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  • Cask Ale Week 2014

    Cask Ale Week is back and it's better than ever, with more pubs, brewers and pub companies supporting it than ever before!

    A recent survey showed that 37% of cask ale drinkers and 78% of cask ale publicans are aware of Cask Ale Week.  65% of drinkers claim they visit the pub more often in Cask Ale Week.

    The things they love about Cask Ale Week are, 80% Beer Tastings, 65% Beer Festivals, 43% Ale Trails, 40% Food & Beer Matching sessions

    Read More



By Roger Protz, Chairman of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide
It is known popularly as "real ale" thanks to more than a quarter-century of feverish and dedicated activity by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). But a brewer and a connoisseur will prefer the term "cask-conditioned beer", for it best expresses the unique character of Britain's great contribution to the world of fermented grain: a beer that reaches maturity not in the brewery but inside its cask in the cellar of a pub. Most beer -- and more than 93 per cent of the world's production is cold-fermented lager beer -- is filtered and often pasteurised in the brewery at the end of the brewing process. It is ready to serve as soon as it reaches its destination in pub, cafe, bar or bier keller, pumped to the bar by gas from a canister. Cask beer is different because it is a living product and gains maturity and flavour in the cellar.

barleyAll beer is made in roughly the same manner. When barley is harvested, it is taken to a maltings where it is soaked in water and laid out on a heated floor where it starts to germinate, with roots breaking through the skin or husk. Germination triggers natural chemical reactions inside each tiny grain that begin to convert the starch in the malt into fermentable sugar. When the maltster judges that germination has gone far enough he moves the grain into a kiln, a type of chimney with a mesh floor: intense heat from below dries and gently cures the malt. The level of the heat determines the type of malt produced. Pale malt is the basis of all beer as it is richest in the enzymes that convert starch into sugar. Darker malts are more fiercely heated and the end results, depending on their colour, are called amber, brown, chocolate and black malts. Unmalted roasted barley is also used in the production of stouts, especially the "Dry Irish" style. Dark malts have little fermentable material in them and are used primarily for flavour and what brewers call "body", the richness and fullness of their beers. Stewed malts, made in a sealed and heated drum, also add delicious nutty flavours and body to beer: the main type of stewed malt is crystal.

When the malt reaches the brewery it is cleaned, split and then loaded into a large circular vessel called a mash tun where it is blended with pure hot water (always known as "liquor" to brewers). The thick, porridge-like mixture stands in the tun for one and half hours or two hours and during that time the enzymes in the malt finish the conversion of the starches to brewing sugars, a process known as "saccharification". The brewer will run off some of the sugary liquid through taps set into the side of the tun to test that starch conversion is complete and will then open the slotted floor of the vessel to allow the liquid, called "wort", to percolate through the thick bed of spent grain. The brewer also rinses or "sparges" the grain with more hot liquor to wash out any stubborn, remaining sugars. In traditional lager brewing, two or three mash kettles are used, with portions of the mash pumped from one kettle to another, heated to a higher temperature and then returned to the first vessel. This method is used because lager malt has been more roughly prepared in the maltings and needs a longer and more thorough mashing in the brewery to convert the starches to sugar. When the mash is complete it is clarified in yet another vessel called a lauter tun.

hopsThe wort is pumped to a boiling copper where hops are added. Hops are called "the grapes of brewing": their tannins and acids add superb aromas and flavours to beer as well as intense bitterness. Depending on the variety of hop, the aroma may be spicy, peppery, resiny, citric or perfumy. In ale brewing, most brewers prefer to blend two or even three different varieties in the copper to give the preferred balance of aromas and flavours needed. The classic English varieties are the Fuggle, with its deep bitterness, and the Golding, which has a fine resiny and spicy aroma, but there are many more to choose from. During the two-hour copper boil, the hops are added in stages to avoid all the aromas and bitterness being distilled off: the last addition comes right at the end of the boil.

The liquid, now called "hopped wort", is cooled before being pumped into fermenting vessels and thoroughly mixed with brewer's yeast. Yeast comes brewhouse_loin two basic forms: warm or "top" fermenting cultures used for ale production, or cold or "bottom" fermenting cultures used to make lager. Ale yeasts work at a warm temperature, and create a thick, fluffy head on top of the fermenting liquid. Yeast is a type of fungus and voraciously attacks liquid sugars, converting them into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The ferocity of ale fermentation also creates aromas and flavours known as "esters" that are reminiscent of such fruits as apples, pears, bananas, lemons and oranges. Lager fermentation is at a lower temperature, and is followed by a long cold conditioning or "lagering" (from a German word meaning storage) during which time the beer matures, and purges itsself of unwanted flavours and esters, with an end result that is clean and quenching.

When ale fermentation is complete, the beer is left to condition for a few days to rid itself of rough flavours. It may then be filtered and pasteurised and pumped into kegs or bottles. But the jewel in the brewer's crown, cask-conditioned beer, is simply run or "racked" into wide-bellied casks and sent off to pubs. A glutinous substance called finings made from isinglass is poured into each cask to help clear it while many brewers add a handful of hops and extra brewing sugar for a good hoppy aroma and a successful secondary fermentation.

