Why Cave Direct want to start selling cask in 2017 (4.01.17)
As you may be aware, we do not yet sell cask, but as big real ale lovers we plan to sell a little this year and are making arrangements. The only reason we haven’t before is that, as a predominantly importing business, we haven’t worked with breweries that did cask until recently. You see, despite claims to the contrary, we don’t believe that cask beer is currently under threat. It only takes a cursory look at Pete Brown’s 2016 Cask Report to see it is enjoying huge growth, and quality is on the up too.
That said, we totally understand Paul and Cloudwater’s decision to stop producing it to move into more profitable package. This could point to problems further down the line but in our eyes there is only one issue here: price. Cask beer is grossly undervalued and the margins are tiny. As Steve from Beer Nouveau points out, producing it costs the same, labour in caring for it is more and the time you have to sell it far smaller. There is no reason for it to be cheaper and if it remains so it will just force quality-driven breweries out of the market. Some argue there are plenty of indies to fill Cloudwater’s small space, but surely they are facing the same issues?
Cask beer at its best is perhaps the most delicious and unique form of alcohol in the world, and we need to treat it as such in our actions as well as our words. When we enter the cask market later this year we’ll work with a select few cask brewers and make a stand on price. We will pay similar (if not more) than we would for the same beer on keg, and treated the same when we look at our margins. As quality is paramount to us we’ll also be helping out with cellars and training pub staff where required.
This will, in a small way, help brewers protect the two things at risk in cask – profit and quality. We know some pubs will object both actions, but it is the only way to give cask the place it deserves on the bar.
Quality and care must come at a price, and by accepting that we can ensure cask’s future as a modern but thoroughly British tradition.