The number of barrels of cask sold in the UK last year (2016) was 2,166,000 down from 2,272,000 in 2011, and the decline in the past 12 months was 3.8% (down from 2,251,000 in 2015).
However, the decline in cask beer sales is less severe than declines in keg beer and lager, which have fallen by 25% and 11% respectively since 2011.
Cask remains ‘extremely important’
The report’s author, Rosie Davenport, said this demonstrated “cask ale had weathered the on-trade’s tough trading conditions more robustly than other beer sectors.”
“In a challenging on-trade market, cask has been the most resilient beer sector in the past five years,” she added.
Commenting on the fall in cask beer sales, BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “A great beer offering is, of course, vital for any pub. Cask remains extremely important, and has outperformed the beer market as a whole in recent years.
“Cask customers are very discerning; quality of dispense and good cellar management is an area where you cannot cut corners. The cask report is right to shine a light on these issues, and Cask Marque does great work in this area.”
Cask less profitable than keg
Darron Anley, owner of Siren Craft Brewery, told The Morning Advertiser that his brewery had reduced the amount of cask beer it was producing due to the lower margins it commands.
“We have pulled back from the amount of beer we put into cask by a reasonable chunk and that is a purely commercial decision,” he said. “The more production I turn over to cask beer, the less I can make sure we meet the overheads of the brewery.
“For me, cask beer is still important and it still meets one of our aims, which is to pull new drinkers into what we do and what we are about. Cask beer is definitely a medium I like and I want to continue to do that, but we have probably dropped our production by about 20% this year alone. The big increase we have seen has actually been in keg, that's where most of our efforts are in terms of growth.”
Elsewhere in the report, it was revealed that four in five customers (81%) would be willing to pay up to 20% more for a quality pint of real ale.
The report also highlighted the importance of consistency and quality in the production and serving of cask beer, with 40% of drinkers saying they would avoid a beer where they had been served a bad or off pint of ale.