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Can you afford to ignore cask ale? (That’s a rhetorical question by the way)

The other big thing apart from the book is the Intelligent Choice report, which was launched last night in the stunning Counting House, a Fuller’s pub and former bank (maybe we’ll be seeing a lot more of those!)

The report is the brainchild of the Why Handpull group, formed of the main regional brewers, in association with the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), CAMRA and Cask Marque, the body that promotes cask ale quality in pubs. They commissioned me to write the first one last year and, happily, asked me to do it again this year.

I’ve slagged CAMRA in the past and I used to advertise lager, so I have no particular political axe to grind about cask ale – I think that’s one of the reasons they chose me to write it. I hate it when people can’t decide whether a beer is any good or not until they know whether it’s cask conditioned. So while the report is positive, it’s objective. I’m not saying everybody should drink cask ale because I want them to, I’m saying pubs should stock it mainly because it is a proven driver of profit and footfall at a time when pubs need all the help they can get.

This year’s report shows that, far from the terminal decline many mistakenly believe cask ale to be in, it’s actually performing better than any other ale or lager category. It’s still in volume decline but only just, whereas premium lager is shedding volume faster than Fern Britton in a gastric band.

This couldn’t be happening if cask ale was only drunk by old blokes and beardy wierdies. Those people do exist (though every time I see an old man on his own in a pub these days, he’s drinking Carlsberg or Carling), but most cask drinkers are affluent, upmarket, discerning individuals in their forties and fifties. What’s really interesting is a growign number of occasional drinkers are in their late twenties and early thirties – younger on average than beer drinkers generally.

But 65% of the UK population have never tried cask ale, Britain’s national drink. That’s nonsense – imagine if 65% of French people had never tasted wine. And the remarkable thing is that when people do try it, 40% if them start drinking it regularly. There’s huge potential for growth here.

The report website went live yesterday and is at http://www.caskalereport.com/. You can see a summary of key findings on the site and you cand download PDFs of last year’s and this year’s report. I’m available for interviews and comment if you’re a journalist and you’re interested in covering it. If you’re a journalist and you’re not interested in covering it, why the hell not?




every time I see an old man on his own in a pub these days, he’s drinking Carlsberg or Carling

Indeed, Pete – the people who drove the lager boom in the 1970s, when they were first entering the beer market in their late teens/early 20s and lager was showing huge market gains, are all now in their mid to late 50s. at least, and their kids, as is the way, are NOT wanting to drink what dad does.


the 65% of people who’ve never tasted it is a very telling stat, shows that huge number of people are just not curious but then I met someone who’d never had a pizza the other day and that’s just cheese on toast. well done on finishing your report Pete.

Andy Gardiner


Have you thought that the “old” men that you saw drinking bitter in pubs 20 years ago actually were in their fifties and (whisper it) forties?

Like policemen, bitter drinkers just look younger!


Nice report. But I’m not so keen on the Why Handpull? moniker. I know handpumps are an iconic image but it’s a question I ask myself sometimes. Especially at beer festivals where handpumps are used to transport the beer all of 4 feet from where the casks are standing on stillage.


Virtually all my friends in their late twenties / early thirties drink ale, if they drink beer at all.

As Pete’s highlighted in this blog, and we’ve definitely noticed ourselves, wannabe trendy pubs feel they have to offer ale, and are usually doing a good job of it.

It’s partly a generational gap as highlighted by Zythophile, partly also snobbery – lager is what the “chavs” drink, right?

But I like to think that once people have tried it, they will be hooked, and won’t just move on to the next cool thing.


Just out of interest…its the scientist in me sorry. How do you collect the data? I looked in the report for your methodology, sample size etc couldn’t find it…can you tell me where it is?
Its the sort of thing we now have to teach and I was looking for some raw data.


Very interesting. I would certainly try cask ale if I saw it someplace. I’m not sure its common in the States though. 🙁


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