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Case Study: Cask Marque

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Formed in 1998, Cask Marque sets the industry standard for beer quality in pubs. Their accreditation scheme was set up to provide a way to assess cask ale standards, independent from breweries, providing consumers with the assurance that their beer is stored and served to keep it at its best. Their inspection team completes over 20,000 pub visits a year to make sure that every pub bearing the Cask Marque plaque truly makes the grade.

Cask Marque’s central mission is to drive up standards in pubs, but they recognised that bar staff currently have no expected qualification to ensure they’ve received the training they need. The organisation began to consider how they could create an independent accreditation for everyone who serves beer, with the aim to professionalise the career of bartending – and to give recognition to hardworking bar staff, giving them pride in their achievements.

Over the years, Cask Marque have worked with Annabel Smith (now of Beerbelle) to craft a range of training programmes, and they tasked her with planning how to tackle this latest challenge. After extensive research, Cask Marque chose Nimble as their trusted partners in June 2021, swayed by the easy-to-use authoring tool and outstanding customer support. Incredibly, the result was ready within a matter of weeks: Beer Pro, a slick elearning course with professional video content that equips bar staff with everything they need to pour the perfect pint and keep customers returning again and again.

Cask Marque Beer Pro: How Do I Prepare Glassware

They have high hopes for the award-winning course; it’s been extremely well-received on launch, and Cask Marque hope that it will become the go-to qualification for the industry.

As Annabel says,

“If you work in a kitchen, as a bare minimum you need a Food Hygiene Certificate. There’s no such thing for bar staff – despite beer being a food product. We want Beer Pro to fill this gap.”

So, what exactly does the course cover? When Annabel set about planning the content of the course, she first considered: what does a customer’s journey look like, from the moment they walk through the door of a pub or bar? What is the basic standard that a customer expects when they order a drink? How could bar staff meet and then exceed those expectations? These questions informed the narrative of the course, and its learning outcomes.

From this outline, she asked herself:

  1. What does the learner need to see?
  2. What do they need to hear?
  3. What do they need to understand?

As you can see, visual and auditory information was really important for this course (as you might expect when delivering training to improve skills), so videos became a central aspect. These were storyboarded and recorded professionally before being placed at strategic points in the elearning course – a straightforward process with Nimble Author – to ensure learners could clearly see what was expected of them as trusted bartenders.

Cask Marque Beer Pro: Pour Perfectly

It was also very important to Cask Marque that the course had a carefully designed mix of video, interactions and assessment exercises, to keep the learner interested and engaged throughout – essential in a busy bar job. Seamless access on mobile devices was also an absolute must. It’s a lot easier to complete a course in bite-sized chunks on your phone when you’re working in a bustling pub!

Feedback for the course has so far been unanimously positive. No wonder it won the Nimble Course of the Year Award 2021, with the judges saying:

“This is a polished course, well structured and engaging through use of video and knowledge checks. It’s been designed with mobile in mind which is appropriate for the busy industry the content is aimed at. The interactions are well deployed to reinforce the key learning points that are set out in the stylish video clips. This course stands out visually.”

Cask Marque Beer Pro: Check Your Knowledge

The Beer Pro course also acts as a great introduction to bartending, laying the groundwork for future learning. Cask Marque sees it being used in the future as the equivalent to taking your theory test before your practical driving assessment; while they appreciate that many bar skills need to be learnt and applied in practical training environments, having a solid understanding of the basics should be a prerequisite for face-to-face sessions.

Cask Marque have begun selling the course to breweries and pub companies in the UK and further afield. They are aiming for an uptake of 50,000 users in the first year – an ambitious target, but as Annabel notes, the industry is crying out for a high-quality, consistent training programme for bar staff that can be easily accessed anytime and anywhere.

Beer Pro is just the start of Cask Marque’s journey with Nimble. Having experienced just how quick and easy it was to produce an impressive course, they’ve begun planning their future training programmes with elearning in mind. As Annabel says,

“Now we’ve got to grips with Nimble, I started thinking: we could use it to train the Cask Marque beer inspectors, to do internal sales training, or cellar management. Whenever there’s something new coming into the industry, I know I have the tool ready to get a training course out there in a relatively short period of time.”

From storyboarding to award winner in just a few short months – it’s been quite the start for Cask Marque’s foray into elearning with Nimble. Their dedication to improving training for bar staff will no doubt be having an impact on a pub near you very soon!