Sales of cask ale have fallen by 5% over the last six years, according to the latest edition of the Cask Report, published today to coincide with Cask Ale Week.
However, the category is performing ahead of the market, with sales of keg beer down by 25% and sales of lager down 11% over the same period.
And while lager remains by far the largest category claiming 65% of the market versus ale’s 29%, cask continues to be the dominant force within ale with a 57% share compared to keg’s 43%.
The annual look into the health of the cask ale market also found that real ale drinkers spend £1,030 a year on food and drink in pubs, 30% more than average pub-goers and 6.5% up on two years ago.
Cask ale drinkers are also the most frequent users of pubs, according to the report which was compiled through a survey through YouGov and an online poll of cask licensees. Two in five cask ale drinkers visit the pub once a week or more.
‘People may choose to drink real ale for its naturalness, flavour, aroma, texture and mouthfeel, but they tend to like the fact that it supports the local and national economy, generating jobs and boosting choice,’ Paul Nunny, director of Cask Marque, who is responsible for creating the report, said.
‘Licensees may be overly cautious in their attitudes to pricing. The research shows 69% of real ale drinkers to be in the more affluent ABC1 demographic. It also shows that cask ale drinkers will pay up to 20% more for a quality product.’
Sales have been hit by the closure of wet-led pubs, which CAMRA estimates are happening at a rate of 21 per week.
But in a survey of pubs specialising in cask beer, 65% say it is growing, and only 7% have seen any decline. Only 25% of managers, 16% of tenants and leaseholders and 14% of freehouse operators believe there is an opportunity to increase any cask ale prices.
Consumers are also enjoying much more choice when it comes to the beers on offer. According to CAMRA, the number of breweries has grown from 1,540 last year to more than 1,700 this year, and produce some 10,000 different cask ales a year.
The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) also calculates that last year, 22% of its members invested more than £50,000 in their plants and 10% more than £100,000. A third of SIBA members have forecast growth in turnover of over 10% in 2017. Around 15% expect to double their levels of production, sales and their turnover by 2018.