Pubs that offer consumers a choice of well-kept cask ale are faring better than those that don’t, says an industry report that has found the drink outperforming beer despite the downturn.
The Intelligence Choice, a report backed by cask ale industry bodies including CAMRA and The Cask Marque Trust, found that while the total UK beer market experienced a -9.3 per cent decline in sales volumes in 2008, cask ale fared better with a -5 per cent drop.
The on-trade market share of cask ale also rose from 39 per cent to 44 per cent in just three years, showing a growing demand for well-kept specialist cask beer.
Pete Brown, author of The Intelligent Choice, argues that cask ale’s growing popularity is down to the consumer’s changing desire for fresh, quality, seasonal and local food and drink, and is urging publicans to consider offering a range of cask ales.
“Consumers’ concerns about provenance, ingredients and sustainable production are part of a trend that appears to be holding fast, despite the recession,” he said. “It would be foolish to claim that cask ale is the panacea to all the pub trade’s current ills, but there is compelling evidence to suggest it may alleviate some of them. Pubs that serve good cask ale are closing at a slower rate than those that don’t, and many pubs that have reinstated cask ale - and then ensured it is well-kept and well-promoted - are now thriving.”
The Old Spot in Dursley was on the brink of closing before it introduced between eight and ten cask ales with a try-before-you-buy policy, and now enjoys busy evenings seven nights a week. It also won the CAMRA Real Ale Pub of the Year award in 2007.
“Cask ale in The Old Spot isn’t just a drink,” said landlord Steve Herbert. “It’s what our customers talk about; it brings them together. And cask ale definitely isn’t just for old people in here; around a quarter of our customers are under-25s.”
There are currently seven million regular cask ale drinkers in the UK, 85 per cent of which are men. It has one of the highest ‘conversion rates’ than many alcoholic drinks, with 44 per cent of female drinkers that taste it going on to become regular or occasional cask drinkers.