Pubpaper 728 – The Cask Report 2013

Posted: 30th September 2013 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

Last week the Cask Report 2013-14 was released again compiled by the respected beer writer Pete Brown.  This is the seventh year of the report being published and this year is no exception in the fact that it delivers good news for those who like their real ale.  The headline numbers show that cask ale outperformed the market by 6.8% (although in real terms it actually dropped 1%), more pubs are now stocking real ale with approximately 2,500 more pubs selling cask beer than four years ago, and that market is being fed by an additional 184 new breweries which opened in the UK in the past year.

It is not just that many more pubs are stocking cask ale, but that they have a greater range of beer on offer.  Five years ago when there were over 60,000 licensed premises in the UK only 2,500 sold 4 or more real ales, with a similar number selling three real ales, making up 9% of the pubs in the UK in total.  The same figures for 2012, when a total of 69,000 premises were listed, showed that 16,500 of them sold four plus real ales and 6,700 sold three.  These multiple pump premises made up 33% of the total, a massive 360% increase from half a decade ago.

Premium ale dominates the market with over a third of cask ales being stocked of this variety.   Following this the most common styles are Best Bitter, Bitter, India Pale Ale, with Porter, Blonde, and Pale ales making up the minor numbers.  This surprised my as I thought pale ales would be higher up the list, however some of the beers in this category could also fall into the Premium Ale section.  Traditional beers still sell well as is shown by the high position of Bitter and Best Bitter, showing a significant number of people still like the familiar beer styles.

We all like to our pubs to keep the guest beers we like, but it appears that landlords differ in opinion, most drinkers would like their local to keep a guest beer for between a couple of weeks and a month before rotating it out with nearly ?rds of them stating this preference, however half of landlords would like to rotate the same beer out in a week or less, this could be down to the fact that most drinkers are occasional visitors to the pub and only get a few chances to try the beer whilst the landlord is concerned with ordering and stock levels in addition to the pure beer aspect the customers consider.

When considering ale there are two distribution methods, cask and key, traditionally keg was the domain of mass market ales such as John Smiths or Tetleys, however a small but increasing percentage of keg beers are now craft beers, but this percentage is not big enough still to skew the split between cask and keg beers signifcantly.  Twelve years ago, over 60% of draught ales sold were from a keg, four years ago cask overtook keg and has been slowly edging away since.  Looking at the whole market, cask beer now accounts for 1 in 6 beers sold in UK pubs.

What did surprise me is that It only takes ten cask ale brands to take 30% of the cask beer market.  Considering we have over 5000 cask beers available to us at least over the period of a year, the core cask products engender a lot of loyalty, however these products should not be criticised for their popularity as it is these beers which opens the door to the other 4910 beers which make up 7 out of 10 cask ales sold in pubs.  That is unless the product is from Greene King of course, in which case it is not fit to wash the beer garden cobbles.

To close this article, we all know the number of pubs is falling, however the number of licensed premises is growing according to central government licensing figures.  This means that there are bars, cafes, hotels and restaurants opening to cause this increasing number.  For a brewery all of these are places to sell their beer and an increasing number of these places are selling real ale, some on draught and others in bottles.  Although this is a short term loss for our pubs, a taste for real ale can lead them back to the pub long term when they start looking for a greater range and at the end of the day you just can’t beat a good boozer!.

  1. pyo says:

    wtf is premium ale?

    • santobugtio says:

      I’m not entirely sure, but guessing its stuff like black sheep, copper dragon and its like bearing out what I see on a lot of bars.

  2. Maxwell Power says:

    This is the first post I’ve managed to read on the cask report so far. The ‘premium ale’ thing is something that bothers me too. Premium price or premium quality? It’s taking real ale into lager territory with its meaningless descriptors. Good news on the whole though.