Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Good Stuff from Cask Marque

Beer wise I had variously good experiences and bad in London last week. On the good side obviously was the lovely weather, which made a little outdoor drinking possible, as well as pleasant strolls to and between pubs. Lists can be boring, but I won't let that stop me, so I'll mention some of the best, just so you know where to go. The Gunmaker's Arms as always keeps their beer immaculately. Landlord Jeff even took me into his cellar to try an impressive new beer from East London Brewing. I suspect that they may be one to watch, so let's er.. watch them. Making a handy little pub crawl is nearby Craft. I've praised them before for very well kept beer and do so again, this time enhanced by three (or was it four?) Mallinson's beers. Only black mark was the mind numbing overly loud music, but then to this old git, modern repetitive beats go into my head like driven nails. None of that nonsense in the Euston Tap though, where I enjoyed my farewell to London beers. I have never had a badly presented beer here.

Another highlight was Kernel Brewery, where we dropped a lot of money in very short order, drinking some very impressive beers.   This is an interesting venue under some railways arches, attracting a lot of yuppie and know-all types, but nonetheless, in the sun, rather fun, though it took some finding.  I had to check on the Dean Swift too.  Since its new cask cooling has been installed, I haven't been in London, but the system works well and the beer is cool and drinkable.  The pub listened to comments and acted on them. That's great. We like it a lot and will be back.

It can't all be good though.  On Sunday - a very warm day - the beer in the Harp wasn't standing up well at all. One pint was sufficient on this occasion.  A couple of poor shows in Nicolson's pubs on the Strand too. That's disappointing as I regard Nicolsons as generally good.  And of course there is the delightful Draft House on Tower Bridge. I love the place for the decor, the big windows and the buzz, but please cool the cask beer. Please, please cool the cask beer.

London has its warm beer issues and none more so than one of my local pubs, but lo, it now sports a Cask Marque sign, so in we went.  The beer was so undrinkably warm, that I felt moved to complain to Cask Marque.  They inspected it on Monday and fed back to me that the beer purchased (Sharp's Doom Bar)  was an unbelievable 23.5C.  That for us old chaps is 74.3F.  Astonishing.  They will follow up with two more unannounced visits to check for improvement.  I suspect I may be reporting more to them, though as winter approaches, cellars will cool. Still splendid service from Cask Marque. Well done chaps.

Of course the other thing about London is how good the pubs invariably are. Traditional, lovely to look at and to be in.  I love London pubs above most others. They are just so.... so......... pubbish.

Let's get the beer right though and a word to the wise, refrigeration is not a bad thing. 

I won't name my local pub on this occasion until I know how things turn out.


Anonymous said...

Good work from Cask Marque. I got a similar result from them when I moaned about a pub in Bideford. There are so many pubs with the Marque which serve dismal beer, though. A very poor indicator of quality, IMHO.

Steve Lamond said...

23.5 degrees! Surely the person serving it would feel that its too warm!

The Beer Nut said...

Sweet jaysis! You should have asked for a teabag to go in it.

Pete at Get to the said...

Wonder if it works both ways. I've made a mental note to contact Cask Marque next time I go in a Wetherspoons and get a pint with penguins and Eskimos living on it.

Birkonian said...

I'm staying in farringdon Travelodge tomorrow night en route to Belgium so I'm looking forward to my first visit to Craft just to get my liver into trim for the rest of the weekend.

Erlangernick said...

Well did you bring your own sparklers along this trip?

Tandleman said...

Nick - No. That, when done, is done for a joke.

Pete at the pub etc. Do. But remember beer gets warmer. It doesn't go cold.

BN. It would have been handy.

Cask Marque said...

Hi, we accept that there are pubs out there which have our award where the beer is not always perfect. We have a simple application process which is testing the beer in the glass for 'temperature, appearance, aroma and taste'. Temperature should be 11-13 +/- 1 degree. We visit each pub a minimum of twice a year and more if we receive complaints or have doubts about the quality ourselves. The upside of the simple criteria is that any pub can apply without discrimination and beer is tested as the customer would receive a pint. The downside is that we are not checking equipment and cellar standards, unless asked. This means that it is possible for pubs to sometimes scrape through on temperature when they have pulled many pints through, but when things are quiet the beer will have been sitting in the lines warming up - presumably what happened at the 23.5 pub.
Because we only visit twice a year we rely on the public to let us know when beer is warm (and cold) so we can investigate and hopefully resolve the issues.
Cold beer in JDW generally comes around if the cask lines run too close to the lager lines or their ale pythons are incorrectly set. They actually invest more in equipment to keep their beers at the right temperature than any other company I know, and generally we find their beer to be pretty good. Beer is so often sold warm, that when you do actually get a pint at 10 degrees it can seem very cold! Anyway, we welcome all feedback and investigate all complaints - feel free to email me at Cheers Alastair

Saga Of Nails said...

I reckon that the D***Bar was deliberately served at the temperature as it's the only possible way to get any taste at all from the ubiquitous 'ale. :)

Cask Marques, I have a question. Assuming a firkin of ale is at room temperature, how many days would it take to get to say eleven degrees in a normal cellar ? Given that a half litre bottle of beer takes around eight hours to get down to temp in a bar fridge, I assume that a cask might actually take quite a long time indeed, especially if multiple casks are dropped at the same time.

By the way, your website doesn't work properly when I am trying to look for pubs in a specific area. There are 82 pubs listed in the Bristol area, but only ten are shown at a time, and when you click next or previous the list is randomized. I found two pubs in that 82 who are not actually members of the scheme, one of which changed their name over three years ago. Of the 38 pubs in Bristol in the GBG, I believe that only three or four are Cask Marques, GK and Butcombe venues.

Langer Dan said...


Thanks for confirming what I'd guessed all along about JDW.

They're much maligned but I reckon, second to CAMRA, they more responsible for the survival of real ale than any other organisation in the country.

I've yet to find a Spoons where I couldn't find an excellent pint.

Why hasn't Tim Martin been knighted yet for his services to the great British Pub.

Jonathan said...

Completely agree Dan. Can't recall ever having a badly kept pint in a Spoons.

Dave said...

Coincidence time! I was today in the Ship Tavern at Holborn whilst they were being 'Cask Marqued'. The assessor was a magnificent professional who clearly knew more about beer than most would, and his assessment had more people drinking beer.

The pub is well-regarded, but it's even better to know that Keith Rogers, the assessor, was there to prove it to be so. These guys are real champions! As are the pubs they visit.

RedNev said...

I'd not really given much thought to Cask Marque as an indication of quality, but from what I've read here, it sounds rather effective. I'd now definitely contact them if necessary.

Barm said...

Saga, why would a firkin ever be at room temperature? It should have been in cold storage at the brewery or wholesaler, then gone onto a van or lorry and then into the cellar.

Saga Of Nails said...

Barm, to start with, almost no dray-vehicles are refrigerated, So the firkins could easily have eight hours to warm up during a delivery day. Additionally, some breweries or wholesalers do not keep the barrels cool while they are being stored. I have personally seen two wholesalers who don't bother to cool their barrels.