UK beer sales fell 6.2% in the fourth quarter of 2012, prompting more calls for a freeze on the beer duty escalator.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) Beer Barometer showed that pub sales of beer dropped 4.8% compared with the same quarter in 2011, while off-trade sales were down 7.5%.
The figures mean that, despite the Christmas and New Years celebrations, beer drinkers drank 138 million fewer pints of beer in Q4 2012 compared with the year before.
The BBPA said that analysis from Oxford Economics indicated that a duty freeze in March 2013 would save 5,000 jobs in the sector, which employs almost one million people - mostly younger people in Britain's pubs.
Last November, MPs voted for a review of the escalator, which has so far been refused by the Treasury. This followed a petition signed by over 100,000 calling for Government action.
British beer has endured a 42% tax increase since March 2008. A further, 2% above-inflation increase proposed for Budget 2013 would take the figure towards 50%.
Brigid Simmonds OBE, chief executive of the BBPA, said: "These figures show that the Government needs to stop its full-on tax assault on our vital beer and pub industry. We've had tax hikes of 42% since March 2008, which is hugely damaging and completely unacceptable for such an important manufacturing sector. Instead, we could be protecting and creating jobs at a time when the country most needs it."
By Kerstin Kuhn
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