We are told by advocates of this theory, the hoary old myth, that it is so difficult to keep cask beer that it needs the skill of the landlord to be recognised by charging more for it. We are also asked to think that there is little point in selling the stuff when you can make more from other products on the bar - a somewhat unsophisticated argument given the variables involved. Selling in scale - although specialisms exist - is generally a diverse business, and those selling "things" generally take the view that you can't make the same profit margin on everything you sell, but need to have as broad an offer as possible to attract the widest customer base you can.
In cask beer, the elephant in the room, which is actually as big as the room itself, is that if you cannot guarantee the quality of the product, then you cannot charge more for it. If you can and your customers will stand for it in these straightened times - then maybe you can up the price a bit, but be aware that even the best have to be careful not to overprice such a short-lived product. Every pint lost, will eat into your profit, so it has to be a careful balancing act.
It is odd, too, that while cask volumes may be
down, there is still plenty of cask beer in top form available.
Specialist pubs, the tied houses of Family Brewers and many more, all
supply reliable quality cask beer, often at remarkably competitive
prices. In areas that have such competition, you will often find the
non-mainstream sellers of cask, have better quality too. They have to
compete. There isn't one size fits all where cask is concerned.
This does not even take into account some of the other variables, such as the current cost of living crisis. Can we really believe those who would tell you that cask ale drinkers will pay more for cask beer as an occasional treat, in the full knowledge if the beer is only occasionally drunk, then it will likely not be a treat at all?
A final point. Cask ale still costs, on average, less to
produce than keg, which relies much more than cask on expensive CO2 in
both production and dispense. The margins aren't likely to be decisive if you turn beer over quickly. Not exactly "Pile it high and sell it cheap", but certainly it needs to shift much more quickly than other draught stock.
Of course, everyone from brewer to publican deserves a decent return on investment, but forget this at your peril. Cask, as a fresh and perishable product, must be priced to go.
I commend to you also recent posts by Pub Curmudgeon on this subject. He has gone into the figures much more deeply than this dashed off piece allows.And let's stop this idea that cask is hard to keep. It isn't, as I (and Greene King) point out here, but it does need a little (easy to learn) knowledge. There isn't in most cases any reasonable reason to sell poor cask beer, but a bit of pride in what you sell wouldn't harm either.