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Marston's kindly hosted the recent 25th meeting of the Cask Marque Assessors at their brewery in Burton on Trent. Over 40 assessors and trainers attended this twice a year gathering. The purpose is to update everybody on Cask Marque activities and performance and to talk about key issues affecting beer quality in trade.Assessors-at-Marstons-2012-400px

This event received a presentation from Marston’s on Fast Cask, the innovation on the use of yeast in the cask. The number of products on offer for sale with Fast Cask technology has now been expanded and a debate took place about the added values of Fast Cask, where it should be used and its impact on beer quality. The main message was that Fast Cask should be handled in the cellar like any other cask ale but has the added benefit of being placed on sale within a shorter time scale.

The next presentation was from Vianet on iDraught which covers key areas on beer quality both in the cellar and in the glass. The equipment allows the monitoring of line cleaning routines and procedures, temperature in the cellar and in the glass and measures yields and cash take. It was agreed the information was of enormous use to licensees and managers to improve profitability, but was frequently not used to its full potential because of lack of knowledge on how to get the best out of the information supplied by the equipment.

The final external presentation was delivered by Meiko, a glass machine company who have just completed a £4.3m contract to install a new generation of glass washers into all JD Wetherspoons pubs. No water softeners are needed as the machine purifies the mains water supply by using a reverse osmosis system. Until now this was only available to very large catering organisations. The system means it needs no salts, has no water softener, uses 50% less detergent and 90% less rinse aid. Glasses do not need to be renovated unless new when they would have a residue from the manufacturers mould. Cask Marque on each visit to an outlet measures glass cleanliness and will be monitoring with interest the performance of the equipment within JD Wetherspoon.

The next Assessors Meeting will be held in the late Spring at Brewing Research International Centre in Kent where the assessors receive ongoing training on the taste profile of beers and are then subject to blind tasting.

Can you spot your local assessor in this photo? (Answers below). And no, they haven't all been locked up! View a high resolution version of this picture.


Top row (L>R): Peter Sloan, Graham Cooling, George Roe, Keith Rogers, Ian Smith, Peter Lakin, Paul Nunny (Director), Roger Clayson (National Account Manager, South), Harvey Milne, Steve Housden, Pete Channon, Roger Putman, Simon Best, Tony Millington, Peter Wilson, Barry Jones, Bruce Awford, David Baker, Tony SKipper, Roger Mitchell, David Ruddlesden, David Waller, Tim Woodrow, Jim Kerr, Julian Herrington, Stuart Noble

Bottom row (L>R): Jayne Hewitt, Sarah Davenport, Annabel Smith (National Account & Training Manager), Angie Armitage (PA), Alastair Macnaught (Operations Manager), Paul Hallas, Haakon Olafsson, Robin Woods, Paul Noonan, Howard Morgan, Peter Reeve, Martin Hill, Ramsay White, Peter Wesley, Peter Tulloch, Mike Parker, Tony Millington, Garry Bunyan

Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

By Annabel Smith, Cask Marque Training Manager

smashDo you remember the ‘Smash’ adverts from the 1970’s? The ones where a group of Martians would watch in astonishment as humans prepared mashed potato the traditional way, using real potatos , and then roll around laughing in mirth? It always made me giggle (it still does), and the adverts were voted number one in ‘ITV’s Best Ever Ads’.

I’ve been reminded of this advert a few times over the last few months as I’ve been doing some training for call centre staff around the country. These staff sell a huge amount of beer to publicans and I was hired to get them to recognise the difference between cask beer and keg beers (like lagers and smoothflow beers). I had been asked to teach them how cask ale ‘worked’ and why it was different to other beer categories.

Now considering I had been given strict instructions that I could only spend 1 hour doing this training, I needed to get their attention fast, but more importantly make them understand that cask ale needed some careful looking after in a beer cellar after their company had delivered it. So armed with a few ‘dummy’ casks filled with water I thought the best thing to do was get them all practicing what to do with the product, from a cask being delivered into a pub cellar, getting it ready for sale and how to dispense it.

At the first session I did, after going through all the stages of conditioning cask ale and getting my trainees to practice, one of the group stared me in the eye and said “Seriously? They do all of this work just to get beer ready? Why do they bother?” And she started giggling. Which set the rest of the group off giggling, and it became infectious whilst we all pondered how ridiculous it was in this generation of convenience that we spend so much time looking after, and nurturing this product before it’s even handed across the bar to a customer.

