pubs real ale

Variety is the spice of life

Our beloved local, The Drapers Arms, reopened last week as a takeaway. We’ve had a couple of takeouts so far and it feels like a significant, wonderful step towards normality.

Of course, if you’d asked us in January how we’d feel about getting four pints of beer in a placcy milk bottle to drink in our front room, we’d have said, meh, we love pubs, we don’t really drink at home much – why on earth would we ever want to do this?

We wrote a month ago about our new lockdown routines and where we were buying packaged beer.

Since then, we’ve added mini-kegs to the repertoire – Jarl one week, Harvey’s the next.

This has helped recreate a reasonably authentic cask ale experience. Surprisingly good, in fact – we’re fully won over to mini-kegs in principle.

But the reopening of The Drapers is definitely next level, game-changing stuff. Not necessarily because every single beer is utterly brilliant, but because:

  • We suddenly have access to a range of cask beers, not just one at a time.
  • We don’t have to decide a week in advance what we want to drink, and we (probably) don’t need to worry about running out between deliveries.
  • The range that’s been on offer so far includes things we would not have been able to get hold of easily. It also includes new-to-us beers that we wouldn’t have wanted to risk buying in bulk, on spec.

The last point was particularly important for us.

Part of the joy of a good pub is being able to dabble in things you might not necessarily fall in love with. You might discover a new gem or, alternatively, it’ll make you enjoy the stuff you really do like a whole lot more.

Being presented with limited options in a range chosen by someone else, can be oddly liberating. The agony of choice and all that.

Hopefully other beer drinkers feel the same and haven’t decided to just drink the world’s best beers at home forever.

The takeaway cask model could offer a lifeline to pubs that will be too small to reopen safely in the next few months.

9 replies on “Variety is the spice of life”

Problem with cask beer racked bright into any kind of other container, other than a glass for immediate consumption, is that is has almost no shelf life.

Racked into Bag in Box frankly isn’t a whole lot better. Rapid consumption on the day of purchase is necessary. Oxidisation occurs more or less immediately during transfer. The best thing in the circumstances, but it is limited.

The beer we bought yesterday was done and dusted within about two hours. Tasted bloody great. Decent foam, too, which is usually the problem we have with takeaway.

Trouble is that even if pubs are “only” on £26k pa rent, that means they’re having to sell 5-6 firkins a week just to pay the rent (but not wages or any other costs). And cask is <20% of pub beer volume – they desperately need the lager drinkers. But lager in a milk carton is kinda rubbish, whereas it's quite suited to cans from a supermarket. Where it costs 75p-£1 per 440ml – less than the wholesale price for single pubs, let alone the £3.50-4/pint they need to sell it for.

So I can imagine it working for something like the Drapers where I assume they're cask-heavy and probably can pay rent with just 1-2 firkins/week, but it's far from a solution for more typical pubco pubs.

I deal with 6 local brewers in Shropshire abd and none of them have cask available. Does news travel slower to Shropshire?

I don’t know how long cask beer keeps condition in an unpressurised container, but – having had a couple of two-pint cartons delivered on a day when I was unable to drink them – I can report that it’s definitely less than 24 hours!

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