Back in April 2011 I tipped Buxton Brewery for great things. Since then they have crept slowly but surely up the ladder of British brewing and have in fact increased the pace of recognition and gained the approval of many drinkers. I particularly like it when I come across them expectantly at the bar and always order them when I see them. Seems though I won't see much of them in the future. Well not in cask conditioned form anyway.
A rumour has been going the rounds for a little while that Buxton were to cease production of cask beer in favour of keykeg and bottles and yesterday it became apparent that apart from the Brewery Tap and selected (unstated) "special events" that cask beer production, which has already been scaled down, will cease from September. Bad news for cask drinkers who like a pint of their beers from a handpump.
Buxton go on to state on their Facebook Page the reasons for doing so:
- Overwhelming customer demand for other formats - bottle and keg.
- Customer feedback.
- Quality control.
- Cask losses and theft.
- A depressed cask market place flooded with poor to average cask beer, sold cheap.
The issue of cask theft, like the poor has always been with us, though again many other breweries seem to cope with this and while I for one won't argue about quality control, it seems to me a bit flimsy, in that Buxton by definition and examination of their own reasons for ceasing cask, surely won't be selling it down to a price in outlets that exist on that business model and where a quality pint isn't guaranteed?
Buxton go on to say:
"We love cask beer, and the great traditions of British brewing that surround it. It's where we started, with Buxton SPA in 2008, which we still brew and is a great beer to drink on cask. Our wish is to continue presenting beer in cask, but in a way that we can have 100% control over it."
Well I guess if you want 100% control over cask then yes, just sell it in your own pubs. Or pub in this case, but of course that raises two fingers to those that have loyally supped Buxton beers on handpump these last years. They'll have to put up with a much different product, served in a much different way at a much higher price. Or hop on a train to Buxton I suppose? If you really love cask and think that highly of it, then you'd find another way, maybe by selling only to well chosen outlets and to a supply chain that will ensure that cask losses are kept to a minimum. I don't know where they've been selling it that it ends up so poor. That doesn't quite hang together for me. Now of course I'm a cask beer bar through and through, so I would be unhappy about this of course, but I rather doubt that I'm the only one. Loss of these fine traditional beers is unlikely to be met with universal approval. Thankfully not all of the nearly 1400 brewers brew bad beer, so there will be plenty of decent replacements, even if sometimes loss of other beers is recalled with regret. In the end of course the financial aspects of their business are down to Buxton and I would never blame a business for going down the "it makes more money route." I'd just be a lot happier if they simply said "Keykeg and bottles are more profitable and are easier for us. Sorry". Expressing crocodile tears over abandoning cask helps no-one really.
Is there not too, a certain irony that in retaining cask beer at the Brewery Tap, no doubt that those that brew it and those that made the decision will still be happily supping cask beer after work? Seems a little like rubbing noses in it.
At least I was right in predicting success. Pity it had to end up like this and oddly unfitting surely that the Buxton statement is illustrated by a photo of a handump dispensing Buxton Cask Beer.