The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has launched the biggest promotion of real ale for 50 years as part of its on-going battle to conserve the great British pint.
According to a CAMRA study, if recent trends persist more than 90 per cent of the British brewing industry will be in the hands of two global brewers by 2020.
Following two years of fundraising, the organisation has teamed up with real ale brewers and pubs around the country to attempt to raise the popularity of cask ales with its Ask if it's Cask campaign.
Mike Benner, head of campaigns at CAMRA, said: "Consolidation in the pub market means smaller brewers are not able to supply beer to large estates. It goes without saying that these brewers will be forced out of the market by their bigger competitors who can offer discounts and supply household-name beers. That will lead to even less choice for Britain's 15 million beer drinkers."
The Ask if it's Cask campaign features on hundreds of advertising billboards throughout the country as well as posters and leaflets in thousands of pubs.
It is aiming to put across the message that real cask ales meet the needs of the modern, cultured drinker. CAMRA is urging drinkers to "ask if it's cask" next time they visit the pub in an attempt to get lager lovers to discover the taste of real ale.
Benner said: "This is a consumer fight against the disease caused by consolidation, closures, mergers and sell-offs in this great British industry. We want to convince beer drinkers that nothing beats a pint of real cask ale in a local pub. If people start drinking ale and shun big-brand marketing, the British beer market will be safe for future generations to enjoy."
For the first time, CAMRA is also aiming its campaign at female drinkers, having discovered that beer is the only product still promoted almost exclusively to men.
CAMRA's research discovered 57 per cent of women who have tried real ale think it is more tasty than other beers and 62 per cent think it is more natural.
Of those who have not tried real ale, one in five think it is not promoted to them and 18 per cent think it is old-fashioned. A quarter of women do not drink real ale because none of their friends do.
CAMRA has argued these reasons are related to poor marketing and image compared to other drinks such as wine.
Very few women agreed with the myths about real ale - only four per cent of women thought real ale would be too warm, six per cent thought it would be too flat and nine per cent thought it would be too fattening.
"Back in the seventies it was normal to see adverts for cars, insurance and banking all aimed at men, but now these are equally made to appeal to women. Beer, on the other hand, is still treated by marketing people as the last male-dominated product," said Benner.
Sales of real ale have been falling since 1994 when they peaked at 17.5 per cent of the total beer market - they are now less than 10 per cent and CAMRA is hoping the campaign will help reverse the decline.
"Pub managers are to be congratulated in their efforts to make women feel welcome," Benner said. "The days of dark and dingy bars are numbered, but at a time when UK beer sales are falling it is remarkable that brewers are not targeting the equally lucrative female pound."
For more information visit www.askifitscask.com