In July 2022 the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) reported that total sales of cask beer in pubs were significantly down, -41% vs 2019. We know that sales of cask beer were already in decline and from 2014-2019 sales fell by 17%.
Contrary to some preconceptions, when properly ‘looked after’ and poured, cask ales can range from cool, light, zesty and refreshing to dark, rich and complex, with an infinite variety of styles, flavours and aromas in between. However, according to the SIBA Cask Beer Report 2022, cask beer now makes up just 46% of small brewers’ production, compared to 67% in 2019. A significant drop, but while some brewers have turned their back on cask beer, others are still championing this uniquely British product...
Cask Beer at Purity Brewing
We, at Purity Brewing Co, are among that number and we remain passionate about the preservation and promotion of premium cask ale beers.
We were founded in 2005 by Paul Halsey and Jim Minkin (who shared around 50 years’ experience in the brewing and hospitality industry before this) they set out on a journey to brew great quality cask beer, disrupt the preconceptions of what cask could be, whilst crafting their beers with an environmental conscience. From day one we've adhered to the 3 core values identified by Paul and Jim as drivers for their business. Pure Quality, Pure Eco and Pure Community. From a small start as a farm-based brewer and through dogged adherence to our core principles we've garnered global awards, the respect and recognition of other breweries but most importantly the loyal support of our customers.
With quality seen as one of the biggest barriers to purchase for cask drinkers - 60% of drinkers citing a poor kept and served pint being two of the top reasons for not choosing a pint of real ale (CGA Consumer Intercepts 2018), ‘Pure Quality’ has always been a prime focus for Purity. Using the best ingredients, investment in cutting edge brewing technology and investment in people means that the quality of our beers is guaranteed. To ensure every pint of our award-winning cask beer is served in the best possible or ‘Pure Quality’ way, we invest both time and money into quality training every year. Upon becoming a customer and part of our ‘Puritan’ community customers are offered the opportunity to partake in Pure Quality cellar and beer pour training.
‘Our focus in cellar and beer training is to demystify and simplify the whole approach to keeping beer. Not everyone who works in a pub or bar will have a passion for beer and we wouldn’t expect them to. Instead, we focus on what the customer is looking for and give the trainees a 3-point brief from beer environment to equipment and handling, then establishing good routines.’
John Conod, Puritan Experience Manager
Pure Quality runs throughout the business, no less so than at our Birmingham based Pure Craft Bar and Kitchen. Known for its great beer and good honest food, has been bucking the cask trend for some time, cask makes up three of the top five brands sold across the bar with only Purity’s two premium craft lagers outperforming it. Matt Lockren the GM for PureCraft Bar and Kitchencommented:
‘Over the past five years we’ve seen our cask volume grow year on year. Our performance is no surprise and can be put down to four core principles:
- Routinely clean cellars and lines
- Colder serve temperature
- Controlled beer environment and most importantly
- Fully trained staff.
We know consumers are willing to pay a little more for a great quality experience, and we pride ourselves on our quality of service alongside our quality beer.’
Our Cask Beer Partners
But it’s not just PureCraft Bar outperforming the market, Worcestershire’s CAMRA Pub of the Year and National Trust owned The Fleece Inn at Bretforton was Purity’s first cask customer in 2005– With 5 wickets on at one time, Landlord Nigel Smith has a longstanding reputation for great quality cask. Taking 4 firkins (288 pints) of Mad Goose per week Nigel understands the importance throughput plays in keeping great cask.
“Keeping and curating cask ale hasn’t come without its challenges over recent years. However, operating a traditional pub like us, it’s important to keep cask alive through the right range and brands”
Rotating two of his line up on regular basis, Nigel knows all too well that customers like to try new beers, but also seek comfort of tried and trusted brands like Purity’s Mad Goose.
Another long-term partner of Purity’s is Warwickshire’s CAMRA Pub of the Year the Turks Head in the Market Town of Alcester and is another great example of a cask led pub. With 4 hand pulls, leading with Purity’s most recent cask innovation JIMBO ‘Very Best Bitter’, Carl Buxton Landlord and owner of the Turks rotates 3 out of 4 casks through several craft breweries. “Our cask range plays a really important point of difference for us.” Carl commented “Locality plays it role, however that’s not necessary the determining factor, we search the breadth of the country to find right beers for our customers, but sometimes it just comes down to what they want.” Carl adds:
“Cask gives us a real opportunity to shine. It’s a point of difference to engage our customers and that’s why we take real pride in the quality role we play in secondary fermentation to complete the process from grain to glass.”
Andy Maddock Group CEO commented ‘’We’re truly proud of our cask business and have continued place huge emphasis on the importance Pure Quality plays in keeping great looking, great tasting cask beer since coming out of the pandemic. As a business built on a backbone of cask, we understand the importance it plays day to day in staying relevant for our core customers and established drinkers. Maddock adds ‘’Purity has been an amazingly well-run business for the past 17 years and over the past 18 months, we’ve built a brilliant team with the right capability to continue to grow in the right places. We have good growth ambitions for the future of which our award-winning cask range plays a key role working with the right customers. Pure UBU and Mad Goose are still 2 of our bestselling beers and they will continue to form part of that growth’’.