Cask ale has continued to outperform the UK beer market and now has a 15% share (up from 14.6%) - equating to one in every six pints.
That's one of the key findings from the Cask Report 2011-12 which has identified cask's growing appeal to a new audience of younger, affluent and sociable drinkers as a "lifeline" for pubs struggling to stay afloat.
The report found that cask drinkers were twice as likely to visit the pub as non-cask drinkers and spend more when they are there.
However, 2010 proved a tough year, even in this category, with cask ale volumes down an estimated 2%, which looked favourable by comparison to a 7.8% decline in on-trade beer volumes as a whole.
The report indicated that cask ale should return to growth in 2011, with 2,500 new pubs and clubs that started to sell cask ale last year - a 4% increase in distribution.
Report author Pete Brown said, "Cask ale can help pubs to not only survive, but to thrive. It's attracting new drinkers who spend more in the pub than non-cask drinkers, making them valuable customers. And, as our report reveals, cask is shaking off its historic "flat cap" image and is instead seen by younger consumers as a "cool" drink.
"This increasingly positive picture of cask can only be good news for the pubs who sell it."
10 ways to maximise cask ale sales
1. Try before you buy: Take out the element of risk for customers. A Try Before you Buy programme is the strongest driver to cask trial.
2. Information: Give clear information about the beers you stock. Chalkboards help people make decisions at the bar.
3. Range: Stock two to four cask ales in a balanced range including brands that are familiar and unfamiliar to your customers.
4. Styles: Stock a balanced range of different styles, with traditional bitter but also consider golden ales, milds and IPAs.
5. Knowledge: Knowledgeable staff are essential to perceptions of quality. Hire staff who are interested in beer.
6. Clear language: Use words such as "natural" and "flavoursome" on promotional material. These are the attributes drinkers most like about cask.
7. Recommendations: Use beer lists and give recommendations for beer matches with food.
8. Promotions: Use promotions such as loyalty cards, your own beer festival, guest ale programmes, social media and word of mouth.
9. Retro-chic: Be aware of cask's "retro" appeal when targeting younger drinkers.
10. Stereotypes: It is up to everyone involved in cask ale to confront negative drinker stereotypes - they are not true!
Source: The Cask Report: Britain's National Drink by Pete Brown
7.8 million cask ale drinkers
10% of cask ale drinkers tried it for the first time in the last 12 months
Only 40% who have tried it drink it regularly
How often would you say you drink real ale?
6% Main beer
81% of cask drinkers also enjoy wine
Source: Camra Omnibus Survey
By Neil Gerrard
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