Waste not want not

October 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

Over the past few months I’ve been getting more comments on Yield from beer supplied in Cask & keg.

Times are tough & publicans are looking at every angle they can to squeeze every ounce of GP out of the Beer they buy from us. But when someone tells us they base their profits on an average 66 saleable pints per 9gallon cask or 52 pints per Keg, and expect us to price based on that, it does sometimes rub me up the wrong way.

There are two issues for the publican to deal with,

: waste, this can be beer lost when line cleaning, spillage due to overfilling/poorly trained staff, running 1/2pint off at the start of service, or beer given as a taster.

:unsaleable Sediment, this is mainly an issue with Cask beer, and is the sediment that settles out to the bottom of the cask once, the cask has been vented and allowed to settle, this portion of the cask sold is unsaleable beer as it’s yeast sediment/long chain proteins that come through as sludge on the last pint and would be thrown away, rather than sold.

As a brewer i price my products based on the saleable amount of beer in the container, not the whole volume, as we are in control of the average amount of sediment in the products we sell.

Therefore in a cask that holds 72pints of liquid, 40.91Ltrs total nominal capacity if the brewer declares 39.5ltrs Duty Paid the brewer is selling 69.69pints of saleable beer with 1.86ltrs of unsaleable non duty paid sediment per cask.

There is no industry standard for declared unsalable sediment in a cask of real ale as each brewers yeast strain and process is individual to their brewery, and all purchasers of cask ale need to be aware of what volume of saleable beer they are buying. If all Brewers followed the notification suggestion made by HMRC and printed the agreed saleable and duty paid volume on the cask label then publicans could be trained to look for this vital information on the cask label and would be able to set pricing on that basis. It is not clear that this method is widely used by Brewers, nor does the HMRC requirement to inform purchasers of cask ale about the agreed sediment allowance by other means such as price list, invoice or delivery note.

There is a growing groundswell of protest that in some sectors of the industry particularly the tied pubs, the tenants are not being informed about this issue and that they must take account of unsaleable sediment in their pricing. Astonishingly it seems that the tied Pub Owners are also “unaware”, (to be charitable), and are calculating their profit share rents on the assumption that like keg ale, cask ale can deliver its nominal volume in drinkable Brewers product which converts to cash in the till. As a typical cask ale could have as much as 5% undrinkable sediment by the time all the costs, overheads and rent are settled the tied tenant might aspire to 10% of turnover as his profit. If 5% of cask volume is unsaleable sediment and this has not been accounted for in the business plan and rent, then the tied tenant will find half his calculated profit has vanished without trace and he still must pay his landlord his share of the “profit share” rent. As rents are usually based on a 50:50m profit share the tied tenant could easily be left with at best only 25% of the profit that he had in his plan for cask ale. I can sympathise with some of the protests from tied tenants as they begin to understand that cask ale, the one product that they can claim is truly unique to their style of venue, can also be an extremely risky source of profit because the intermediaries in the value chain do not care enough about the viability of the pub as an outlet. This is of concern to me as a Brewer as we depend on Pubs to get our ale to market.

As a brewer I cannot be held to account for the volume of beer a publican manages to convert to cash in the till, as each publicans system & standard operating procedures are unique to their site, we control our process, and our customers control theirs, but one cannot help but worry about the confusion tat seems to exist over how much beer can one reasonably expect to sell.

Saying this we have also had customers inform us that when buying national brands they are able to get much higher yields from their casks vs microbrewery beer declaring similar sediment levels, my answer to that is, if you find you are able to get 72 pints from a 9 gallon cask either you are short pouring your customers or you are being sold bright beer with no sediment.

On all large pack containers we indicate on the label, as required by HMRC what proportion of the beer is saleable, by a declaration of what proportion of the beer in the container is duty paid. With 9gallon Cask we currently allow for just over 1ltr of unsaleable sediment. And price our product based on the volume of beer that is fully saleable.

With our Keg and Bottled products we cold condition our beer in conditioning tanks, dropping all the sediment out …

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