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Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

In an evening designed to span political divisions, Dea Latis, the industry’s beer and women forum,  this week hosted the first-ever beer tasting designed for women MPs at the House of Commons.

A lively crowd of over 50 women (and some brave men) were guests of Charlotte Leslie MP, Meg Hillier MP and Jenny Willot MP who sponsored the event. The group were tasted six beers from around the country with food selected to match each beer style, ably guided by Cask Marque's beer sommelier Annabel Smith.

In her introductory speech, Charlotte Leslie suggested that women had the power to re-shape UK drinking habits and that it would be driven by “food and family” – demonstrated earlier by the arrival of Jenny Willott with her two small children to the event.

In her address, Brigid Simmonds, the first female chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, reminded guests that 22% of people taking brewing qualifications were now women. Then Inge Plochaet, chief executive of AB InBev ,highlighted some research which showed only 12% of women in the UK drank beer and that this could be as high as other beer drinking nations such as the US and Belgium where rates are around 25%. She urged brewers to rethink their communication strategies to be more inclusive of female drinkers. Sara Barton, founder of Brewsters Brewery and current Guild of Beer Writers’ Brewer of the Year, ended speeches with her thoughts on how women brewers had brought innovation and diversity to UK brewing.

Speeches over and barring a short interruption while MPs dashed to vote, the room was filled with lots of chatter and appreciative noises for each of the beer and food combinations, which were:

Adnam’s Ghost Ship 4.5%
Southwold, Suffolk served with Mini Cones of Fish and Chips

Butcombe Adam Henson’s Rare Breed 4.2%
Wrington, Bristol served with Chicken Teriyaki bites with Coriander Yoghurt

Marstons Pedigree 4.5%
Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire served with Vegetable Samosas

Brains Bragging Rights 5%
Cardiff, South Wales served with Mini Welsh Rarebit with Green Peppercorns and Mustard

Jennings Snecklifter 5.1%
Cockermouth, Cumbria served with Baby Cumberland Sausage with Wholegrain Mustard Mayonnaise

Ilkley Holy Cow Cranberry Milk Stout 4.7%
Ilkley, West Yorkshire served with Mini Roast Beef in Yorkshire Pudding with Horseradish Cream

Dea Latis was founded in 2010 by a group of women working in the beer and pubs industries and now has c. 150 supporters including brewers, beer tasters, marketeers, licensees, writers and bloggers. The group meets several times a year to network, share ideas and enjoy good beer and food. For more info, visit www.dealatisuk.wordpress.com

Pictured are Charlotte Leslie MP (Bristol North West), Annabel Smith (Cask Marque) and Meg Hillier MP (Shoreditch)

Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

By Annabel Smith, Cask Marque Training Manager

There is a scene in the film ‘Educating Rita’ which I’ve always remembered. Rita is asked to write an essay about how best to stage a production of Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’. Her essay consists of five words: “Do it on the radio”. Always makes me laugh.

Every year I get contacted by university students who are about to embark on their final year hospitality degree course.  They’ve usually tracked me down through the Cask Marque website and want an opinion from an industry organisation to add to their studies. Their thesis usually has uplifting titles like “The Demise of the British Pub” or “The Death of the Beer Industry in Britain”. Quite honestly, I wish one of them would ask me how well the industry is surviving, and some recommendations on what we could do to make pubs better, rather than analyse how horribly wrong it has all gone, as though it were a study of the Third Reich.

So I was reminded of Rita a few weeks ago when I was asked to respond to the following question: “Does the pub have a future in British society?”  I sat there, chewed my pen, gazed into space, ate a biscuit whilst I tried to think of a really well balanced intellectual response. However, I got so fed up I decided to go to the pub for a couple of beers to cheer myself up.

And it was then the lightbulb went on in my head. Of course the pub has a future, ESPECIALLY in British society, more so than any other nation on earth.
Yes, the pub industry has had a really tough time. Rising beer prices, the smoking ban, high rents and low wages. Everyone’s had a tough time, whatever business they’re in. But through this crippling, exhausting recession, there are pubs who have survived. There are breweries who have survived. And much of it has been because they have looked at our changing society and drinking culture, taken a step back and said “Actually, we need a rethink. We need to do things differently”.

