The Robinson’s Brewery Visitor Centre in Stockport has one of the slickest brewery bars I’ve seen in a while. Its impressive menu offers the sort of food that becomes irresistible after a couple of pints and the bar itself is lined with ‘craft ale’, all served with full logo-at-the-front aplomb of the sort that can only really be appreciated by an ale enthusiast (and therefore lost on me). Though I would have liked to spend the day holed up on one of the comfy chairs, working my way down the hand pumps, I was there for a more serious reason, to take part in Cask Marque’s one-day Cellar Management course, The ABCQ.
The Cask Marque course, recently introduced at this fine Stockport venue, covers care for casks and kegs from the moment the delivery arrives to the moment the punter begins to drink. It’s an important course for anyone who wants to serve high quality beer and is becoming something of an industry standard. I sneered at first at the thought of learning how to upkeep my glassware, but there’s far more to it than I had previously thought, from soaking to testing to holding at the bottom while pulling the pint. It seems the passage to a perfect pint is neither an easy nor a straightforward one.
Ale and its production is an interesting combination of chemistry and artistry. There’s all manner of complicated equipment that goes alongside the creation of beer and its preservation until it reaches the glass but as one delves a little deeper, one discovers that creating a great pint is a lot like creating a brilliant lasagne, combining ingredients with diligence and flair. Today’s course was much more about the technical side of cellar management; the way different chemicals and reactants can influence the beer in a good or (more usually it seems) bad way. Many people forget that a cask beer is actually classed as a food product, it contains live yeasts and, if not treated in the right way, can be just as horrible and even unhealthy to consume.
For me, beer and ale had always been about relaxing refreshing and rehydrating; a lazy summer’s afternoon spent in the pubs with friends. No longer. From this moment forth, every time I come within sight of a beer pump my mind will be reeling with concern for the state of the line, the upkeep of the cellar and the upkeep of the cask itself. No matter if they’re not my beer pumps, I want a good pint whether I’m drinking or serving and ignorance is no longer bliss. Thanks Cask Marque.
Though the cellar management course is probably better reserved to those in the hospitality trade (fascination with a cleaning chemical probably loses its charm if you’re not actually behind the bar) The Robinson’s Brewery Visitor Centre and its brilliant bar is open to everyone and runs regular tours for those who’d like to know a little bit more about how Robinson’s beer is produced.