The widely read hirsute beer writer Pete Brown has added an important contribution to the debate on the future of cask beer here:
On the whole I agree with him, and I’ve already said so. I drink more ‘craft keg’ than cask these days even though I still think that properly conditioned and served there is nothing to beat cask beer.
The problem as Pete Brown rightly notes lies in that ‘properly conditioned and served’ area. There are some pubs I can think of who know how to condition a beer, when it is condition, and if it is then fine to serve (that is clear- if fined- with no off-notes). Unfortunately there are not so many of them.
CAMRA’s Revitalisation Report (latest one) recognises these as being real issues for cask- and they suggest training and education is needed. It also mentions a further point that Pete Brown doesnt really touch on.
Namely that too much cask beer, even though it may be in good condition and well served is dull and bland and just not something I want to drink (given that I will be drinking limited amounts). CAMRA says it plans to investigate how much secondary fermentation in the cask actually takes place in some well known cask brands. Good.
Of course there are reasons for this and here again Pete Brown is right in echoing concerns about market competition and price cutting meaning that not particularly well made beers are churned out at low cost to get on bar tops. That is about as far away from cask being the pinnacle of beer as you can get.
Pete Brown’s contribution to the debate on the way ahead for cask is important but it requires drinkers to organise and act- over to CAMRA.
There is an urgent need to improve the quality of cask ale on bar tops in at least some areas. I enjoy craft keg but the majority of beer drinkers by a long way drink cask and often do so where no ‘craft’ alternative is currently available anyway.
Publicans,, breweries and PubCos can help here and the Cask Marque scheme showed what could be done, as Roger Protz has noted:
But the world has moved on a bit and it underlines the importance of CAMRA as a campaigning organisation. It needs to be out there pressing for excellent cask and calling it out when that isnt the case. Of course that already happens but making it happen more is now urgent