The same thing happened at the next training session I did, and the next. In total I delivered twelve training sessions throughout the UK and without a doubt we recreated the Smash Martians in every session. If it’s this funny I could get a second job doing a stand up routine, I thought.

But it did bring it home to me – as I tried to explain to all my trainees – that there are thousands and thousands of publicans in the UK who are spending hours in their beer cellars tapping, venting, tilting, checking and chocking cask ale – because they know that the real thing is always better than the ‘easy’ product. They recognise there is a huge taste difference between real cask conditioned ale and pasteurised, mass produced beer, and that as long as customers demand real ale, this work will have to be done.

I always preferred ‘real’ mashed potato to instant granules. Some things never change...

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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

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Leading restaurant and pub operator Mitchells & Butlers is trialling Cyclops Beer notes as part of its staff training and customer education in twenty of its Village Pub and Kitchen outlets. Cyclops Beer uses symbols to show what a beer looks, smells and tastes like and how bitter or sweet it is. This is the first time that a pub group has trialled Cyclops Beer to train staff and help its customers to understand more about cask ale, and it will be measuring its effectiveness in both areas. If successful use of Cyclops Beer will be rolled out in more Mitchells & Butlers Village Pub and Kitchen pubs later in the year.

Cyclops-VPK-training-aid-smallCyclops Beer is providing Mitchells & Butlers with point of sale material for the pilot pubs including chalk boards which will use the eye, nose and mouth symbols; these symbols are effective as they are quick and easy to understand, avoiding the overly technical or flowery language which is often used to describe beer.

Cyclops Beer is also providing training material and, together with Cask Marque, is funding the training in the Village Pub and Kitchen outlets.

From Mitchells & Butlers, Drinks Quality Manager, Rachel Evans, said:  “The tasting notes are a great tool, which will give our staff the knowledge to talk with confidence about cask ale and encourage customer interest in the product. We shall measure its impact in terms of increased cask ale sales in trial pubs as well as feedback from our Guest Satisfaction surveys”.

David Bremner, founding member of the Cyclops Beer Board, said: “It is often difficult to know what a beer will taste like from its name alone and we believe Cyclops has an important role to play in demystifying cask ale. Cyclops tasting notes work effectively in catching your attention and helping to make the large range of tastes and flavours present in cask ale easier to appreciate. We hope to see more consumers engage with cask ale and want to try different brands as a result of this initiative and it is really encouraging to see Mitchells & Butlers investing time in training their bar staff to use Cyclops particularly in matching beer to food.”

Find out more at www.cyclopsbeer.co.uk

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The date of this year’s Cask Ale Week has just been announced. It takes place from 28th September to 7th October and is following the Try Before You Buy theme. It has a new strapline – Only in Britain, Only in Pubs!
Cask-drinkers-Cask-Ale-Week-2012“The theme and the strapline are aimed to attract people back into pubs,” says Paul Nunny, director of Cask Marque, which is steering this year’s event, “as well as to get people sampling our national drink. They should help pub operators use their unique selling point to drive footfall and also provide a great platform for brewers to talk about what differentiates cask ale from the other beers on the bar and the supermarket shelves,” he says.

“There is still a huge gap of knowledge in the industry, let alone among the general public, about what makes the beer from a hand pull special. Cask Ale Week, dedicated to raising the profile of cask-conditioned beer, can help plug that gap in knowledge, and entice drinkers back through the doors of their locals.”

Brewers and pub companies are pledging to make the most of the opportunities and Paul says that there are some great initiatives up the sleeves of the best pub and brewery businesses.

“The main motivating factor for involvement is of course to benefit their own ale brands and pubs, but in the process, companies are also supporting our sector, making sure that pubs remain at the heart of British culture and life.

“CAMRA has pledged its help, so pubs can appeal to local branches for support with events and activities. The IFBB is also putting their weight behind the campaign.

“By making Cask Ale Week into a real celebration, an extension of all the2012 Summer activity in the country, between us all we can make a real impact.”

The Caskfinder App, which has 50,000 uses a month, will also be used to drive trade into pubs participating in Cask Ale Week, and prizes for pubgoers using the highly successful World’s Biggest Ale Trail will be doubled during the Week. A Cask Ale Week website aimed at consumers will be up and running in August. In the meantime, the whole trade is being asked to get the dates in the diary and to commit to doing one visible thing to support the event. As Paul points says,

Cask-drinkers2-Cask-Ale-Week-2012“If you’re interested in the future of local communities, you should be interested in the future of pubs, and if you’re interested in the future pubs, you should be interested in the future of cask ale.”  

