We've been putting it off for about a year and can't really afford it, but we have finally accepted the inevitable and ordered another 200 casks!
At present we have approximately 580 casks which may seem a lot but, under the old "rule" of brewery cask management, is actually woefully inadequate; it was always said a brewer needs 2, preferably 3 casks for every one he has out in trade which, given we sell approximately 200 casks a month, would mean we would need a minimum 400 others.... which we don't have.
Now bear in mind this equation was based upon ye olde times when brewers distributed their casks locally and they "turned over" (got them back) very quickly - generally within a few weeks - whereas now casks go to wholesalers hundreds of miles away and may not be seen for months on end; for example, last month we sent pallets of beer out to Manchester, Preston and Stoke, casks we probably won't see again for at least a month, probably two, meaning the old cask equation should really read 6 casks for every one out in trade, meaning we'd need an unfeasible 1500 casks (or thereabouts) to sustain our business.
We're pretty good at retrieving casks and turning them over quickly, but even so some weeks we're stretched to the limit with our casks and just can't rack enough beer to build up any stock. This means casks being filled then going straight onto pallets and out the door which isn't the way I want to operate, as these casks won't be conditioned enough unless the wholesaler / pubs let them sit for a few weeks once they arrive (we've had no complaints so guessing this is probably happening....).
What we need in order to build up a level of stock which enables us to properly condition our beers and also have a decent list of beer to sell (recently, on occasion, we've been down to our last ten casks of beer to sell which is a ludicrous situation to be in) is more casks, and lots of them. Given that I don't like metal casks the solution is therefore plastic, and more correctly Brewery Plastics casks.... but, even allowing for their reasonable price of just over £30 a cask, this is still a £6200+VAT investment in casks, money we don't really have....
Just imagine if brewers could, rather than giving 50% of their turnover to the government each month, reinvest some of this money in new casks and equipment? Fat chance of this happening, but it would make life so much easier and enable us to grow our business so much better than we are able to at present.... we can dream!
Anyhow, we've just ordered 200 new 9 gallon plastic casks (plus 6 extra 4.5 gallon casks which are mainly used at our bar) which will be slightly offset by us returning as many of our 100 rental casks as we can lay our hands on (that'll save us money and get rid of a lot of metal casks in one go) but, even allowing for this, we'll still have extra casks and that'll take some of the pressure off and, hopefully, allow us to build up some stock and sell more beer, which can only be a good thing.
This has been yet another post in our "Crap brewers have to put up with that you don't know about" and I hope it's been educational!