Cask Ale Week starts tomorrow, Thursday 24th September. That’s the same day new regulations for the hospitality sector, including extending the 10pm curfew to all pubs across the country, come into force. The timing of the Week couldn’t be worse or, as one of the industry’s leaders believes, couldn’t be better.
Normally Cask Ale Week is a clarion call to meet up with friends and family in the communal pursuit of new tasting experiences. Around 10,000 different cask beers are produced in Britain in the course of each year, so even if it means moving from pub to pub during the course of the Week, there is plenty of choice in terms of cask ale styles, flavours, aromas, colours and strengths.
Firstly, pubs have put in place stringent measures to support staff and customer safety. They are also working flat out to make the limited socialising that’s allowed feel as normal and enjoyable as possible as people sip on their beers; tantalise their taste buds; and chat over their choices.
Secondly, there is an added note of urgency. That’s because many breweries and pubs are facing existential threats.
Says Paul Nunny of Cask Marque, and instigator of Cask Ale Week, “To survive in the long run, pubs and breweries need people to visit now. Going to the pub for a pint of real ale helps keep pubs – so often the hearts of their communities – open. It supports desperately needed jobs in hospitality, many among young people, who are the hardest hit economically.
“Drinking cask ale also helps keep the country’s wonderful craft breweries open. It’s they who ensure choice; it’s they who have opened up a new world of flavours to explore. It is they who are responsible for the fabulous range of fresh pub beers, brewed using natural ingredients grown in Britain. Each pint you drink supports the jobs of farmers, maltsters, hop growers, engineers, marketeers, sales people – as well as skilled, talented and experimental brewers.
“Of course,” he continues, “the hospitality sector doesn’t exist in splendid isolation. Pubs, with their unique cask ale offers, help generate business for hard-pressed high streets. They are crucial to village, town and city economies, driving footfall and encouraging daytime and short-break tourism.”
Cask beer is widely known as being fresh and natural. Less well known is the fact that it finishes its brewing process not in the brewery, but in the pub cellar. It’s generally served through hand pumps, and has a three day ‘shelf life’. It’s unique to Britain and unique to pubs.
Nunny says, “Cask Ale Week couldn’t come at a better time. It encourages licensees to spread the word about their great asset: fresh pub beer. It attracts people through the doors to explore the fantastic beers on offer, some brewed especially for the occasion. They can join in activities that ingenious brewers and publicans have orchestrated – to educate and entertain around the subject of cask beer.
“Publicans and staff are working tirelessly to offer a warm welcome, great beer and a safe, sociable environment in the face of significant challenges. Cask Ale Week is the perfect opportunity to champion their endeavours – and to highlight the benefits pubs bring to their communities and local economies.”