Beer prices have risen by an unprecedented 8p a pint this year and a pint of bitter has broken the £2 barrier for the first time, according to The Publican's annual Market Report survey.
The survey, which analysed price increases across four sectors - lager, bitter, wine and whisky, revealed that bitter now costs an average of £2 a pint in the South East and a standard pint of lager, which hit the £2 mark in 2001, is up 7p to £2.07 this year.
Only Wales, Scotland and North West England now have an average price for lager of below £2 while in the South East it has hit £2.21 a pint.
A small glass of wine is up by a whopping 10p and a shot of whisky up by 6p.
The rise reflects a tough year for the trade which has been hit by increased rents, rates and red tape and has seen tourism drop.
The Publican Newspaper's Editor Lorna Harrison said: "We expect to see a small rise of 1p or 2p on alcoholic drinks each year but these figures are way above the norm.
"Many publicans, like most businesses, have had a hard year due to a drop in tourism. Coupled with rising rents and increased red tape, publicans have clearly needed to take action to survive."
The British Beer & Pub Association has said that although the industry is seeing an increase in the price of beer year on year it is still remaining competitive and keeping its prices down.
Spokeswoman Karen Kelshaw said: "In the face of an increase in running costs and the minimum wage we are still remaining highly competitive compared to other industries."
Meanwhile, CAMRA figures launched this month at the Great British Beer festival, revealed wide variations in the price of beer in pubs across the country. It found differences of up to 43p a pint between the North and South.
But CAMRA's findings have been criticised by the trade as "stating the obvious".
Brian Rees of the Guild of Master Victuallers said the price difference was inevitable.
He added that the difference in the cost of living and running a pub in the North was inevitably cheaper and would be reflected in the beer prices.
"Rates and general costs and rents are traditionally cheaper in the North," he added.
Lorna Harrison said: "The cost of living in the South East is much more, therefore the prices are relative."
Ted Bruning, editor of CAMRA's newspaper What's Brewing, said he believed that property prices and the business rates in the South East were forcing tenants to raise prices. He said: "Licensees are having costs loaded on them. Tenants are in the front line and are being loaded with extra overheads."
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