Customers won’t put up with poor service, or bad food, or a dirty environment. Beer drinkers won’t put up with bland, tasteless, shoddy quality beer. So pubs have changed to give customers what they want, rather than what they think they want.

I probably won’t give these students what they want. They want me to supply a controversial quote, stating that all pubs in the future will be museums that we visit with our grandchildren. The grandchildren will gaze up at us, wide eyed in astonishment as we tell them how we used to gather together and drink beer in – wait for it – public! Do we want our pubs, and our breweries to be viewed as a dying industry by the future intellectuals of this country?

But I’m an optimist, a glass half full type of girl, and I’ve never, ever entertained the thought that the British pub – or British beer – won’t be here in the future. I haven’t responded to the student yet. But I’m so tempted to be a ‘Rita’ and send a five word response. I’ll let you decide your own response...

Posted by on in Cask Marque Blog

Cheshire based family brewers Frederic Robinsons are officially serving some of best Real Ale in Britain, according to the results of an independent quality assessment.

The Blossoms in Heaviley is the 35th Robinsons owned and operated pub to be awarded Cask Marque accreditation; which recognises quality of presentation and service for traditional, hand-pulled and cask conditioned beer.

robinson-35th-accredited-pubScrupulous assessors from Cask Marque carried out two unannounced inspections at each of the 35 sites to check all of the beers on sale for the quality of their appearance, temperature, aroma and taste.

Annabel Smith, National Account Manager for Cask Marque, said: “Robinsons should feel proud of this excellent achievement, which not only recognises the effort put into serving great beer but also acts as an independent guarantee of quality for their customers.”

“Achieving Cask Marque accreditation in one pub is a challenge in itself. But to repeat those high standards across a number of outlets without exception is simply outstanding.”

Cask beer in general is enjoying a resurgence. In 2010 it found its way into 2,500 new pubs and its share of the beer category grew from 14.6% to 15%, outperforming lager & keg ale by 6%. With huge growth in the number of 18-24s drinking cask ale, it is clear that young people are searching for a new drinking experience – different to that of the traditional cheapest pint of lager – and in doing so they are driving the evolution of cask ale.

In addition, during a recession, consumers tend to support local producers which can often be brewers. 46% in fact actively try to support local producers and businesses and use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to discuss such products with their friends. There are now more than 30 million Facebook users in the UK and a billion tweets every 5 days with 70% of tweeters recommending brands they use.

Paul Nunny, Director of Cask Marque Trust, explains how “Robinsons have in the last 18 months invested heavily in beer quality – both in the brewer and their pubs. Their technical support team audit their estate twice a year and those tenants achieving top marks are put forward for the Cask Marque Award at the brewery’s expense.”

Paul Nunny goes on to highlight the fact that “with over 110,000 beer drinkers using the Caskfinder App in the last 3 months to find Cask Marque pubs, successful Robinson tenants will gain a direct benefit.”

David Bremner, Marketing Director at Robinsons, said “There were a package of reasons why we chose to invest in Cask Marque accreditation. The award carries good recognition from within the trade and customers. It is a fair reflection on the licensee’s commitment and skill in keeping high quality cask ale. Finally, we knew that the feedback would be professional, accurate and useful in identifying weak areas which we could address.”

As attested to by Mark McConachie – a CAMRA representative and ale-house aficionado who recently completed a 300 pub-crawl of Robinsons estate – people enjoy tasting different beers in different places but one thing that remains constant is the quality of Robinsons Real Cask Ale.

David Bremner enthuses: “The cask ale customer will travel to a pub with recognised beer quality. There can never be enough emphasis on getting the quality excellent and consistent.”

Cask Marque has awarded quality standards to 8,000 pubs across the country. To find your nearest outlet, visit www.cask-marque.co.uk or download the free app Caskfinder to your smartphone.

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What a great advert for Cask Marque!

And no it wasn’t one that we created ourselves; the article below appeared in last week’s Sunday Mail. How it managed to reach the press we do not know but we are pleased it did as it highlights beautifully the value that Cask Marque adds to the industry and ultimately the consumer.