Real ale to the rescue

BRITAIN'S national drink is coming to the rescue of the British pub, with a new cross-industry report showing cask ale holding its own as sales of lager, stout and other draught beers decline.

BRITAIN'S national drink is coming to the rescue of the British pub, with a new cross-industry report showing cask ale holding its own as sales of lager, stout and other draught beers decline.

The Intelligent Choice Report reveals that, with public houses currently closing at the rate of 36 a month, the resilient performance of cask-conditioned, or “real”, ale is helping some pubs to weather the storm of rising costs, high alcohol taxes, the poor summer, weakening consumer spending and cut-price competition from supermarkets.

While general beer sales have declined by 8% over the last year, says the report, real ale sales are way ahead of the overall market with a dip in volume of just 0.3%. Regional and local brews are performing even better with a growth in value in the year to May 2008 of 1.8%.

And pubs serving good cask ale have seen year-on-year trade growth of 14%, compared with a fall of 2.5% for similar pubs without cask ale, it adds - a trend which is promoting more landlords to improve their cask beer offer.


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“Cask ale is to Britain what wine is to France and there is a new sense of celebrating our national drink,” said report author Pete Brown. “The report shows how Britain's national drink is really helping landlords and landladies keep business - and even grow it - in challenging times.

“It gives a real point of difference for pubs over supermarkets. You can't buy pub atmosphere in a shop and neither can you buy cask beer. Great quality cask ale is one of the key elements to keep attracting people into their locals. It's a massive reason to visit.”

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The report was backed by a range of bodies representing the cask ale industry and consumers, including the Why Handpull Group of major cask beer brewers which includes Adnams, Caledonian, Fuller's, Greene King, Marston's and Wells and Young's.

Andy Wood, managing director at Adnams, said yesterday: “This is a welcome bit of good cheer for the British brewing industry, and one to celebrate.

“People are turning away from homogenous big brands and are seeking out different and distinctive beers. Britain has some fantastic brewing traditions and flavours, and people are rediscovering that.”

However, he said: “Let's not kid ourselves; the market is not yet in growth but it seems that the rate of decline is slowing and cask ale is certainly performing better than some other sectors of the beer market. Long may it continue.”

Fiona Hope, marketing director at the Greene King Brewing Company, added: “As the country's biggest supporter of cask beer, or real ale, we welcome this positive report about Britain's national drink. It highlights what we've known for a long time: that cask beer is a fantastic, fresh product which you can't get at home and which it's worth leaving the house for.”

Other supporters of the report include the Independent Family Brewers of Britain group, the Society of Independent Brewers, the Cask Marque Trust (the watchdog which accredits pubs keeping cask ale in perfect condition) and the Campaign for Real Ale which represents cask ale drinkers.

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