Monday, July 05, 2010

Dear Cellarpersons,

Most of the time our casks come back in good condition, even closed nicely (sometimes) and we're very appreciative of the time spent, and care taken, by cellar people and publicans in presenting our beer in the best possible condition, as well as their responsible handling of these returnable assets. To you, thanks.

But (and of course there's a "but") ...
I picked up a bunch of empties the other day (from a wholesaler) and was surprised to find a wooden keystone in one of them. We don't use wooden keystones. We use a nice tight-fitting rubbery one. (The keystone is the small bung through which the tap is hammered.) Clearly then, someone has removed our keystone for some reason (did they get their tap stuck?) and bunged in another one.

Now, there's a bit of a knack to getting a keystone out at the best of times. What we don't do is belt a gnarly old screwdriver down the side with a big old hammer and pry the sucker out. If the tap's stuck (I had occasion to deal with this in the cellar of a good customer just the other day) the trick is to carefully but firmly lever the tap back and forth a little, twisting it a quarter turn or so from time to time, until it gets loose enough to pull out in the normal way.

The plastic casks that we use have a number of advantages: They're light, easy to handle, quiet (no terrible clanging as you clear out the cellar) and cheap. They're not so cheap that they're disposable, and they belong to us - we lend them to you - and we're happy to do so. In the olden days you might have been bringing your casks to the brewery to be filled. We don't make you do that now.

Plastic casks do have some drawbacks. They're somewhat susceptible to damage from the indiscriminate use of metal tools. And sure enough, in removing the keystone a number (why?) of small, rough, screwdriver holes have been punched through the keystone seat. This cask is now impossible to clean properly and has been retired. That's about 30 quid gone, just like that.

We have had a few casks returned damaged in similar ways. I can't imagine any reason why you'd need to remove either the keystone or the shive (we've had a few of those also). If you do need to get them out - please try to figure out a way of doing it without knackering our assets. Our phone number is on every cask - give us a call and we'd be happy to talk to you about it.

And while you're at it, I'm always pleased to see that people are marking the casks with received dates, vented dates, whatever. But why do it in permanent marker? People, the clue's in the name. What you want is either a sticker (on which you can write with anything - this is what Weatherspoons do for goodness sake) or use a grease pencil (wax pencil / china marker/ chinagraph pencil).

Seriously folk, if I promise not to come into your pub and f*ck up your glasses, will you please look after my casks?


Ed said...

Most of our casks are metal so we haven't had anyone determined enough to knacker any yet.

The permanent marker thing is a right wind up though. Oh what joy I say to myself, some thoughtless plonker has given me more work to do.

StringersBeer said...

Indeed. We wouldn't label the pubs glasses with marker pen. I'm reminded of the weak bladdered old gent who (fed up of people nicking his pint while he used the facilities), places a beer mat on top inscribed with the message "I have spat in this pint". He comes back and finds some joker has added "so have I".

Shelagh said...

"Clearly then, someone has removed our keystone for some reason (did they get their tap stuck?)"

No, Jon, it's far more likely that they took one of your empties, filled it with their beer, and sold it. Happens a lot, especially in 'brewpubs' where the landlord has a ready supply of someone else's casks so he doesn't have to go to the trouble of investing in his own. In fact there is one fairly new brewery not too far from you and I which has been doing this with our casks, Dent casks, and (I suspect) everyone else's casks. See, I wouldn't mind too much if I had been asked, 'cos I'm a friendly sort of person, but when I'm not asked this comes under the heading of 'taking a liberty' and I strongly object!

StringersBeer said...

Shelagh, yep, I know this happens and as soon as I can prove it I'll give some thought to invoicing for hire of the cask. What do you think? £5? £10 per week? per fill? And of course, full replacement cost in case of damage...

There's probably more money in that than in this beer lark.