Pub beer sales fell yet again in 2011, down 3.4% for the year, although off-trade sales were also down.
The British Beer and Pub Association's (BBPA) Beer Barometer showed that the falls had helped contribute to 9,000 job losses in the beer and pub sector in 2011, and the association said it demonstrated a "pressing need" for change in the Government's beer tax policy.
The decline was in fact slower than in the previous year - and the lowest rate since 2004 - but the BBPA claimed it could be halted altogether, saving thousands of jobs, if the Government abandoned plans for more above-inflation rises in the Beer Tax in the March Budget.
Off-trade beer sales were down 3.7% over the year (136 million pints), the first time since 1996 that the off-trade has put in a weaker performance than the on-trade. Total beer volumes fell by 3.5%.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said: "The decline in beer sales has slowed, but these figures show the sector cannot afford another round of inflation-busting Beer Tax hikes in the Budget. This will delay any potential recovery in an iconic and economically vital British industry.
"A change of course, giving brewers and pubs a chance to invest and expand their operations, could create over five thousand jobs in 2012 - which should be a great year for British beer and pubs with the Queen's Jubilee, Euro 2012, the Olympics and Paralympics. These events could provide a real boost for the UK economy and boost employment - but this will only be possible if the Government reverses planned tax increases and damaging over-regulation."
By Neil Gerrard
E-mail your comments to Neil Gerrard here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.catererandhotelkeeper.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Catererandhotelkeeper.com jobs