Happy days for cask ale

Related tags Premium cask ale Beer Keg Cask ale

Well, who would have thought it? There is good news in draught beer right now. And it goes by the name of cask ale.For some years cask brewers have...

Well, who would have thought it? There is good news in draught beer right now. And it goes by the name of cask ale.

For some years cask brewers have told the trade press that their own cask beer sales were on the up - "growing against the market decline" was their favoured line. And yet all you had to do was look at the overall national figures to see the whole category was falling fast.

However, now we have actual category growth - a sign perhaps that the decline of the old national brands has bottomed out.

The latest Nielsen figures show premium cask ale which means any cask beer over 4.2 per cent ABV, and therefore excludes a successful brand like London Pride, that most consumers would deem as premium) in overall growth.

Standard cask is still in decline but is performing better than the rest of the draught beer market as it stands. These are heady times for a group of brewers who have faced up to depressing headlines for well over a decade.

Nigel McNally, managing director of Wells & Young's, says the growth in premium cask is a stunning achievement for an industry beset by obstacles.

"No one would have predicted that premium would have gone back into growth as quickly as it has," he says. "And it's grown despite the fact that energy costs have gone up 60 per cent and raw material costs have risen. It's unbelievable."

This rise is hugely significant for the cask ale brewing industry. It is almost as though a millstone as been removed from cask brewers' necks.

So what are the reasons behind this growth? Justin Adams, managing director of Greene King Brewing Company, believes it is a result of the industry's relentless push for quality.Push for quality

"Innovation in product development, marketing and customer service, a commitment to great taste and dedication to the very highest quality standards are key to the success and growth of the cask ale market," says Adams. "And our commitment to this is now bearing fruit."

Ian Ward, marketing manager for Marston's Beer Company, believes genuine consumer desire for interesting beers is also a major reason behind this rise in sales volumes.

"The consistent growth we are experiencing in the premium cask ale market is no stroke of luck. It is not an artificial, hyped-up trade-led phenomenon bound to come clattering down as soon as the plug is pulled," he says.

"This is solid growth, fuelled solely by a sustained and genuine consumer pull - not an engineered retailer push. Discerning drinkers are finding what they're looking for in cask ale - something that you simply can't get in a pint of lager that's been brewed to taste exactly the same wherever you happen to be."

The big question now is when will we see the whole cask category returning to growth in the on-trade? That will be a cause for genuine celebration.

Related topics Beer

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