- It's estimated that cask ale is available in 70% of pubs.
- Cask ale sales grew by 0.2% by volume in 2014, whereas total on-trade beer sales declined 1.1% by volume in the same period.
- Cask accounts for 17% of all on-trade beer (including lager).
- Cask accounts for 57% of all on-trade ale; keg is therefore 43%.
My view of these figures is (in order):
- Many of the pubs that don't sell real ale are disproportionately spread, often in areas of economic deprivation. Having drunk in such areas, I know that real ale is rare, and cheap keg and lager is the norm. Real ale tends to be in middle class and better-off working class areas.
- It's the third successive year of cask ale growth, which looks rather good against a background of pub closures and declining on-trade beer sales, but sooner or later, loss of outlets will inevitably impact upon this small increase. The room for growth is finite, and shrinking.
- & 4. Although cask is outperforming keg, these figures tell us that lager makes up approximately 60% of all on-trade beer sales. As Fred of our local CAMRA branch is fond of pointing out, without lager drinkers, there'd probably be no real ale. This is one good reason why it is rather silly of a minority of real ale types to mock and belittle the beer choices of non-cask drinkers.
With the exceptions of the ending of the beer duty escalator and a few small cuts in the levels of tax, the threats to pubs haven't gone away; consequently, despite the positive elements of this report, there still isn't much room for complacency. If anything, the threat to pubs from property speculators is increasing, and although obtaining ACV (asset of community value) status for a pub is certainly a help, it's not a silver bullet. It seems strange to be a doom-monger when there are so many real ale breweries and so many pubs selling their products, but unfortunately the foundations of this situation are, to quite a large extent, built on sand.