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Cask Marque

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Cask Marque

Contact Cask Marque:
Cask Marque, B10 Seedbed Centre, Wyncolls Road, Severalls Business Park, Colchester , Essex CO4 9HT
Tel. 01206 752212  Email. Company website

About Us:
After the growth in cask ale sales in the U.K. in the 70's and 80's, helped and supported by CAMRA, the 90's have seen a reverse in this trend. Many explanations have been put forward, but our research shows (see section Why Cask Marque?) that quality is a key issue. We need both to retain the traditional cask ale drinker as well as attracting new younger drinkers to this sector. This can only be achieved by raising standards and delivering to the consumer a cool, refreshing and consistent pint every time

Our objectives are to improve the quality of cask ale at the point of dispense by awarding a nationally recognized and respected Marque to the licensee when quality standards have been met. This should achieve the following :

  • Provide an objective measurement of standards to help retailers and brewers improve quality and focus on training and investment more objectively.

  • To raise customer awareness of quality standards.

Background & Research Results:
Cask ale has been showing significant volume decline over the last 2 years, currently over 10% per annum. There are a number of reasons for this - the main areas are the growth of “nitrokegs”, the effect of the hot summers of ‘95, ‘96 and ‘97, possible stocking of cask ales in unsuitable outlets during the early ‘90's. Cask ale throughputs have declined, and it is believed that this will have affected quality.

The four brewers, Adnams, Greene King, Marstons and Morlands who have initiated and sponsored this project had clear anecdotal evidence of poor quality standards but no hard evidence, so a comprehensive piece of field research was commissioned.

A survey was conducted in the Spring of ‘97 using qualified auditors who visited over 1,000 pubs throughout England of which 82% stocked traditional cask ale. An independent Market Research specialist determined the sample frame and methodology.

Its findings showed:

a) The quality of the pint in the glass was so poor in 23% of the outlets that inspectors stated they would not buy the pint again.

b) Poor quality was directly linked to the number of hand pulls on the bar. In 54% of the cases where inspectors stated they would not buy this pint again, too many brands on the bar was cited as a contributory factor. Pubs with over 5 hand pulls saw a marked drop in mean scores.

c) The other major cause of poor quality was failure to serve beer at the appropriate temperature (20% of all samples), but this was often linked to overall impressions of poor quality pub management in these outlets.

d) The worst performers with regard to beer quality were the independent free trade outlets, particularly in the south and south west of the country.

e) Poor quality was found in all types of pub, without significant variance between food pubs, rural pubs or city centre outlets.

Why an Accreditation Scheme is necessary:
Having explored a number of options for trying to address the quality issue, an industry-wide accreditation scheme was considered to be the most effective way of achieving a quick and lasting improvement.

Many companies have taken individual quality initiatives, some setting very high standards and investing a lot of money. However, none appears to have achieved national recognition, and none are seen as entirely objective. The research results show that the net effect of all this effort has not been satisfactory.

An accreditation scheme will achieve wider consumer awareness in the medium term (3 years depending on level of adoption and surrounding P.R.) but should achieve high awareness among the Trade, opinion forming drinkers and the Trade press within 12-18 months. The latter point will be the key to its initial effectiveness - licensees will want the award to confirm their cask ale skills and a stigma will be attached to failure. This will allow training to be focused and its importance accepted by the Trade. The scheme will focus only on cask ales, but in practice a licensee who handles his cask ales well will apply the same hygiene and stock rotation to his entire range.

The scheme must be seen to be independent and objective if it is to achieve credibility and status - the industry will need to fund and will set the initial parameters for accreditation, but must not influence the detailed operation.

How does the scheme work?

  • The scheme is operated by an independent body called Cask Marque Trust which is a limited company, limited by guarantee, and a non profit making organisation. The company is run by a management committee elected by its members. The members who effectively pay a subscription will include representatives from brewers, retailers, trade bodies and consumer groups.

  • Pubs that apply to join are visited by the independent assessor unannounced on two successive occasions in the first three months and subsequently twice a year, once in the winter and once in the summer.

  • The assessor check all cask ales for - temperature, appearance, aroma and taste.

  • If the pub passes it receives a plaque framed certificate and merchandising material to inform its customers of the award and their rights.

  • The customers are encouraged to comment independently on the quality of cask ale in the pub to the Cask Marque organisation.

What we have achieved:

  • We have over 8000 licensees with the Cask Marque plaque throughout England and Wales.

  • Temperature is now one of the key objectives for judging a good cask ale, along with appearance, aroma and taste. Cask ale should be served cool not warm ideally at cellar temperature 11°- 13°C (53° - 55°F).

  • Brewers are diverting investment into upgrading dispense equipment to achieve temperature.

  • We have raised the whole profile of quality and people are questioning whether they are serving a consistent pint.

  • Are there too many beers on the bar to maintain quality due to lack of throughput?

We have raise the quality of ale within the trade. We now need to educate the consumer on what they should expect.


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