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In an evening designed to span political divisions, Dea Latis, the industry’s beer and women forum,  this week hosted the first-ever beer tasting designed for women MPs at the House of Commons.

A lively crowd of over 50 women (and some brave men) were guests of Charlotte Leslie MP, Meg Hillier MP and Jenny Willot MP who sponsored the event. The group were tasted six beers from around the country with food selected to match each beer style, ably guided by Cask Marque's beer sommelier Annabel Smith.

In her introductory speech, Charlotte Leslie suggested that women had the power to re-shape UK drinking habits and that it would be driven by “food and family” – demonstrated earlier by the arrival of Jenny Willott with her two small children to the event.

In her address, Brigid Simmonds, the first female chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, reminded guests that 22% of people taking brewing qualifications were now women. Then Inge Plochaet, chief executive of AB InBev ,highlighted some research which showed only 12% of women in the UK drank beer and that this could be as high as other beer drinking nations such as the US and Belgium where rates are around 25%. She urged brewers to rethink their communication strategies to be more inclusive of female drinkers. Sara Barton, founder of Brewsters Brewery and current Guild of Beer Writers’ Brewer of the Year, ended speeches with her thoughts on how women brewers had brought innovation and diversity to UK brewing.

Speeches over and barring a short interruption while MPs dashed to vote, the room was filled with lots of chatter and appreciative noises for each of the beer and food combinations, which were:

Adnam’s Ghost Ship 4.5%
Southwold, Suffolk served with Mini Cones of Fish and Chips

Butcombe Adam Henson’s Rare Breed 4.2%
Wrington, Bristol served with Chicken Teriyaki bites with Coriander Yoghurt

Marstons Pedigree 4.5%
Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire served with Vegetable Samosas

Brains Bragging Rights 5%
Cardiff, South Wales served with Mini Welsh Rarebit with Green Peppercorns and Mustard

Jennings Snecklifter 5.1%
Cockermouth, Cumbria served with Baby Cumberland Sausage with Wholegrain Mustard Mayonnaise

Ilkley Holy Cow Cranberry Milk Stout 4.7%
Ilkley, West Yorkshire served with Mini Roast Beef in Yorkshire Pudding with Horseradish Cream

Dea Latis was founded in 2010 by a group of women working in the beer and pubs industries and now has c. 150 supporters including brewers, beer tasters, marketeers, licensees, writers and bloggers. The group meets several times a year to network, share ideas and enjoy good beer and food. For more info, visit www.dealatisuk.wordpress.com

Pictured are Charlotte Leslie MP (Bristol North West), Annabel Smith (Cask Marque) and Meg Hillier MP (Shoreditch)

Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

A Cambridgeshire man has become to first to visit 1,000 pubs as part of Cask Marque’s World’s Biggest Ale Trail.

The Ale Trail is one of the features of the Cask Marque phone app (CaskFinder), which pinpoints cask ale pubs across the country.  Users can ‘scan’ the Cask Marque certificate in pubs across the country where they will automatically be entered onto a leaderboard.
Jean-Paul Russek, who resides in Huntingdon and works for Punch Taverns as an area manager covering 40 pubs across the South East, was thrilled to have reached so far in the trail: “I scanned my first certificate in May 5th  2012 in Reading and I can’t believe how far I’ve come – and how many pubs I’ve visited – in just under a year.

“I started visiting pubs on the app, partly out of research for my role at Punch as well as a genuine love of cask ale. From then, it has escalated, taking me across the country to visit so many different types of pubs from Devon to as north as Edinburgh – I really have scoured the country!

 “At Punch, we encourage our pubs to serve cask ale and gain Cask Marque accreditation as we believe that cask ale represents what is really unique about the authentic, British pub experience. By using this app, it is a great way to get out, try some real ale and discover some exceptional pubs, full of character and quality ale.”

Paul Nunny, Director of Cask Marque presented Jean-Paul with a framed certificate at Punch Taverns-owned pub, the Boot at Histon on 30th April.

