Wednesday, 31 March 2010

I'm not Missing Out



When bottled beer drinkers turn to cask once a year and urge others to support it, you really have to sit up and take notice. Thus it was when I read Zak's blog. It seems the great and the good are getting creakily to their feet, skirting the fridge, no doubt with a longing and lingering look and wistfully surveying the exotic bottles in the garage - sorry cellar. No reaching for the outsize wine glass or the "exciting" triple Imperial Mild for them this evening; like Guy Fawkes night or Christmas Day, a once a year treat beckons. They are off to the pub to drink the real stuff.

At the bar their Tesco Clubcard is scornfully declined, trembling hands reach for actual cash and a real pint is procured. It is consumed proudly. Some take notes and buy "I'm Supporting Cask" T Shirts. Some have a second pint of this strangely normal beer and pat themselves on the back - being careful not to spill any of this extremely rare beverage when doing so - it's bloody expensive after all - and some even consider switching from lout to pongy cask, just to get a mention on the roll of honour. It makes you proud to be British.

The real message of Cask Ale Week is clear. Get out to the pub and drink some and do so often. Bring someone who doesn't normally drink cask and get them to try it. At a time when the Cask Report (are copies available yet Pete?) shows cask is the only beer with rising sales, continue to maintain and ensure that trend by doing the pub a bit more often. Not only is cask ale a British "national treasure" like the pub itself, it is bloody good stuff.

So next time you raise your glass of Quadruppel Barrel Aged Vanilla Lambic, remember experiencing that simple pleasure of a cask conditioned pint in the pub accompanied by real people, rather than by Eastenders and Shameless and get down the pub again. You know it makes sense to nurture what we uniquely have. It can all go wrong so easily. After all look what happened to Christmas.

For the record I visited the Landlady in the White Lion and had some lovely Thwaites Nutty Black.

No bloggers were hurt in the making of this posting.

30 comments:

jesusjohn said...

Those Cask Ale Reports in full:

http://www.caskreport.co.uk/downloads.php

Ed said...

It is a bit bizarre isn't it? I get down the pub every weekend, you can't beat cask.

Cooking Lager said...

I shall be having my second pint of pong this year to get on the roll call of honour before the week is out. Got to get a second mortgage first, mind.

Tyson said...

Well, you've reluctantly talked me into it. The Marble it is then...

Cooking Lager said...

Oh and where do I get my "I'm supporting cask t-shirt?" Are they handed out at the bar like the school sports vouchers you get at the supermarket? Do I have to ask for one?

Pete Brown said...

New Cask Report probably out in August/early Sept. Thanks for linking to current ones, JJ.

Just getting eraly figures now and it's looking encouraging.

Have to say - as someone who loves cask, lout, and quarupel aged 10% ABV vanilla flavoured imperial IPA equally, I'm loving how people are getting behind cask ale week this time. Last year I blogged it and the general response was "What's the point?" It really seems to be getting some traction this year.

Cookie - surely a nice line in "I love lout" T-shirts would genetrate enough revenue for you to get in a coupld of pints of pong?

Paul Garrard said...

Whilst it is good to have a week that highlights cask any time should be right to introduce a friend to the stuff. That's if you have friends of course.

ZakAvery said...

Peter, I hope you don't mind me saying, but even setting aside the personal dig, I think your post is really mean-spirited, not to say incorrect.

Let's start with the factual inaccuracies. The Cask Report looks at beer sold in the on-trade, which has been in decline for many years. It's great news that the decline of cask beer has lessened, but a 1% increase at the start of 2009 is nothing. Contrary to what you state, cask beer isn't the only beer with rising sales - that title goes to premium bottled ales, which has been rising steadily at 7-8% over the last 5 years. In fact, so steady and predictable is this rise that many of the larger brewers are now seeing it as their only growth opportunity. I'm not saying that bottled beer is better, but it is the only part of the market in steady growth.

But what really makes my blood boil about your post is the implication that anyone promoting Cask Ale Week is somehow a token gesture, and that cask ale is the preserve of the seasoned drinker. What would you rather we do - ignore it altogether? It's indicative of the smug, parochial attitude that has come to be the stereotype of real ale appreciation. You won't agree, obviously, but there's still a huge amount of snobbery and mystique that erroneously surrounds the topic of cask ale, and it puts people off.

I've worked in beer retail for a decade, slowly turning people on to the idea that it's worth paying a bit more for better beer - shock horror, you get what you pay for. If beer is just a vehicle to getting drunk, fine, buy the cheapest beer you want, and if that makes you happy, then great. But if you're interested in ideas like quality and flavour, then there's a whole world of it out there.

Beer appreciation is about finding something good to say about beer, beer snobbery is the opposite. And that carries into all areas, whether you're talking about beer, or talking about people who talk about beer.

