Some pints were being poured at over 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

By Mike Pomranz
October 15, 2018
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The typical American cliché about beer in the U.K. is that Brits like their beers flat and warm. Though this assertion is typically made in the pejorative, it’s not entirely wrong: the British beer scene features a lot of cask beers which are naturally carbonated—and therefore less fizzy than draft beer—and traditionally served at cellar temperatures—which is a bit warmer than draft beers are typically served.  So a better way to rephrase the cliché would be this: Brits don’t need their beers so aggressively carbonated or so ice cold. It’s not bad; it’s just different.

Except that the U.K.’s recently released 2018 Cask Report suggests that maybe it is getting a bit bad. Not because serving beer a little bit warmer is a bad thing, but because many pubs serve their cask beer even warmer than that… which is a bad thing.

According to the report, cask beer sales in the U.K. have slipped by 6.8 percent in the past year, and though a number of trends are behind the drop, one of the biggest issues is temperature. “Two-thirds of cask drinkers told us they would prefer cask to be served at a cooler temperature than the recommended 11-13°C [approximately 52 to 55°F],” the report states. “Meanwhile, Cask Marque monitoring during July 2018 showed that almost 7 in 10 pints of cask were served warmer than the recommended temperature of 11-13°C. Only 26 percent were served at the recommended temperature…. Worryingly, 2% were served above 20°C.” That’s a blistering 68°F. And keep in mind, the warmer the weather, the more people want a colder beer.

Part of the problem is that cask beer is very traditional, and a lot of pubs take a very traditional approach to serving it. “Hot weather clearly makes it tougher to maintain cellar temperatures,” the report continues. “Further Cask Marque analysis shows that in June, 25 percent of cask dispensed was at 14°C-plus. In January the figure was 17 percent.” The takeaway, despite modern technology, plenty of pubs simply let nature handle their beer cooling—just as they have for generations.

But these kinds of choices can have major repercussions: Another stat suggests all it takes is one bad beer—regardless of the month—to lose business. “40 percent of customers would never come back after a bad pint,” the report states.

As an American beer writer living in the United Kingdom—and as a lover of both cask and draft beer—these findings hit home all too much. Cask beer that’s being served too warm, or even worse, been kept warm so long that it comes out tasting off, is a regular problem here. It’s something pub owners should really care more about. Think of it this way: It’s not just your own customers you’re letting down; British beer has been served too warm for so long that an entire country of 325 million people across the pond think you guys don’t know how to serve beer properly. British beer, which is in a class all its own when served properly, deserves far better than that.

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