Parliament to investigate the future of cask beer

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cask questions: 'real ale is unique to the UK, central to our brewing heritage and extraordinarily dependent on pubs for its sales,' APPBG chair Mike Wood MP said, launching the inquiry
Cask questions: 'real ale is unique to the UK, central to our brewing heritage and extraordinarily dependent on pubs for its sales,' APPBG chair Mike Wood MP said, launching the inquiry

Related tags: Beer, Cask, Cask ale, Pubco + head office, All-party parliamentary beer

The All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group (APPBG) has launched an inquiry into the future of cask beer in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Businesses, organisations and individuals have been invited to submit evidence to a cross-party panel of MPs and peers before the publication of a report in the spring, with recommendations for Government action. 

According to the group’s announcement, the panel is particularly interested in the impact of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic on cask sales – as well as sector pressures as UK pubs reopen over the coming months. 

‘Unprecedented fall in volumes’ 

The group announced its inquiry on 17 March, a day on which the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) forecast that pubs would miss out on selling some 14m pints, or £54m in trade, due to lost St Patrick’s Day business.

“Real ale is unique to the UK, central to our brewing heritage and extraordinarily dependent on pubs for its sales,” APPBG chair Mike Wood MP (Con, Dudley South) said, launching the inquiry. 

“The lockdown caused an unprecedented fall in volumes, which were down over 60% in 2020. This has had a widespread impact, as for many brewers, cask ale makes up a large proportion of their output. The revival of sales is vital to their commercial future and we want to understand how best this can be ensured."

Wood added the fortunes of cask beer rests on pubs reopening successfully and consumers being confident that it is safe to go out. 

“We look forward to hearing from operators on the pressures they face, and to considering what actions will best enable cask beer to recover from this national crisis,” he added. 

Anyone wishing to submit written evidence to the inquiry should contact the APPBG’s hon secretary Paul Hegarty, at cnhy@orretebhc.pb.hx​, before 31 March. 

‘Tough time’ for cask

News of the inquiry comes just days after BBPA research​ found that some 2,000 pubs, 2.1bn pints in beer sales and £8.2bn in trade has been wiped out by Covid-19 in the past year.

The outbreak came amid what research consultancy CGA’s client director Paul Bolton described as a “tough time” for cask in The MA’s 2019 Beer Report​ ​– with sales down 23% over the four years prior to the report’s publication.

Prolonged pub closures over the past 12 months have uniquely affected cask beer, with operators such as JD Wetherspoon and Stonegate Pub Company cutting prices of real ale to under £1​ prior to England’ second national lockdown in a bid to waste as little beer away as possible. 

Furthermore, The MA’s 2021 Drinks List found that combined sales of the on-trades ten most popular cask beers fell dramatically during the pandemic – with volume plummeting from 604,596HL to 470,664HL, and value falling from £479.6m to £285.1m. 

The most popular pour, Sharp’s Doom Bar, sold 135,332 HL at a value of £80.8m in the 12 months to 3 October 2020​​ compared to 237,315HL sold at £137.6m value the year prior.

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