A group of ale enthusiasts brought together by Cask Marque’s ‘Ale Trail’ have forged a firm friendship after becoming Ale Ambassadors for the brand.
Drinkers are awarded ‘Ale Ambassador’ status by Cask Marque when they scan 500 or more Cask Marque certificates, using the Caskfinder app. Caskfinder users are encouraged to seek out the certificate in Cask Marque accredited pubs and scan the QR code. As users clock up scans, prizes are awarded to the Ale Trailers.
On reaching 500 scans, drinkers are offered the chance to attend an Ale Ambassador day, hosted by Cask Marque, at a brewery, where they learn the art of brewing beer, get a chance to sample a few beers with food, and understand the common off flavours in beer and their causes.
It was at the Ale Ambassador day at Fuller’s in March that an enthusiastic bunch of attendees decided to keep in touch with each other and continue Ale Trailing as a troop. Having set up a WhatsApp group, they planned their first outing in and around Bath. With the help of expert map plotting skills from Ale Ambassador David Winterburn, and group organisers Chris Cockburn, Amy Steele and Paul Griffiths Davies the group visited 25 accredited pubs in 2 days. Photos were taken in each pub and every Cask Marque certificate scanned.
Considering the geographic spread of the Ale Ambassadors (from Poole on the south coast to the far flung Shetland Isles) their commitment to keeping in touch was clear.
After the success of the “25 in 2” Bath tour, the group planned a “35 in 3” in the Nottingham region, which they completed and surpassed early in October. A “45 in 4” is scheduled for early 2019 in Cambridge.
I caught up with Amy, David and Chris at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham on the final day of the “35 in 3” to ask them how they first discovered the Cask Marque Ale Trail.
Chris Cockburn was introduced by a friend. He had seen the Cask Marque plaque on his travels but wasn’t aware of the Ale Trail. He downloaded the Caskfinder App and was soon hooked. Amy had previously completed CAMRA LocAle trails and found out about the Caskfinder app from a drip mat in a Cask Marque accredited pub. David had already organised a number of ale trails searching out the pubs in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. Whilst planning a pub crawl for the annual Red Braces Day to raise money for charity, he discovered the Cask Marque Ale Trail and all the pubs they visited were Cask Marque accredited.
All of them had worked out before they met that Ale Trail was like “trainspotting for pubs”.
After meeting other Ale Ambassadors at Fuller’s, Amy initially set up the WhatsApp group so they could all keep in touch. “I got on really well with everybody at the Ale Ambassador day, and it seemed a shame to go our separate ways afterwards. I enjoyed the company of like-minded people, so we started planning a reunion straight after the day at Fuller’s”
I asked them what their top tips were for a successful Ale Trail.
“Pre planning is the key” said Chris. “Using the Caskfinder app, plot a map, and work out walking distances between the pubs. Print off hard copies of the route map, and check opening times before you set off”
Amy added “Be prepared to be flexible. There may be other pubs along the route that you hadn’t planned to visit, but if they’re Cask Marque accredited, it’s worth popping in for a pint”
David came up with a great tip when plotting out a day’s route: “Wetherspoon’s are usually open earlier than other pubs so visit them first, have a big breakfast to set you up for the day and scan the certificate at the same time”
What’s the most enjoyable thing about Ale Trailing, I asked the group?
Without hesitation, Amy said “We end up in places we don’t expect and we’ve discovered some amazing pubs – and beer – along the way”.
Picture shows (l-r): David Winterburn, Chris Cockburn, Annabel Smith (Cask Marque) and Amy Steele