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 starting 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."
7.8m Cask ale drinkers10% Tried it for the first time in the last year40% Who have tried it drink it regularly81% Of cask ale drinkers also enjoy wine
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.
3Range: 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.
5Knowledge: 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.
7Recommendations: 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.
9Retro-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