Does cask ale have a future?

Great Manchester Beer Debate tackles a thorny subject

The Great Manchester Beer Debate takes place each year on the Saturday afternoon of the festival. There’s no additional charge to attend and get involved, and we hope visitors will take advantage of the opportunity to hear from our experts and contribute to the debate. And to help the conversation, there will even be some free beer.

This year the topic is “The Future of Cask Beer”. Depending on your reading material, the death knell and the revival of cask have been signaled recently – can both be correct? As CAMRA went through the Revitalisation project to the controversial series of votes, some traditionalists claimed it was the end of support for the uniquely British product. Yet as visitors to our festival will note, many brewers are sticking with cask and some who had turned their backs on cask are returning.

We have invited a panel who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions! Sophie Atherton is a well-known freelance beer writer and has the distinction of being Britain’s first female beer sommelier. She authored the Cask Report last year, and provides training, consultancy and PR services to brewers, publicans and the wider beer industry.

John Clarke is chair of the Stockport and South Manchester branch of CAMRA. He has edited the award-winning branch magazine “Opening Times” for an astonishing 30 years, and writes for local news titles on beer. He is particularly respected for his knowledge of Belgian beer styles. Recently retired, he seems to spend more time in the Low Countries than in the UK.

Ian Fozard is the owner of Roosters Brewing Company of Knaresborough. An accountant by qualification, he has been a member of CAMRA since 1975, and has previously run a chain of independent pubs He is also currently chair of the board of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) Association, but will be speaking here in a personal capacity.

John Keeling earned his livelihood brewing the stuff. Born in Manchester, he worked for Fullers for 34 years, rising to head brewer. He has been stirring the debate already with his recent article on cask in the “Brewers Journal”. John believes beer, like nature, goes in cycles not straight lines – so expect a view of where cask’s future lies.

Julie O’Grady is a founder of the social and education group Ladies that Beer, and is Sales and Marketing Manager for Neptune brewery in Maghull, Liverpool. She describes herself as an occasional brewer, and while Neptune also provides beer in keg and cans, it has firmly nailed its colours to the cask mast.

Keeping them (and you) in order will be our chair for the debate, Peter Alexander. Peter is deputy festival organiser and chair of Rochdale, Oldham and Bury branch of CAMRA. His beer blog under the barely-disguised pseudonym of Tandleman is widely read and commented upon (when WordPress permits).

To enhance everyone’s enjoyment, Roosters are kindly sponsoring and providing free beer adjacent to the debate – so you needn’t miss a word, wise or otherwise. Come along for a 3pm start in the far end of the foyer.