Try Before You Buy will be operating in Cask Marque accredited outlets and Paul urges pub operators and brewers to contact Frances Brace (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), who is supporting Cask Marque with communications for the Week, with information and images on their proposed activity.  In the meantime, as he says, “get the date in the diary and work out your best way of contributing to Cask Ale Week’s – and your – success!”

Further info:    Frances Brace
Red Flame Communications
07432 692309
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Congratulations to Cask Marque's only female beer assessor & training manger Annabel Smith, who has today achieved Beer Sommelier status, accredited by the Beer Academy.

Annabel-Smith-Beer-SommelierThe Beer Academy Sommelier scheme tests candidates on their recognition and knowledge of a wide spectrum of beer styles, how to maintain great beer quality, and beer and food matching. Successful Sommeliers become ambassadors with the knowledge, communication skills and, most importantly, the passion to inspire people to discover, respect and enjoy all types and styles of beer.

Annabel said “I’m absolutely delighted to have achieved the Beer Sommelier accreditation with the Beer Academy, and it’s an honour to be recognised as an ambassador for beer. I have an absolute love for the beer industry and the wide range of styles and flavours it produces.”  

To achieve Beer Sommelier status, Annabel was required to attend and pass a number of Beer Academy training courses. The courses covered in depth knowledge of beer production, understanding raw ingredients and how they contribute to flavour, identify different beer styles from around the world, and understand what types of beer paired best with food.

She had to submit a portfolio of evidence illustrating her practical competence of using beer menus in retail outlets, her knowledge of beer and food pairings and demonstrations of high end beer retailing and image standards through cellar hygiene standards and training retailers.

At the assessment with the Beer Academy on 10th July Annabel had to identify a number of beer styles and differentiate between them and illustrate her knowledge of the principles of Beer and food matching

Annabel has been training manager at Cask Marque, the body formed to improve the quality of cask ale and to promote its values, for 7 years. In that time Cask Marque have trained over 12,500 retailers in Cellar Management and Beer Quality. She is a founder member of Dea Latis, an independent, industry-wide forum for everyone involved in trying to make beer a more appealing drink for women. She is also a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers.

Well done Annabel!

Press cuttings:


Further info:

The Beer Academy is an educational body dedicated to helping people understand, appreciate and enjoy beer sensibly. Founded in 2003 by a small group of beer enthusiasts, it quickly attracted support from brewers (large and small), beer retailers, trade associations and consumer groups who funded the start-up costs and enabled the Academy to put together a series of courses and training materials delivered by a small group of experienced and knowledgeable tutors with a real passion for beer. The Beer Sommelier accreditation scheme was established in 2011. www.beeracademy.co.uk

Cask Marque is an industry body founded to improve and recognise the quality of cask ale in pubs. Currently over 8,000 pubs display the coveted Cask Marque plaque which guarantees consumers a great pint of cask ale.


Dea Latis is an independent industry wide forum designed to promote beer specifically to women


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Congratulations to Mitchells & Butlers on gaining their 1000th Cask Marque accredited pub at the Rose & Crown, Sevenoaks.


Pictured: Bob Ivell, M&B Chairman (with pint, middle), Louise Williams, Manager (with plaque) and Paul Nunny, Cask Marque (touching plaque)

Cask Marque is an independent organisation set up to improve the quality of cask ale in pubs by way of an accreditation scheme.

Rose & Crown Manager, Louise Williams received the plaque after independent assessors checked all cask ales on sale against four key criteria - temperature, appearance, aroma and taste.

Mitchells & Butlers has been running the comprehensive scheme since receiving its first Cask Marque plaque in 2006. Cask Ale is a key product category for Mitchells & Butlers and pubs including Nicholson’s, Ember Inns, Toby Carvery, Crown Carveries and Vintage Inns have established interesting and innovative cask ale portfolios.

Executive Chairman, Bob Ivell and Operations Director Robin Young were on hand to celebrate the 1000th accreditation.  Bob said: “We’re very proud of the Rose & Crown receiving a Cask Marque accreditation and the plaque on the wall reflects the hard work Louise has undertaken to achieve it. To have these high standards established in 1,000 pubs means we can guarantee our guests that every pint is served perfectly from the cellar to the glass.”

To support Mitchells & Butlers’ pub teams in serving a great quality pint of cask ale, the Company have developed a cellar training programme which managers have to complete prior to the Cask Marque assessment.