Paul Nunny said: “The Cask Finder app is a great tool for real-ale lovers, or those who want to try it for the first time, to search for cask-marque accredited pubs nationwide. The app lists 8348 pubs and as it is viewed in real-time so users can see their nearest pub.

“Since we began 15 months ago, 11,000 people have registered for the ‘Ale Trail’ and over 60,000 scans have been recorded.  The app has grown in popularity and the trail feature is extremely competitive amongst users, currently seeing over 2,000 scans per week.

“Around a quarter of Punch pubs are cask-marque accredited, with Kevin and Renata Bridges at the Boot, as prime examples of publicans who recognise the importance of the cask ale in pubs today.  

 “Jean-Paul has been a great supporter of the World’s Biggest Ale Trail and it is a great achievement to become the first person to reach 1,000 pubs. The app’s popularity has exceeded our expectations, and we look to see if anyone goes on to beat his score.”
A new version of the app now locates beer festivals by area and allows users to record their favourite beers and share it with friends on other social networking sites.  
Readers can join in and download the free Cask Marque iPhone or Android app by searching for ‘Cask Finder’ on your smart phone’s app store. Alternatively, visit www.cask-marque.co.uk/app

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Calling pubs up and down the country to start planning for Cask Ale Week! The Week runs from 27t September to 6th October – and is a chance to get people celebrating Britain’s national drink at your pub.

The theme, the Great Big Taste Challenge gives plenty of scope to highlight your cask offer, run promotions and put on events. Get your chef to recommend cask ales to match each dish on the menu; involve your local CAMRA branch in an event; get loyal cask ale drinkers to ‘introduce a friend’ through promotions or sampling activity; give prizes for the best descriptions of the taste of each cask ale you sell.

“It doesn’t matter what you do,” says Annabel Smith of Cask Marque, “so long as it stimulates interest in cask ale – and drives some sales".

The celebration kicks off on Thursday 26th with ‘ale tasting master classes’ in pubs and breweries up and down the country. If you would like to be involved in this, or in a tutored tasting event during the Week, why not invite a brewer or a beer expert to your pub to host an event? Check out details on www.caskaleweek.co.uk/tastingexperts and snap up an expert now so you don’t miss out!

Annabel Smith, one of the country’s first three women to qualify as a Beer Academy Sommelier, will be hosting a Ladies’ Cask Ale and Chocolate tasting event at The Coach and Four in Wilmslow. It’s in conjunction with Hydes brewery.

She says: “The event is part of the nationwide launch of Cask Ale Week on 26th September. It’ll be educational and informative, but also huge fun and a treat for the taste buds! Every licensee who’s interested in cask ale should be able to think of something for The Great Big Taste Challenge – and there are lots of brewers and Beer Experts out there to help them in putting on an exciting activity."

“Cask ale is a live, natural product, simply bursting with flavours. Yet, nearly 50% of adults have never tried it. The whole point of Cask Ale Week and the Great Big Taste Challenge is to change that. So I’d say to pubs and breweries ‘get involved; use the platform to create some fun activity; create a real buzz around Britain’s national drink - and get more people drinking it!

“Whether it’s tutored tastings, a beer festival, beer and food menus, a promotion or competition, make the most of the Week to get your tills ringing and cask ale sales soaring!”

For more information contact:
Frances Brace, Red Flame Communications 07432 692309 or
Heather Ryland, Red Flame Communications 07527 375847

Twitter: @caskaleweek
Facebook: National Cask Ale Week

Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

By Annabel Smith, Cask Marque training manager and Beer Sommelier.

