19 Nov 2017 by Josh
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I'm from Yorkshire, therefore I like beer. I grew up drinking mainly cask conditioned ale and I love the stuff. However is the growth of ever more densely hopped, and expensive to produce beers in the ‘craft’ sector killing cask?
This is a debate that has been raging for some time and with Leeds own Northern Monk now declaring that ‘the price of cask beer is too low and is driving breweries into other forms of packaging’ last week in The Morning Advertiser, I thought I’d have my say as a consumer.
Earlier in the year Cloudwater decided to completely cease its production of cask beer, citing that it wasn’t financially viable, which as a brewer makes sense to me especially due to the type of beer they make. I personally think if anything it’s a good decision as their beers on the whole suit the format better, and in a market quickly coming closer to saturation it’s better for breweries to focus in areas they excel, rather than a broad range of styles which can become mediocre.
Again it doesn’t surprise me that Northern Monk doesn’t want to produce more cask beer. Their beer in general suits keg and can. As NM’s director Russell Bisset says in his honest blog post on their website, there are many producers, such as Hawkshead, Timothy Taylors, Roosters, Magic Rock, Abbeydale, Kirkstall, Saltaire and Ilkley all producing amazing cask ale and they’d recommend ‘seeking it out and not complaining about the price!’.
As the cost of ingredients go up in the UK (and around the world) we will have to adapt our drinking habits, and personally I have been converted to the drinking less, trying more way of drinking in the US. Where instead of the session involving pint after pint of a low percentage cask beer, it takes more of a relaxed route, maybe starting with a pint or two then a quick sample of something stronger, then maybe a few halfs of something in the middle and finishing off with a 3rd of something really strong. That way I usually drink less but end the session having tried a lot more.
After spending the last year drinking in Vancouver, and the West Coast of the US I would say that it’s a drinking culture problem in the UK, cask is traditionally the cheapest option in a pub and as soon as you start paying more per cask, then charging more per pint, you’re driving a certain customer away. Until the general consumer is willing to pay slightly more for their beer then the cask market will stay stagnated in my opinion.
Amateur brewer. Long time supper. Writing about brewing, drinking and the beer industry at large. Currently based in Vancouver Canada, from Leeds UK.