Marston’s introduces Minicask

Off-trade sales of cask ale could be possible on an unprecedented scale thanks to new technology developed by Marston’s.

The brewer has invented a system which allows barrels of ale to drop bright – become free of suspended yeast particles – within 60 seconds, instead of the normal wait of up to 36 hours. The system, Fastcask, is also capable of withstanding rough handling, unlike standard casks.

The device has already been launched in the on-trade and a 5-litre version, Minicask, is being trialled with Ocado and Costco. Three Marston’s brands are available: Pedigree, Hobgoblin and the newly launched English Pale Ale.

Marston’s sales and marketing director James Coyle said: “We’re putting yeast back in the cask in the form of beads. You can kick it, shake it, bang it – whatever you want.

“It has a 28-day shelf-life and once the cask is open it has to be drunk within five days.”?Coyle said research showed many cask ale drinkers did not drink ale at home, because even bottle-conditioned beers did not exactly replicate the on-trade product.

The launch has created some nervousness in the pub trade, which is losing beer sales to supermarkets, but Coyle said consumers would pay roughly the same in the on and off-trade.

He said the product may be tailored to events such as Halloween and the Ashes to build consumer momentum before attempting year-round retailer listings.

The take-home price is around £18, “which equates to £2.20 or £2.30 a pint, more or less in line with a lot of pubs selling cask beer – we’re not deep discounting”, said Coyle.

Fastcask has been in development for three years and Coyle said the “holy grail” was to adapt the technology for 50cl cans.