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My Ale Trail Experience

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Carl Griffin, CAMRA member and ale fanatic writes about his experience using the CaskFinder App's 'World's Biggest Ale Trail' feature.

Carl-GriffinOver the last 12 months I have been taking part in a new initiative introduced by Cask Marque termed the ‘World’s Biggest Ale Trail’.

The concept began in September 2011 to coincide with Cask Ale Week in order to encourage people to visit more pubs and try real ale. The scheme involves using a smart phone to scan QR codes on the bottom of the pub’s Cask Marque accreditation certificate. The name and a running total of the pubs visited are stored on your phone and prizes gained for reaching certain thresholds.

As we approach this year’s Cask Ale Week (28th September – 7th October) I have now visited 400 different pubs that have achieved Cask Marque accreditation. During this period of time I have been sent prizes such as a bottle opener magnet for surpassing 25 pubs, a Cask Marque Polo shirt for surpassing 50, and was given the honour of becoming Cask Marque’s first ambassador for surpassing 100 pubs. Becoming an ambassador entitles me to a free Brewery Tour, a day visiting pubs with a Cask Marque assessor and a free place on a cellar management training course worth over £100. So far 27 people have become Cask Marque Ambassadors with many more on the verge of achieving this landmark.

My tours of Cask Marque pubs have taken me to all corners of the UK and have involved some amazing weekend bar crawls in some very ale conscious cities such as Birmingham, Edinburgh, Nottingham, to name just a few. Along the way such gems ranging from traditional country pubs to ‘trendy’ town centre bars have been found serving a wondrous array of real ale in tremendous condition. My favourite find has been the Nook in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. This tiny brewpub, home of the Nook Brewhouse, dating from 1754 is hidden away in a small square in the centre of the town made famous as the setting for the BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine. Offering a great range of their beers, from Blond through to Oat Stout, this pub is worthy detour if you’re exploring this area of Yorkshire.

Many of my tours have involved my ale-loving wife, Sandra, who has enjoyed drinking ale since first trying our national drink after moving to the UK from lager-only Bosnia two years ago. The ale trail has also encouraged us to discover more of our wonderfully beautiful group of islands.

It is worth mentioning that we have many pubs within our district that have achieved Cask Marque accreditation including 11 in Aylesbury and 6 in High Wycombe, along with many of our small town or village pubs. I would encourage you, especially as Cask Ale Week is upon us, to visit these pubs that you may have not tried before and partake in the Cask Marque initiative. You will not be disappointed by the quality of the beer and may even find a rare gem of pub or even a new favourite ale along the way.

For a pub to achieve Cask Marque accreditation, they must pass two unannounced visits by qualified assessors whom are all qualified brewers. All beers on offer are tested for temperature, appearance, aroma and taste. If both visits reach the required standard Cask Marque accreditation is awarded. The award is renewable every 12 months subject to satisfactory annual inspections. Look out for the tell tale hand pump sign on the outside of the premises or signs attached to the bar’s hand pumps themselves.

If you are interested in discovering more about the scheme, or want to join the ale trail, visit http://www.cask-marque.co.uk/biggest-ale-trail/ale-trail