Earlier on this year, I went to Bruges for the weekend with my lovely other half. I had heard many other beery people talk about how fantastic Bruges is, and we both felt it was a gap in our beer education.  So under the guise of widening our knowledge we planned a trip to do some sightseeing, walking, but most of all to experience the beer. I’m a massive fan of Belgian beer and looked forward to sampling some unusual, quirky and inevitably strong beers. It was as beautiful a city as I’d anticipated (especially as it was snowing) and we visited a LOT of bars. Every beer was served in its correct glass, every bar had a beer menu rather than a wine list, and every beer we ordered was brought to our table. Service was exceptional and on more than one occasion we were recommended a beer by the staff. It was Beer Paradise. With my ‘work head’ on, I commented that we had a lot to learn in Britain about the way beer is served.  But over the three days we were there, we never once sat at a bar, we didn’t engage with other customers, and we didn’t discuss the weather with the bar person. We were served our beers at the table, and chatted to each other, and played cards, and Yahtzee and hangman (yes, really). It was a totally different experience to going to a British pub. The beer was amazing, don’t get me wrong – but something was missing.

And it reminded me of some friends who have recently emigrated to a suburb on the outskirts of Auckland in New Zealand. They love their new life, but they’re a sociable couple who love their beer, and one of the things they miss is not being able to drop down to the local pub. There is no pub culture in New Zealand, no popping out for a couple of pints after work because the distances to travel are too huge. Socialising for them has now taken on the form of going round to friends (early evening) for a barbie, with a few bottles of ‘beer’ thrown in. No sitting at the bar, bumping into people you haven’t seen for a while. No getting to know new people through a shared love of a particular beer, or a common interest, or a mutual friend. No standing at the bar inspecting the range of pumpclips and trying to decide what you’re going to start with.

Going to Bruges was a great beer experience. My friends in New Zealand have embarked on an amazing new life. But I would desperately miss my local pub if it wasn’t there. I take pubs for granted, I take the huge range and variety of ‘real’ beer for granted.  So on the journey home from Bruges (feeling a bit ‘beered’ out), when my other half said “Fancy a pint when we get home?” I jumped at the offer. We went down the pub, propped up the bar and got as much pleasure from telling everyone about Bruges and socialising as we did going on the trip itself.

The reason I’m telling you this ‘Tale of Two Cities’? Well, you never really appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone. We have the best pub culture in the world. Pubs may sometimes get it wrong with service, or quality, or environment, but we’re very, very lucky to have such a unique culture. And the rest of the world might want to look on and take note.

Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

A group of women in Leeds yesterday joined the growing number of female beer drinkers when the Leeds Brewery Tap hosted a pre-Easter beer and chocolate tasting.

The tasting was organised by Dea Latis - named after the Celtic goddess of beer - a nationwide group aiming to encourage more women to enjoy beer. They have staged beer and chocolate tastings in London and Brighton before, but last night’s event was the first to be held north of the capital.

Guests tasted six different beers, each with a different chocolate designed to bring out the taste in each. Expert guidance was provided by Annabel Smith, Dea Latis founder and one of the country’s few beer sommeliers.

Smith said, “Beer and chocolate are perfect partners. They are both a balance of sweetness and bitterness, so when consumed together, the tastes and textures complement each other.

“Our guests at yesterday’s tasting included experienced beer lovers, occasional beer drinkers and complete novices, but everyone learned something new and, more importantly, had a great evening tasting beer with chocolate. “

dealatis-beersThe matches sampled by guests were:

- Leeds Brewery’s Yorkshire Gold, 4% abv and Ye Old Sun Inn Venezuelan Chocolate

- Ossett Brewery’s Treacle Stout, 5% abv with Bon Bon’s Dark Chocolate Caramels

- Brains Boilermaker IPA, 6.5% abv with Dar Chocolate and Lemon Parfait

- Jacobsen Velvet Ale, 5.9% abv with Champagne Truffles  

- Ilkley Brewery’s ‘The Mayan’ Chocolate Chipotle Stout, 5.3% abv with Turkish Delight

- Molson Coors’ Blue Moon, 5.4% abv with Terry’s Chocolate Orange

A vote was taken by the group at the end of the evening to choose their favourite beer and chocolate match, and this was won by Ilkley Brewery’s ‘The Mayan’ matched with Turkish Delight. In a double coup, ‘The Mayan’ was brewed by Harriet Marks, the only beer of the evening to be brewed by a female.