The training consists of the BII ABCQ qualification which is a nationally recognised award, and is part of the Mitchells & Butlers manager induction programme. All courses are held in local breweries with working cellars to get a 'hands on' approach to training and make it as interactive as possible. This is enhanced with supplier in pub training and other elected courses such as The Beer Academy and Advanced Cellar Excellence courses.

Paul Nunny, Director of Cask Marque commented: “Congratulations to the Rose & Crown and to Mitchells & Butlers on gaining their 1000th accreditation. It is a fantastic achievement to have so many pubs with the Cask Marque Award and this is a sign of Mitchells & Butlers commitment to beer quality and customer satisfaction. We see first-hand the effort that the Company put into quality through training and the results of this are evident in the great pint of cask ale you are guaranteed in any one of these 1,000 pubs.

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Cancer survivor Trevor Fulcher is running the London Marathon in April – dressed as a giant walnut.

Trevor is taking on the 26 mile challenge to raise money for Orchid Cancer Care, a charity which aims to make men more aware of cancer - in other words, to know their nuts, and hence the outfit.

Trev walnut webHe was diagnosed with testicular cancer seven years ago and underwent surgery and chemotherapy.

As a result he recovered and is now the proud father of a five year old daughter Jodie.

Mr Fulcher, of Skelton Close, Lawford said “I had a growth and went to see my doctor. He referred me to hospital to have a scan and the next day I had surgery. I was terrified. My son Samuel was only one at the time and I thought I might not survive to see him grow up.”

After surgery Trevor had to undergo chemotherapy. He said “The chemo was hard. It was only a small dose, to flush out my system, but it felt as though I had been completely turned inside out. I’ve been clear for seven years now. I was lucky the cancer was caught in time.”

Trevor hopes his run will help more men to check for and be aware of the symptoms of cancer. He has been trying for a place in the marathon for four years and when he finally got in, decided to make the most of the opportunity.

He added “The charity asked me if I wanted to wear the walnut suit I thought and I thought ‘why not? It will make it more memorable’. I’m not going to get a fast time but if there is one race to dress up for it has to be this one. “

Trevor is hoping to raise £1,000 for the Orchid Cancer Charity. His boss Paul Nunny at cask ale experts The Cask Marque Trust, said “We are very pleased that Trevor is putting his running skills to such good use. He has run to and from work (8 miles each way) several times a week since he joined us five years ago and knew that he desperately wanted to run the London Marathon. He has put a lot of hard work in and we are pleased to be sponsoring him.”

To sponsor Trevor visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TrevorFulcher

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Cheshire based family brewers Frederic Robinsons are officially serving some of best Real Ale in Britain, according to the results of an independent quality assessment.

The Blossoms in Heaviley is the 35th Robinsons owned and operated pub to be awarded Cask Marque accreditation; which recognises quality of presentation and service for traditional, hand-pulled and cask conditioned beer.

robinson-35th-accredited-pubScrupulous assessors from Cask Marque carried out two unannounced inspections at each of the 35 sites to check all of the beers on sale for the quality of their appearance, temperature, aroma and taste.

Annabel Smith, National Account Manager for Cask Marque, said: “Robinsons should feel proud of this excellent achievement, which not only recognises the effort put into serving great beer but also acts as an independent guarantee of quality for their customers.”

“Achieving Cask Marque accreditation in one pub is a challenge in itself. But to repeat those high standards across a number of outlets without exception is simply outstanding.”

Cask beer in general is enjoying a resurgence. In 2010 it found its way into 2,500 new pubs and its share of the beer category grew from 14.6% to 15%, outperforming lager & keg ale by 6%. With huge growth in the number of 18-24s drinking cask ale, it is clear that young people are searching for a new drinking experience – different to that of the traditional cheapest pint of lager – and in doing so they are driving the evolution of cask ale.

In addition, during a recession, consumers tend to support local producers which can often be brewers. 46% in fact actively try to support local producers and businesses and use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to discuss such products with their friends. There are now more than 30 million Facebook users in the UK and a billion tweets every 5 days with 70% of tweeters recommending brands they use.

Paul Nunny, Director of Cask Marque Trust, explains how “Robinsons have in the last 18 months invested heavily in beer quality – both in the brewer and their pubs. Their technical support team audit their estate twice a year and those tenants achieving top marks are put forward for the Cask Marque Award at the brewery’s expense.”

Paul Nunny goes on to highlight the fact that “with over 110,000 beer drinkers using the Caskfinder App in the last 3 months to find Cask Marque pubs, successful Robinson tenants will gain a direct benefit.”

