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A model of industry self-regulation

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What a great advert for Cask Marque!

And no it wasn’t one that we created ourselves; the article below appeared in last week’s Sunday Mail. How it managed to reach the press we do not know but we are pleased it did as it highlights beautifully the value that Cask Marque adds to the industry and ultimately the consumer.

"For a model of industry self-regulation, look no further than the real ale business.

Supping last week at the Windsor Castle in London's Notting Hill, one top tankard in the beer trade suspected the standard of his pint and called Paul Nunny, director of the quality assurance body Cask Marque.

Within 24 hours, a Cask Marque assessor had visited the pub, checked the delivery systems, tested the ales, and, regretfully, declared them all failed. Just as rapid was the response of the pub's owner, Mitchells & Butlers, which launched an inquiry to put things right. Cheers!" 

For a pub to gain the Cask Marque Award they must receive two unannounced visits by one of our qualified assessors. They will introduce themselves upon arrival and then sample up to six cask ales which are on sale, including the slowest selling product to ensure they are not overstocking to the detriment of quality.

Where possible we will also take a look in the cellar to check what equipment or system is being used to ensure the beer is delivered to the point of dispense at the desired temperature. We will also give advice on best practice or answer any questions a licensee may have about looking after their cask beer.

If the licensee passes both inspections then they gain the Award.

The inspection process doesn’t end there though; if an assessor suspects there may be underlying problems with perhaps knowledge, equipment or throughputs at the pub then they have the freedom to revisit when they choose.

In addition to this we encourage feedback from the public. Although we visit each pub two or three times a year we accept that there may be occasions where the beer is not of the quality it was when we visited or would be expected of a pub holding the award. This is not something that we just accept. As with the Windsor Castle in Notting Hill, if alerted to a problem we will send out an assessor as quickly as possible to do a thorough investigation into the problem. Sometimes the issue will be a simple case of the beer being at the end of the barrel when it should not have been served, but others can be more complex problems and will require us to undertake a full check of their cellar equipment and practices.

If we are unable to solve the issue immediately, then we will feed back the results of these investigations to the pub owner or sponsoring brewer and as participants in the scheme they will endeavour to put right whatever the problem was. This may require further training for the pub in handling cask beer or it may be that equipment repairs or investment need to be made.Ian Swanson, Cask Marque Assessor checking the cellar

Whatever the cause turns out to be it is in everybody’s interests that the problems get rectified as quickly as possible. Industry statistics say that 54% of consumers who have a bad pint will go elsewhere, change brands or worst case scenario if they are trying cask ale for the first time, will be put off forever.

So although it is very rare for Cask Marque pubs to be serving sub standard beer, if you ever come across a below par pint in a Cask Marque Award winning pub then we want you to tell us so that we can do something about it. The Cask Marque Award highlights those pubs which serve great cask beer. Help us to keep it that way.