Cask Ale Lives On, And Prospers

It's the third week of January, and a traditionally miserable month for booze-sellers and breweries. So, we thought, let's share some good news.

We're starting 2020 just like we finished 2019: investing in and celebrating modern cask ale.
Last year, we doubled our cask ale sales.
This year, we affirm our commitment to cask, and announce a Cask Care Scheme to better support pubs serving our cask.

Cask ale certainly lives on, and we reckon it's prospering.

The 2019 Cask Report

In September 2019, the Cask Report published that as of July 2019, cask sales in the UK were -4.8% overall. The only month that had seen the cask category grow was July 2019: the first month of growth for 17 months. 

Overall, not exactly positive. In a climate of declining cask sales each year, alongside the rising popularity of draught lagers and craft beers on keg, sometimes it’s hard to be optimistic about the future of cask ale. 

With this in mind, at the beginning of 2020, we decided to do a cask report of our own, to find out how our sales matched up against this. 

A Year That Bucks The Trend

In 2019, Five Points cask grew from 20% of our total volume sold in 2018, to over 26% in 2019. When considering our overall production growth over the past year, this equates to an increase of more than double the amount of cask ale sold year on year. Which, in more drinkable terms, is a growth of 325,000 pints. 

In addition to this, in Spring last year, we released our first core range cask-only beer, Five Points Best, a classic Best Bitter hopped with British Fuggles hops. Since its launch, Five Points Best has sold over 100,000 pints, growing to over 3% of our total beer sales in its 8 months on sale.

Invest In What You Love

The numbers above are incredibly exciting for us to be able to share – especially in the face of the general industry downturn. 

Two years ago, following a number of high-profile craft brewers announcing their intention to scale down or cease cask ale production, we declared our commitment to cask ale brewing. For Five Points, cask beer is not an occasional, limited-edition experiment. We are completely committed to cask beer as a core part of our range. 

Therefore, in the two years that have followed, we’ve invested in our cask category. For example, we’ve invested in events and marketing, showcasing cask at the typically keg-beer-focused beer festivals, such as the (awesome) London Craft Beer Festival this summer, and hosting a Cask Bar at the Great British Beer Festival in August. Annually, we partner with fourth-generation hop farm, Hukins Hops in Kent, to showcase British hop varieties in our Green Hop Bitter series. 

2020 Cask Commitment

For us, two big takeaways of the 2019 Cask Report were two crucial factors: that cask is being served much too warm, and that there’s a significant lack of support and training for publicans.

Well, we’ve taken this on board. Our responsibility as a producer shouldn’t end once a cask is out the door. A poor quality pint, in our customer’s eyes, is as much the brewery’s fault as anyone else’s.

We want to take greater responsibility to support pubs who serve our cask ale. Therefore, this year, we reiterate our commitment to modern, progressive cask ale, and announce a Cask Care Scheme to enable our support of pubs better. 

Our Cask Care Scheme… And Engaging Outside Of The “Echo Chamber”

Five Points will run monthly cask training sessions at our pub, The Pembury Tavern. These will be open to Five Points customers, and will provide training on the principles and practice of serving excellently conditioned, great quality cask ale.

According to the Cask Report, a major factor in disappointing cask ale pints is temperature. It’s being served much too warm, and over 75% of customers don’t enjoy a cask pint over 16°. So, our Cask Care Scheme will focus on cellar and serving temperatures, alongside reiterating the importance of conditioning time and cleanliness in all aspects of serving. Attendees on the Cask Care Scheme will also be given a printed guide to be used in their cellars.

We will encourage attendance to our Cask Care Scheme sessions with a 50% discount on a Five Points cask. The 2019 Cask Report noted that surveys about cask, for example, are often undertaken by those who already know and love cask. Unsurprisingly, the publicans who serve cask well are interested in cask, and are therefore more likely to attend training. We hope that a financial incentive will encourage bar managers who aren’t that enthusiastic about cask… yet.

Meet Our Cask Ambassador

Finally, last but certainly not least, to execute our 2020 Cask Care Scheme, we have appointed a Cask Ambassador, our Sales & Account Manager, Ed Davy, and resident cask evangelist. 

“Cask is, generally, perceived as a high-effort, low-GP product that doesn’t sell well”, Ed explains. “This does not have to be the case”, he continues. “We hope that this scheme will help pubs more easily look after their cask ale, whilst improving GP, yield, rate of sale and customer satisfaction. Our on-trade partners deserve to have the best cask experience possible.”

If you’re a publican who would like to chat to us about cask, or attending a Five Points Cask Care Training Session, give us a shout! You can drop us an email on [email protected].