cask masters

Interview with our Cask Master, Dan Bell


Name: Dan Bell

Age: 27

Lives: Liverpool Street, London

Favourite Beer Style: IPA

Where did you discover your love for all things beer?

'I guess it would be my first pub job. After years of drinking cheap lager at university, that first job with Ember Inns introduced me to real ale. Having a rotating guest line of ales meant something new to try all the time. It showed me the world of flavours and diversity of styles that are possible with beer and how they can come together to make something truly special. Then, being trained to take care of the beers and making sure they were perfect from cask to glass, really added to the interest. Since then I’ve been hooked!'

How long have you been working in pubs?

'Just over 5 years, I started with Ember Inns in April 2012 and then moved to Nicholson’s the year after.'

What does a usual day in the life of a Cask Master in a Nicholson's pub look like?

'It's tough but rewarding! The first thing I do is check that every beer we have on tap is still up to the Cask Marque and also the personal standards that we have by making sure they are at temperature, taste amazing and look brilliant. After that it's down to the cellar. We have lots of great checks and systems in place to make sure that correct rotation, stillaging, conditioning and cleaning take place, which leads to a perfect serve.

I check all of these on a daily basis, ensuring we’ve got plenty of perfectly conditioned beer ready to go. This is easily the most rewarding part as you know you’re making sure that your beer has the best serve. Then it's onto cleaning, making sure we’ve got a tidy, clean and great looking cellar and that any empty racks are filled and ready to go. Then it's back to the bar to brief the team on what's on, encouraging them to try it and get excited about what we sell. Lastly, it's making sure that every pint sent over the bar is the best it can be and that our guests love what they drink!'

cask master cellar

What's your favourite brewery in the UK at the moment?

'At the moment it would have to be Kernel - they've been making outstanding beers for a while now and I haven't yet had a stinker from them. Their classic IPA is just outstanding but it packs a punch- it’s a tragedy they got rid of the bar at the brewery!'

It's you, a desert island and a single beer, which beer would you choose to go with you?

'Unfiltered and unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell. Myself and my district were lucky enough to try it straight from the maturation barrels in the bierkeller at the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen. If you’ve never tried it, it's worth the price of the trip (and also Prague and Pilsen are brilliant!) the single most amazing glass of beer I’ve ever tasted. I wouldn't be able to do it justice by trying to describe it but trust me, that trip is a regular one now!'

Apart from the Hoop and Grapes (you're bound to be biased), what's your favourite Nicholson's pub and why?

'I think it would have to be Bacchus Bar in Birmingham. It has the most amazing interior, with little hidden nooks and crannies everywhere and an almost medieval setting - it's really quite a sight! The drinks are always outstanding and the staff lovely. They’ve got an amazing pub going and it's always a stop for me when I'm in Birmingham!'

cask master tasting

Favourite destination to drink beer?

'In the UK it would have to be Bermondsey - the beer mile is brilliant! With so many breweries packed into the railway arches, it makes for a great day out. You get a fantastic mix of cask, craft and bottled beers and each brewery has a unique feel and atmosphere and of course, beers! The fact that you’ve also got the food market and artisan food stalls all down the mile only adds to the experience. It’s definitely worth a day out if you haven't tried it yet.

Outside of the UK, it would be the US - the craft beer scene there is just insane. Any bar you go to will have something you’ve never tried as it feels like there’s breweries in almost every town! However, I’ve heard amazing things about Norway and Denmark and tasted some very very impressive beers, so they’re next on the list to visit'

What tips do you have for anyone wishing to try their hand at becoming a Cask Master?

'You need to have the drive for it, definitely! It’s a really rewarding job as you get to see the results of your work in front of you, being enjoyed by the guests - but it does take some hard grafting.

A keen eye, palette and high standards are also great to have as they will keep you on top of your beer, making sure it's all up to scratch. I would also say that it's not just about the beer - some of the most engaging Cask Masters I’ve met have had passion to talk about all types of drinks - whether gin, whisky, beer, wine or any other - having that passion is essential in being a Cask Master. If guests can see that you love the product you're talking about they will give it a try and discover something new and brilliant. Lastly, it pays to be adventurous: the more you try, the more you will get to see that beer is one of the most amazing, diverse, and delicious drinks in the world - don't be afraid to try something new!'