Since the bigger innovation of the craft beer scene has continued, a quiet revolution has been brewing – the resurgence of cask beer. In a strange twist, the palates of beer enthusiasts are drawing the spotlight back to the time-honored traditions that predate the keg’s convenience. This shift is towards the artisanal craft of cask beer, we don’t know if it is from the new generation of beer drinkers, those looking to try something a little different OR it is the breweries looking to test their skills. All we know is that we LOVE cask beer here and eager to show off our roots of craft beer brewing into cask. But what’s behind this renewed passion for the traditional pour? Let’s delve into the cask renaissance.
The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Cask Beer:
Cask beer has been part of history in the UK, dating back centuries. It was always the standard until the rise of keg beer from around middle 2010 onwards, which promised longer shelf life and easier transportation. However, cask aficionados argue that what was gained in convenience was lost in quality (not necessarily true, as we know for a fact our beers need to meet a high level of quality before we even consider sending them out let alone putting them into keg). However, the numbers can’t lie and we have noticed it ourselves here, cask beer is making a come back recent sales figures according to data provided by the CGA showing Doom Bar, for instance, has seen a staggering 95.1% increase in volume sales and a 98.7% jump in value. But it’s not alone. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord has seen even more dramatic growth, with volume sales shooting up by 182% and value by 186.7% We cask beer is enjoying a new surge in popularity. The success stories don’t end there. Fuller’s London Pride and Greene King Abbot Ale have both seen their sales more than double. St Austell Tribute Ale and other well-known brands like Wainwright and Marston’s Pedigree have also enjoyed significant sales boosts, with increases of over 100% in both volume and value
The Unmatched Quality of Cask Beer Conditioning:
One of the reasons which cask beer has potentially started a rise in popularity is down to the subtle changes in cask beer to that in a keg both in taste and mouthfeel, because unlike kegged beer, cask ale undergoes a secondary fermentation in the cask itself. This process can allow for a more complex flavor profile which can be can hard to replicate in kegged beer. Plus there is the charm of the traditional hand pumped beer which is a unique experience for the beer drinker.
A Shift in Drinking Culture:
The drinking culture has changed as well over the years with modern beer drinkers increasingly interested in the brewery itself who produced the pint and part of a broader shift towards locally-sourced products, the perception of cask beer being more “local” fits this and for the most part is normally correct due to the nature of cask beer being harder to transport and store correctly it does tend to fit to a more regional area.
This has been heighten by the recent events of the COVID pandemic which kept us all in we now appreciate the communal aspect to cask beer. The ritual of heading to the local pub and enjoying a pint that’s been carefully tapped and served which again can only be done correctly in a pub which not only has the facilities to offer cask beer but knows and understands how to “keep” cask beer, again talking about how cask beer requires attention not just in the brewing process but at the pub its being served from provides that extra feel good factor when you find the right beer in the right pub in a world where so much can be had instantly, the slower pace of cask beer is a welcome change for many.
What This Means for Breweries:
For breweries like us here at Eight Arch, this trend allows for an exciting opportunity. There’s a growing market for beers that tell a story and offer a distinct, place-based taste experience. Embracing cask brewing isn’t just about looking back its something we have loved doing for years and now being able to brew even more cask beer alongside our kegged and canned options is amazing. Plus knowing there are individuals like yourselves out there ready to enjoy these puts a big smile on our faces. Cask ale’s comeback isn’t just a fluke; it’s a movement and we are glad to be part of it.