It might seem strange, but I don't run my blog for other bloggers - I try to write for "ordinary" people, in the same way that I talk to "ordinary" people as part of my job - people who are curious about beer, and want to learn more, but are put off by the snobbish attitude of people who act like they were born with knowledge. None of us were weaned on cask ale, it's something we've all learned to appreciate, and I don't see anything wrong with trying to impart some knowledge, to promote and to demystify wherever possible. If you think that's cheery-beery, fine, it doesn't bother me.

But what really makes me despair is that when I started blogging, as opposed to maintaining a website, I was adamant that I wouldn't ever blog about blogging - I want to communicate about beer to people who want to know more and expand their horizons. I don't want to be part of a community of people talking to each other in the internet (sorry everyone), I want to tell the other 99.9% of the world about what makes beer taste the way it does, and why we should be a bit more open minded about trying something new. I don't understand why you think that's a bad thing.

Tandleman said...

Zak - I was just having a tongue in cheek laugh. It wasn't personal at all. In your case, your wine glass is a subject of humour in many a blog. That was why the reference was there.

Sorry too that you reckon not only that I failed miserably to be amusing, but that there was deeper meaning than "gentle ribbing". There wasn't.

I'll just let the rest pass. As you say your blood was boiling.

Tandleman said...

Oh except one thing. When I said what I said about cask being the only part of the beer industry in growth, I was referring to recently released figures for 2009. In the absence of the actual report, I used the MA as source. They say:

"Cask ale continues to outperform the declining beer market, according to new figures released today.


Morning Advertiser Industry Insight

Although growth in 2009 was modest — up 0.04% on last year — it compares favourably with a 5% fall in on trade beer sales last year, says the Cask Report as National Cask Ale Week gets underway today.

Among smaller brewers, total cask volumes are up by over 1% and turnover by an average of 16%. Cask is now the only sector of the UK beer market in growth."

While I didn't mention 2009 specifically, I had no intention of using "factual inaccuracies" as you claim. Nor in fact do I believe I did so.

Mark said...

I found it refreshing to leave the house this week, after all, I'm usually either polishing the bottles in the cupboard or staring at them under the dull glow of the fridge light. Did you know that people actually go out to drink in the week? That you can buy real ale any time? What an eye opener it was to be able to free myself and leave my flat to actually go out for a beer, how wonderful. And you know what, that real cask ale bitter stuff is actually ok. I will put it in the diary to go out next year for a pint too - that's definitely something to look forward to...

I think you've done a disservice to cask ale and your penultimate paragraph, which contains the important message, is lost and taken in the same unfortunate tone as the rest (gentle ribbing or not, it reads more like spiteful sarcasm). This week is an opportunity to tell others about cask ale and to encourage others to drink it. Yes, you do that all the time, but why not make a special effort this week to engage with it. It's like Valentine's Day, for cask ale (spread over a week)!

I hope you will soon realise that the majority of bloggers don't just sit at home opening bottles every night of the week and that they do actually and regularly go to the pub.

Montague said...

Your true colors are showing Tandleman. That dig at Zachary was completely unnecessary and very poor on your part. Zachary is the most tolerant, well mannered and nicest beery person in the blogsphere. On the other side you accuse yanks of being fat who aren't and stamp a fellow colleague as a kiddie fiddler. At this day and time, I think it should be mentioned, that you will not be in calender, "The Men of Beer Blog World." Your weight, along with your wild accusations eliminate you from the project. Women would rather see a thin and sexy Cookie then a tub of goo who rants endlessly when he's both sober and pished. It's not all cock and balls ya know.

ZakAvery said...

As I say, I don't mind the digs, and the wine glass jokes, and so on - you're not the first and won't be the last.

But I just don't understand why you'd choose to poke fun at people trying to promote something that you claim is so dear to you. The sense I get is that you think everyone who blogged about cask ale week did it to be part of the herd, when the truth of the matter is that unless cask ale as a sector recruits new drinkers, it will perish. It's all very well saying "well I do my bit", but actually, that's not what is going to save cask ale. You going to the pub and having a few is only going to maintain the market. What will revitalise it is recruiting new drinkers of all ages and backgrounds, and writing and espousing patronising nonsense isn't going to do that.

Oh, and "outperforming the market" actually means "suffering less than everyone else". That growth is mainly with micros. Pick up the phone and speak to any medium-sized brewer, and they'll say that their cask sales are falling and their bottled sales are increasing. Heaven forbid that the MA are trying to put a positive spin on poor figures.

Tandleman said...

Sausage. For the record I didn't make any comments as you allege nor do I know who did. Nothing else needs saying here and your comments will again be deleted until you stop saying such nonsense.

Tandleman said...

Ah well Zak and Mark. Some jokes clearly misfire don't they? What I thought as gentle teasing is clearly wide of the mark, so humble apologies for my sledgehammer wit. I suppose in my clumsy way I was trying to put over a serious message which is that cask ale and pubs need continual support from everyone 52 weeks a year and if (as you say above) messages about spreading good beer news in blogs is worthwhile, it surely must include pubs and cask more than it generally does.

Either way, it was not my intention to upset either of you, but clearly I have and that won't do. So sorry guys.

