Wye Valley: Future for cask bright but quality must be maintained

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

What is the best advice for serving cask from Wye Valley?

Related tags The Cask Project Cask ale Cellar management Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators Wye valley brewery

If your beer isn’t right – don’t sell it.
gareth bateman portrait wye valley head brewer
Head brewer Gareth Bateman

That’s the rule Wye Valley Brewery’s head brewer Gareth Bateman gave to The Morning Advertiser​ as a top tip for licensees selling cask beer across the UK.

“It’s just understanding cellar management,” Bateman adds. “It’s been the same topic ever since I’ve worked in breweries. You can do your best in the brewery and, obviously, quality is paramount but if it doesn’t get treated right at the end, it’s no good.”

“We offer cellar training days for our customers free of charge. They can come in and learn about Wye Valley Brewery and about brewing. They have a brewery tour and then they learn the ins and outs of cellar management for keg and cask and what they should be doing.”

The Hereford-based brewery and operator of seven pubs’ head of sales and marketing Abbie Gadd says that quality from point of serve comes includes how to serve it in a glass. She also explains there are some licensees who serve food, cocktails and milkshakes in the same glassware and often have no comprehension of how that affect the beer despite cleaning in a glass washer and it’s something Wye Valley has to remind publicans about.

“By and large, we manage the quality of our beer really well,” Gadd says. “Most problems are at dispense. For example, we had an a pub customer the other day who was complaining he had a cloudy beer. It turned out it was a chill haze so the cellar was, essentially, too cold.

“We have tech engineers we will send out to look at that and obviously Gareth and even our MD Vernon [Amor] will sometimes go out to see customers if it’s a problem that we can’t get to the bottom of.

“But first of all, it’s our sales reps who will be the first point of call for most customers because our reps do have a good comprehensive knowledge of our beers, how they should be served and obviously the dispense requirements.”

Passionate audience

Bateman adds: “But it’s really important that our customers know if the beer isn’t right, don’t serve it.

“It may be an issue with a cask, it could be the beer, it could be something in the cellar but the key is not serving that to a customer.”

Abbie Gadd head of sales and marketing wye valley
Head of sales and marketing Abbie Gadd

Gadd says people are very passionate about the Wye Valley beers, particularly with [core cask beers] HPA and Butty Bach, because they know how they should look, smell and taste.

She says: “And, if there’s a problem, the first time we hear about it will be through a customer that’s gone into a pub and said, ‘yeah, I don’t think they’re serving it right’.”

A common problem is cask beer being kept on dispense for too long. If a pub is not getting through a cask of beer within three days, it need to reduce the range it has on the bar or look for alternatives, according to Bateman.

“A pub that is really busy will be turning over more than one cask a day – it just keeps the beer fresher. Then people want to drink more of it and the pub gets a good reputation for it.”

Gadd backs this up: “It’s much better to have one or two cask ales on the bar than have four or five because if aren’t going to get through it, that’s the worst thing you can do.

“Coming out of Covid, a lot of a lot of pubs made that decision. It was a business decision but a lot of them have realised that rather than having lots of wacky, unknown brands on the bar as well as your core permanents, they’ve often just reduced it to the beers they know they sell through time and time again.”

You need the variety

And Wye Valley has a line-up of five cask beers in its core range plus a large helping of seasonals available throughout the year.

Its core beers are Butty Bach 4.5% ABV, HPA 4% ABV, Wye Valley Bitter 3.8% ABV, Wholesome Stout 4.6% ABV and Hopfather 3.9% ABV.

wye valley beers landscape

On the wide varieties of styles and brands of cask available to pubs, Bateman says: “You need the variety for pubs and it’s a good thing there are plenty to choose from because it’s a simple product, as in it’s not processed, it’s the most sustainable form of beer you can get.

“It’s fresh but it’s about making sure everybody who produces it is trying to maintain the highest standards of quality they can.”

He concludes: “We’ve always heard the cask market is saturated and cask is in decline. So we began kegging in 2016. We installed a bottling and canning line last year so we can do all formats and we’re set for the future and can go whichever way the market goes.

“In our neck of the woods, it seems there’s still definitely a future for cask.”

Related topics The Cask Project

Related news

Show more