort of thing). Although all the atten­tion goes to the DIPA series, I real­ly enjoyed their Red Ale, which appar­ent­ly is com­ing back in a few weeks – hope­ful­ly it will squeeze into cask before they stop doing it.

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