Zak - I'll return to some of the points you make on a different day. Suffice to say I am well aware of the decline in medium sized breweries cask output and a few more things on the subject besides. But another time.

Cooking Lager said...

Well I'm having a pint of pong in a pub tonight, and it is a token gesture to get on Zak's roll call of honour. My boss is buying me one. We will see if it makes me ill, I guess, or whether I like it.

Barry M said...

Maybe you should take the two-question test before hitting that post button. ;)

Tandleman said...

Some you win some you lose. Main thing is to know when to hold your hands up.

Baron Orm said...

I've managed to combine Cask Ale Week and my love of British bottled ales in a perfect match:

http://theormskirkbaron.blogspot.com/2010/03/cask-ale-week-baron-style.html

Baron Orm said...

I've managed to combine Cask Ale Week and my love of British bottled ales in a perfect match:

Cask Ale Week - Baron style!

John Clarke said...

I woudn't be too defensive, Tanders old boy. While I think your attempt at humour was perhaps a little clunking (but little worse than the laboured but strangely tolerated outpourings that appear on Cooking Lager), I also think that you may have hit a raw nerve - hence the rather pained response from Mr Avery. I suspect he feels a bit guilty about not getting out to the pub as much as he would really like and this sort of brought it home to him.

He makes a couple of points that can't be allowed to pass. You have touched on one and oddly seem to endorse the other.

I don't think that a 1% volume increase in cask can be dismissed as "nothing". Let's not forget that this is in the context of a 4-5% decrease in on-trade beer volumes overall. To register positive growth in that arena is rather more than "suffering less than everyone else". In facts it's more a case of "doing quite nicely, thank you".

Premium bottled beers may well be showing the growth that Zak says but quoting pure percentages without the background figures is meaningless. Increasing sales from one bottle a year to two would be a100% increase but still be bugger all. In addition cask volumes are, by and large, on-trade driven, whereas bottle volumes are, I suspect, mainly off-trade volumes. A bit like comparing apples and oranges really.

The other point that needs challenging is "pick up the phone and speak to any medium-sized brewer, and they'll say that their cask sales are falling" Really? Let's take a random medium sized brewer. Ooh - how about Robinsons nith their 400-plus pubs. Last time I spoke to them (in February) their cask voumes were up. Hydes might be at the lower end of the medium spectrum but last time I spoke to then (again in Feb)their volumes were up, too. So, instead of "any" read "some", Not quite such a convincing point then, is it?

Cooking Lager said...

If it's all so hunky dory Clarkey, why is your dodgepot beer club so concerned about the fantastic value offered in British supermarkets?

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

I'm off for my only cask ale pint this year. And then I'm not touching the stuff again until 2011 because I definitely only have one token pint of real ale each year. And no more.

Tandleman said...

Who do you think you are? Cookie? (-;

Tandleman said...

@JohnClarke: I wasn't up to or for arguing some of Zak's more debatable points the other day (and there were a few that would provide basis for discussion and challenge), though I did say I'd return to the subject to do so and I will. Just because I apologised for giving (unintended) offence doesn't mean my main thrust had no merit at all. My apology is for upsetting the personally affronted, not for championing getting out to the pub and for urging some bloggers to do so more often and write about it when they do. I'm a pub man after all.

A quick point though. Among other things Zak says "the truth of the matter is that unless cask ale as a sector recruits new drinkers, it will perish. It's all very well saying "well I do my bit", but actually, that's not what is going to save cask ale." Well funnily enough that's not news to me. In my "day job" as a CAMRA chairman I do just that - both in trying to promote cask ale and recruiting new and younger drinkers to it. And I do it more or less every day and have been for more than 30 years.

In my blog I write about beer from (mainly) the pub, cask ale and industry perspective. Others write from theirs. Both are fair game for comment. I suggest it is wishful thinking to believe that drinking craft beer at home (or even in the pub) will ever replace drinking cheap lout at home, or good old "normal" beer at the pub with your mates.

There is nothing wrong with wishing as we all do, to see innovation and experiment in British brewing, but it will never fill enough mash tuns. So you won't save or protect British brewing that way. In my opinion of course.

Happy Easter everyone.

Montague said...

Oh come on Herr'man! Are you now part of the Christian CAMRA sect??
Easter is just as bogus as Christmas. Another Pagan holiday adopted by the Christians. Yeah, Happy Easter Herr'man. May Christ's blood fill thy nonic. LOL!!!

Tandleman said...

That's almost nice Whorst. I won't delete it.

Jeffrey said...

Cask Ale week passed us by! Seems a bit pointless for established real ale pubs but can see it might be useful if you're trying to build a market from a low base.

Tandleman said...

Fair comment.

Jeffrey said...

Was inspired by your reference to Nutty Black and will be ordering some for next week, to serve alongside Lees Brewers Dark.

Do you want to do the drinkers at The Gunmakers a favour and ask someone at Lees to send us a couple of extra sparklers? I've one got the one, and that's permanently attached to to the Purity Mad Goose pump.