David Bremner, Marketing Director at Robinsons, said “There were a package of reasons why we chose to invest in Cask Marque accreditation. The award carries good recognition from within the trade and customers. It is a fair reflection on the licensee’s commitment and skill in keeping high quality cask ale. Finally, we knew that the feedback would be professional, accurate and useful in identifying weak areas which we could address.”

As attested to by Mark McConachie – a CAMRA representative and ale-house aficionado who recently completed a 300 pub-crawl of Robinsons estate – people enjoy tasting different beers in different places but one thing that remains constant is the quality of Robinsons Real Cask Ale.

David Bremner enthuses: “The cask ale customer will travel to a pub with recognised beer quality. There can never be enough emphasis on getting the quality excellent and consistent.”

Cask Marque has awarded quality standards to 8,000 pubs across the country. To find your nearest outlet, visit www.cask-marque.co.uk or download the free app Caskfinder to your smartphone.

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Congratulations to Carlsberg UK who has been awarded the coveted Cask Marque Distributor Charter – the first national distributor in the UK to receive the quality stamp of approval.

The accreditation means all cask ales sold via the Carlsberg UK distribution network are handled in the very best conditions with the care and attention they need and is assurance to licensees that the cask ale they order via Carlsberg UK will arrive at their pub in the very best condition.

Carlsberg UK distributes cask ale in the Free Trade via its Tapster's Choice Cask Ale programme and also distributes and handles the cask ale programmes for a number of the major pub companies in the UK as part of its Logistics Services operation.

Following substantial investment by Carlsberg UK in the supply chain, examiners from Cask Marque assessed all eleven depots which handle cask ale, and marked each depot on 12 key areas which determine the quality of the ale. These include the presence of cold storage facilities, a 'first in, first out' policy and always loading casks on the day of delivery.

Mark Groves, logistics director for Carlsberg UK, says:  "No other distributor comes close to matching our levels of customer service and quality credentials.

"This accreditation is absolute peace of mind for all our customers that the cask beers they order through Carlsberg UK will arrive in the best condition.  We are serious about quality – we have invested over half a million pounds in making sure our depots are the best in the industry and with one of the most comprehensive range of beers and ongoing support for licensees, all our customers are safe in the knowledge that they are getting an industry-leading service and quality."

Paul Nunny, director of Cask Marque says: "With the demand for cask growing it is important that beer is delivered to licensees in prime condition.  To achieve this it means brewers and distributors must use best practice in today’s extended supply chain.  We are delighted that Carlsberg UK nationwide are up to the challenge and have been awarded the Distributor Charter for their handling of cask beer.”

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After 13 years of existence we have nearly 8,000 accredited pubs and 99% of these are in the UK. In the early days however we had a few accredited pubs in Paris which were sponsored by Adnams. Over the years we have also accredited pubs and bars in Scandinavia:

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No it's not an article about The Band but a blog from our National Account Manager & Top Trainer Annabel Smith.

"There has always been an on going debate between the North and South about how cask ale should be served – with a thick creamy head or a looser frothier head? Which is better?"

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Palmers Brewery has become the UK’s first small brewery to achieve a new national standard for excellence in the distribution of real ale.

The award of Cask Marque’s Distributor Charter accredits Palmers’ skill in supplying beer to pubs and clubs in tip-top condition.

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"The complainant is definitely right and they have a problem." This was the response I received from one of our assessors after he had been asked to go and investigate a customer complaint.

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Every year Cask Marque make hundreds of presentations and speeches around the United Kingdom. We have 45 assessors, normally qualified brewers, as well as two National Account Managers on the road who when called upon, talk about Cask Marque and beer quality in general.

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So we’ve set you the task of taking part in ‘The World’s Biggest Ale Trail’ on the CaskFinder app and we’re pleased to see so many of you getting involved.

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The beginning of the month saw the annual National Cask Ale Week (1 – 9 October) and as always it was jam packed full of great events in pubs across the country. It was particularly exciting for us here at Cask Marque as our CaskFinder app launched ‘The World’s Biggest Ale Trail’.

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There are a number of benefits for licensees and pubs in being members of Cask Marque. Amongst many others these include:

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Over the last 12 months Robinsons Brewery have invested heavily in a beer quality programme within their 385-pub Tied Estate and part of this commitment is to become a corporate member of Cask Marque.

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National Cask Ale Week will run from 1-9 October this year — spanning two weekends — to help pubs promote the event.

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