It has been more than a quarter century since cask ales sales in Britain enjoyed a year over year increase, but that might change in 2009.
In the first half of 2009, British consumers downed 2.3 million more pints of cask beer than they enjoyed during the same time period in 2008. You have to go all the way back to 1982 to find the last annual rise in real-ale consumption.
The Cask Ale Report, commissioned by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)and some brewers, showed sales reached 825,000 barrels during the January to June 2009 period. The report said 660 breweries now make cask ale, the highest number in 60 years.
The improving picture is good news for the troubled British pub segment. Forty percent of real ale drinkers visit a pub at least once a week, compared with just 23 per cent of non-cask drinkers. The report also pointed out these customers tend to spend more during each pub visit.
Real ale requires careful handling by pub operators. The beer undergoes a second fermentation in the cask and is not injected with carbon dioxide. CAMRA was formed as a consumer movement in reaction to national brewers in England discontinuing traditional cask ale brands in favor of easier to distribute lagers.