Beer Festivals: too hot to handle?

Here at Purrmetrix we’ve been getting very interested in beer recently. And not just for the obvious reasons.

Fact is, beer, especially real ale, is a living thing, and sensitive to temperature. Good pubs put effort into making sure their cellars maintain the 11-13°c that is the optimum for keeping cask ales at their best. Organisations like CAMRA and Cask Marque offer training and accreditation, with an annual survey of pubs testing for temperature, taste and aroma.

Is British beer too warm?

Despite this, the old legend that British beer is served warm refuses to die, and in fact might be grounded in some truth. One of the earliest Cask Marque surveys reported more than 2000 pubs serving beer warmer that 13°, with a number consistently producing pints in excess of 20° and in one case even 35°C. Yuck.

Beer this warm not only spoils more quickly but also tends to ‘fob’ or froth, meaning a lot more is wasted. The British Beer and Pub Association estimates that for a 10 tap bar warm cellars can reduce yield and waste up to £14,000 of revenue each year. We’re guessing no landlord wants this to happen and warm beer is more often the result of a hidden problem – hotspots in the cellar, or brewlines run past a fridge outlet. Which is why we’re getting very interested, because one thing we love at Purrmetrix is finding hidden problems, bringing them out into the light, and giving them a good kicking.

Delivering quality at Beer Festivals

Meanwhile, whatever the difficulties in guaranteeing a decent pint in a pub, a different challenge faces the organisers of beer festivals. Beer festivals are enjoying a rennaissance, clocking up audiences of thousands. Imagine the problems a landlord for a large town centre pub with 8 ales on tap faces. Now multiply that by 10, and add in much more limited ability to control the climate and a clientele that really, really cares about quality. Once the sun comes out and your marquee warms up, how are you going to deliver?

Next week we’re going to have a look at this question at the Cambridge Beer Festival, one of the oldest and largest beer festivals in the UK. 200 beers, 60 ciders and Perries. Foreign beers, English wine and even Mead. And also: 50 kittens, sitting on the more popular casks and monitoring their temperature. We’re hoping to break some new ground here – we are measuring the surface temperature of the casks, not their contents, with the aim of gathering enough data to determine the relationship between the two. Other things that interest us: can we alert you, the Beer Festival customer, to ‘low beer’ status on each cask and let you get that critical last pint before it runs out?

So if you’re planning on going to the Beer Festival and want to do a bit of public science, check our data here for a sample of stock and see if you can determine the point at which the beer is getting low. There’s a live feed across the whole site and you can follow us on Twitter for more updates.

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