Smith concluded, “This was one of our most successful events and it’s great to move Dea Latis north of London and start involving women in other parts of the country. We chose Leeds because it has such a wonderful, thriving brewing scene and the Brewery Tap was the perfect venue for us.”

For news of upcoming Dea Latis events during 2013, visit www.dealatis.org

For information:          Annabel Smith: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 07920 058500

Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

For those of you lucky enough to have an iPhone or Android powered smartphone, a new version of our CaskFinder app was released today. So this seemed like a good time to tell you what has changed and how we have worked to address some of the valuable feedback we have received from our app users since the last release.

What's new?

- The most requested item for a new release was the facility to tell the difference between pubs which you have scanned on your ale trail, and those which you have not previously visited. These are now differentiated on the Pub Map by red logos if you have visited, blue if you are still due to visit.

- If you change phones you can now restore your ale trail scans to your new phone. Just reinstall the app on the new phone and go to ale trail. It will ask you to register but will give you the opportunity to enter your username and password. If you can remember your email address then you can reset your password if you have forgotten it. If you can't remember which email address you registered with then please contact us and we can find out for you.

- If you visit a pub or drink a beer you like you can now add them to a favourites list, so you can remember what they were in the morning!

- You can rate pubs when you visit them on the pub details page. Let us know about beer quality, the welcome you received and whether you had the option to 'try before you buy'. It's a chance to have your say!app-beers-2013

- Also on the pub details page, you can let us know if you had problems scanning a certificate during the ale trail. We will then add the certificate manually to your ale trail. It saves you time contacting us by email.

- Beer festivals are now displayed on a map as well as in list form. This should help you see what is happening near you. (Currently iPhone only).

- Lots more bottled beer codes have been added to the list so if you are in a supermarket you can scan a beer using the 'beer codes' button and view the tasting notes. There are now over 300 beers on this list.

Further update

There will be a second update coming out in the next month or so which will allow you to:

- Share on Twitter and Facebook when you have visited a pub, drunk a great beer or scanned a certificate - great for building a community with other like minded people

- Search for pubs with WiFi so you can go and enjoy a beer whilst playing on your laptop

How many people are using the app?

The app is used over 50,000 times each month and we now have well over 9,500 people registered for the ale trail.

I don't have an iPhone or Android phoneapp-festivals-2013

Some people have requested the app on Blackberrys and Windows phones. At the moment we do not have any plans to release the app on either of these formats. It is not because we don't want to, we would just rather make sure the iPhone/Android version is as good as it can be, rather than spending some of the money making a mediocre app on all different formats.

Pubs Not Displaying Certificates

One of the biggest frustrations for ale trail users (and us) is pubs not displaying their certificates. All pubs are sent certificates with a letter explaining why they should display it. Some however choose not to put them up even though they know it may frustrate some customers. If you let us know where you have experienced a problem using the link on the pub's page then we will send them another certificate. Our assessors also explain to the pubs about how the app works when they do their visits to check the beer quality. Please continue to ask the staff where their certificate is and hopefully this will push them to display it!

Using the Ratings Information

If you rate a pub we will use this information to speak to the pubs to let them know public opinion. We cannot act immediately on every rating, but will gather information over a period of time and then target the bottom percentage to see if we can help them improve.

Love the app? Then shout about it!

And finally, if you enjoy using our app please can you rate it for us on either iTunes or Android Play Store? If you have negative feedback we would rather you contacted us directly so we can address it - on these sites we are not able to respond to each comment.

We hope you have lots of fun with the app, please let us know what you think!

How do I download the app?

Visit either the iTunes App Store or the Android Play Store and search for "CaskFinder". Alternatively find it directly from https://www.cask-marque.co.uk/find-real-ale-pubs/mobile-phone-app

Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

smartphon-in-hand-colourIn a recent NOP Survey, 57% of cask ale drinkers recognised the Cask Marque plaque and 62% related the sign to beer quality.

