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Doom Bar's new look twice over, on the bar at O'Neill's in city centre Birmingham: keg-style dispense for cask ale looks to boost sales with younger drinkers 


Molson Coors opts for keg fonts, colder temperatures to boost cask ale

Molson Coors is trialling a keg-like font to dispense its market-leading cask conditioned Sharp’s Doom Bar in a bid to win younger drinkers to the traditional product.

Since installation, rate of sale of the brand has doubled at the site where the test is being carried out, O’Neill’s on Birmingham’s Broad Street.

It follows a successful trial in 120 pubs and bars of extra-chilled cask Doom Bar which will now be rolled out across the country.

Both initiatives are part of Molson Coors’ Future of Cask project which is exploring ways to address a sales decline in the category of 25% over the last five years.

The tall keg-style fonts, serving regular and extra-chilled Doom Bar, replace the hand pumped beer engine with gas pressure to push the ale through the lines. That it’s still cask ale coming out of the taps will be prominently displayed on the fonts.

“At O’Neill’s the only change is that we’ve swapped the traditional handpulls for more modern-looking fonts,” explained Mark Bentley, on-trade category controller at Molson Coors. “Gas was already used there to help bring the beer to the bar, so while the appearance is different, the workings in the cellar are unchanged.

“Sales of Doom Bar were only ticking over before. Now the rate of sale has doubled and the pub is comfortably selling a cask within the three days you need to ensure quality.”

The innovation is specifically targeted at high street outlets with younger clientele where, unlike traditional settings, cask beer finds itself competing on the bar against a busy and bright line-up of draught world and craft beers.

“Handpumps have lost visibility on the high street,” Bentley continued. “Eye-tracking research by Heineken has shown the hot spots are where the gaze is drawn to the more prominent keg fonts while it goes over the top of handpulls, and that could explain part of the decline. Cask beer needs to stand out and look the part. 

“So we wondered what a keg-style font would do and asked our tech guys to come up with a solution.

“The font gives us stand-out. But we want to be clear that it’s cask beer, and since installation we’ve driven that message with point-of-sale material and staff training.

“We’re a big respecter of tradition and all we’re trying to do here is broaden the appeal. It’s a balancing act. It’s not an extreme approach. It’s certainly not the end of the handpump! Fundamentally there’s not actually a lot of difference. It’s really only a matter of aesthetics.

“But in High Street outlets, it’s clear that cask couldn’t survive without eye-catching innovations.”

Extra-chilled cask Doom Bar, served invariably alongside the cellar temperature product at between 6 to 8 degrees Celsius from handpumps – and also the new keg-like fonts – has meanwhile increased rate of sale of the brand by an average 42 pints a week where it’s been installed.

“It’s meant that some sites where we’ve trialled it are able to be compliant with the three-day rule. About 40% of drinkers are choosing extra chilled. Feedback suggests it’s not for everyone, but some have switched, and it appeals to younger drinkers in their late 20s and up.

“There’s a perception issue with cask, that it’s a warm, flat old man’s beer. But the attributes of cask should appeal to a modern audience.”

That gap between perception and the potential of cask beer to fulfil modern demands for natural, authentic products saw volume sales fall 7.2% in the year to October 2019 and Doom Bar, which Bentley says was “bucking the trend until recently” was down 5.6%.

“It’s down to pubs closing and pubs changing their offer and some giving up on cask beer altogether,” he went on. “You’ve got three days to sell a cask, that’s 24 pints a day, and there are some that can’t achieve that. The big losses, we’ve found, are among pub-restaurants. People are not really going there to drink. 

“There are some places where cask beer really shouldn’t be, but there are others where cask just needs stand-out and staff with the skill and expertise to serve it well.

“As category leaders our trade customers, and especially pub groups, have expectation of us, that we need to be taking a lead. We’ve got to try something, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”

Phil Mellows
24th December 2019

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