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Monday, October 01, 2012

Cask Report - Good and Bad News

English ale: flat and warm.  This is the enduring American belief, but it is decades out of date.  Like nearly every other country, local ales have been swamped by industrial lagers and now hold onto a tiny percentage of overall sales.  But good news!  That percentage grew for the first time in twenty years:
Cask ale volumes grew in 2011 for the first time in 20 years, recording a 1.6% uplift, says The Cask Report 2012-13, published today...  Over the same period, cask also overtook keg as the most popular format for draught ale, increased its penetration of the pub market to 56%, achieved a 53% ‘ever tried’ rate among UK adults and increased the frequency with which it is drunk by existing cask customers.
Bad news!--even with the growth, only...
Around 2.2 million barrels of cask, equating to some 633 million pints, were sold last year.
I presume this is UK barrels, which would put it a shade over 3 million US barrels--or about a quarter of the US craft beer volume.  So the trend is good, but the absolute numbers are still depressing.  Pete Brown, who authored the annual report, has lots more here

Update. I probably should have added all the important caveats when comparing the US to Britain: the populations are unequal (62m versus 300m); not all British ale is consumed on cask. I made the comparison so an American audience would have a sense of scale. The point being, cask ale is very far from being the standard tipple in the country of its birth.


  1. "or about a quarter of the US craft beer volume"... But you are forgetting that the UK has 1/5 of the population of the US, and those figures aren't including the so called "craft keg" segment...

  2. I'm not forgetting that at all, but I should have added more context. Which I now have.

  3. I've always wondered how they measure all this, and how much we can trust the numbers.

  4. Brewers Union: Thanks for adding that, because that's exactly how I feel about the US numbers after the BA showed how trustworthy they are by redefining the classification so that Sam Adams sales number wouldn't be excluded.

    In 2011, according to the Guardian, real ale (or cask ale, if you prefer) has a 15 percent share of the market (probably slightly higher in 2012). Considering all the excitement about the US beer scene, I wonder why 15 percent can't be achieved?

  5. Last year, John Keeling at Fuller's told me the entire ale market (all forms) was 14%. I think it's safe to say that the figure remains low.

    Mike, part of the trouble is that you're ignorant of the American market. Some regions have matched that figure. (My home state of Oregon is larger than the entire island of Great Britain.) They're balanced against vast regions of the South and Plains where almost no one drinks craft beer. Given that the segment is only three decades old (corresponding to the period in which lagers have smothered ales in Britain), the trends are predictive. In Oregon, we're well above Britain's mark (even if you grant 15%) and although I don't know the figures for Washington, I expect they're comparable. California is a bit behind, but probably has at least as much penetration as Britain does with ales. That's 48 million people. You could do the same with figures in the Upper Midwest and New England, as well.

  6. Jeff, I read a lot on the Internet and have visited the US (only the east coast), so calling me "ignorant of the American market" is not quite correct. Saying that I have little experience in your area would be correct.

    The overall market in the US for "craft" beer is, after the fiddling by the BA, about five percent. If your area is higher than that, logically, other areas must be lower, otherwise the national figure would be higher.

    Why isn't the figure higher in the US? My hunch is that many US brewers are using the fan sites (BA, RB) for their market research. Clearly, that market is very limited. If it weren't, these brewers would see their share much higher.

    Let's also not forget that the five percent share is comparatively low considering that the market share of the big boys has been declining over the past few years. So basically, it seems that five percent doesn't represent growth, but stability.

  7. Jeff, I read a lot on the Internet and have visited the US (only the east coast), so calling me "ignorant of the American market" is not quite correct.

    Actually, Mike, I totally agree. My comment was a mirror to the one you always make, which suggests that anyone who doesn't live in a country has no insight into it. I would love for you to remember that the next time you are inclined to critique me for where I reside rather than what I'm saying.

  8. Another flawed argument. Do they speak English in the US? Do I speak English? It seems so. Do they speak English in rural Belgium or Germany? Likely not. I'm posting this, btw, from my hotel room in Regensburg. Without speaking the language of the country you are in, your access will be limited and possibly, the information you get will be distorted. I am not guessing - I don't speak French very well and I have seen the consequences. You have the additional handicap of not being familiar with the culture, leading to more semi-comical statements by you. I've suggested before that you stick to what you ate comfortable with and I think that is still good advice.