Interestingly, awareness is higher; 67% in the 21 to 44yr old category, which must in some part be due to the CaskFinder app, which is used over 60,000 times per month to find Cask Marque Pubs. The app also offers the opportunity to join the World’s biggest Ale Trail and so far, the Cask Marque certificate in Pubs has been scanned over 30,000 times to record visits.

The region with the most awareness of Cask Marque is the West Midlands; 75%, followed by the South West; 68% and Yorkshire and Humberside; 65%. The lowest awareness was in Scotland; 40%. This awareness has a significant effect on footfall in Pubs, as indicated in the Licensee Survey undertaken in 2012, which showed that:

  • 88% of Cask Marque Licensees have seen an increase in Cask ale sales since accreditation
  • 98% of Licensees would recommend the scheme to other Licensees.

Paul Nunny was delighted with the results “It is particularly pleasing that our licensees through the survey have stated that the accreditation increases cask ale sales. We are all in a commercial world and today quality is a key component of retailing success.”

Miles Selby, head of purchasing at Stonegate Pub Company said “As the popularity of cask ale continues to grow within our estate it is important to have a badge of quality that consumers can recognise and trust. Over 85% of the Stonegate cask ale houses have Cask Marque accreditation and the performance of cask can be partly attributed to the award. When an assessor visits from Cask Marque, as well as checking beer quality, they also undertake a cellar audit, ensuring that all elements in the serving and dispensing of cask ale are checked and verified”

Should you require any further information please contact Paul Nunny on; 07768 614065 or email; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . More information can be found on our website; www.caskmarque.co.uk

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By Annabel Smith, Beer Sommelier and Cask Marque Training Manager.

Not long ago I hosted a Beer and Cheese event at a pub in London. The British Cheese Board supplied the cheeses and I was given a list of the beers the pub stocked (both bottled and cask) so I could match them up with the cheeses. Most of the beers were quite mainstream, so after deciding which of the beers went best with each cheese, I hit the internet to see what quirky or funny facts I could find out about the beers so I could include these in my talk.

One of the beers was Affligem, a Belgian Abbey Ale, and a real favourite of mine. On further research I found out that Affligem is owned by Heineken. Affligem is one of the worlds greatest beers (in my opinion), I love the stuff, and I don’t really care who owns the brand as long as they don’t change it. But some of the comments on the beer blogs shocked me. So many beer ‘elitists’ said they wouldn’t touch the stuff as it was owned by Heineken. Has the beer changed? No. Have Heineken knocked down the Abbey where the beer is brewed? No. Have all the monks been kicked out on the street? No. But because its Heineken, some beer drinkers have now vilified the brand and said they will never touch a drop of it again. Can these drinkers not see that a major benefit of one of the largest brewers in the world buying this brewery meant the brand went global – and survived. Heineken ensured people all over the world would continue to discover the delights of Affligem. Heineken also protected the provenance of this brand by signing a guarantee that it would continue to only be brewed in Belgium.

Now, I’m not on a Heineken back hander here, but it did disappoint me that because of the name on the bottle, some drinkers have chosen to boycott this brand.

I use this as an example of some things I’m observing in the cask ale world. Cask ale has enjoyed unprecedented growth in pubs over the past five years – the only drinks category which has displayed such growth. But this has also created a group of beer ‘snobs’ , drinkers who look at the pump clips of well known brands and dismiss them outright – because of who they are brewed by. There is an automatic assumption by this small group that anything from a well known nationally distributed brewery is bland and inferior, yet the local micro brewer produces a far superior product. It’s irrational, it’s misguided – and it’s also a dangerous opinion which may damage the cask ale industry in the long run.

Of course there are mainstream cask ale brands – these breweries provide the cask equipment, the hand pulls on the bar, the drip mats on the tables and training in many pubs. Without these large regional brewers, the public may not have embraced cask ale so fondly over the past few years, and pubs would not have been able to start stocking cask. But there is demand for the big cask ale brands as well as the lesser known micro ales. Listen to your own taste buds and form your own opinion rather than reject a product based on who owns it.

Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

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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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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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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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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