In the pub cellar, kept cool at 11 to 12 degrees C (52-56 F), the living yeast cells in the beer continue to turn the remaining sugars into alcohol and CO2. The publican or his cellarman monitor the development of each cask carefully, for they are dealing with the Champagnes of the beer world. A soft wooden peg or "spile" is knocked into a bung hole on top of the cask to allow some of the gas created by fermentation to vent off. As fermentation slows, the soft peg is replaced by a hard one that keeps the gas inside the cask to give the beer condition and sparkle. At the same time, the finings slowly drag the spent yeast cells and proteins to the belly of the cask. Samples of the beer are pulled off through a tap knocked into the end of the cask: when the beer is perfectly clear and its aromas and flavours are judged to be balanced and rich, plastic pipes or "lines" are attached to the taps of the casks and the beer is then pulled by beer engines, triggered by handpumps on the bar, to the drinkers' glasses.

There are two main myths about cask ale. One is that all real ale is strong, the second is that it is warm. In fact, cask ale comes in many forms, from a low strength Mild of around 3.2 per cent alcohol by volume, a Bitter of 3.5 to 3.8 per cent, a Best or Special Bitter of 4 to 4.5 per cent, an Extra Special Bitter of 5 per cent or more, and then more powerful Old Ales, Barley Wines and Winter Warmers that can reach as high as 10 or 11 per cent. Cask beer, by its very nature and method of production, is cellared and served at a higher temperature than lager. But 12 degrees C/57 F in your glass is cool, not warm, and it is this temperature that best expresses the skill of the brewer in developing rich, ripe and tempting aromas and flavours in his brews. Warm beer has unpleasant tastes, while ale served too cold loses those rich malt and hop aromas the brewer has created. Cask-conditioned ale is one of the wonders of the beer world. No other style can offer such depth and complexity. It is the pinnacle of the brewers' art.

Tasting beer is not just about being able to say 'this pint is good' or 'this pint is bad'. It is important to be able to identify indivudal flavours which are present in the beer. There are 1000s of different beers available in British pubs and it is impossible to know what all of them ought to taste like. So instead, you need to learn which flavours should be present in beer and which shouldn't.

These Cask Marque tasting cards show some of the the flavours which you would expect to find in cask ale, as well as their 'official' name.


 And similarly, it is important to be able to identify flavours which should not be present in beer, or the 'off flavours'. Recognising what these are can help to identify the cause of any problem, be it a brewery fault, a problem in the cellar or lines or perhaps the beer has been on sale too long.


If you would like one of these cards posted out to you, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See other ale lovers' top 5 favourite beers - let us know what yours are and we will add them too!

Dea-Latis-breakfastDea Latis, the women and beer group held its second Beers with Breakfast event last week in a seven-beer hair-of-the-dog morning session at the Somers Town Coffee House in London.

The female gathering of journalists, bloggers, brewers and marketeers assembled to test their taste buds alongside the delicious breakfast menu at the Yummy Pub Co owned pub in Chalton Street near Euston.

Beer sommelier, Jane Peyton, was guest speaker for the group and offered her impassioned plea to women to consider the UK’s national drink as regular a drink of choice.

There was no need to persuade the hungry group of tasters of the merits of beer as Beer Sommelier Annabel Smith began her tutored tasting and everyone got stuck in.  

Over the next 90 minutes they quaffed, nibbled, deliberated, Tweeted, snapped and scribbled through seven beers - kindly donated by each of the brewers - and the accompanying breakfast courses in true multi-tasking style.  

The menu began with a poached egg and smoked salmon with Hollandaise drizzle on a toasted muffin served with St Austell Brewery’s 4.8% abv Clouded Yellow beer and ended with a Wells and Young’s 5.2% abv Double Chocolate Stout served with pancakes with chocolate sauce and blueberries. (See the full menu below.)

At the end of the tasting the unanimous winner was the eggs and smoked salmon with Hollandaise dish which beautifully complemented the citrusy notes of St Austell Brewery’s Clouded Yellow beer.
Lisa Harlow, who helped to organise the event with Ros Shiel and Annabel Smith, said: “At the end of a fantastic year for beer – and a year where there are more women brewing and drinking beer than ever before* – this was a wonderful cross-industry celebration of our versatile, varied and flavoursome UK brews. It was great that we could highlight that different styles of beers will go with just about anything – even breakfast!”

* Women trying real ale for the first time has grown from 14% to 34% in the last three years. CAMRA, August 2013

The seven beers with seven breakfasts menu

With thanks to all the brewers who donated and delivered the beers and to Anthony and the crew at Somers Town Coffee House, the full beer and food menu was as follows:

•    Poached Egg and Smoked Salmon with Hollandaise Drizzle served with
St Austell Brewery’s Clouded Yellow 4.8% (from St Austell Brewery in Cornwall)

•    Crispy Smoked Bacon with a herby grilled tomato served with
Freedom Pilsner Lager 5% (from Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire)

•    Bombardier Rarebit Crumpet served with
Wells and Young’s Bombardier 4.1% (from Bedford)

•    Black Pudding and Apple Crisp served with
Timothy Taylors Landlord 4.1% (from Keighley in West Yorkshire)

•    Chilli Avocado on French Toast served with
Thwaites Wainwright 4.1% (from Blackburn in Lancashire)

•    Banana and Strawberry Smoothie served with
Wells and Young’s Banana Bread Beer 5.2% (from Bedford)

•    Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce and Blueberries served with
Wells and Young’s Chocolate Stout 5.2% (from Bedford)

Read Matt Eley's blog (Editor of In a Pub) who attended the event.

For more information go to: http://dealatisuk.wordpress.com/ or follow them on Twitter @DeaLatis or like them on Facebook at /DeaLatis.

Contact Lisa Harlow on 07917 757860 or Ros Shiel on 07841 694137