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Real ale shakes off old-man image, fuels boom in new breweries

By Luke Nicholls , 27-Sep-2013
Last updated on 27-Sep-2013 at 11:03 GMT

Cask ale has lost its image as an ‘old man’s drink’ and now appeals to a broad range of drinkers, with the majority of licensees claiming the beer is bringing more young people and women into their pubs. 

That’s one of the findings from the Cask Report, launched to coincide with Cask Ale Week, which kicks off today (27 September). The Report found that pub-goers are turning to cask ale in search of flavour, natural ingredients and craft production methods.

“There has been a sea-change in attitudes towards cask ale over the past few years,” said Pete Brown, author of the Cask Report. “This explains why it’s now out-performing the beer market by 6.8 per cent.

Cask-conditioned beer, also referred to as real ale, is served from a cask without additional nitrogen or dioxide pressure. Sixty-three per cent of licensees say the drink is attracting younger customers into their pub and a similar number say that more women are drinking it.

“More people see it as crafted product made from natural British ingredients and like the fact that it’s available only in the pub,” added Brown. “This is great news for all those who care about the future of the British pub since it helps guarantee a new generation of drinkers who will help keep pubs relevant - and open.”

Brewing up a storm

The Cask Report also refers to Britain’s brewery boom, highlighted earlier this month by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) in its 2014 Good Beer Guide. One hundred and eighty-four new breweries have opened during the past year; some microplants in the brewhouses of regional brewers and others in pubs or converted buildings, on industrial estates or in the heart of the countryside.

Cask Ale Week is running for the next seven days under the theme of The Great Big Taste Challenge

“People love the opportunity to support local breweries,” said Brown. “But they aren’t looking exclusively for beers from their own region. In fact, 70 per cent of drinkers would like to try beers from different parts of the country more often. This provides a great opportunity for pubs to diversify their range – and for the country’s 1,150 breweries to sell beyond their own doorstep.”

Brown concluded that cask ale’s image was further modernised by the hosting of beer festivals by over 10,000 pubs in 2012. “With all the extra beers on offer in each of those pubs during the festivals, that’s not only a lot of sales generated; it’s also a good illustration of why the market is fragmenting and new breweries are opening,” he said.

Cask Ale Week, which runs from 27 September to 6 October, sees a range of activities taking place from master classes in ale tasting to beer quizzes, meet the brewer evenings, beer festivals, sampling and free pint offers.  The theme for the Week is ‘The Great Big Taste Challenge’. For more information, visit www.caskaleweek.co.uk .

Pete Brown is an author, consultant and broadcaster specialising in beer and pubs. He is the author of five books and was named Beer Writer of the Year in 2009 and 2012. Read some of his columns in our sister title, the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, here.

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