Hackney’s Five Points Brewery is committed to producing cask beer. Ed Mason, their managing director recently told the Morning Advertiser, “There is still a massive market for cask beer in the UK and people really respond to seeing a newer brewery such as Five Points producing cask beers well. Cask beer is not an occasional limited-edition experiment. We are completely committed to cask beer as a core part of our range. People like the fact we merge the best of traditional with the best of new, and focus on producing balanced, drinkable beers.”
To demonstrate this, Five Point’s sales of cask beer were 20% of their sales in 2018 and rose to 26% in 2019. As a proportion of their production, this means that cask sales effectively doubled and this is at a time when cask beer sales generally are at best holding their own. Moreover, last spring, they introduced a new core beer, Five Points Best, a classic Best Bitter brewed with British Fuggles hops. Despite the style becoming an endangered species with the advent of golden ales, Five Points have sold over 100,000 pints of it since its launch, with it now representing 3% of total beer sales.
Sensibly, Five Points know that, apart from at their own pub, the Pembury Tavern, there is always the risk of their cask beers not being sold in good condition. They take the view that their responsibility as brewer does not end once a cask has left the brewery. They appreciate that in the customer’s eyes, a poor quality pint is as much the brewery’s fault as anyone else’s. Consequently, they have established a Cask Care Scheme, which will be led by their Cask Ambassador. There will be monthly training sessions for customers, held at the Pembury Tavern, which will provide training on the principles and practice of serving top quality cask ale in the best condition. The training will focus on cellar and serving temperatures, together with the importance of conditioning time and cleanliness in all aspects of serving. To encourage attendance, discounts on cask beer will be offered to participants.
The Cask Ambassador is Ed Davy, the Sales and Account Manager. Ed explains, “Cask is, generally, perceived as a high-effort, low-GP product that doesn’t sell well. This does not have to be the case. We hope that this scheme will help pubs more easily look after their cask ale, whilst improving GP, yield, rate of sale and customer satisfaction. Our on-trade partners deserve to have the best cask experience possible.”
Worryingly, as we go to press, a threat has emerged to Five Points and a number of neighbours. We have mentioned previously that Network Rail had sold many of its railway arches to a company called the Arch Company, which is backed by investors Blackstone and Telereal Trillium. According to the Evening Standard (6 March), despite promising to be a responsible landlord and to work with its tenants, Arch Company are increasing rents across London by substantial amounts. Arch Company say that their rent reviews are dealt with on a case by case basis and a number have been made at below market level but Five Points are facing a 300% increase on their brewery in Institute Place. Ed Mason told the Hackney Gazette that their rent, currently £28,350 per annum, was due for review in April 2020 but a week before Christmas they were told that it would increase to £110,000. Five Points were the first brewers in the country to become an accredited Living Wage employer and they now employ over 35 people. They are committed to the community in Hackney but, unless Arch Company have a rethink, Five Points could be forced out of the borough.
(From a Five Points press release)