Cask Ale Week

As we raise a glass to celebrate this tradition of celebrating all things Cask, our founder Myles Pinfold's latest thought piece goes into detail on what Cask can learn from Craft, and if branding can save the ailing cask sector.

Despite the pressures of increased competition and discounting within the trade, beer has managed to retain and grow its high-end, premium positioning. For over a decade, the craft beer sector has led the way in terms of adding value and innovation, which has been achieved through innovative beer styles, ingredients, storytelling, presentation (including packaging and glassware) and ultimately branding.

In contrast, traditional cask ale has largely been left in the dark. This is an interesting phenomena as cask is arguably fresher and more natural, requiring much more care and attention in both its keeping and management. So, why is keg getting all the limelight?

I suspect a significant large proportion of beer drinkers under the age of 45 don’t understand the difference between cask and keg, and what’s more, probably don’t care either. All they want is great tasting beer to suit the occasion, and a significant number are willing to pay a premium price for it.

If you talk to any American craft brewer, however, you’ll find that they idolise British cask beers. To quote Steve Hindy (Founder of Brooklyn Brewery), ‘Cask ales are outrageously good and a delight. The English manage to put so much flavour in their delicious, lower ABV regional ales’. Initially, American craft brewers based their beers on traditional, British ale recipes until they built up the confidence to experiment and innovate their own versions. They even have Nitro-Keg which enables keg beer to emulate the smooth drinkability of cask, and was invented this side of the ‘pond’ in the ’90s!

Now, the tables have turned with British craft brewers are learning from American brewers, and emulating their winning-ways. If traditional cask is to get out of its current predicament, it must also learn from its richer and more successful protagonists. It needs to reinvent itself through innovation and adopt craft branding techniques, in order to add value and appeal to today’s drinker.

On trend craft brewers such as Deya, Cloudwater and Verdant are leading the way…

So, will branding save the ailing cask sector? It will certainly help make a difference…

Our founder, Myles Pinfold, has in depth insight into the world of beer branding and has written extensively about it too. If you would like to discuss how your brand can survive and thrive in today’s crowded and fragmented market, please get in touch.