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Why Cask Matters

Friday, 02 October 2015

Cask Ale Week is upon us and what better way to get in the spirit, than to celebrate all of those pubs serving up the good stuff.  As many publicans will tell you, cask ale, also known as ‘real ale’ has been at the heart of many pub-goers since the early 1970’s. 

Whether the popularity of the nation’s drink is due to the fact there are various different flavours and colours to choose from or even the fact that it is nutritious, low in alcohol and contains vitamins and antioxidants, it is no wonder that every year an entire week is dedicated to these flavoursome, rich ales. What’s more, so many pubs across the UK are taking the time to complete Cask Marque’s ‘Cask Beer Uncovered’ and show that cask matters. 

In our search to discover what is so great about cask ale and just how effective the Cask Marque course is, we took the course ourselves and even spoke to some cask-focused venues to hear how they feel the course has been a benefit to them. 

Cask Beer Uncovered

This free online course was an innovative idea brought to you by Cask Marque and developed by ourselves at CPL Online.  The course has been designed to uncover the secrets of cask beer and enhance your knowledge and skills surrounding cask ale. The course can be easily accessed by both publicans and customers at uncovered/


The course is made up of seven short videos educating you on not only how cask ale is made but also how it should be stored, when it is best served, what it is best served with, and what makes real ale so good! 

After completing the course myself, I wanted to learn more on the ways in which the ‘Cask Beer Uncovered’ course was benefiting our very own British pubs, and why it is so important to focus on cask ale within their businesses. Here is what some of our favourite cask ale venues from across the UK had to say. 

The Abel Heywood, Manchester – Hydes

In the heart of Manchester, you will find the Abel Heywood. Open since December 2014, this boutique pub and hotel has attracted many locals and tourists, and become a favourite to the public. They’ve garnered a lot of positive feedback on their delicious food menus, seasonal cocktails and expanding gin range, and with the launch of their brand new first floor restaurant, ‘Abel’s Dining Rooms’, there is no denying that this venue is on the up. 

This venue’s Cask Marque accredited beer has become very valuable to the Abel Heywood and makes up a large percentage of their total takings… it is no wonder they are so cask focused!  The Abel Heywood have taken the online course ten times, which we think shows some real ‘ale’ dedication.

I was recently in contact with the Abel Heywood’s Jessica Wighton to find out her views on the ‘Cask Beer Uncovered’ course and what she feels the benefits of serving real ale at her venue are. 

'As the person in charge of our CPL training, and having completed all of our tests myself, I feel very knowledgeable on the courses personally. I definitely feel that the Cask Marque Beer Uncovered course is very to the point, specifically focusing on the key points and careful not to overload. From our staff I have genuinely only received positive feedback which is great. It delivers its information in bite-sized pieces; shown through a selection of five-minute videos that are grouped according to subject and great for putting straight into practice.’


The Boathouse, Chester – JW Lees 

Another one of the UK’s favourite cask ale venues is The Boathouse, located on the picturesque River Dee in Chester. This JW Lees site is not only popular with real ale lovers but also many of the locals and visitors alike. 

The site has eight JW Lees beers on offer including three cask ales, with MPA (Manchester Pale Ale) proving the most popular. However that isn’t stopping their many customers trying out Drayman’s Reward – their current seasonal beer. 

Following on from their busiest summer yet, I was fortunate enough to speak to the venue’s manager, Phil Murray, and hear what he had to say about the cask ale and the Cask Marque ‘Cask Beer Uncovered’ eLearning course.

 ‘As the manager of The Boathouse in Chester, one of the jewels in the crown of the JW Lees managed house estate, cask ale is very important to me. Naturally I was delighted when CPL launched the latest in the Cask Marque range of courses: Cask Marque Beer Uncovered. The brewery really is the heart of the business in JW Lees and all of the team members at The Boathouse learn all about our history from day one. The team share my passion for cask ales and when I talk about development and training with the team, a cellar management course is often top of the list of training they would like to do next. Having Cask Marque courses through CPL is a great way for the team to learn and make sure that they are confident in all the steps to make sure that our customers get a great pint every time. The team have really enjoyed the recent instalment of the Cask Marque courses and have been coming to me to show off their certificate, which this course allows them to print off themselves if they pass the test at the end of the course, which is a really smart new feature.’


Beer studio bar and Kitchen/256, Fallowfield – Hydes 

The Beer Studio is located in Fallowfield, Manchester and is a modern bar and kitchen that brings you some of the greatest beers from across the world, along with a deliciously appetising food menu and a selection of cask ales, including two wonderfully flavoursome beers from the Beer Studio themselves. 

Having taken the ‘Cask Beer Uncovered’ course several times, we were keen to learn what their Beer Ambassador, Kimberley Lacken-Fernell had to say about their cask ale training.

‘The CPL course equips staff members with the awareness and skills that are essential to being able to work successfully with cask ale. Therefore, here at The Beer Studio it is vital that our staff members complete the online course that educates them on how the perfect cask ale should be served. The course has a great balance of theory and interactive learning techniques and offers insight on many different aspects of cask ale, including: different ingredients and how they can affect the flavour of the beer; how cask beer is conditioned in the cellar; pouring the perfect pint; how to give recommendations to all customers’ requirements, and pairing beer with food. By having an understanding about the entire process, our employees can appreciate how much effort goes into brewing, distributing and storing cask ale correctly in order to create the perfect pint. I have noticed that staff members show much more enthusiasm when selling cask ale to customers, as a result our sales of the product have increased.’ 

The Horse and Groom, Linby – Star Pubs and Bars

The Horse and Groom is located in the beautiful 13th century village of Linby in Nottinghamshire and is set at the heart of the village. This venue is very focused on not only their customers and their experience at the venue, but also cask ale and all of their local breweries.  

Being known for offering a large selection of their local brews has helped the venue gain ‘Locale’ recognition from the Nottingham CAMRA, who are an independent, voluntary organisation who are campaigning for real ale, community pubs and consumer rights. To find out more about CAMRA you can visit their website: 

With their recognition from the CAMRA, we were excited to hear the thoughts of the Horse and Groom’s publican, Graeme Beal, and get their views on the ‘Cask Beer Uncovered’ course.

‘The CPL eLearning Cask Marque course has been invaluable in ensuring all staff understand what they are serving, can talk knowledgeably about the beers, and all ales are served in a consistent manner. 

It was surprising how many of our younger staff who had never tried cask ale before completing the course were keen to try it, and have since become very vocal in recommending their favourite to customers; especially at our first real ale festival in May of this year where we had nearly forty ales and traditional ciders on offer.

The eLearning course has also meant that new team members already had good knowledge of the product before they ever laid hands on the pumps, saving a lot of management time, and existing staff were able to pick up new knowledge and reinforce existing knowledge, all resulting in happy customers.’ 

After speaking with each of these venues I have realised just how much hard work and effort goes into serving up the best of real ale.  It is no surprise that more and more people are drawn to the beverage with an increasing number of venues offering up a wide variety of flavours and styles, and providing you with an experience that you just don’t get at home.  As the number of breweries increases and the demand from both customers and publicans continues to grow, this looks like a trend that is here to stay.  

If you would like to learn more on cask beer, or you would like your staff to learn more, then this course is for you.  Why not take a look and expand your knowledge today at:

And if all of this cask ale talk makes you thirsty, why not head to your nearest cask ale pub to celebrate the Cask Ale Week festivities. Visit the Cask Ale Week website to find out more about your local celebrations:

Written by – India Snowdon